Technically a true “mech” will have no controllers or wires. Just a battery tube, cap with connector (510 is most common), and a switch to complete the circuit.
In practice, many have a wire in the switch, but there there are plenty that are true mechs.
Some people refer to mechs as Personal Vaporizers, I prefer Advanced Personal Vaporizer, because mechs require advanced knowledge on the part of the user to be used safely and to get the most out of the vaping experience.
Mechs essentially connect the topper (be it a carto or an RDA) directly to the battery (the whole idea is to reduce voltage loss as much as possible by having as little as possible between the battery and the atomizer). Because they have a fixed voltage (whatever the battery used can supply), the vaping experience is controlled only by changing the resistance of the atomizer. Since there are no safety circuits in a mech, it is possible to use sub ohm coils in them which create incredibly high current draws on the battery, and can be quite dangerous.
I personally won’t use anything but IMR batteries in any APV, but this is doubly true with mechs. IMR batteries are designed for high current draw, and are less likely to fail in a… spectacular way if they do fail.
Several vendors sell safety fuses that are designed to prevent most catastrophic battery failures.
Now that we know what Mechanical APVs are all about, let’s take a brief look at what is out there.
Custom mechs are where it all started. The first electronic cigarette was a cigalike produced in China in 2004, but what we think of as vaping didn’t really come about until the first mechanical mods were made.
The next step was enterprising users converting cheap flashlight bodies to accept a connector threaded for the cigalike cartridges, which was often under powered, and could be quite dangerous.
Eventually small shops or individual makers in Greece and the Philipines (and now the US and Russia among others) began making APV devices specifically designed to use a standard rechargeable battery that could be swapped out when the need arose. Due to the current requirements, the 18xxx series of batteries seems to have become the standard for which these PVs are produced.
Initially these devices used the cartridges from cigalikes, but soon enough someone figured out that there were easier ways to vape, and the first rebuildable atomizers began to appear.
Due to the way these devices came about, there are literally hundreds of different mechs in the market. Prices range from about $100 to upwards of $300 depending on maker and options.
Here are some of the more common mechs that you may encounter that are considered “customs”:
Metal Madness Vapors
The Clone Wars
With the success of mechs comes the flood of clones from China. Some are good, some are meh. All are cheaper than the original they are cloning. Many of these are not true mechs, in that there may be a wire in the switch or a ground wire more often than not. I’ve seen these colnes range from $150 to as little as $18.
I’m not telling you that you should not buy these, but you should be aware that the more obvious clones are stealing from the people who made the original. They are cashing in on the original design without paying any licensing or royalties to the designer. For instance, while the Kamry K100 is flat out copying the Empire Mods PV, the K101 is different enough (I think) that it is not a blatant rip off of the design, had they not included the drip shield.
This is one of the better made clones (the K100 is a direct copy of the Empire Mods PV), and is what I see most frequently recommended as a good first mech for people wanting to try mechanical APVs.
Sigelei… well just pick one.
This is widely considered one of the better clones made, and some consider it one of the best mechs made period.
This one comes in both a telescoping and a non telescoping version:
This looks like a semi original mech, but it is too close to the Nzonic for me to dismiss it as a clone. Edward at Sun Vapers reviewed this recently and says that it is very well made, and the bottom firing switch is a true magnetic switch (rare in clones).
Though selling for $150, this is a blatant clone of the Sentinel M16.
Relatively new, and not yet widely used or available are ePipes, (mostly) mechanical APVs that use the form factor of a traditional tobacco pipe. These are not true mechs in the sense that most of these will have some wiring and a few of the better ones incorporate a fuse (such as the vapesafe), and even fewer have VV/VW capabilities.
Almost exclusively these use 18350 size batteries, though a few 18500 and 18650 versions are starting to appear.
One of the first Chinese made mechs I’ve seen that isn’t really a copy of something else is the SMOKTech E-pipe.
As of this post that is the only mass production ePipe worth discussing, everything else requires proprietary cartridges or is not really mass produced. The SMOKTech E-Pipe retails right around $50, though you can find them for about $35 with a little shopping.
One of the hazards of maintaining this blog is that it can be quite detrimental to my wallet. In the course of doing research for this review, I somehow managed to order one of these SMOKTech ePipes (sorry hunny!). I’ll be doing a thorough review once I receive it, as there are several bits of information about this unit that were not readily available on the vendors’ sites.
Custom ePipes though, are another matter entirely. First you have to find someone selling them, maybe they have stock, or you may have to go on a waiting list. Or you can have one custom made. Did I mention that these things are kinda pricey? I have not found any for less than $100, ranging north of $300 depending again on maker and options.
Here are a couple of examples of custom ePipes:
ePipes are available in pretty much every style that you can get a traditional tobacco pipe in (and many are made from traditional pipes), and some come in quite original and unique designs.
I really like the concept of the ePipe, I just wish I could find one (the ones I find that I really like seem to be sold out or are custom jobs). Ah well, one day.