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

Advertisements

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

photo 4

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

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.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Actually wrapping the coil

Here are the raw materials of our coil:

Click to enlarge

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:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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

Click to enlarge

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

Click to enlarge

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

Getting Started: Rebuilding a ProTank atomizer

When I initially set out to write this post, I had intended on building a basic coil on an IGO-L, but figured that while I was at it, I’d rebuild a ProTank atomizer or two with cotton wicks for my On The Go Kit. While doing that, I was on the phone with a friend, and we got to talking about the number of tanks that use a ProTank atomizer. I figured I’d be doing all of the people using those a disservice if I didn’t make a post that covers how to rebuild one. As a bonus, this particular build is both fairly easy (though as depicted does require some special tools, which you should have anyway), and produces one of the best Vapes that I’ve ever had. So, let’s build!

Supplies (Click to enlarge)

Supplies (Click to enlarge)

I’m using 30g Kanthal A1 (because I want a coil that is between 1.7 and 2.4 ohms), CVS sterile rolled cotton, an original ProTank, an 18g blunt tip syringe, and a generic ohm meter (if you don’t have one of these, I highly recommend picking one up, they are rather inexpensive, like $20, and very convenient). Not shown is a butane torch (I don’t know why I left that out of the photo).

Disassembled atomizer (Click to enlarge)

Disassembled atomizer (Click to enlarge)

Pull the atomizer apart (pop the chimney off, and then remove the positive pin, and everything should just pull apart), and discard the old coil/wicks. Rinse and clean the parts that you are keeping in preparation for the new build (I usually just wipe them down real good).

Nothing terribly over complicated here. First torch the kanthal until it glows to both clean it, and to remove some of the springiness to make wrapping easier. I start with a 6-8″ piece of wire. You can always cut it shorter, it’s real hard to get it longer once cut. I leave 1.5-2″ legs at this stage (better too long than too short), and just wrap around the 18g blunt tip needle between 8 and 12 times depending on the resistance I want to end up with.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

You can see here that I’ve done a 9/8 wrap. This should get me between 1.7 and 1.8ohms on the final coil. Next you want to compress the coil at one end and hold it there for a few seconds. This makes it much easier to get it compressed in the pliers later.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Now we need to torch the coil to get it to retain its shape. Slide it off of the needle, and carefully grip it in some pliers. I hold the hottest part of the torch flame on the coil for a solid ten seconds once I get it in the pliers straight:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Here is where this pays off, put the coil back onto the needle, and mount it into the atomizer base, as shown below:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This makes mounting coils on these atomizers a cinch. The needle is thin enough that it places the coil at the bottom of the channel in the sides of the atomizer base. This is the perfect position. Get the coil centered and put the insulator ring and positive pin back in place (remember that one leg of the coil goes inside the insulator ring, and the other goes between the insulator ring and the atomizer base).

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

As you can see from the image above, I don’t push the positive pin all the way in. I leave it sticking out enough that it can be seated correctly once the atomizer is installed in the tank base. At this point I will twist off the excess coil leg lengths, so that the they are flush with the base. You can clip them off, but I find that a little spin and wiggle will break them off more cleanly. Make sure the coil is centered in the split, and not touching the sides of the atomizer base, and remove the needle.

Centered coil (Click to enlarge)

Centered coil (Click to enlarge)

Let’s test it out real quick:

Perfect!

Perfect!

Now we need wick! Here is how much cotton I will need (this is actually a bit more than I’ll need):

IMG_0878

Click to enlarge

You can see that it doesn’t take much at all. I’ll tell you now, you should go wash your hands with a non scented soap. I use sterile cotton and I can taste the difference in my wicks when I do wash my hands at this point and when I don’t. Once you are ready, tear about half of that cotton off lengthwise, and roll it into a wick shape that will fit inside the coil you mounted. You don’t need terribly much cotton here.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Again you can see that it doesn’t take much. Once you have the wick twisted, you just slide it into the coil. I find it helpful to clip off the very tip of the wick, and spin it as you insert it, so that it slides in easier. Once mounted, clip both sides off flush with the outside edge of the atomizer base like so:

First wick trimmed

First wick trimmed

I then use the rest of the cotton as a “flavor” wick. This does a couple of things; it keeps the coil wetter, it prevents hot juice popping into your mouth, and creates a better seal in the tank. I make the wick tails long on purpose, like so:

Second wick added

Second wick added

Now we need to prime the wicks. Cotton’s one drawback is that it burns rather easily. make sure you get it wet, and keep it wet. Burned cotton is nasty.

Prime the wicks

Prime the wicks

Reassemble the atomizer, and tuck the wick tails into the atomizer base.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Make sure that your top wick is not too dense, as you want juice to easily flow through it, but it should provide some barrier to juice just pouring into the atomizer. Let’s test it one more time and fill her up!

No changes is a good thing!

No changes is a good thing!

Now we can fill and prime the atomizer. Once the tank is full you need to either let it sit for about five minutes, or give it a few long draws to get all the air out of the wicks and ensure they are saturated with juice.

Let the air out (Click to enlarge)

Let the air out (Click to enlarge)

That’s it, this should now be ready to vape.

Delicious vapor!

Delicious vapor!

I personally think that this is the apex build for ProTank atomizers. It is flavorful, and easy enough to build.

end

How To: Calculate battery life for your APV

0

I’m sure everyone has experienced that sinking feeling when you try to use your (insert electronic device here) and you get a symbol that looks like the one to the right, or it just flashes and turns off. If you’ve just quit smoking, and that device is your APV, you might be in for some trouble.

I have a friend who vapes, and despite his tiny 350mAh eGo battery dying (literally) every day when he is trying to use it, he is absolutely bewildered by why it won’t last through lunch. So today I explained it to him, and in the process I got to wondering how many vapers don’t know how to accurately estimate the battery life of their (specific) setup.

So let’s do that using my friend as an example.

We have this 350mAh eGo battery putting out (roughly) 3.3v, and a Kanger EVOD with a 1.8Ω atomizer head. So a quick trip to an Ohm’s Law calculator (or some math if you’re handy like that) tells us that this setup is drawing 1.8A.

The formula for estimating battery life is: C / I * 0.7 = ABL

Capacity (divided by) Current Drain (multiplied by) 0.7 (equals) Approximate Battery Life (in hours)

Multiplying the result by 0.7 is a way to account for external variables (like temperature which can have an enormous impact on run time) that would be needed to get a more accurate estimate of run time. It is generally agreed that a 30% variance should cover most unknowns.

Since we’re not really going to be dealing in hours with vaping (the batteries we use just aren’t big enough), we need to alter this just a bit to get a run time in minutes (just multiply the result by 60).

So how long will this setup run approximately? 350 / 1800 * 0.7 = 0.136 * 60 = 8.16 minutes.

So why isn’t your little tiny 350mAh eGo battery making it through lunch?

Red

Because you would need almost two of those to support the amount of vaping you’re doing.

This is also handy to know when trying to determine if your battery is degrading, or when trying to figure out how many batteries you’ll need to take on a trip with you. Unless you prefer to just load up everything.

Oh, and here is a handy online battery life calculator.

end

Getting Started: Dripping

Drip medicineWhen people start getting into vaping (I mean really getting into it, not just trying to quit smoking analogs) they start the quest for flavor. Eventually that leads them to dripping. At least that is how it happened for me. I spent quite a long time trying to figure out what I actually needed to get to start dripping. It’s super simple, but if you have never done it (or are not very familiar with vaping hardware), it can be really freaking confusing.

Be aware up front that you are probably going to pop a couple of coils before you get the hang of dripping, so you should probably order a couple dripping atomizers to avoid frustration.

So what do we need to get started dripping?

  • A battery.
  • A dripping atomizer.
  • A drip tip.
  • A drip shield (optional, but a good idea).
  • a 510 to 510 (sealed) adapter (again optional, but a good idea).
  • Juice.

Ok that is a total of six things, two of which are completely optional. But some of those things are a bit more difficult to obtain than they might seem if you are new to vaping, and do not have a brick and mortar vape shop where you can go to ask questions.

A Battery

A standard eGo type battery will do. Any APV will do. Hell, there are cigalikes that you could use to do this (some of them anyway, just because you can do a thing does not mean you should). You probably have one already. If you are not currently a vaper, and are looking to start dripping with your initial setup, go read this first. The key part of this is the threading on the battery connector. Probably 99% of vapers have a 510 connection, so this is most likely what you need to know. However it is critical that you actually know what kind of battery connection you have. If you’re not sure, post a picture of it on a forum (like /r/ecr over on Reddit), and ask.

A Dripping Atomizer

If your device doesn’t have a 510 connection, you need to get an adapter from whatever you have to 510, or find a dripping atomizer threaded for your device. If you’re going to use an adapter, get a sealed adapter. This vendor and this vendor carry a selection of non 510 dripping atomizers.

Once you have a 510 connection, you can use standard 510 atomizers or 306 atomizers. What’s the difference? A 306 atomizer is like someone ripped the bottom off of a standard 510 atomizer, and only kept the 510 connection and actual coil. 306 atomizers require special drip tips, that actually go over the entire atomizer. Some people feel that the 306 are the “ultimate” dripping atomizer (I find that I like them better than 510 attys, but it’s totally personal preference). Here is a good easy way to get into 306 atomizers (that comes with a 306 drip tip in the package).

If you’re unsure, just get a standard 510 atomizer, But which 510 atomizer to buy?

The first question you need to answer is; what is my budget?

Want the cheapest option? Buy this for under $5.

Want something a little bit better? Get this Cisco Spec atomizer (~$9).

Want something higher quality? Get a Vapage AMG Hybrid here ($18/2pk).

Want the best disposable driping atomizer you can buy? Get an HH.357 here (~$22, get something in the 2.5 ohm range). This is the atomizer that got me into rebuildables.

I wanted the great experience people talked about from this atty, but couldn’t bring myself to spend $23 on a disposable atomizer. Then I started thinking about it, and decided that if I were willing to spend $18 on a two pack of the Vapage AMG hybrids, or was going to get three of even the cheapest dripping attys I could find, I would be better off just getting an IGO-L with some wick and wire (which is what I ended up doing).

You need to keep in mind that these things are disposable. They are not going to last forever (though the higher dollar ones tend to last longer), and for the most part they are designed to be run at or below 3.7 volts. Running them at higher voltages is certainly possible, but it is going to reduce the lifespan of your atomizer.

A Drip Tip

We could spend literally hours discussing the different drip tips available. Let’s not. Just make sure that you get either a 306 drip tip (if you got a 306 atomizer), or a 510 drip tip (if you got a 510 atomizer), in whatever shape, color, and material you desire. You can spend as little as $1.50 on them to as much as $20 or more.

A Drip Shield (optional)

Drip shields do three things:

  • Stop juice leaks from reaching your battery/mod.
  • Serve as a heat sink for the atomizer, cooling it faster.
  • Change the draw of your atomizer (this is a side effect).

So why get one? The first two functions. You don’t want juice sitting on your battery or mod. It is corrosive and sticky. Plus, it is conductive. If you can cool your atomizer better, it will last longer.

You can get a cheap drip shield, or you can get an awesome drip shield (if you own a K100 or K101 mech you probably already have one). Totally your preference.

A 510/510 (sealed) adapter (optional)

In some cases you need to add extra height to the 510 connection so that your drip shield functions correctly, and in other cases you just want a sealed 510 connection to keep juice out of your battery. You can get them here. If your battery connection is not sealed, I highly recommend that you use a sealed adapter and a drip shield.

Juice

Well duh, what are your gonna drip? Check out the Juice Primer if you haven’t already done so.

Getting to the actual dripping part

Assemble it all: Battery/mod > sealed 510 adapter (if used) > dripping atomizer > drip tip > drip shield (gets pushed down over the whole thing from the top, you can put this on before or after the drip tip).

Now… drip the juice into the dripping atomizer (you can drip directly into most drip tips as well, just give it a little tap to make sure the juice gets all the way down to the atomizer). The exact amount of juice that you’ll drip depends on the specific atomizer, but 3-5 drops should get you going. If the atomizer has never been used, it will probably take 5-9 drops of juice without spillage. Fire your battery in short bursts (no more than 1-2 seconds or you risk popping the atomizer if it goes dry), and vape away!

As soon as you feel like the taste or vapor is reduced, drip another 3-5 drops into the atomizer.

For me, this is an awful lot of work to vape, but it is fantastic for sampling juices, or if you really want a super strong blast of flavor.

end

How-To: Clean up after a catastrophic battery failure

Jimmy was dismayed that his fasttech special batteries torched not only his APV, but his laptop too

Dammit Jimmy, I told you not to buy those 18650 batteries from speedytech!

It’s rare, but every once in a while you hear about somebody who had a battery explode or catch fire.

The most common result of a catastrophic battery failure is that it vents gas, or maybe splatters a little bit of the electrolyte around (that’s acid, not what plants crave).

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

As a side note, there are actual battery spill cleanup kits that you can buy that have everything in them you would need to properly clean up a catastrophic battery failure. The one in the picture above can be found here and retails for about $170. I’m not saying you need one of these, just a heads up.

First, if the battery is just hot and hasn’t actually failed yet, get it out of the house, and on or in something not flammable. I keep a large ceramic pot full of sand (stolen from Pismo Beach in an act of drunken idiocy no less) outside of my house for just this purpose (it used to be my ashtray when I smoked, but it’s always been ready to do double duty as a ‘battery in meltdown’ receptacle), with a small metal pail next to it to act as a cover. A small metal trashcan from Home Despot filled with sand would work just fine.

There are a number of things that the battery can do once it reaches volatile heat levels or begins a thermal reaction. Stay away from it until it is ambient temperature (one of those laser non contact thermometers is really handy for knowing when the reaction is done).

The most common is a gas vent. The battery case ruptures and vents noxious gas. If it happens in the house, open the windows and go outside to call 911. You don’t want to be breathing this stuff.

IMR batteries are most likely to fail in this way, which is why they are generally considered to be the safest for use in APVs.

How you react to a failed battery kinda depends on what kind of battery it is, and what it does.

Lithium will burn in a normal atmosphere and reacts explosively with water to form hydrogen. The presence of minute amounts of water may ignite the material and the hydrogen gas. Lithium fires can also throw off highly reactive molten lithium metal particles. Cells adjacent to any burning material could overheat causing a violent explosion.

If you are using a Lithium based cell, and it starts getting hot, smoking,  or ruptures, do not throw water on it, or throw it in water.

If you took high school chemistry you’ll probably remember acids and bases, and that they can neutralize each other. If a battery ruptures, leaks or pops, you should pour baking soda or soda ash (if you happen to have a swimming pool you may have some soda ash) on it to neutralize the acids in the battery.

Kitty litter absorbs this stuff pretty well too.

If you have a fire, there are two components that must be handled; the battery material (or the primary), and incidentals (plastic from the wrapper or charger, wood from cabinets, etc., or the secondary).

The primary should be handled by a Class D fire extinguisher ideally. Who the hell has a Class D extinguisher? You can buy them at places like Jorgensen’s, but unless you have a stockpile of the things it’s probably not necessary. Tossing a package of baking soda on it should suffice. If it does not, get out of the structure and call 911.

Secondaries can be handled with a standard Class C fire extinguisher. Most people have these in their homes (or at least the ABC variety. If you don’t you should stop reading this and go buy one. Seriously. Fire is no joke, and a small extinguisher could save you worlds of problems). I have a Class C in my bathroom (where I do all my battery charging because everything in there is tile), and an ABC in my kitchen. I also keep a box of baking soda in both places.

Once you have everything contained, call poison control and find out how to properly dispose of the waste. Don’t just toss this stuff in the garbage. It can be dangerous, it’s illegal, and it’s just kind of a dick move.

I’m not a hazardous waste expert. I am not offering risk management advice. I’m just sharing the information I have with you. If your house burns down because you listened to me, don’t try to sue me (at best you’d only get some used Metallica CDs anyway).

end

Getting Started: Cleaning And Maintaining Your Gear

Keeping your gear clean and performing some basic maintenance can go a long way to helping prolong the life of your gear, and making your vaping experience better all around. Nothing is more frustrating than gear that doesn’t work (or stops working when you are not somewhere with the parts for fix it).

Basic Juice Clean up

cat litter

This is for user strength juice (0-36mg/ml nicotine content). If you are working with anything higher than that, there are an entirely different set of considerations and other equipment that you will need to handle spills. I will probably cover than in another post since it is a very advanced topic. If you are making your own juice and you spill it (and are unsure how to handle that), clear the area, and call 911. Depending on what you are working with it may be treated as hazardous waste.

There are a few things you should have on hand that will make cleaning up any spill much easier:

  • Paper towels or napkins (I prefer paper towels).
  • Rubber or nitrile gloves.
  • Sponge.
  • Cotton Swabs.
  • Kitty litter (this is just really handy to have in general), or similar absorbant material.
  • Plastic trash bags.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

Drips

If you spill a couple of drops, grab a napkin or paper towel and wipe it up. Dispose of the napkin somewhere that pets and kids are not going to find it and put it in their mouth.

If the drip has dried, a little bit of isopropyl alcohol or a cotton swab dipped in vodka will dissolve it.

Tank dump (<5ml)

It happens. You’re fiddling with your APV, and accidentally unscrew the top cap of a bottom coil clearo, instant juice spill. I’ve done it. Try to minimize the juice to skin contact. If it spilled on you, set it down, go wash your hands, and change your clothes if necessary.

Again, we’re talking a couple of ml at most, so paper towels or napkins should be fine. If you spilled it in the carpet, you’re gonna want to get that out of there. Juice is flammable. It will evaporate over time, but you don’t really want to leave it there because it is poisonous to kids and pets, and it will stain (plus it’s sticky and will attract ants). A damp rag or paper towels will suffice at these quantities.

Again, minimize skin to juice contact (keep in mind that it will soak through the napkin or paper towels).

Bottle drop (5ml-30ml)

Oops glass bottle off the counter onto tile. Or maybe you just dropped an open bottle. I knocked a completely full 15ml bottle off of my patio table onto my concrete deck. That was fun.

If it’s outside, no big deal; just grab a dust pan and pick up the glass, then hose the rest down really well. It’ll dilute past poisonous levels (everything in juice is water soluble), and probably kill any insects that it comes in contact with in the bargain (nicotine is a common pesticide).

Just make sure that there is none left in quantities that could harm kids or pets.

You could also pour some kittly litter over it and let it sit for 5 minutes, then just sweep the litter up and throw it in the trash.

If it was inside, well you’ve got a bit more work.

If it was in carpet, you are gonna need a lot of paper towels. If it was a full 30ml bottle you’re gonna want to go rent a carpet cleaner. It’s cheap, and the easiest way to get it out.

If it was on hard flooring or a table or something, mop it up with a towel or paper towels (again mind the juice to skin contact), and make sure you get all the glass bits (if it was a broken bottle).

You’re going to want to rinse off the surface, a mop will do fine. If it was carpet and not quite enough to justify a carpet cleaner, some resolve and a rag will probably suffice after you sop up the bulk of the juice.

Open a window and let the room air out.

OMG!!!

Someone dropped a 500ml bottle again!

My last attempt at juice making gone awry

You just dropped that 236ml bottle from MBV and it broke all over the place.

First, get the kids and pets away from the spill and open a window. Again juice is flammable, make sure there are no open flames in the area.

Pour kitty litter on the spilled juice. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Sweep or vacuum up the kitty litter with a shop vac. Dispose of the litter.

If it was in carpet, you need to go get a carpet cleaner and really make sure you get it all out (it’ll soak into the pad beneath the carpet, so go slow and maybe make a couple passes where the spill was).

If you spilled that much juice on yourself or someone else, go immediately strip and rinse off in the shower, scrub with soap and cold water. Call poison control. Better safe than sorry.

Clearomizers

Battery Connection

I wipe down the battery connection with a paper towel every time I remove the clearo. If you have some dried out juice on there a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol or vodka will take care of it.

Body

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

I rinse with hot water, soak in vodka for 10 minutes, flush with bottled water (my water is hard, and I get spotting on everything, so I just use bottled water), and pat dry.

Head

If it’s really gunked up, I’ll soak the head in vodka for 20 minutes or so, but usually I give it a quick rinse with hot water, drop it in some vodka, swish it around, then flush it with bottled water and pat it dry.

Tip

If the tip is particularly dirty I’ll make sure I scrub it a little with a cotton swab or my fingers when I’m rinsing it in hot water.

Cartomizers (and Carto Tanks)

Battery Connection

I wipe down the battery connection with a paper towel every time I remove the carto. If you have some dried out juice on there a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol or vodka will take care of it.

Body

A quick wipe with the paper towel is good for cartos (for tanks I do pretty much the same thing as with clearos). These are disposable, so I don’t really do much else with them. When they get funky or burn out I toss them.

Drip Tips

Drip tips need to be flushed out, regularly. Hot water works fine. One a week or so I let them soak in vodka for 10 minutes, flush with hot water, and then rinse with bottled water.

Dripping Atomizers and Drip Shields

Battery Connection

I wipe down the battery connection with a paper towel every time I remove the atomizer or drip shield. If you have some dried out juice on there a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol or vodka will take care of it.

Body

I rinse with hot water and then drop the whole thing in some vodka for about 10 minutes, flush with bottled water, and pat dry.

RDAs/RBAs

Body

Juice tends to splatter on the top cap so I drop that in vodka when I start work. By the time I’m done with the rest of it, I just flush with bottled water and pat dry.

Deck

I drop the entire deck in vodka with the top cap off (wick/coil and all). I’ll let it sit for maybe 10 minutes, rinse with hot water, dry burn the coil, flush with bottled water, and pat dry.

Battery Connection

I wipe down the battery connection with a paper towel every time I remove the unit. If you have some dried out juice on there a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol or vodka will take care of it.

APVs

Battery Connection

I take a cotton swab and wipe out the battery connector every time I take the topper off my APV. If there is any juice in there I’ll dip the other end of the cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol and swab it out too.

Body

I generally just wipe it down if I spill any juice on it, but once in a while if I notice it is getting dirty I’ll wipe it off with a paper towel dipped in isopropyl alcohol.

Threads

I wipe my threads out with a dry paper towel once a month, and apply noalox to them (just a tiny amount goes a really long way!) before reassembling if the threads are metal on metal.

Screen

I wipe the screen on my APV’s that have them with a microfiber cloth as needed, though a clean paper towel will work fine too.

eGo Type Batteries

eGo battery

Cleaning 510/eGo connections – click to enlarge

Battery connection

Again, I take a cotton swab to the inside of the battery connector every time I remove a topper, and if there is any juice in there I dip the other end in isopropyl alcohol and swab it out.

Body

Wipe it down with a clean paper towel. If you notice any dents, holes, or tears stop using the battery immediately and recycle it.

Rechargable Batteries (Lithium or IMR)

I wipe them down with a clean paper towel (usually there is nothing on them) once a week and inspect for damage.

If you notice juice in the battery connection of your APV, pop the battery out and make sure that there is none on the battery.

If you notice any dents, tears, or holes on your batteries or the plastic wrapper around the battery, stop using them immediately and recycle them.

end

How To: Fix Kanger EVOD leaking/gurgling issues

UPDATE: This apparently works equally well with the Kanger Protank, and other Kanger BCCs with the silicone caps on the atomizer heads. If you’re having issues with those leaking or gurgling, you may want to give this a shot.

A while back I ordered a couple of Kanger EVODs because I wanted something slim for my on the go kit, and the Protank mini was not yet available (I now have two on their way to me).

I’d heard nothing but good things about them, and figured that since they can use the same heads as the Protank, I’d only have to keep one type of head on hand.

They are a great vape. Until they leak/gurgle.

At first I thought it was because I was vaping in +100F temperatures, but even in my 72F house, once I got below about 1/2 a tank the gurgling would start. Then the leaking starts.

Ok look, a quarter ml of juice sitting on top of my battery. Lovely.

At first I thought the problem was with the head. I swapped out the head with a new one from a different package. No dice, exact same problem.

I looked at the bottom of the unit, and the leak was coming through the bottom of the positive contact pin. That precludes the base to head fit being the issue (since the area where they mate was pretty dry).

I thought, well maybe I just got a defective unit. These things are mass produced in China after all, it happens. I tried the other unopened EVOD. Same result. Grrr.

So I took to the internets.

Didn’t really find anything. I found a couple of people complaining about leaking, and others having no issues at all. I deduce from the number of posts I found where people are warning about gurgling after half empty (and saying that just topping off fixes it), that this is a common problem.

I saw multiple comments saying that the juice level dropping below a certain point breaks the vacuum in the tank and causes the gurgling (I also experienced what I would call flooding). I know a little bit about fluid dynamics, and while it sounds good in theory, I’m not convinced that this is the problem. See the fact that there is a hole running through the bottom of the atomizer head into the unsealed battery connection kind of precludes a true vacuum from being present, it’s more of a surface tension effect at that point (but that’s kind of nitpicking). Still, with the viscosity of the juice, and the wick sitting across the top of the hole, and the size of the hole, it should work.

So I disassembled one.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

I was sure that either the wick or the press fit between the base and the chimney was the culprit.

When I pulled the chimney off, I thought I had found the culprit. The “flavor wicks” that are set on top of the wick with the coil on it in these things are tiny! It was like two little strands of wick, not even an entire wick.

So I looked in my box of parts, and decided to replace the flavor wicks with a single piece of 2.5mm silica (I wanted to use 2mm, but I didn’t have any).

I trimmed the wick to fit, rinsed the whole thing off, filled the EVOD, and put everything back together.

Holy hell the vapor production improved ten fold! Well ok, that certainly had an effect, but did it fix the leak? It took me a while to get low enough in the tank to find out (if I had some 0mg nicotine juice I could have got there much quicker, but all I have is 24mg and 12mg at the moment). I got a hint of a gurgle, and then a mouth full of juice. Took the head off, and now there is like 3/4 of a ml of juice sitting on top of the battery.

Well it did much improve the juice intake.

So I took it all apart again. This time I paid very close attention to the press fit of the chimney and the base. It was pretty dry. I was thinking about the silicone cap and why it would be there. At first I thought it was there to seal the press fit, but looking at the press fit and how hard it is to pull the chimney off I don’t think that is it’s sole purpose. I think it is to seal the connection between the chimney and the stem inside the EVOD as well.

So I took a pair of tweezers and stuffed the cap on the stem inside the EVOD (it was essentially sitting upside down in relation to how it sits on the stem.

The ‘cup’ portion of the cap had to stretch a little bit to fit over the stem. Hmm. I wonder if the cap is just not thick enough to seal the gap between the bottom of the stem and the top of the atomizer head?

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

So I flipped it over on the head. It looks like this:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

It doesn’t cover the press fit between the atomizer head and the base like this, but I have a back up plan if this doesn’t work.

I filled the EVOD up and installed the head with the silicone cap upside down, being careful to seat the cap over the stem in the top of the EVOD before screwing it down all the way.

I went through an entire tank, down to where I could taste the wick drying out from lack of juice. No leak. It did gurgle a little bit, but I’m pretty sure that is because I let too much condensation build up inside the tip (I was vaping with my mouth only and just immediately blowing it out as fast as I could because I wanted to get it down to where it should gurgle and flood.

NOTE: I used the head that I had replaced the flavor wick with 2.5mm silica for these tests. That may have an impact on the results. I plan to do this with all my EVOD heads as the increased vapor production is great, but I will test it on the next one without doing so first. If that changes the results, I will note that here.

So why does this work?

My theory is that the silicone cap isn’t there to cover the press fit at all (the press fit is tight enough that it’s not going to leak from there). It is there to seal the gap between the chimney and the stem on the inside of the EVOD.

As I mentioned earlier, these things are mass produced in China, and due to the fairly intricate nature of the design and the small size, it is reasonable to assume that the stem on the inside of the top of the EVOD is machined a bit shorter than it should be to ensure a good fit with a bit of ‘wiggle room’ so to speak) for variance in manufacturing tolerance between it and the heads/bases.

Just flipping the silicone cap worked for one of my EVODs, but did not work for the other (apparently the stem is just a hair too short on that one. Time to try out plan B from my earlier experiment. You are going to need an extra silicone cap for this. I took one from a spare head, but I will start saving the reusable parts from heads in the future:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Now take that second cap and put it on the head upside down. It’ll look something like this:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Time to fill her up and try it again.

I was able to get the base screwed down almost all the way (don’t force it or you risk breaking the top of the EVOD). Mine had just a hairsbreadth of a gap between the base and the top piece, plenty of room for the silicone o-ring inside the base to seal it up nice and tight.

Worked perfectly. No gurgles, no flooding (this time I wiped down the tip with a napkin when the condensation got built up), no leaking.

This is an easy fix; Kanger needs to make the top of this silicon cap just a hair thicker. Or maybe make the ‘cup’ part double sided. Either should work and is a really cheap solution to this occasional problem.

If I could not have gotten this fixed, I would never buy another EVOD, and this post would have been a review of the EVOD telling people not to waste their money.

As it stands, I’m ok with it. The EVOD works fantastically after this simple modification, and even better with the larger flavor wick.

end