I have only done it a few times, but trying to set up a hookah only to realize that you don’t have the right grommets is entirely disheartening. Happily there is a solution. It’s not new and it’s not particularly innovative, but it is effective and cheap. What more can you ask for?
This is the paper towel grommet and it is as easy as it sounds.
It all starts with strips of paper towel. Just tear the towel into long pieces and saturate them with water. I like to wring out the excess so that they are just wet enough to stick to themselves without ripping water everywhere. I like to wet half of the strip and let the second half absorb some of the water as it’s wrapped around. I feel that it helps make the layers more uniform and stuck together. That might just be in my head, but this is my guide and you can feel free to dispute me. It’s still my guide 😀
Now you just start wrapping. I suggest going slowly and testing the fit after each addition. You are building custom grommet and you want a firm seal that you don’t have to force together. It should be snug, but you don’t want the paper towels bunching up and tearing. A smooth surface makes for a good seal thanks to the surface tension of the water and an tears will not help.
The process is the same for each grommet on your hookah, but it’s just a matter of where you build it. The male component in the junction is the best place and that means the top of your stem where the bowl sits or on the hose end itself. That is then fit into the female component and you can ask your parents about the rest. If you’re using a standard Egyptian bowl then you’ll notice the juice saturating the paper and maintaining the moisture, which helps with the seal. Even if you’re using a funnel type bowl or something similar and it does dry out there is no reason to be alarmed. The paper will adhere to the stem and bowl a bit as it dries and leave you with a pretty good seal that will do just fine (no Auto-Seal when using a paper towel though).
Bear in mind that this is not the strongest seal in the world and you should not be picking your hookah up by the stem even with a great seal. To do so when using the paper towel method would almost assuredly result in disaster. I have used this method many times to make custom grommets and I’ve come close to tragedy a few times. Take a look at the video associated with this post and, if you look closely, you can see one of my favorite vases start to slip as I show you how tight the seal is. All part of the plan. I swear.
Lastly, don’t leave these grommets on a hookah for extended periods of time. They are fine over night or even a day or two, but paper and water are nice breeding grounds for mold when combined with a little sugar from the tobacco. You don’t want to come back to a science experiment after a month of negligence, do you? Most of the time they will just dry out and there won’t be a problem, but it’s good to have a regular and timely cleaning schedule for your hookahs anyway, so don’t be lazy. Paper towels are cheap and now you know how easy this method can be, so just ditch the grommets after you’re done smoking and don’t think twice about it.