Hardware Review: Kanger Subtank Mini

Specs

Material: 304 Stainless Steel, pyrex glass
Length: ~54mm
Diameter: 22mm
Capacity: 4.5ml
Battery Connection: fixed center pin 510 connection
MSRP:  $49.90
What’s in the box:

Kanger Subtank Mini Package Contents

  • (1) Kangertech Subtank Mini
  • (1) OCC: 0.5 Sub Ohm / Range 15 – 30 W
  • (1) OCC: 1.2 Ohm / Range 12 – 25 W
  • (1) Mini RBA Base (with preinstalled coil)
  • (1) Tool Kit (screwdriver,screws)
  • (1) Spare Glass Tube
  • (1) Organic Cotton Square (made in Japan)
  • (1) Spare RBA coil (Kanthal)
  • (2) Spare O-Ring
  • (1) Drip Tip
  • (1) Gift Box
  • (1) User Manual
  • (1) Genuine Product Verification Card

Pros

  • Organic cotton wick (!).
  • Capable of handling subohm vaping.
  • Widely available coils.
  • Available factory made Ni200 coil heads.
  • No leaking (so far).

Cons

  • Slightly higher cost than other similar tanks.
  • Not backwards compatible with previous Kanger coil heads.
  • Spotty availability of OCC coil heads.
  • Sparse availability of Ni200 coil heads.
  • Visible o-rings.
  • Theoretically possibly to vent a mod by using a Ni200 OCC head on a mech.

Errata

OCC heads

The biggest advance with the Subtank by far is the OCC heads. Coiled with “organic Japanese cotton” these are the heads I’ve wanted in a Kanger tank since the original ProTank was released. I started recoiling the original Protank heads so that I could use cotton wick, so it tickles me pink that Kanger is now mass producing cotton wicking coil heads.

First, these new OCC heads are rebuildable. It’s nothing like rebuilding an older Kanger atomizer, but it is doable. I’ll have a post covering rebuilding an OCC head in the near future. Street price is about $12 for a 5 pack, so they’re slightly more expensive than the older BCC heads, but I think the improved flavor and vapor production is worth it. Still I’d like to see the price come down (ideally to ~$1/ea).

One of the biggest challenges with using cotton for wicking is that cotton burns, and once it burns the wick must be replaced (unless you like vaping disgustingly burnt cotton). Kanger realizes this and has included a printed warning to prime your OCC heads before firing your device as the very first thing you see once you open the package.

Alternatively, you could use a device with temperature control with the Ni200 OCC heads that Kanger has released.

Enter the Ni200 OCC head:

Ni200 OCC heads

Expensive but worth it.

The second I saw these I was sold on the Subtank. The best deal I could find on the Ni200 OCCs is currently $3/ea. That’s not a deal breaker, but I’d like to see these available at about $1-$1.50 each. Speaking of available, you know that Kanger has a winner here because it’s not exactly easy to find these things in stock anywhere. The tank comes with two (of the Kanthal coiled ones), and if you can recoil them that makes it kind of a non issue (I’ve no idea how well they will hold up to recoiling, but from my initial examination it looks like they’re pretty sturdy). Then again, not everyone wants to build coils.

If you don’t have any experience with Ni200 wire there is a bit of potential for major problems here. Kanger offers the standard OCC heads in either 0.5ohm or 1.2ohm varieties at the time of this writing. Ni200 OCC heads on the other hand are 0.15ohm. Potentially someone could put one of the Ni200 heads on a device like a mech and vent a battery. If you have a Subtank, you’ve got to watch out for this. If your device has temp control then it’s kind of a non issue, but if you are running a mech, a mix up has the potential to be disastrous. Always verify that your OCC is the version you think it is.

I have a bad feeling that it is only a matter of time before someone isn’t paying attention and accidentally puts a Ni200 OCC head on a mech with an inadequate battery on it and has a really bad way. I could see this happening if you’ve got multiple devices and aren’t paying attention. Unfortunately there is no good answer for potential user error at this time.

The easy way to avoid this is to put the assembled tank on a resistance checker before firing it. Kanger was thinking about this when they released the redesigned OCC heads. The original OCC heads had a white insulator on the bottom of the unit. The new ones have either a red or blue insulator:

Different OCC heads are different colors

Attention to detail

You can see from the picture above that the OCC head with the blue insulator is a Ni200 coil with the resistance and recommended wattage laser etched on one side of the unit. Kanger has done the same with the red insulator heads (coiled with Kanthal).

I switched to a temp control device last October, and I can’t recommend it enough. The major benefit for me is that I haven’t had a dry hit since. The flip side of that is the added expense of Ni200 OCCs. I’ll pay it or rebuild. I seriously can’t say enough good things about having temp control on your device.

For those of us who don’t mind coil building, the inclusion of the mini RBA base is totally awesome. It’s a small deck, but it’s basically like building on a tiny kayfun, except it’s a bit easier because the RDA screws have little ears to catch the wires under the screws (which you can kind of see in the picture of the Mini RBA base in the Maintenance section below).

Airflow control

There are apparently more than one version of the Subtank Mini airflow control out there, the primary difference being the options for airflow control. The version I have has a slot cut on either side of the airflow control ring with three options for airflow: a ~1mm airhole on either side, a ~2mm hole on either side, and wide open which is a large air slot on either side. In this image you can see slightly different options.

Subtank Mini airflow control options

Subtank Mini airflow control

There was a previous version that had an additional fully closed selection, but I assume that Kanger changed that based on customer feedback. I dunno, Since I just got mine, I would assume that it is the newest version available.

Colors

Kanger is also shipping a white and a black coated version of the Subtank Mini (I’ve no idea what they are coated with), but as far as I know those are only available with the Subox kit at this time.

Colors, take two

In my Cons section I noted visible o-rings. For me that is mostly because Kanger chose red o-rings. I’m not a fan of red, but apparently there was a method to their madness as Kanger has put out the “Colourful Silicon Seal Ring Set”:

Is that purple or pink?

Is that purple or pink?

Purple I think

Purple I think

I’ll admit I ordered one, that bluish set will look good with the blue Shark Skin on my rDNA40. I’d still prefer that they not be visible, but that’s just my personal preference.

One final thing to note that isn’t really a con, it’s just kind of silly. Kanger has decided to use a “wide bore” drip tip on this tank. Like all 510 drip tips, it still necks down where it connects to the top of the tank (and it’s not a dripper, so you’re not really going to be dripping into it), so I’m not sure why they felt the need for this. Because of the proximity of the center air channel to the coil in the Mini RBA base, it is possible that occasionally the drip tip will get… warm. Luckily for us this can be corrected by simply easing up on the subohm vaping or even switching out the drip tip for something non conductive for heat like delrin or pyrex.

I also love that they include a spare glass tank section. Thank you Kanger for paying attention. Accidents happen and nothing sucks worse than breaking your only tank when you are about to head out of the house. It’s nice that they’re giving us a mulligan.

Maintenance

The Subtank Mini is really not very different than any other Kanger tank in it’s design, but it is clear that Kanger has learned some lessons about glass tanks over the last couple of years. The basic assembly is the same as other Kanger glass tanks.

Standards disassembly

Standard disassembly

Things to be aware of:

  • When the base is removed, the glass tank is only held in place by the friction of the silicon seals.
  • Filling is just like the previous Kanger BCC tanks, don’t get the liquid in the center air channel.
  • You must prime the OCC heads with a couple drops of eLiquid before firing them or you risk burning the cotton.

 

The Mini RBA base is a bit small, though compared to rebuilding one of the OCC heads it is positively spacious. You can see in this picture that the RBA base disassembles into three pieces, and is very similar to a kayfun, in fact the easiest way to build with it is to follow the same process: coil, wick, pull the excess cotton up while screwing the chimney on, trim it to the top of the chimney, and then stuff the cotton down into the juice channels.

Mini RBA Base disassembled

Mini RBA Base disassembled

There are two things to be aware of when using the RBA base:

  1. The coil sits relatively close to where the center air channel enters the chimney. I have wrapped a 4mm diameter coil in there, but it was uncomfortably close for my tastes. I would recommend building at 3mm diameter or less.
  2. The bottom “pin” of the RBA base actually holds the insulated post to the deck. You need to make sure this pin is screwed in all the way any time you disassemble the tank. I had mine come loose a couple of times. This results in the insulated post lifting, and tilting your coil. This can lead to inconsistent connections, and potentially to a hard short if the coil were to contact the top of the chimney.

Conclusion

While writing this post I fell in love with Kanger all over again. Their attention to detail continues to show, and improve. The original ProTank was the first tank system that I really liked, and the Subtank Mini is a truly worthy successor. Most of the stuff in my list of cons is really superficial, and probably wouldn’t be considered a con by most.

I would really like to see Kanger bring down the cost of these units, and in the past they have reduced the prices on all of their tanks after release so I expect to see some reduction on these in the not too distant future. I paid $29.99 for mine on sale, so the potential is definitely there. Street price is about $35 from many online vendors, I’d expect to pay MSRP from a B&M. The inclusion of the mini RBA base makes it worth it to me, but maybe eventually we’ll see a lower cost version without it.

This is now my go to recommendation for tanks for new or inexperienced vapers. It’s easy to use, and the included mini RBA base offers an easy path for learning to build for those that are interested.

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PSA: You’re the problem.

I really didn’t want this to be my returning post after an absence, but I feel like this needs to be done.

I’m gonna piss some people off with this post, and I don’t care. I don’t care because if you’re mad about the post, you are the problem.

I spent about five hours writing and researching this post, and I did it because I love vaping and (for the most part) I love the vape community. Vaping helped me to quit smoking, helped me reclaim my health, is helping to earn my living and support my family. I love this thing, and I don’t want to see it destroyed. Least of all do I want to see it destroyed by vapers.

I’m gonna go into a bit of detail here, and it’s gonna be a long post. I’m not singling out any one vendor, there are lots of them that are guilty of this. So grab a beer, grab your vape and strap in, because I’m about to tear some people new assholes.

Earlier today I was alerted to yet another vendor bottling eLiquid that just… well here take a look for yourself:

stupid

Here’s your sign

I simply cannot believe the massive stupidity at work here.

I’m gonna ignore the whole “marketing to children” issue for a minute because I want everybody to put their big boy/girl pants on and pay attention because there is a much more serious issue with this image, and something that is endemic in the vape industry: wanton and wholesale trademark infringement.

At first I though to myself “well, this is a new industry, and it has a big chunk of very young people running businesses right now, and maybe he didn’t know he couldn’t do that.”

I thought that for about 30 seconds while I looked for the facebook page for this company.

Apparently this flavor launched two days ago, and others have tried to inform the gentleman running the page of this. His response? And I quote:

I own the name 100% 🏻😎💯💯💯

Ok, well maybe he didn’t understand what the poster was trying to say. Oh look, here is a facebooker trying to explain it in simpler terms:

Good for you. How about the extremely legible product in the background? I’m guessing you don’t own rights on that.

That’s pretty simple right? Apparently not judging by his response:

It’s defiantly not illegal to take pictures of any products lol !! Sorry but no matter how much people disagree it is legal thanks for ur concern make sure to try it the hype is defiantly real 🏻

People continue trying to explain to this person that what he is doing is wrong, and it is reflecting on the industry poorly, and this is his response yet again:

Negative ur assumption is just that which is just fine 🏻 I bring top quality Vape products to the table what I’m doing is completely legal in every way I am don’t arguing it’s a great juice there are so many major companies that are doing way worse things sorry you feel this way but I’m not going anywhere and I will always stay positive …. Positive mind equals positive outcome 💯🏻💯

No, no it’s not.

Where do I even start?

Copyright law (and specifically Trademark law which is really the issue here) is kind of a difficult topic, maybe this guy just isn’t aware of what the law actually is regarding the use of other people’s intellectual property in images for commercial gain. It’s super hard to find anything that explains it online too.

That document pretty well covers it, but I’ll save you the time of actually reading it, here is the relevant section:

2.1 Can you freely take photographs that include trademarks?
Unlike copyright law, trademark law as such does not restrict the use of a trademark in a
photograph. What trademark law does forbid is using a trademark in a way that can cause
confusion regarding the affiliation of the trademark owner to the image. If consumers
are likely to mistakenly believe that a photograph was sponsored by the trademark owner, then
there may be trademark infringement.
Example:
Printing a photograph containing the Nike trademark on sportswear could result in
trademark infringement. In fact, by such use it would be assumed that you are trying to
appropriate some of the goodwill associated with the Nike trademark. Consumers will
presumably think that the fabrics are affiliated with the Nike trademark.
Or in this case, the Wrigley’s trademarked logos and images of their product. This is not only a crime (which has real world consequences, and I expect that this gentleman will shortly be learning that firsthand), but it’s also just plain stupid.

As an aside, the word is spelled d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y. Every browser (and nearly every phone) has autocorrect. You are running a business. You want to be treated like an adult? Act like one. “Whatever, whatever I do what I want!” is not an acceptable response when called out for doing something illegal.

This reflects poorly on all of us. it’s a very serious issue that has already been clearly identified by the FDA as something that will bring regulations to this industry that are designed to shut it down, and that the FDA will not be interested in listening to any input from the vape industry regarding those regulations if we cannot reign it in. And they’re right. This is criminal infringement of someone’s intellectual property for financial gain by another. There really isn’t any defense for that kind of behavior for financial gain.

So what can we do? Jeremy Dollar of Good Life Vapor (who recently attended a meeting with Mitch Zeller of the FDA along with other vendors) had this to say to the person running the page:

I can absolutely tell you they are shutting us down because of this type stuff. Myself and 11 other vendors sat in a 2 hour meeting with Mitch zeller and 7 of his staff and were told flat out when asked how we can help to receive fair and balanced regulations that if the marketing to kids and cartoon and candy labels don’t stop they will not only come after the industry with the intent to shut it down but they will not entertain anymore from anyone as far as negotiations for fair regulations. So you sir are part of what is killing the industry! How do you feel about that? How come you can’t allow your juice to speak for itself? Are you afraid that it’s not good enough to be sold with a less infringing and less appealing to a child label? You can’t ever advocate for vapers when you don’t care enough to save the very industry you are out advocating for

Of course there was no response, because… well what could he possibly say?

A bit further down in the comments someone remarks that it looks tasty asking where to find it, and he responds with this:

You can get it at vermillion vapor , Ajs vapor , vāpour , an more shops to come downtown Vapourium island Vape shop just to name a few…

So what can we do? Call those vape shops. Tell them in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable, and that you will not patronize them as long as they continue to support vendors doing this kind of damage to our industry for financial gain. It really is that simple.

At least one vape vendor has already taken a public stand against this kind of activity:

Correct_response

They won’t be the last.

This company is not alone in the trademark infringement (or using candy/cartoons in their marketing materials), not by a wide margin. The number of eLiquid makers that are ripping off trademarked and copyrighted images for use in selling their eLiquid is… well I can’t think of any other word than obscene. Just take a look at what your vendor of choice is selling and using for marketing materials. Then take a moment to go read the excerpt above from the paper on Copyright and Trademark Law.

We have to be the change that drives the industry to drop the childish marketing and start acting like a bunch of responsible adults conducting business, because that is precisely what most of us are.

I can give plenty more reasons why this is a really bad idea. Camel was gigged hard because they used a cartoon camel in their marketing materials, despite no actual kids cartoon using a camel. Do you really think that will be any different for a Spongebob eLiquid that features a freaking picture of Spongebob the cartoon on the product page?

This is not a garage industry anymore. The vape industry still has that “gold rush” feeling to it, and there are still plenty of opportunities for 18 year old kids to become multimillionaires virtually overnight. Precisely because the vape industry is now a multi billion dollar industry. Up to this point the copyright owners (otherwise listed as “victims” of all of the infringement that is rampant in our industry in the court documents to come) have left us alone because it just wasn’t worth their attention, I assure you that is changing.

There are billions of dollars on the table here.Wells Fargo is estimating the vaping industry to be worth $10 BILLION by 2017. That’s 18 months from now.

If you believe that the companies who have been victimized by this infringement are going to just leave that money sitting on the table when they are legally entitled to damages you are kidding yourself.

Did I mention that someone posted a screenshot of them posting a screenshot of his page with that image to Wrigley’s facebook page?

Let me take a second and break down what is very likely going to happen to this guy.

1) Wrigley’s is going to (if they’re nice) issue Cease and Desist notices to him, and takedown notices to facebook, and his webhost.

2) Since Wrigley’s is a major corporation, they’re going to sue for damages to their trademark, probably trademark infringement, and possibly a host of other things.

3) They’re going to win, because well let’s face it, this is shockingly blatant.

4) They’re going to leave a crater where this guy used to be that will be so big that no one else is even going to think about climbing the rim to even look at where he used to be. They’ll take all of the company assets, and if the guy who owns it displayed as much business acumen in starting his business as he has in running it, they’ll also take everything he owns in the world because I’m pretty confident that someone who would blatantly infringe on Wrigley’s trademark for CANDY (to use it to sell eLiquid of all things) didn’t invest the time and money to set up a proper LLC or Corporation (and/or has put so many holes in his “corporate veil” that it should properly be referred to as more of a “corpoprate sieve” at this point), probably doesn’t have liability insurance (and if he does, he won’t be able to find an underwriter who will endorse him after this little fiasco), and so will be personally liable for the damages done by his company.

Now, because our legal system is so bogged down, this will likely be after:

5) His distributors jump ship because of the pressure they are getting from all of the negative press generated by this guy’s idiotic response to people who were (for the most part) genuinely trying to help by pointing out that he was making an egregious mistake.

6) His business dries up once all of the media outlets get wind of the pending lawsuit from Wrigley’s (who sponsors lots of things covered by CNN, like baseball stadiums) and his reputation as “that guy who brought down the ban hammer” is solidified (I mean seriously, Wrigley’s? Why not just go whole hog and rip off Disney?).

7) He goes bankrupt.

I’m not saying that it will go down just like that, but I’m fairly confident that it’ll be pretty close to that.

Nick Green posted a video talking about the use of cartoon characters on eLiquid bottles earlier today, and he brings up a good point; a lot of this is due to pride and ego. I’m very proud of my juice branding. I worked my butt off to create a brand that was representative of the work that I put into creating my eLiquids. I’d go All Stop in a heartbeat if I got anywhere near as much negative feedback as was generated by the facebook post that inspired this post. Even if just long enough to assess what I was doing, and see if I needed to change. It’s just good business sense.

The pride and ego that is being evinced by a shocking number of eLiquid vendors who are blatantly ripping off the intellectual property of established companies is staggering.

The industry needs to stop, take a deep breath, and do some serious reflection on how we are conducting ourselves. 10 billion dollars a year. That’s an enormous pile of cash. I don’t want to see that pile of cash go away. More than that. I don’t want to see people go back to smoking, or never get the chance to quit as easily as I did.

Normally this is where is would leave some sort of plea for us to all come together and help make vaping better. I’m not feeling that tonight. Right now I’m feeling disgusted by the number of threads and posts I’ve seen with vapers defending this kind of thing.

And lest anyone think that I am singling any particular vendors out, I think instead I’ll just leave this post with a collection of images that I found while doing research on this article. If you reach the end of these images and don’t feel like there is a problem in our industry, you are most definitely the problem.

10262089_10203404043096615_1681999561177541361_n 10313688_10206214862672539_6309504897225284574_n 10384210_10155681664460112_5683213380540890615_n 10394038_10205676702215589_3080825949008468428_n 10458938_10203379736288960_3000467287518502711_o 10648331_10203381475132430_7199301543758953907_o 11063892_10206680933919011_2878148673173687381_n 11110209_449891955195235_7068536508391026172_o 11202578_10206352810196367_8862854815207437965_n 11219480_10203379810330811_2989429939857490287_o 11260845_10203379735888950_6321933564617496925_o 11350602_10207086262417414_1929728349631465287_n 11390252_449892541861843_7396685876220298945_n 11390285_10206675955274548_2749032905571535479_n BS_Ecto_Cooler02__59322.1427909908.1280.1280 drippin-drops images images2 images3 images4 index Juice-ejuice-Got-Milk-2 JuiceMan_15ml_group_black_1024x1024__77499.1431480523.1280.1280 jungle_juice_eliquid-250x250_0 KPBKrunch1_large lost-art-liquids-pb-krunch lushvapor30ml Muffin-Man-Top-Shelf-eliquid-ejuice Origin_Vape_OMG_Juices_All_Flavors-1200x900 s-l1000 th vape_juive_pink_milk_grande 524262_743928335733457_5131977059165416245_n 1908137_10153293147777508_37762884688713673_n

 

end

 

 

 

 

Getting Started: DIY 102 – Mixing by weight

Balance_hydrostatique

In DIY 101 I outlined the general process of mixing DIY eLiquid, but intentionally left out mixing by weight. While this is the most accurate way to mix eLiquid, it is also a bit more complex than mixing by volume.

In this post I am going to try to cover everything you need to get started mixing by weight.

Equipment

Mixing by weight requires some specific equipment that mixing by volume does not (though there is some cross over, so don’t worry about having wasted money on equipment if you started mixing by volume).

Digital Balance (scale)

The most important piece of equipment needed to mix by weight is a digital balance (scale). You really don’t want to use just any scale either. A scale for DIY mixing should meet the following requirements:

  • Resolution of not less than 0.01 grams.
  • Large enough capacity to accommodate the weight of the bottle size and liquid capacity you will be mixing.
  • Tare function.
  • Relatively quick register of small weight changes.
  • NO AUTOMATIC SHUTOFF.

That last one is very important, as if you are in the midst of adding an ingredient and the scale powers off, you will likely need to dump the bottle and start over.

If you can’t find one without auto shutoff (in your price range or whatever), at minimum the auto shutoff (if it is not possible to disable it) should be after more than 5 minutes of inactivity.

The first scale I used had a 60 second inactivity auto shutoff, and after the second or third time I had to dump a mix because it powered off while I was adding an ingredient, I had to replace it.

My recommendation for a starter balance is this guy. There are plenty of other scales out there, many cheaper, but in my opinion this is the best bang for your buck.

No matter the scale you choose, you’re going to need a (possibly a set of) calibration weight (the one I suggested comes with).

These instruments are very sensitive, and it is important that you not drop them or exceed their rated capacity. I don’t even like to get really close to max capacity on a digital scale. The sensors are easily damaged. The scale I suggested is rated for a 500g capacity at 0.01g resolution (often noted as 500g x 0.01g), and I would not place over about 450g on the scale.

Droppers/Pipettes

When mixing by volume I recommend syringes for dispensing liquids due to their accuracy, but when mixing by weight the scale takes care of accuracy. This makes droppers or pipettes almost a necessity.

Some flavor vendors sell small sizes of flavoring in squeeze bottles which is super convenient when mixing by weight, but others (I’m looking at you WizardLabs) use small glass vials that come without dropper caps.

You could use syringes for this (in fact I do for some things), but that is probably going to slow down your mixing process.

Disposable pipettes are pretty cheap, but you can also get droppers cheaply. As a side note, WizardLabs does sell dropper caps that fit their flavoring vials.

What you use is totally up to you, and what works best for you. I find that dropper bottles are fastest for me, but barring that I like to use recycled droppers:

 

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I’ve got tons of empty bottles laying around. I started keeping the droppers after I broke like 5 bottles while cleaning and figured I’d hang on to the droppers for dropperless bottles. Turns out it was much better for DIY.

Specific Gravity

If you want absolute accuracy when mixing by weight, you’re going to need to figure out how much everything weighs.

Specific gravity (SG) is the weight of one milliliter of the liquid at a given temperature.

Some vendors (like TFA and Capella’s) thoughtfully provide MSDS links for most of their flavors that list specific gravity.

Generally PG has a specific gravity of 1.04 and VG has a specific gravity of 1.26, or there abouts.

Note:
Specific gravity of liquids does change as temperatures increase or decrease (temperature changes cause density changes). This is a really small variance and all density changes will be equal at the same temperature, so you can either ignore it or do all of your measuring and mixing at the same temperature.

If a vendor does not list SG, we have to measure it. If you are going to do this, I would recommend measuring as much of the liquid as you can (10ml should be enough to give an accurate measure), and then divide the resulting weight by the number of ml measured to give you a fairly accurate SG for that liquid.

This can be quite a pain, and does waste some flavoring (some is going to stick to the measuring vessel and dispensing utensil).

Alternative Method

Alternatively you can just assign a given weight to all of your flavorings. Many people mix by just assigning either the weight of PG to all of their flavors (because the vast majority of flavors are suspended in PG), or just assigning all flavorings a value of 1.

Both methods have their advantages, and I would not necessarily recommend one over the other. It’s all going to come down to what you want to do.

I will note that the primary reason that mixing by weight is the most accurate is that it is fully repeatable. Even assigning a random value to the weight of all of your flavors (I like 9, so all of my flavors will weigh 0.999g!), so long as you ALWAYS use that value, will give this advantage.

Which ever you choose, I would very much suggest that you do one or the other (if for nothing other than your own sanity).

Mixing Process

To start mixing by weight, we need to translate our recipes from percentages to weights. I’m not going to even attempt to explain the math used to do this manually, just use a mixing calculator. The one I recommend in DIY101 is still recommended here, but there are many that will do mix by weight.

Once we have a recipe, and everything laid out and ready the process is pretty straight forward:

  • Check your scale for accuracy, calibrate if necessary.
  • Place your empty bottle on the scale and hit the Tare button on the scale (this will zero out the scale).
  • Add your first ingredient (slowly so that the scale has time to catch up with the changes). Once you have the amount called for in your recipe (or close enough, you may be off by 0.01g or so), write down the amount you added of that ingredient.
  • Press the Tare button on the scale.
  • Repeat the previous two steps until you are out of ingredients.

That’s it.

The first few times you mix by weight are going to take a (relatively) long time as you get used to the process, but once you have it down, and have your mixing station set up correctly you can mix a 30ml bottle of eLiquid in just a minute or two depending on the complexity of the recipe.

Mixing by weight is fast and repeatable. As always, the most important thing is to document what you actually do, so that if you somehow hit on that magical perfect recipe, you can repeat it precisely.

end

Getting Started: DIY 101 – Mixing Your Own eLiquid

photo 2

I really wrestled with writing this post. I am currently in the process of starting a juice company (starting small and local, will be expanding to direct online sales at some point), so on one hand this is (at least in theory) taking away from my livelihood. On the other hand, we have the FDA.

Fuck those guys. Man I hate government sticking their noses in where they don’t belong. Bottom line is that I believe that there is a real possibility that the FDA is going to try to squeeze out all of the small businesses that currently make a living from vaping. I hope I’m wrong, but there is just too much money in it for them, especially since vaping is destroying the revenue the states have become dependent on from the Big Tobacco settlements. Make of that what you will.

So, I’m dumping an enormous chunk of my savings into something that may get all dicked up by the government in the not too distant future. The best way I can think of to fight that is to spread the knowledge that I have about making juice. In all likelihood the first thing that the FDA will target is eLiquid vendors. The language in the proposed deeming regulations makes it pretty obvious. Even if the worst comes to pass, I’ll stay in business, I just probably won’t be able to sell premixed liquids. I’ll have to do “flavor doublers” like the Aussies are dealing with.

There are plenty of resources on the internet that will allow anyone who has the desire, to make their own eLiquid. I found the information, you can too. I’m not helping me by withholding this information, I’d be doing you all a disservice. Making my own liquid was part of my vaping journey, and it will be for many others. I’d like to give back to the community that helped me learn to make this stuff by helping others make it.

I really went back and forth over this, in the end I think that people who buy juice will continue to buy juice (for as long as they can), and those who want to make it will make it. I’ve been making juice for a fairly long time, and I still buy eLiquid from other vendors. I vape a lot of my own stuff (I love variety), but I still buy and try juice from other vendors for much the same reasons that chefs still eat at restaurants. Sometimes others do a particular thing better, sometimes I just don’t want to go to the hassle, and sometimes I just like seeing what everybody is raving about.

I’ll warn you now, this rabbit hole is deep. Mixing your own eLiquid is not something that is for everyone, or that everyone can do well. It is as much art as it is science, and just because you can successfully combine some liquids into something vapable does not mean that you can make something that is great.

Safety First

In the Juice Primer I talked a bit about the dangers of liquid nicotine. Since we are (most likely) going to be working with much higher concentrations of nicotine than you get in Vendor Juice, I am going to add a bit to that here.

  • Liquid nicotine can kill you. Most eLiquid makers work with concentrated liquid nicotine at strengths right around 100mg/ml. This is way higher than you can vape safely. If you do not pay attention to what you are doing, you can very easily poison yourself. I highly recommend going to your local community college and taking a lab safety class (or finding a chem student to instruct you in basic lab safety and protocol). Seriously, this stuff is dangerous, and safety requirements cannot be overstated here. If you spill liquid nicotine in a concentration greater than 36mg/ml on your skin you are at risk for nicotine poisoning. Liquid nicotine in concentrations greater than 100mg/ml should be treated as Hazardous Materials, and cleaned up appropriately.
  • I am not giving you advice here. I am sharing what I have found on the internet. As such you need to consult qualified specialists before actually following any of the processes or procedures in this post. I am not responsible for your actions. By reading any further you are agreeing to release me, and all of my heirs and assigns from any liability or responsibility for anything you do with this material. This material is presented for informational purposes only. If you do not agree with this statement, you must close this page now.
  • Safety equipment (including gloves, safety glasses, and a lab coat/apron should be worn at all times when handling eliquid components.
  • If you have children in your home, lock up the liquid nicotine. A tool box and lock from home depot is a cheap investment to protect curious children from something that could very well kill them. Seriously, just lock it up. If you’re not using it, keep it locked up and out of the reach of children.

Your First Steps

Before we even get started with anything eLiquid related go get a writing utensil and a notebook. Make notes on everything that you do when making eLiquid. Make notes while you are reading this post. Write down absolutely EVERYTHING. The worst feeling you can have is to vape the last of the best eLiquid that you have ever had, that you made, and relaize that you have no idea what is in it, or how you made it. I’ve had to redo hours of mixing and testing because I forgot how much of what exactly I added.

Almost every person who makes eLiquid will have this happen to them. For me it was pretty frustrating. Save yourself the frustration. Go get something to take notes with.

Once you have note taking materials, Write this down:

  • Vegetable Glycerin
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Liquid nicotine
  • Flavoring and additives

That’s all that you’ll need to put into eLiquid. Well that and sweat, tears, frustration, joy, and money.

Before you get to that point you’re going to need to buy some equipment, some ingredients, you’ll need to find a recipe, and you’ll need to do some math or download a mixing calculator.

Resources

Here are some links to things that you’re going to want to have.

Mixing Calculators

There are many mixing calculators for eLiquid, for everything from your phone to online, to spreadsheets. I’ll list several here, the one I use is this one. It is by far the most feature rich and thorough mixing calculator I’ve come across, and puts the others to shame.

Here are some others:

DIY Forums

These are the places you’ll find recipes and help with your mixing

Flavor and Supply Vendors

There are hundreds of manufacturers that make flavorings that can be used to make eLiquid, but not all flavorings are safe to vape. You’re going to want to carefully research flavorings you are considering using, in general you want to stay away from any flavoring that has any of the following:

  • Sugar
  • Oil
  • Diketones (diacetyl, acetoin, acetyl propionyl)

A full discussion of all of the flavors and flavor makers of DIY eJuice is far outside the scope of this article. There are a handful of flavor makers that are commonly used in vaping (the stuff in parentheses are the common abbreviations used for the vendors):

  • The Flavor Apprentice (TFA/TPA)
  • Capella’s Flavor Drops (CA or CAP)
  • FlavourArt (FA)
  • Flavor West (FW)
  • Inawera (IW)
  • Hangsen (HS)
  • LorAnn’s (LA or LAN for the Naturals line)

This isn’t exhaustive, but these are the common ones. Some of the flavors made by those vendors are not safe to vape. You need to do your research (check the forums listed above and you’ll find the ones that are ok).

All flavors are not created equally. Strawberry can taste radically different from different vendors. Flavor is entirely subjective, so you’ll have to try them until you find one you like.

Some of the resellers that we buy from mark the flavors that are potentially unsafe to vape. Here are some of the vendors I buy from:

Finding a Recipe

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This is perhaps the easiest thing and simultaneously the hardest thing about making eLiquid. There are thousands of recipes online, and millions more possibilities when inventing your own. And there is almost no way to tell if the one you find is going to be any good.

After you have hundreds of hours into DIY you’ll start to develop the ability to tell if you’re going to like a recipe, and if the flavors are in the right proportions (which is a topic for an entirely different post). Until then, you’re going to have to either experiment, or just guess that you might like a given recipe based on what is in it.

Just search one of the sites listed above and find a recipe that sounds like it might be good to you. For your first mix it is probably a good idea to try a recipe that others have said they like.

In the interest of keeping things complete for this post, I’ll use an example recipe that you can follow along with at home if you like (most everybody that has tried this likes it):

Pillow Mints
- 10% Double Chocolate Clear (TFA)
- 5%  Creme De Menthe (TFA)
- 1% Menthol (TFA)

This is usually posted with another name, but I don’t want to run afoul of copyright issues. It reminds me of a rectangular mint that comes in a green wrapper. It’s pretty dang good.

This is a good time to go over the way recipes are formatted on most sites. That first ingredient means that whatever PG/VG ratio and whatever nic content I want, I need to make sure that 10% of the total eLiquid content is a flavor called Double Chocolate Clear from The Flavor Apprentice (abbreviated TFA here).

Lots of people start with TFA and branch out from there (which is why I chose that particular recipe).

So we can see from the recipe that this particular eLiquid will have a total of 16% flavoring in its final form.

The percentages are of total liquid volume (or weight, but we’ll talk about that later). The flavors are concentrated, so adding them to a volume of other liquids will dilute them as needed (in some rare cases flavors may have to be diluted before they can be used, but that is the exception, and will be noted where it is needed).

If we want a 40PG/60VG end product, with 6mg/ml nic content we have some math to do.  This is where a mixing calculator comes in rather handy. Mixing calculators do the math for you. You tell it what you have, and what you want, and it tells you how much of each ingredient to put in. I suck at math, so I’m not going to even attempt to explain the long form here, just use a mixing calculator.

Let’s assume we have a bottle of 36mg/ml nicotine solution that is PG based (you can get either PG or VG based nicotine solutions, and in a range of strengths). To end up with a final product that is in the ratio we want with 6mg/ml nicotine content, we’ll need to mix together the following:

36mg/ml Nicotine (PG).........:  2.5ml (16.7% of total)
PG Dilutant...................:  1.1ml (7.3% of total)
VG Dilutant...................:  9ml (60% of total)
Double Chocolate Clear (TFA)..:  1.5ml (10% of total)
Creme De Menthe (TFA).........:  0.75ml (5% of total)
Menthol (TFA).................:  0.15ml (1% of total)

This will yield 15ml of eLiquid with 40PG/60VG at 6mg/ml nicotine strength when mixed together in those quantities.

Worth noting here is that the majority of flavors that are used in making eLiquid are suspended in PG. It is also common for them to be suspended in alcohol. Some flavorings are suspended in VG. If you are unsure, consult the manufacturer or one of the DIY forums to confirm, as having that information is important to achieving the correct PG/VG ratio in the end product.

Now that we have a recipe, we know what flavorings we need to make some eLiquid, so we need to go shopping.

Buying Ingredients

One of the downsides of this whole thing is that shipping is rather more expensive than any given liquid flavoring, so it helps to minimize the number of vendors that we need to order from to get everything we need.

I highly encourage you to try to find a vendor that has everything that you need in stock, as it will save you shipping costs.

Since our example recipe is all TFA flavors, and we are going to need PG, VG, Nicotine, and lab equipment I would probably shop for this at Wizard Labs. They are the most likely vendor to have everything needed to make the recipe listed above.

When first starting in DIY, you will likely not have any supplies, so the first bottle of eLiquid is going to be rather expensive (relatively).

If we’re ordering for just this recipe, we’ll need the following ingredients:

120ml - 36mg/ml Nicotine Solution (PG)....:  $8.79
120ml - Propylene Glycol..................:  $3.19
120ml - Vegetable Glycerin................:  $3.19
8ml - Creme De Menthe (TFA)...............:  $1.49
8ml - Double Chocolate Clear (TFA)........:  $1.49
8ml - Menthol (WL)........................:  $1.49

 

Oops, looks like Wizard Labs isn’s stocking TFA Menthol. Menthol is pretty much all the same from all manufacturers, is just varies in strength from some. We can either choose to buy TFA Menthol from another vendor (and eat a shipping charge), or substitute the Wizard Labs brand Menthol. I chose to use the WL Menthol simply because it’s not worth the extra shipping cost for me. Your call.

So far our total for ingredients is $19.64 before shipping.

We’re also going to need something to measure the ingredients (or weigh them, that will be covered in the Methodology section below), and something to put them in.

Necessary Equipment

A quick note about equipment. This stuff is frequently out of stock at common vendors. You may have no choice but to split your order among vendors, as I had to do when writing this post. I tried to find a single vendor with everything in stock, but at that time it wasn’t possible. It sucks, but those are the breaks. This is the main reason I try to buy more of whatever I am getting than I need at that moment. I would never place orders like I’m showing here, there would be much more in them.

If you’re not mixing by weight, you really should be using syringes to measure volume. I’ll cover this more in the Methodology section below. For the sake of this article, I’m going to choose to measure by volume, using syringes, which means I need to buy syringes.

Assuming we’re mixing by volume, we’re going to need the following:

  • Bottles (always get more than you need, they’re cheap, and you need them to mix anything)
  • Syringes

Bottles come in all shapes and sizes. I like to mix in bottles that are larger than the volume I’m mixing so that I have room to shake them afterwards. For this recipe I think I’ll choose this bottle. Unfortunately at the time of this writing, Wizard Labs is out of stock for 30ml and 50ml bottles. So I have some choices to make. I can either order 10ml bottles and will have to recalculate my recipe, or I can buy bottles from another vendor and eat it on the shipping.

Since the recipe called for TFA Menthol which Wizard Labs didn’t have, it makes sense for me to buy bottles and TFA Menthol from another vendor. Alternatively I could choose to use another vendor for the entire order to save on shipping (assuming I can find one with everything in stock). Unfortunately I was unable to find a vendor at the time I wrote this post that had both TFA Menthol and 30ml plastic dropper bottles in stock. Bummer, but those are the breaks. So since I don’t want to purchase 100 bottles, I’ll place an order with a second vendor only for bottles.

In the real world, I would really pad that order with additional flavors that I wanted to try that Wizard Labs didn’t stock. If I were to order bottles from Bull City Vapors, I would probably get some Inawera or FlavourArt flavors that I haven’t tried or that I am running low on. My DIYing gets rather expensive at times. I’ll go with this bottle, but because I’m gonna pay full shipping, I’ll get 10 of them to make it worth it.

So I paid full shipping for $5 in bottles from Bull City Vapor.

We still need syringes (which Bull City didn’t have in stock, but luckily Wizard Labs did). I prefer to have one syringe for each ingredient. You certainly can do it with one syringe, but you’re going to have to clean it after each ingredient, and you risk flavor contamination. For the cost, for me, it’s just worth it to buy one for each.

So we added the following to our Widard Labs order:

1ml Syringe (x3)........:  $2.25
5ml Syringe (x2)........:  $1.18
10ml Syringe............:  $0.69
14g Blunt needle (x5)...:  $3.15

So all in all, we spent $26.91 at Wizard Labs and $5 at Bull City Vapor plus shipping from both. Figure $45 all said (probably a touch high for shipping, but not much). Technically that means we are making a $45 bottle of eLiquid today, but anyhting else we make with those supplies is free.

One of the nice benefits of the mixing calculator I use is that it will tell you how much a given recipe costs. The recipe we are making using these supplies cost about $0.80 for the 15ml of eLiquid we are going to end up with, as shown here:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Of course like everything else, the cost per ml goes down when you buy in larger quantities.

My first DIY order was something like $270, but I ordered more than 80 flavors, and a bunch of equipment. The buy in for DIY is kinda steep, but once you have everything you can make eLiquid all day long for about $0.05 per ml. An investment that will definitely pay for itself.

 

Methodology

Before we start mixing eLiquid we need to talk about how we’re going to measure our ingredients.

You have two basic choices:

  • By volume
  • By weight

There are merits to both, but in my opinion measuring by weight is superior. Measuring by weight is now covered in DIY 102, but I’ll just say this here: it is faster, less expensive, and far more accurate than measuring by volume. Liquid mixing by weight is how chemists and manufacturers do it for a reason, primarily for repeatability.

I am using mixing by volume here only because it is much easier to explain (and this post is going to be long enough as it is, we’re at ~3200 words right now for those counting).

Since this post is using volume measurements, I want to talk a bit about how you can measure in volume, and why I chose syringes.

There are basically four ways to measure by volume:

  • Count drops
  • Syringes
  • Pipettes
  • Volumetric marked containers (beakers or flasks)

In the quantities that we are using volumetric marked containers is a bit of overkill, and can be difficult to get repeatable measurements with, plus some of that liquid is going to stay in the container.

Counting drops is the absolute least accurate method. Every dropper is going to dispense a different size drop, as will how you hold that container (vertical versus horizontal versus cocked at an angle will all produce different size drops).

Pipettes can be the most accurate of the volumetric measurements, but a 1ml marked Class A Glass Mohr Pipette is going to cost about $20, plus you’re going to need a pipette pump to make using it accurate (cheapest is about $7, but you lose accuracy there). Plastic pipettes are great for measuring by weight, but not as accurate for volume as a syringe. If you’re going to spend Glass pipette money, you’d be better served by investing in a good digital balance (scale).

Syringes offer the least variance in measuring in the volumes we are talking, and when not measuring by weight, at a reasonable cost.

Syringes can (in most cases) be used without a blunt tip needle attached, but the needles make it a much easier process. Except when measuring VG. VG is thicker than the lies told by politicians and anti tobacco activists about vaping. Seriously it’s thick. I use 14g needles because they are larger than most (smaller numbers means larger diameter with needles). I typically extract VG without a needle, but it can be done with a 14g needle. Try getting 25ml of VG into a syringe with an 18g needle. Your fingers will hate you for it.

To measure with a syringe: draw some liquid into the syringe, and keeping the needle submerged in the liquid, “purge” the syringe by pushing all of it back into the bottle. Now draw out the correct amount. If you did it right you should now have a syringe with no air bubbles in it. With syringes, measure using the bottom of the plunger (they are convex) as the marking point for the graduations on the cylinder.

When you have depressed the syringe all the way, you have dispensed the measured amount, but some still remains in the needle. Do not add this to the liquid you are mixing (unless you don’t care about accuracy). You can carefully put it back in the flavoring container (risking possible contamination) or just flush it with water.

Remember that you are working with highly concentrated liquids here, so a spill is no joke. I spilled about 3ml of Banana flavoring in my kitchen once, and the whole front of the house smelled of banana for a couple of days, despite my best efforts to clean it up. Delicious banana.

I find that using a mixing tray to hold all supplies when mixing is a good way to contain potential spills. You can get these from Amazon or most lab equipment supply stores. In a pinch you could use a sturdy cookie sheet. The lip that surrounds the tray should keep any spill localized and allow for more thorough cleanup.

Ok I think we’re ready to mix our first eLiquid!

Making Your First eLiquid

Goggles_(10740310615)

Safety first! Glasses on, gloves and apron/labcoat on.

Note taking materials and writing instrument at hand. Print out your recipe, or write it down in your notebook so it is at hand for easy reference.

Gather your ingredients, your bottle(s) (make sure to rinse with distilled water and thoroughly dry them before hand) and your measuring instruments. Lay out a work area (somewhere clean and free from obstructions and debris). Ideally you want a non porous surface, as a spilled flavor can potentially soak into a wood surface leaving a strong odor behind.

Here we go!

The order we mix things in does not really matter. I like to add my nicotine last, as that is the only part that is dangerous. However, the very first thing I do is shake the nicotine solution I will be using. This ensures that the nicotine is well distributed in the carrier, and will be delivered in the right concentration. Now set it aside and let all the microbubbles you just created rise to the top (this usually takes about 10 minutes for most of them to dissipate).

One additional piece of equipment that you’ll want is a cup to discard your used syringes for later cleaning. I use a red plastic solo cup, but any container will do. since my container is light and top heavy, I fill it about half way with distilled water. I call this the discard cup (original I know).

I like to add flavors first, then PG/VG, then nicotine solution, so that is the order I’ll go in here. Follow along or do it in whatever order makes sense to you.

  1. Measure and add 0.15ml Menthol to your empty 30ml bottle using a 1ml syringe.
  2. Cap the ingredient and set it aside, well away from your unused ingredients, place the syringe in the discard cup.
  3. Note what you just did in your notebook.
  4. Measure and add 1.5ml of Double Chocolate Clear to your 30ml bottle using a 1ml syringe.
  5. Cap the ingredient and set it aside, well away from your unused ingredients, place the syringe in the discard cup.
  6. Note what you just did in your notebook.
  7. Measure and add 0.75ml of Creme De Menthe to your 30ml bottle using a 1ml syringe.
  8. Cap the ingredient and set it aside, well away from your unused ingredients, place the syringe in the discard cup.
  9. Note what you just did in your notebook.
  10. Measure and add 9ml of VG to your 30ml bottle using a 10ml syringe.
  11. Cap the ingredient and set it aside, well away from your unused ingredients, place the syringe in the discard cup.
  12. Note what you just did in your notebook.
  13. Measure and add 1.1ml of PG to your 30ml bottle using a 5ml syringe.
  14. Cap the ingredient and set it aside, well away from your unused ingredients, place the syringe in the discard cup.
  15. Note what you just did in your notebook.
  16. Measure and add 2.5ml of 36mg/ml nicotine solution to your 30ml bottle using a 5ml syringe.
  17. Note what you just did in your notebook.
  18. Cap the ingredient and set it aside, well away from your unused ingredients, place the syringe in the discard cup.
  19. Cap the 30ml bottle and shake well.
  20. Clean up all materials.

You are now in possession of one 15ml bottle of eLiquid that (if everything was measured correctly) is 40PG/60VG, 6mg/ml nicotine strength, and delicious.

This particular recipe is good right away (just like Vendor Juice, some DIY eLiquid needs to be aged before it tastes good), so go ahead and try it.

I had intended to add a Tips and Tricks heading here, but this post is pretty long already, and that really deserves its own post.

Did I leave something out? Make a mistake? Let me know in the comments!

end

What exactly is in my eLiquid?

The vaping community needs a bit of intellectual honesty.Isoamyl_acetate

As a group, we take a pretty serious approach to what we are doing, but tend to be less… well we tend to over simplify what vaping is when we talk to other people about vaping. This is leading to lies by omission, and the spreading of bad information.

My big beef with the vaping community as a whole right now is the answer I see virtually 99% of the time to the question this article poses. Ask any vaper you know, go into a B&M, hell call a eLiquid vendor and ask that. If that person has educated themselves at all about vaping you’re going ot hear some variant of this:

  • Propylene Glycol
  • Vegetable Glycerine
  • Nicotine (if it has nicotine in it)
  • GRAS Food Flavorings

Technically that is true, but it’s not the whole truth (I have been guilty of making that statement). It starts to fall apart when you start hearing things like this:

Vaping is better than cigarettes because there are only four things in the eLiquid, not over 4000 chemicals like with smoking.

I pulled that comment from a thread on a popular vaping board. I see and hear this statement, or slight variations of it all the time, and it’s just not true, exactly. There may well be thousands of chemicals in your eLiquid. Maybe even more than are in cigarettes. It would be virtually impossible to determine an exact count (well at least without some extreme assistance from the actual flavor manufacturers and the vendor you bought it from), but we can pretty well guarantee that the real honest answer isn’t four.

Chemical count has nothing to do with how good or bad something is for you. It comes down to what specifically you are putting in your body, and how that will effect you both now, and in the years and decades to come.

So the first three things are good to go. There is a ton of research about them, and a lot of it even covers inhalation. The “food flavorings” is the part that leads to issues.

GRAS Food Flavorings

“GRAS” is an acronym for the phrase Generally Recognized As Safe. Under sections 201(s) and 409 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive, that is subject to premarket review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excluded from the definition of a food additive.

Nearly all of the “food flavorings” used in eLiquids are GRAS designated by the FDA. I only say ‘nearly all’ because I do not know that absolutely every single one is GRAS designated. There is nothing preventing a vendor from putting things that are not GRAS in their eLiquid (the vast majority will not do that though as I’m pretty sure that is the single fastest way to get shunned by the entire vaping community).

The problem is this tricky bit right here:

…generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use

Emphasis mine. So while these things have been designated as GRAS by the FDA, that is only in relation to their use in food and beverages. No research has really been done on their safety when aerosolized and inhaled at concentration. To be clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean that these things are bad for you. Or that they are good or benign. We simply do not know. We can make some assumptions, and we can deduce things, and there is even some preliminary research that shows that at worst, vaping is still better for you than smoking. But there are a few things that are designated as GRAS that we know are very bad to heat and inhale.

While good information to have, this still doesn’t really cover the question; what is in the GRAS Food Flavorings that we are vaping?

Pass the ether! Wait, what’s an ester?Ester-general

At the heart of flavorings used in vaping is the problematic fact that we cannot just use fruit extracts because they contain too much sugar. Sugar burns at the temperatures we vape at, and this can be pretty bad for your health. Ever have an eLiquid that instantly gunks up your coils and dry hits then feel like you just inhaled sulfuric acid (not that any dry hit is any kind of pleasant)? That’s what sugar does. Luckily, the food industry has already solved this tricky little problem using esters.

If you really want to know all about esters, read this. For the rest of us that don’t really care about the science behind the thing, esters are essentially (usually) alcohol based molecules that have a scent or taste that we humans associate with some fruit or flavor.

The ester called isoamyl acetate tastes something approximately like banana, so a human may say “gee that kinda tastes like banana.” To get closer to that banana taste, other esters are added in the correct proportions. This can be done through trial and error or by chemical analysis of the actual banana (isoamyl acetate does naturally occur in bananas). Some flavors require hundreds of esters to get to the point where a human would taste it and say “hey that is banana!”

The nice thing about this is that someone actually knows exactly what went into that flavor cocktail; there is a formula for it somewhere. Unfortunately, getting that list of ingredients will be just about impossible, as there is big money to be made in the flavoring world and formulae are closely guarded trade secrets.

So when an eLiquid vendor (or a DIYer) sits down to mix up a bottle of strawberry banana flavored eLiquid, they aren’t just mixing a couple of chemicals, they are actually combining several hundred and possibly several thousand chemicals to produce something that approximates the taste that we know as strawberry banana. now consider something really complex like Five Pawns’ Grandmaster, or The Vapor Chef’s Hobbes Blood, where each individual flavor may be a conglomerate of several manufacturer’s individual flavorings (for instance, when I use peanut butter flavor, I like to combine the peanut better flavor of several vendors into an UBER Peanut Butter), the chemical count can quickly skyrocket.


Diacetyl is the primary thing we know we want to avoid. Some diketones have been shown to contain trace amounts of, or catalyze into trace amounts of diacetyl. The most notable of these are acetoin and acetyl propionyl. These ingredients have been used in, and are currently used in many eLiquids. Diacetyl is a pretty well known hazard among vapers, but is used in some surprising flavors (traditionally diacetyl is associated with buttery or custardy notes, but one flavor vendor was using it in raspberry flavoring).

In the last couple of years many of the food flavoring vendors have reduced or eliminated their use of diacetyl, but many are likely unaware that some diketones can contain trace amounts of diacetyl (or don’t care because at those concentrations diacetyl is fine in food).

Diketones are suspect because they can contain trace amounts of diacetyl (it’s not a certain thing that they will). Vaping is relatively new, and as such there are risks involved. Each person must determine what risks they are willing to take. Some people are fine with diacetyl being an actual ingredient in their eLiquid, some want nothing to do with anything that might contain the tiniest amount of diacetyl. This is an individual choice.

The real issue for us vapers is that no one is making flavorings specifically for use in vaping, yet. That I am aware of, there are only two flavor manufacturers that are actually testing their product for trace amounts of diacetyl. Even worse, there are other flavor vendors who are actively claiming that their flavors do not contain diacetyl or diketones, but independent testing has shown that some of those flavors do in fact contain these potentially harmful ingredients.

There have been statements from a couple of flavor manufacturers that they are working on flavoring lines specifically for use in vaping. As of today, only FlavorArt out of Italy is producing test results showing that some of their flavorings are actually proven to be diacetyl free.

The Flavor Apprentice (TFA/TPA) was one of the first flavor vendors to do some research about diacetyl and diketones, and has made a good effort to note which of their flavors may contain any diketones (they don’t use diacetyl).

This is the kind of intellectual honesty that we need to have as vapers, if we want to be able to counter all of the bullshit that is put out about vaping by the ANTZ.

The truth is that we don’t know that vaping is 100% safe. We don’t know precisely what is in the eLiquid that we are vaping.

We do know that we aren’t smoking, that there is preliminary research that shows that vaping is incredibly less harmful than smoking, and that there are ingredients that can be used in eLiquid that we must watch out for.

The quickest way to lose credibility is to be caught in a lie. Only slightly less of an offense is to be caught telling half truths, or basing your arguments on inaccurate data. I see vapers do this all the time, and thankfully no one arguing against them has had the intelligence or knowledge to exploit it. Yet. We should stop while we are ahead.

There is actually an incredible amount of information about vaping out there for the finding, we just need to learn it and pass it around the community.

end

 

 

 

Battery Data: Sony US18650VTC4 (2100mAh)

Battery Data

Specs

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Brand:  Sony
Model: US18650VTC4
Chemistry: IMR
Bare Cell: Unknown
Capacity: 2100mAh
Diameter:  ~18mm
Length:  ~64.8mm
Positive end: Flat top
Lowest Discharge Voltage: 2.5v
Max Charging Current: 1.1A
Life Cycle:  500 charging cycles
Maximum Continuous Discharge Rate (CDR):  30A
C Rating:  14.28C (calculated)
Source:  Here

Use

Regulated APV?: Yes.
Mechanical APV?:  Yes
Lowest Atomizer Resistance before damage?:  0.2Ω

end

Battery Data: Sony US18650VTC3 (1600mAh)

Battery Data

Specs

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Click to enlarge

Brand:  Sony
Model: US18650VTC3
Chemistry: IMR
Bare Cell: Unknown
Capacity: 1600mAh
Diameter:  ~18mm
Length:  ~64.8mm
Positive end: Flat top
Lowest Discharge Voltage: 2.5v
Max Charging Current: 1.5A
Life Cycle:  Unknown
Maximum Continuous Discharge Rate (CDR):  30A
C Rating:  18.75C (calculated)
Source:  Here

Use

Regulated APV?: Yes.
Mechanical APV?:  Yes
Lowest Atomizer Resistance before damage?:  0.2Ω

end

PSA: Please don’t do this.

Every once in a while I’m taken aback at some of the things I see in the vaping world.

Today I was checking the site stats, and as I generally do, I looked at the search terms that are bringing people to my blog. That’s when I noticed this:

WTF_Question

 

So, can you use galvanized wire for coils? Not unless you want to experience Metal Fume Fever.

I don’t know who you are, but I hope you find this before you try it.

Aside from the medical risk, I’m not thinking that it would work too well, since steel conducts quite well. Your battery may get unfortunately hot (as in “go into thermal runaway”, but the wire probably won’t heat up all that well.

If Home Depot or Lowes sold wire that could be used in vaping, we would have heard about it by now. Please stay safe and use only Kanthal or Nichrome type wire for vaping (resistance wire).

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Hardware Review: EHPRO Kayfun Lite Clone

Specs

Material:  Stainless Steel (unspecified)
Length: 51.8mm
Diameter:  22mm (23mm with “makrolon” tank section)
Capacity:  4.5ml
Battery Connection:  510
MSRP:  $49.99
What’s in the box:  

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Click to enlarge

  • (1) KFL Atomizer Clone (with stainless center tank section)
  • (1) “Makrolon” clear tank section (polycarbonate)
  • (1) Kayfun style drip tip
  • (1) Short style drip tip
  • (1) Padded travel/storage box
  • (1) Mini keychain screwdriver
  • (1) Small piece of silica wick
  • (1) small piece of kanthal wire (unspecified gauge)
  • (4) Large o-rings (for the tank sections)
  • (2) Small o-rings (for the 510 drip tip socket)
  • (2) Spare post screws

Pros

  • Relatively low cost.
  • Decent example of a KFL style atomizer.
  • Comes with everything a real KFL comes with.
  • “Standard” 510 drip tip socket.

Cons

  • Extremely difficult to disassemble (very tight tolerances, and o-rings, no texture to grip.
  • Fit and finish is off from the actual KFL by a wide margin.
  • Non adjustable tight draw (relatively speaking).

Errata

I ordered this from eciggity on a lark, having never owned a Kayfun style atomizer. My intent was to decide if I might want to spend the money on a real KFL+, so I ordered the EHPRO KFL+ clone, and they sent the KFL clone. I don’t know what I expected.

This is more of an imitation than a clone, it does not have any of the actual Kayfun markings, but is clearly intended to copy the design.

The flavor on this atomizer is stellar. Unbelievable. I will absolutely be ordering a legit KFL+ (as soon as I can find it in stock somewhere).

The sheer quantity of stuff included in the package is surprising. I did not expect all of that with a clone.

Fit and Finish

You can see in this picture that EHPRO missed the chamfer on the top tank section:

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Everything on this clone is very smooth, which coupled with the very tight fit makes this thing an absolute bear to disassemble. I suppose this is good, as the tank seal is absolutely airtight.

The draw

My only real complaint is that the non adjustable draw on this tank is very much tighter than I like (I prefer an airy draw), but if that is the price for the absolutely wonderful flavor, I am willing to pay it gladly. As I mentioned, I will be buying a legit KFL+ as soon as I can find one in stock, and am hoping that the adjustable airflow will get me closer to where I want to be.

I will note here that I build this with a vertical micro coil centered over the air hole, wrapped with sterile cotton around the outside of the coil.

Minor leaking, occasionally

I’m not gonna mince words here, I experienced leaking from the fill screw on the bottom of the unit. Not every time, not with any reason I could figure out. Sometimes it just leaked. This could be from taking it outside in ~30F temperatures, and then indoors into ~70F temperatures (though it was not consistent), or it could be a design flaw. Not sure. This leak wasn’t terribly bad, it was just annoying.

I did on two occasions experience leaking from the air hole in the side of the unit. I don’t know what that is about. Again, could be from environmental changes, hell it might even be from the way I was drawing on the thing (it is a bottom coil unit, and I was drawing on it pretty hard).

I am hoping that the leaking is just an artifact of it being a clone.

Maintenance

For completeness I am going to talk a wee bit about assembling the Kayfun style atomizers. All things considered, there are quite a number of parts to these things. If you’re not familiar (or not mechanically inclined) you might get into trouble figuring out how to get the thing back together. Here are all of the parts, lined up in assembly order (sorry about the poor lighting):

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This is basically what you want to do after getting the coil built and wicked as you prefer (the first pic shows the atomizer deck with the chimney base attached):

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Chimney base mounted – Click to enlarge

You could fully assemble the chimney, and then mount it on the atomizer deck, but I prefer being able to see the coil and verify that nothing is touching before closing it up.

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Chimney mounted – Click to enlarge

At this point it doesn’t matter which tank section you use, as long as you use either the top or the bottom (no male threads, only the center section has male threads) because those two pieces are threaded the same.

Bottom tank section added - Click to enlarge

Bottom tank section added – Click to enlarge

Middle tank section added (I used the stainless section here) - Click to enlarge

Middle tank section added (I used the stainless section here) – Click to enlarge

Top tank section and top cap added - Click to enlarge

Top tank section and top cap added – Click to enlarge

Conclusion

This clone is debatably worth the $49.99 that I paid for it. It is far from the best Kayfun clone I’ve seen, but it is not bad either. The flavor production is excellent. It did in fact accomplish what I wanted. I have decided to buy a real Kayfun without having to buy a Kayfun and then discovering that I don’t like it, but I can’t say I would recommend this to someone who was planning on using it as a daily driver.

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Getting Started: Building Your First Coil

coil_24484_lg

You’ve got your RDA, wire, and wick. Now you’re ready to build your first coil.

Safety first. If you build a coil with too little resistance and use it on a device without safeties (like a mechanical APV), you will probably destroy your battery, could destroy your APV, and might get hurt.

  • It is imperative that you test the resistance of your coil before you put power to it.
  • Do the math using Ohm’s Law, and figure out how much current you are going to draw with that coil.
  • Know the limitations of your battery and device.
  • Don’t end up with a Darwin Award, or in the news.

Ok, on to the fun stuff!

Material choices

Essentially you need two things to build a coil:

  • Wick material
  • Coil material

There are something like a dozen different materials that can be used for both the wick and the wire, each having its merits and drawbacks. For someone who has never built a coil, the material selection alone can be a stopping point.

Wick Material

Some of the more common materials used for wick include:

  • Silica (this is essentially quartz that is spun long and twisted together into various diameter cords).
  • Ekowool (this is a specific brand of silica that is braided rather than twisted, so it frays less).
  • Cotton (many use undyed, unbleached  100% cotton yarn or cotton balls – cotton must be boiled and washed thoroughly before use unless it is marked as sterile).
  • Stainless steel mesh (this is very finely woven stainless steel thread, ideally raw 316L stainless, in #325, #400, or #500 – this number denotes the number of threads per inch in the mesh).
  • Stainless steel cable (with cable it is vital that only raw stainless steel is used, do not use galvanized stainless steel for anything vaping related).

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of these materials.

Silica

silica

Plain twisted silica cord is some of the cheapest and most readily available wick material. Silica is glass, so a torch will not ignite it (at least not a hobby torch), and it takes a while to even get to the point where it glows. Twisted silica also tends to fray very quickly and can be difficult to thread into coils.

Some people have health concerns with silica, as there are links to lung problems and the inhalation of small quantities of silica. There have been no studies of this in relation to vaping, but if you wash your wicks and rinse your deck after building a coil it should not be an issue.

Ekowool

ekowool

Ekowool improves on twisted silica by using braided construction. This makes it much more resistant to fraying, and (in my opinion) better at wicking. The primary drawback is price; Ekowool is about ten times as expensive as plain twisted silica.

Ekowool comes in two varieties, hollow braid, and hollow braid with internal strands. The hollow braids tend to flatten out, which can make getting good contact with the coil difficult in some configurations (though it is not terribly difficult to achieve).

In theory the braided construction of Ekowool should also reduce the possibilities of small silica particles breaking off of the wick and being inhaled (not that this is very likely to begin with).

Cotton

cotton

Cotton is used primarily because it is cheap, but it also gives excellent flavor. The major drawback of cotton is that it is flammable. When using cotton wicks you must take great care to avoid letting the wick go dry, as it will burn almost instantly if not saturated, and once burned, must be replaced (unless you like a horrid burnt taste in your vape).

Stainless steel mesh

ss mesh

Stainless steel mesh is primarily used in Genesis style RBAs (which are beyond the scope of this post), but is sometimes used in RDAs and recoiling protank heads. Stainless steel mesh is quite expensive (as much as $20 for a 2″x6″ piece in some places. It also lasts a really long time and is fairly easy to reuse. Some vape shops and websites sell these as pre rolled wicks for a bit less than sheets or swatches.

The primary concern with using stainless steel mesh as a wick material is that it is raw stainless steel, not galvanized or coated in any way. Aside from buying this from vape specific stores or websites, this material can often be found in (or ordered from) specialty hardware stores. It is mostly used in filtration products.

An interesting thing to note is that the coarser weave mesh (like #325 mesh) will wick better than the finer weave material (like #500 mesh).

The really frustrating part of working with SS mesh is that it is conductive, and must be oxidized very well to prevent shorts. Even with thorough oxidizing (repeated torching and quenching), it is quite easy to scratch the oxidation off and the result is hot spots and shorts.

I do not recommend working with stainless steel mesh or cable for those new to coils.

Stainless steel cable

SSCable

As with Stainless steel mesh, ensuring that the material is raw stainless steel is the primary concern.

Stainless steel cable is most commonly used in Genesis style RBAs, though I have seen some use it in RDAs. I personally find it to be terribly difficult to work with in RDAs. It frays rather easily, and does not do a great job of holding juice (though it can wick very well in vertical wick applications as found in Genesis style RBAs).

As with SS mesh, SS cable is conductive and must be thoroughly oxidized before use, is easy to develop shorts and hot spots, and sometimes frustrating to work with.

These are by no means the only wick materials used in vaping, and the choice of wick material is largely based on individual preference. I like to use Ekowool if using silica, as I personally feel that it is both the least problematic to wrap with, and also provides very good flavor while minimizing the risks and frustrations of silica wick.

Currently I am favoring cotton, and will generally recommend it over any other type of wick.

Wire material

Common wire material used includes:

  • Kanthal A1 resistance wire
  • Kanthal A resistance wire
  • Nichrome resistance wire
  • Ribbon Kanthal
  • Bakero wire
ResistanceWire

Ribbon and standard resistance wire – click to enlarge

Kanthal wire has become the standard for vaping, due primarily to its cost and high heat tolerance. Kanthal A1 coils will outlast nichrome coils by a wide margin.

Bakero wire is relatively new to the vaping scene, and is not yet widely available (it’s also ridiculously expensive), but there are people who swear that it is the absolute best wire for coil building in the history of vaping. I have not used it, but the videos I have seen of it in action keep me from dismissing it on price alone. Maybe one day I will find a vendor that sells it in sample sizes and give it a try.

The only factor other than personal preference in determining coil material is the space available on the RDA/RBA, and whether the posts have holes in them. I personally like ribbon kanthal, but it is incredibly difficult to use on an RDA without post holes (like the IGO-L). Some of the smaller atomizers (like the AGT) require using wire with a higher resistance (I wouldn’t want to try to wrap on an AGT with 28g kanthal).

I strongly urge those new to rebuilding to buy a variety of wire sizes to determine what is best for them.

Basic 4/3 (or 5/4) wrap coil

Before we get started here, just know up front that the first coil you wrap is probably not going to work out. Mine didn’t. My first mistake was in not using enough wire, so the coil did not provide enough resistance to fire on my APV (I was using a regulated APV at the time, because I didn’t want to accidentally “discover” what sub ohm vaping was like on my first attempt.

Just figure that the first couple coils are not going to work out, but they are good practice, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you nail it on your first attempt.

You’ll hear people refer to a coil as a 3/2 wrap, or a 4/3 wrap. This is nothing more complicated than a count of the loops in the coil. If you look at the picture at the very top of this post, that is a drawing of a 4/3 wrap. There are four loops on one side, and three on the other. So a 5/4 wrap would have one more loop in the coil. Nothing earth shattering, but it can be confusing if you’ve never had it explained.

First you have to decide what size wick and wire you’re going to use. This post could easily get out of hand with all the different possibilities, so I am going to just make arbitrary choices and tell you why I am doing everything here.

For this example I am going to use 30g Kanthal A-1 wrapped on 2mm Ekowool wick in a 4/3 wrap, mounting on an IGO-L. All of those choices are arbitrary, I simply had large quantities of those materials laying around.

First you need to decide how you want the wick to sit in the RDA. You can get away with just a short length of wick that is not much longer than the coil (shown in the first picture below, ignore the ribbon kanthal), but I like to leave one side a little long to hold a bit more juice as shown in the second picture.

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Actually wrapping the coil

Here are the raw materials of our coil:

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Click to enlarge

That is approximately 6 inches of 30g Kanthal, and about 2.5 inches of 2mm Ekowool.

Both the wire and the wick should be thoroughly torched to remove any residue from the manufacturing process before proceeding. Torching (with a butane torch, not a bic lighter), will make the wire a bit less “springy”, allowing it to hold its shape better. It will also make the Ekowool tighten up and stiffen a bit. Be aware that both of these materials conduct heat very well, and should be held with pliers during the torching.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In the picture above, you’ll notice that the cut on the left side of the wick is much cleaner. I cut both sides of the wick with the same snips, the one on the right was done before torching. If you enlarge that picture, you’ll notice some white flecks sitting next to the freshly trimmed side of the wick. This is powdered Ekowool. You do not want to be breathing this stuff, which is why it is important to thoroughly rinse your wick after mounting it to the atomizer deck.

There are basically two ways you can wrap the coil:

  • Wrap around the wick
  • Wrap the coil around a tool and thread the wick in afterwards

I prefer the second method in most cases (though in some cases it is not practical to do it that way). The even sizes of Ekowool are one of those exceptions. Ekowool is a hollow sheath, and in the odd sizes, it is filled with strands of silica wick (or cotton in some cases). When wrapping the even sizes (like the 2mm I am using here), it is simply easier to wrap directly around the wick (unless you are going to double the wick over) because the wick tends to flatten out.

This is personal preference. I find it easier to wrap around something else, mount the coil on the atomizer, and then thread the wick in.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to choke the wick with the coil. You want to allow the wick enough room to draw the juice in to the coil, but still be touching the coil.

Regardless of where you choose to wrap the coil, there are two methods for wrapping a coil:

  • Freehand
  • Use a tool

I prefer to use a tool to wrap coils (something small and rigid to keep the coil straight), as it requires less dexterity to get a decent coil, and can help with mounting the coil to the posts.

Here is a picture of my freehand 4/3 wrap of 30g Kanthal on a piece of 2mm Ekowool:

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Mounting the coil on the atomizer deck

If you wrapped around a tool, don’t remove the tool before you mount the coil to the atomizer. The tool will stabilize the coil during the mounting process. In this case, I did not use a tool, so I just need to be careful not to deform the coil or bend it.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In this image you can see that I have the coil mounted to the atomizer deck. Because I have done this a time or two, I know that there is something not right here, because this coil should be slightly higher in resistance. I will tighten down the screws a bit, clip the coil legs to size, and adjust the coils a bit and check again.

Click to enlarge

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Better. Now If I were planning to use this coil (I’m going to rewrap this with a micro coil and cotton build momentarily), I’d want to get the wick adjusted and test it again before firing it. Since this coil is history in a minute, we’ll call it good and fire it on a mod to see how it heats up.

Click to enlarge

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Not a great photo, but you can see that the coils are glowing evenly, and the glow started from the middle of the coil and moved out to the edge.

I always “pulse” the coil a few times (don’t do this with cotton wicks) to ensure it is not going to pop or short. Pulsing is nothing more than firing the mod rapidly until the coils glow brightly with no juice in the wick.

Things to look out for

  • Make sure the coil is not touching the top cap, posts (other than where it is fastened),  or deck of the RDA.
  • Make sure there are no coils touching.
  • If you make the legs of the coil too long where they attach to the posts, you will develop a “hot leg” (where the coil gets hot fastest, is not cooled by the juice in the wick, and will likely break first).
  • You can adjust the coils with a flat tip screwdriver or a toothpick if they are touching or too close together.
  • If you are building with the atomizer deck on a device, make sure that the device is off or locked before you proceed. Coil burns are not fun.

Measuring resistance on an RDA

I cannot state this enough: you must check the resistance of your coils before firing them on a device. It is all too easy to short an atomizer and damage your device. Resistance checkers designed specifically for vaping (such as the one seen throughout this post) are relatively cheap (the run about $20 pretty much anywhere), and can save you lots of grief (and prevent the possible destruction of your device).

If all you have is a multimeter, I highly suggest that you buy a pre-wired 510 connection. You can then attach some aligator clips to the pre-wired connection and use those to clip to your multimeter leads.

Why would you go to that trouble when you could just touch the multimeter leads to the atomizer’s 510 connection? Because it’s not as easy as it sounds and requires very steady hands (not to mention a fair bit of dexterity) to get any kind of accurate measurement from a 510 connection using just multimeter probes.

So there you have it. You’ve built your first coil. Now you can try out all the different combinations of wick and wire (not to mention all the different kinds of coils), until you find something that is right for you.

Good luck!

end