Filter or no filter? This age-old debate among cannabis enthusiasts has always perplexed me.

I have rolled with strictly crutch-less crews over the years, where it seemed that filters were too new, unnecessary, and even frivolous. I respect the simplicity and adherence to tradition, but I’m sure many of you reading this have been on the receiving end of a collapsed-upon-itself-and-sticky-with-resin crutchless joint. I, for one, will pass — especially since a handmade, well-executed crutch is so easy to accomplish.

And while using a crutch might seem unnecessary to some, a simple folded paper filter you make yourself — like the ones detailed below — might even be considered outdated in the age of ceramic tips and terpene-infused corn husk crutches. Still, even with a market full of new-fangled paperless and ready-made tips, knowing how to fold your own crutch is a simple skill that all cannabis enthusiasts should know. 

Below, I rank my least to most favorite filter designs by putting them to the test. I judged them based on three simple criteria: ease, finished aesthetic, and smokeability.

What you need to get started

To make your own filter, you can choose to use pre-cut crutch paper, a manila file folder, an index card, fusilli pasta, or any kind of paper with a nice balance between durability and foldability. 

Note: Avoid printed paper or any paper treated with chemicals that you don’t want to inhale. For this experiment, I used manila file folders and they worked great.

Least favorite: The weed leaf filter

The epitome of cool-looking crutches, every cannabis lover should try their hand at the weed leaf filter tip. Most instructional resources on the internet will show you how to do a five-fingered leaf, despite the fact that cannabis and hemp leaves tend to have seven fingers (or more). This is for your benefit since doing a seven-fingered leaf for a crutch would not only be tough but would likely require an enormous joint to be crafted around it.

How to fold it

Small filters, these are not, since hand folding a leaf into a small crutch is challenging. Pre-cut filters will likely be too small for this crutch. I recommend starting with a piece of paper that is four to fives inches by one inch to make things a little easier.

  1. Make one ‘zig-zag fold’ by folding ¼ inch of the paper down, then folding it back down onto itself to make a ‘V’ shape. Tight creases are your friend for this crutch.
  2. Make two more successive zig-zag folds, increasing the size of each fold as you go. These will be the first three fingers of the leaf.
  3. Add two more folds, but this time decrease the size of each fold as you go. These will fill out the remaining two fingers of the leaf.
  4. Spread the fingers out slightly so they take on the iconic shape of the leaf, then roll the remaining crutch paper around the leaf gently to round out and finish off the crutch.
  5. Roll it into the bottom of your joint.
  6. Enjoy.

Smokeability: This crutch lost points on smokeability since keeping errant bits of weed out of my mouth is one of the main reasons I use a crutch. In order to really enjoy the effect of a leaf, you need some big old open spaces in this crutch, so expect some scooby snacks.

Bottom line: It is the aesthetic winner of this contest, but requires a little practice and came in last place on smokeability, so the weed leaf comes in as a great fourth-alternate. This crutch took me three times to get down, and then an additional shot to get it down to a manageable size, joint-wise. It takes a little practice, but it’s totally doable. 

Most unique: The fusilli filter

We take a short departure from paper crutches to add a little MacGuyver-like technique to this showdown. I’m talking about actual fusilli here — the pasta. When I heard about this filter hack I dismissed it out of hand. Pasta, in a joint? Surely not. Turns out, it’s a pretty solid alternative if that’s all you can get your hands on.

How to make it

Start with a single piece of fusilli pasta. 

  1. Break off the tip of a piece of fusilli. 
  2. Roll it into the bottom of your joint. 
  3. Happy smoking. 

Smokeability: The fusilli pasta crutch meets all requirements of a functional filter. It provided a good base to hold onto and it kept weed out of my mouth — all while offering decent airflow and ease of toking. My only issue was in having the rolling paper sink into some of the indents, which constricted airflow a little — perhaps choose a more tightly spiraled pasta, as the one I was using was fairly loose. 

Also consider the diameter of the fusilli, since this will dictate the size of the joint needed. As a pasta-loving half-Italian human, I attest to the wide variety of shapes and sizes on the fusilli spectrum, so choose according to your needs and preferences.

Bottom line: The fusilli filter gets major points for ease. It was a surprise contender from the unconventional crutch contingent. I can officially recommend it. 

Miss Congeniality: The heart filter

This aesthetically pleasing tip edged out the weed-shaped filter since it’s easier to make and is more functional as a crutch. The heart filter needs a little finesse work since it requires rounded edges rather than sharp folds. 

How to fold it

You’ll want to start with durable paper, or pre-cut crutch paper, and a wooden skewer — or some other long, skinny round implement — to wrap the paper around. I used the inside of a pen.

  1. Fold over about one inch of your crutch paper.
  2. Roll half of this one-inch piece around the skewer. Repeat with the other half. Now you have the top of the heart.
  3. Fold the heart down into the crease you made with the original fold. There’s your heart.
  4. 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!
  5. Roll it into the bottom of your joint. 
  6. Love on it.

Smokeability: 

If you keep this crutch fairly small, the smokeability is good as it inherently has good airflow. Larger versions of this crutch will allow for errant weed to escape!

Bottom line: It’s pretty and it functions well. Only because of its minor demands for more finesse does this crutch come in the middle of the pack. It also requires gentle handling since the rounded edges can easily collapse if squeezed or pressed too hard.

Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Tried and true: The accordion filter

The accordion and basic filters are the quintessential classic crutch options: tried, tested, and true. After my own personal testing against newer and fancier options, they hold their place at the top of my list for ease and functionality.

How to fold it

The accordion is an ever-so-slightly more complicated fold than the basic, but they are at heart the same. You’ll need durable paper or pre-cut crutch paper. 

  1. The accordion crutch folds in a zig-zag pattern: fold the crutch paper back and forth until you reach four total folds. You should have a visible ‘W’ shape.
  2. Roll it into your joint. 

Smokeability: The accordion filter requires one more fold than the basic filter, and the airflow glides through just fine. You can create as many folds as you want, but I found that any more than four will restrict your airflow too much. 

Bottom line: It’s easy as pie and works like a charm. Not as pretty as the weed leaf or heart, but if you prize ease and functionality (which nine times out of ten I do when it’s time to roll) then this could be the one for you.

The best: The basic filter

Last, and certainly not least: the basic filter. This is perhaps the OG folding technique, and for good reason. It is simple in that it requires only three little folds to create the iconic “M” or “W” shape that it’s known for. So what this crutch lacks in artistic flair, it makes up for in cultural fit. This is where it wins out, for me, over the accordion filter. 

How to fold it

You’ll need durable paper or pre-cut crutch paper to start.  

  1. The basic filter also folds in a zig-zag pattern: fold the crutch paper back and forth until you reach three total folds to make an ‘M’ shape.
  2. Roll it into your joint. 

Smokeability:

This filter is tried, tested, and true. Good smokeability and a snap to make. If you’re new to crutches, add this one to your rolling game, and off you go.

Bottom line: Quick, easy, and effective with a punny nod to aesthetics. Now that is my kind of crutch. 

Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps





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