Picture this: you’ve just got some fire weed from the dispensary and want to roll it up. You brought your grinder and papers, but alas, no crutch. Don’t despair just yet. Here’s everything you need to know about crutches, aka joint filters.
What is a crutch or joint filter?
When you buy a preroll, there are three major components: the paper, the weed inside the paper, and the crutch at the end that you hold and inhale through. A crutch—also called a filter or a tip—is one of the easiest improvements to make to the standard joint. It’s effectively a mouthpiece, and it serves a number of purposes:
- Keeps the end of your joint open (even when sharing with wet-lipped friends)
- Adds support to a joint, keeping it straight
- Blocks bits of plant matter from getting in your mouth
- Ensures your lips and fingers don’t burn as you puff down to the roach
Back in the old days, smokers used roach clips before crutches were popular: A joint would be smoked down to the last, smallest possible nub of weed—so-called the roach—and then the smoker would grab the roach with a little clip in order to smoke the rest without burning their fingers.
Crutches eliminate roaches and roach clips—you can smoke all the weed in a joint down to the crutch without burning yourself and then discard the crutch without losing any weed. Blunts typically don’t need filters—blunt wraps are stiffer and the end can act like a crutch—but you can add one if you prefer. The only difference is that it needs to be bigger for a blunt.
What are crutches made of?
Unless you opt for a reusable glass tip, the best material for a crutch is semi-stiff paper. You want something thicker than printer paper (which is too flimsy) but thinner than a cereal box (too bulky). Ideally, the paper has minimal ink and dyes.
These days, many companies offer pre-cut crutches. RAW’s regular tips are the standard. They use long, hemp-based fiber paper made in a special mill. They’re unbleached and designed specifically to roll up smoothly with enough rigidity to keep their shape in your mouth.
Some other good crutch options include:
- Flap of a rolling paper pack
- Index card
- Manila file folder (not the adhesive part)
- Back flap of a checkbook
- Magazine subscription card
- Some business cards (not thick ones)
- Any piece of thin cardboard
The easy (but flawed) way to make a crutch
Most people tend to roll a crutch by literally rolling it into a cylinder to fit their joints. When viewed head-on, it looks like a spiral.
The main weakness lies in that the spiral openings in the center of the crutch are big enough to let through small pieces of plant matter, which can end up getting in your mouth. These pieces can also congeal as they heat and plant oils melt, clogging the joint.
Another problem is that it lacks structural integrity and can sometimes pinch closed. Does it work? Sure. But we have a better way.
The better way to make a crutch
You can make a much better crutch simply by adding a few accordion-style folds before rolling it up. The easiest way is to fold the edge of the crutch in opposing directions around four times before rolling the rest of the crutch around the folds.
It takes a tiny bit of practice to master, but the end product will keep those pesky flecks of cannabis out of your mouth, maintain airflow, and ensure a smooth draw.
How to make a joint filter: Step by step
- To start, make a few folds at the end of your crutch material, making the folds about as wide as you want the final crutch to be. Be sure not to crease the paper when you’re folding it, otherwise, the final crutch will be too tight.
- How many folds to use is up to you. Some people talk about making an “M” shape inside the crutch, while others opt for a simple “V.” Experiment to find out what you like best.
- Once you’ve made those first few folds, roll the remaining crutch material around the folded part. Make sure you have enough unfolded paper to wrap completely around the crutch—you want the final product to roll easily between your fingers.
- You might find that the crutch wants to unroll or expand on its own. That’s OK. Once you roll the crutch into your joint, that springiness will help keep the crutch from falling out of the end of your joint.
- Put the crutch at the end of your rolling paper and roll it into your joint. Some like to leave a little of the crutch exposed, then push it flush with the edge of the rolling paper when finished rolling.
Other creative ways to roll a joint filter
Once you’ve mastered the basics of rolling your crutch, you can start getting creative with your shapes and add some personal flair to your next joint, blunt, or spliff filter. Some classic designs include a heart, a peace sign, and a pot leaf.
How to roll a heart filter
For this, you’ll need your filter paper and a pen or similar tool to wrap the paper around.
- Fold about one inch of your crutch paper over.
- Roll half of this one-inch piece around your pen/tool. Repeat with the other half. Now you have the top of the heart.
- Fold the heart down into the crease you made with the original fold. There’s your heart.
- Gently fold the remaining paper around the heart to round it out. Be gentle as it’s easy to collapse the rounded edges of your heart!
- Roll it into the bottom of your joint.
How to roll a peace sign filter
For this, you’ll need two filter tips or a larger piece of paper in order to complete the design.
- Holding one of the filter papers horizontally, fold the edge four times to form what resembles an accordion, or an inverted ‘Y’.
- Roll the paper firmly around the end to cover the accordion, creating a circle around the shape with the remaining piece of the filter.
- You may need to use hemp wire to keep the shape in place. It should resemble the symbol of a peace sign inside a circle. You can use a pen or a similar object to shape the lines and improve the visual.
- For the final step, cut a piece of the other paper filter horizontally so it fits under the inverted ‘Y’ to slide in to complete the peace sign joint filter.
How to roll a weed leaf filter
For this, you’ll need at least a couple of filter tips or a larger piece of paper in order to complete the design.
- With your paper or one of your filter tips, fold ¼ inch of the paper down, then fold it back onto itself to make a tight ‘V’ shape.
- Make two more zig-zag folds, increasing the size of each fold as you go; the third one should be the biggest. These are the first three tendrils of the leaf.
- Add two more zig-zag folds, but this time decrease the size of each fold as you go so they mirror the first two.
- Spread the folds out slightly so they resemble the iconic shape of the leaf. If you have enough paper, then roll the remaining crutch paper around the leaf gently to round out and finish off the crutch. You can also use a second filter paper if the folded leaf is too big.
- Roll it into the bottom of your joint.
Where to buy a crutch: Reusable joint tips and pre-rolled crutches
Can’t be bothered to practice tiny origami? You can buy a reusable tip, opt for a pre-rolled crutch, or skip the crutch altogether. There are all sorts of pre-rolled options these days, including choices by RAW, Elements, and a handful of others.
These will cost you a bit more. RAW’s standard tips cost around $2-5 for a pack of 50, and pre-rolled tips go for about twice that. Some rolling papers companies offer packs that have both papers and joint tips, so you never have to go without them.
Ben Adlin, Amelia Williams, and Pat Goggins contributed to this article.
Read more of Leafly’s guide to smoking marijuana
- How to smoke weed
- What’s the difference between joints, blunts, and spliffs?
- What is a pre-roll?
- How to roll a joint
- How to roll a blunt
- How to roll a crutch for your joint or spliff
- What is a cannabis grinder?
- What is a glass weed pipe?
- How to pack and smoke a bowl of weed
- What is a one-hitter pipe?
- How to make an apple pipe
- What is a bong?
- What is a gravity bong and how do you make one?
- How to clean glass bongs and pipes
- What is kief and how can you use it?
- What are moon rocks and how do you smoke them?
- Sploofs 101: How to reduce smell when smoking cannabis
- Need a light? 4 alternatives to using a lighter
- What is hotboxing with cannabis and does it work?