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.

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PSA: What tanks use Kanger Protank atomizers?

1In 2013, Kanger apparently invented the replaceable atomizer head to which all other BCC heads pale in comparison. It’s not perfect, buy the lowly Protank Atomizer Head has apparently become something of an industry standard. These come in single units, or packages of five, and retail for anywhere between $1.10 – $3 each, depending on vendor and quantity.

When I was choosing my first rebuildable clearo, I discovered that both the EVOD and Protank could use the same atomizer heads. I like the idea of commonality of spare parts (incidentally this is also why I shoot Glock pistols; I can use the same magazine in four different pistols). Since then, Kanger has decided to stop making EVOD specific heads, and now produces 4 different BCC tanks that use the Protank atomizer (soon to be five when the Mini Protank 2 is released).

But Kanger is not the only one making tanks that use this atomizer. So which tanks on the market can use the Protank atomizer head?

Kanger Protank

Protank

This is the one that started it all. See my review here.

Kanger Protank 2

protank2

This is the latest evolution in the Protank line, a Protank that not only uses no glue, but that is user serviceable with replaceable parts. Review coming soon.

Kanger Mini Protank

PTMini

The recently released Mini Protank comes in an eGo threaded version only at this point, though the box has a check box for a 510 version, which Kanger has said is in the works. Review coming soon.

Kanger Mini Protank 2

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

This is the forthcoming Mini version of the Protank 2. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these.

Kanger EVOD

EVOD

The EVOD is essentially a plastic and metal version of the Mini Protank. Review coming soon.

AnyVape Davide

davide

This is clearly a clone of the Protank design, with some of the features of the Protank 2.

AnyVape Mini Davide

MiniDavideThis is like the AnyVape version of the Mini Protank 2.

DBox Puritank

dbox-puritankI think we can all draw our own conclusions about where this design came from. I have to wonder if this is a clone, or the night shift at the Kanger factory moonlighting.

Kamry X9

x9This is just a blatant rip off of the original Protank.

Kamry X10

x10This is some weird clone of the DCT carto tank that uses Protank atomizer heads rather than a carto. I feel like there is just something wrong about this at a fundamental level, but it does look kinda cool.

Vision V-Tox

v-tox

Despite so obviously being an EVOD clone, I really like that it has four windows into the tank rather than the two that are on the actual EVOD.

Tatroe Tank

tatroe

The Tatroe tank is one of the most awesome tanks I’ve seen. It’s really clean looking, and comes in several variants. This started out as a replacement top for the original Protank, but they now offer complete tanks with bases too. The Tatroe tank is a bit pricy at ~$35 for just the top, and you can’t see your juice level, but I like it. If you’re interested in the Tatroe Tank you can pick one up here.

That’s all of the tanks that I am aware of that currently use the Kanger Protank Atomizer.

I’m sure five more are just around the corner.

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POSSIBLE RECALL: Kanger EVOD *batteries*, maybe.

recall

This morning I’ve seen several reports of SZ Kanger issuing a recall on EVOD batteries that were purchased from them prior to June 24th 2013 (source here), and in some cases all batteries in the market at this time. That’s batteries, not EVOD clearomizers.

KangerTech had this to say on the subject in a news post on their website that appeared today titled “evod battery“:

kanger all evod battery add safeguard PCBA. so all evod battery quality no problem

Now If you poke around the KangerTech website you’ll notice that English is clearly not the first language of whomever is doing the copy writing. Plus you have to keep in mind that Chinese companies operate a bit different than American manufacturers. The likelihood of them coming out and admitting on their website that a massive shipment of batteries may randomly explode is about the same as Joe Biden giving good advice on firearms; less than zero. Couple that with the news release above, and it looks like this is a legit recall to me.

Apparently a mass email was sent out from the distributor Heaven Gifts that discussed the specific batteries:

The potential faulty EVOD batteries are as below:
All EVOD 650mAh batteries in matte black, yellow, blue. Rest colors we sent before June 24.
ALL EVOD 1000mAh batteries in yellow, green. Rest colors we sent before June 24.
All EVOD starter kits in yellow. Rest colors we sent before June 24.

– See more here

I’m guessing whoever wrote that isn’t a native English speaker either. My take on that mess is that all EVOD batteries sent from Kanger prior to June 24th, all 650mAh black, blue or yellow EVOD batteries period, all 1000mAh yellow or green EVOD batteries period, and all yellow EVOD starter kits period are included in this recall.

Supposedly the vendors who bought the batteries involved in the recall have been contacted by their distributors, and will be contacting customers who may have purchased these batteries to get them replaced at no charge.

I do not personally own any EVOD batteries but if I did, I would contact the vendor I purchased them from to find out what they know, and ask them to look into it. And I would immediately cease all use of the batteries that may be included in this recall (I’d probably put them in a non flammable container, something like a ceramic flower pot, and set them outside just to be safe as well).

If there are any further updates to this I will post those too.

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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:

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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.

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On The Go Kit

Prior to this week I had been carrying a bunch of vape gear around with me:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I had the Sigelei Zmax v3 telescope, an extra 18350 battery, an eGo VV pass-through, an extra Protank, the proprietary USB cable for the eGo, a Protank beauty ring, an extra ProTank head, and a juice bottle or two. I was kinda paranoid that something was going to break and I would end up bumming an analog from someone I work with. This was not a great solution, as I don’t wear cargo pants all that often, and while it fits in my back pocket, I find myself constantly pulling up my pants.

Well it’s been about 6 weeks since I quit smoking, and I’ve decided that I don’t need to carry all that around with me. Enter the On The Go Kit:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Shown next to a pack of Marlboro Reds for size comparison only.

This is an eGo-C Upgrade 650mAh pass through battery with a Kanger eVod on it.

Here it is broken down for travel in the KLOUD aluminum cigarette case that I bought from Amazon:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The old travel kit was kind of a pain to carry around, but this one is the size of a pack of cigarettes. I carried one of those around for the last 20 years, no problem.

I got this idea from a good friend of mine, and improved on it a little bit. I added a cut out for the 6ml juice bottle, and also was able to get a Kanger Protank head in the foam underneath the juice bottle.

Here is is all pulled apart:

4

Click to Enlarge

I pulled the Protank head out of the bottom of the foam so you can see it in this shot.

Now the 650mAh battery is small, but I have USB ports in my truck (I also keep a mini USB cable in there for charging phones, so I didn’t even need to add anything), and I sit at a computer all day (I’ve got probably 15 mini USB cables in my office somewhere).

I figure even if the battery dies, I have ready access to power. And if it really croaks, I can always go home and get something that is working.

I just need to figure out something better than foam (that I cut to fit with a razor blade and a 1/2″ drill bit) to keep it all from rattling around in there. I’m brainstorming, and will post an update when I arrive at a solution.

For now, this is plenty good enough for daily running around town.

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