If you’ve made it to this article, chances are you're trying to roll your first joint.  A lot of older stoners will tell you that if you're rolling a joint, you don't need to use a crutch. But for a beginner, knowing how to create a crutch for your joint is almost a necessity for being able to roll a well-shaped joint that smokes well. Filters are great for preventing irregular shape, bad airflow, soggy tips, and the inevitable accidental swallowing of the red-hot cherry from the joint. They also allow you to smoke your weed down to the filter without burning your fingertips or using a roach clip.

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Crutches are actually incredibly easy to make, whether you are using a pre-cut filter or tip papers from a company like Raw, or making your own from whatever you may have around the house.

Steps to Make a Joint Filter

Don’t worry, my guy. It’s way easier than rolling a joint, no origami background needed.

1. Cut Your Filter

If you're not using a pre-cut filter, the first thing you want to do is cut piece of paper that is approximately three inches long by 3/4-inches wide. The longer your strip is, the wider your crutch will be. This will become your crutch/filter/tip.

2. Fold Your Crutch

Next, create 3-4 folds at one end of the paper as small as you can, alternating the direction to create a zig-zag pattern, creating a W (as in “Wumbo”). These folds should be around 1/8 of an inch and should be creased as tightly as possible. The more folds you have, the wider your crutch will be.

3. Roll Your Crutch

Once you have your folds done, roll the remaining paper tightly around in a circle, repeating around and around until the end of the paper. Press down firmly as you roll, finally applying plenty of strength near the end to ensure the roll stays put. If your crutch is too wide for your paper or the amount of weed you have, unravel a little of the end and tear it off.

What is a Joint Filter/Crutch?

The concept is simple: To help curate overall smoking experience, smokers add a crutch, also known as a tip or a filter, to their joint. Crutches are almost always paper (though reusable glass versions are emerging as cannabis becomes more mainstream) that is cut into a strip then folded over and over until it fits into the end of a joint. In the old days, a crutch wasn’t always a mainstay, but if there was one in the joint you happened to be smoking it was likely a notecard or other rigid and commonly found paper material.

Homemade tips obviously vary in size depending on who made it and out of what, but pre-cut filter papers are typically around 2-4 inches long by around ¾ of an inch wide, depending on the style and company. The paper tips are best, at least in this writer’s opinion, for novices and pros alike because of their versatility, flexibility, and disposability. Paper offers the option of a quick snip for a too-long or poorly-placed filter, but also the structural rigidity to help shape your joint wider or narrower just by changing the way you roll your crutch. With a paper filter, there’s nothing to remember when you’re done smoking besides properly disposing of your now-recycling. There is no hunting down a glass tip from someone melting into the couch for the next hour.

Why is a Joint Filter Important?

Man holding joint iStock / Primorac91
We’ve hinted at it to this point, but a full explanation is still needed. How on earth could adding some rolled up scrap paper into the bottom of your joint really make your smoking experience better?

First, adding a crutch to your joint helps create a better overall shape. Remember the first joint you rolled? I do, it was ugly. Very ugly. Almost like a Cheeto, but a lot longer and knobbier. I knew that’s not what it should look like, but I had no idea how to fix it. Enter: the crutch. I purchased a pack of my now forever-favorite extra wide perforated tips from Raw and my joints immediately looked better.

The crutch helps provide a set width and direction for the overall shape, which leads us to the second benefit: adding a crutch to your joint helps improve airflow. We won’t get too deep into fluid dynamics, but instead, we can just pull some common sense out. A straighter joint will allow air to flow more smoothly, and as they are sturdy and rigid by definition, allow air to flow from the bottom of the joint in a similar way a cigarette filter works. You know, just much more eco-friendly.

Speaking of the worst joints ever, have you ever been passed a joint that is visually damp? Rolling papers typically hold onto moisture in a really gross way, but crutches and the paper (or glass) they are made of are significantly less absorbent.

Even if you can roll a beautiful joint with plenty of airflow AND your friends don’t slobber all over your gorgeous creation, there’s still a problem that can be cured by a crutch: Sucking in the cherry! Your best roach clip may help you crush more of a joint than you ever could using just your fingers but as you get closer to the end the odds of sucking in a red-hot cherry increase exponentially. Adding a well-rolled crutch blocks the cherry from getting too close to your lips, and in return, your throat.

What About Glass Filters?

Glass crutches are small hollow cylinders that are rolled into the bottom of a joint to serve the same purpose as a paper crutch, but just in a reusable and sturdier way. One of the key benefits of paper over glass is the paper’s ability to filter the flower you are smoking if your joint isn’t packed properly.

Wider pre-cut tips end up being bigger filters, obviously, and there really isn’t a right or wrong way to pick the size. Glass tips may not hold your flower in as well, but they are reusable and study. In the end, picking the right crutch is about 80% what you like, 19% what you have, and 1% how much effort you want to put into rolling a joint.