I’m a few weeks into my journey of building a cheap hash oil pen using e-cigarette parts, and I couldn’t be happier with my “final product” (final for now, I’m sure I’ll have tweaks as I learn more about the concentrate vaporizer pen space).
I have built a vaporizer pen that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and it produces thick clouds as you would expect from a concentrate pen. The e-cigarette market is definitely heating up with RJ Reynolds, Altria and Sean Parker (via The Founders Fund) investing in sexy solutions which will most likely drive the base e-cigarette technology forward. Cannabis concentrate users get the benefit from the halo-effect. In my last post, I left you with a fully functional system using a cartomizer and a Joyetech e-Go C Twist battery, but I was not satisfied with the cartomizer performance that I have seen so far.
Experiences with my Cheap Vape Pen using a Cartomizer
To be blunt, cartomizers are a double-edged sword. They hold a lot of concentrate and can make for a really nice portable travel companion, but they are not easy to reload and the ones I have tried are very fragile. Out of the 5 cartomizers that I purchased in my initial pack, 3 of them are were dead in short-order. Sadly when the first cartomizer died, it had almost .5 grams of wax loaded up. I loaded up all that wax because I was so excited to have a full cart for my stealth pen, my bad. When it failed I had to use a lighter to torch the outside of the cartomizer (which heats up the whole thing) to get the wax to flow into a new, working cartomizer. Not much fun, but you get pretty good at that process after doing it a few times.
A Better Concentrate Vaporizer Pen Attachment: The Atomizer
Though the experience of using the cartomizer I kept looking at my Micro Vaped pen and its simple skillet attachment and then at at my complicated cartomizer rig, knowing there had to be a better option out there. Enter the atomizer. There are two core commodity systems used in e-cigarettes: cartomizers and atomizers. I’m not going to pretend that I understand the nuances of both systems, but what I can say is that cartomizers are meant to be loaded up with concentrate (actually, e-cigarette attachments are really meant to be loaded with nicotine fluid), while atomizers are meant for a single use process: load it up, hit it once or twice, maybe 3 times if you are lucky, then reload. As a side note, in the e-cigarette space, some folks drip their nicotine fluid directly onto the atomizer while hot and then quickly put their e-cig into the mouth to catch the vapor, that is the origin of the term “drip tip”.
E-Cigarette Regular Atomizer
My first stop on the atomizer journey was the 510 threaded traditional atomizer. Just like my previous order, my atomizers arrived in my mailbox faster than I thought was possible. When I opened them and looked at the product, here is what I found: the atomizer is basically a basin that has a coil at the bottom and a wire mesh covering the coil. I believe that the design intention here is to drip your e-nicotine fluid onto the wire mesh (through the drip tip) and then partake in the vapor. The important prerequisite is that you have your vaping material in a very fluid state (which is how nicotine fluid comes). You can see what concentrate fluid looks like in Prospero’s post on the refill kit for the O.Pen vaporizer pen (enlarged photo). This typically isn’t the normal state of waxes, shatters and other concentrates that I’ve seen in my local dispensary, they are much thicker and some are even crystalline. To add a bit more to the insanity, I’ve read that using these atomizers, there’s the potential of an ugly harsh “dry hit”; Meaning that when the fluid runs dry, the hits get HARSH and taste nasty. One or two of those harsh hits and you’ll think twice about trying to get that last bit of concentrate from your vape pen.
I’ll try just about anything once, so I plugged in my atomizer and fired it up and… the atomizer started making a sizzling sound which gave me pause, I was honestly a little intimidated. Before I venture into sucking on a sizzling piece of metal that is known to have “harsh dry hits” I decided that I’d look to see if there was a better option to use for an atomizer, possibly something that more closely resembles the skillet attachment. I found it: the bridgeless atomizer.
Bridgeless Atomizer: The E-Cigarette Skillet Equivalent
I’ve had great success getting solid advice about vape pens and e-cigarettes on Reddit, so I headed back to the Reddit cannabis community to ask if anyone could help point me to the e-cigarette tool that mimics my Micro Vaped skillet attachment. MisticGlass@Reddit to the rescue. MisticGlass suggested that I look for a bridgeless atomizer (specifically this 1.5ohm one). I bought the 5 pack for $32.99 ($6.60 each). This order came from another vendor and still was also delivered in what seemed to be record time (go go USPS!).
When the 1.5ohm bridgeless atomizers arrived, I quickly screwed a new one onto my e-Go Twist and fired it up. Thankfully, I got exactly what I was expecting: the coil gets red hot and there is no sizzling. Next, I drop a dab into the barrel and fire it up… huge clouds of vapor! Long story short: It works fantastically well! The element gets super hot and comes with a (really) cheap tip. Be careful not to use this cheap plastic tip, I promptly melted mine when I had the voltage cranked up too high on my eGo-C Twist battery (and the coil was glowing something fierce). The heat was so much that it melted the cheap plastic tip, which left plastic in my first bridgeless atomizer, ugh. Because I don’t want to inhale burnt plastic I had to throw away the whole bridgeless atomizer with a bit of cannabis concentrate still in there mixed with melted plastic. Fortunately I wasn’t as zealous as I was with my first cartomizer, so it was only a small dab that was sacrificed. With the heat that this thing puts out I also managed to melt my original Delrin plastic drip tip (Delrin is a tough, heat resistant plastic, so they say). I had to toss that tip out too. I ordered a few drip tip replacements made out of metal, ceramic and silicon which should solve this problem (and I have turned down my voltage, so I don’t run as hot anymore). So far I’ve only used the thick aluminum one and it works great. It still heats up when I’m vaping, but there won’t be anything noxious for me to inhale with this metal tip. In the long-run, I may look for a bridgeless atomizer with a longer length, as the farther the drip tip is from the heating element, the longer it’ll take to heat up (I knew that mechanical engineering degree would come in handy eventually… go, go heat transfer class!)
The conversation about heat brings us to the next topic of building your own vape pen, Power (in terms of voltage and ohms).
Safe Vaping Power: Voltage, Ohms and Power (Watts) – E-Cigarette Voltage and Atomizer/Cartomizer Resistance
The extreme heat that I’m able to generate from my new bridgeless atomizer comes from the fact that I’ve got a 1.5 Ohm bridgeless atomizer and a battery that can deliver up to 4.8 volts. At the full 4.8 volts, the math works out to 3.2 Amps, a lot of current for that little coil… and it gets HOT. Here’s the key equation that drives the physics behind the Power in the pen:
Watts = Volts2 / Ohms
Power equals voltage squared divided by resistance.
Therefore it is very important that you appropriately match your voltage to the resistance rating of your cartomizers/atomizers. If you run too high a voltage through a low-resistance cartomizer/atomizer, you’ll burn the coil out quickly for sure. The site selling the 1.5 Ohm bridgeless atomizer notes that the low resistance atomizers should not be used with anything less than a 650mAh battery and that they should not be used with 5/6 volt batteries. It’ll just get too damn hot and the coil will melt and you’ll be stuck with a dead atomizer. If you go with too high a resistance cartomizer/atomizer and lower voltage battery pack, your atomizer won’t get hot enough to vaporizer unless you really crank the voltage.
To summarize this, here’s a great voltage/resistance chart to see where your combinations can land. This is also one thing I love about my Joyetech eGo-C Twist, I can change the voltage to match my cartomizer/atomizer. Here’s the recommended operating ranges:
(image courtesy of e-Cig World Forum)
All in all, now I’ve spent over $100 experimenting with all of the e-cigarette bits and pieces. When all is said and done, you can build my final vaporizer pen product out of e-cigarette parts for under $45. The low resistance bridgeless atomizers really did the trick to match performance with my Micro Vaped. I’ve even had a few folks comment that my Joyetech Twist rig works better than any vape pen they have used. Now I just need to finalize the best choice of drip tips from the metal, ceramic and silicone ones I bought and that’ll probably be the end of this chapter of this journey.
Final E-Cigarette Concentrate Vaporizer Pen Kit
With what I have learned so far, here’s are my parting thoughts. The bummer for me is that the bridgeless atomizers cost roughly $6.60 each, which takes a big bite out of the cost savings I was looking for on the $10 skillets from my local dispensary. I was looking to reduce the cost of the “razor blades“, and I suppose a 30% discount from the $10 skillets for my Micro Vaped is nothing to laugh at. Unfortunately, you can’t compare the number directly as I ran into a similar reliability issue to the cartomizers I purchased, the bridgeless atomizers are just not that robust. From what I see, my gut tells me that Vaped spent the extra $0.20 on their skillet attachmetns to get a bit better quality, which goes a long way. Regardless of the fact that I thought I would have much larger savings, it is fun to build something yourself and gain a better understanding of how it works.
If someone were to ask me right now what I would suggest for an e-cigarette intended to be used as a cannabis concentration vaporizer pen, I would suggest (with the key being the bridgeless atomizers):
- Bridgeless atomizers [5 pack/$32.99 ~ $6.60 each]
- Joyetech eGo-c Twist Variable Voltage 650mAh Battery [$22.99]
- Joyetech eGo Rapid USB Charger [$6.75]
- Joyetech eGo Cone Shaped Covers (“optional”) [$3.95]
- Metal Drip Tip 510 [your choice – $1.79 – 8.99]
Please let me know if you are doing any experimenting with vape pens in the comments below. Happy dabbing!
UPDATE (June 21, 2013): I purchased a few 2.5ohm bridgeless atomizers. They arrived today and they seem to work great at 3.2V on my e-Go C Twist, which puts me at 4.2 Watts of power. So far, that level of power output is perfect for my needs… great plumes. If I feel the need I can crank my e-Go C Twist up to 4.8V, which yields 8.2 Watts of power. With the 1.5ohm bridgeless atomizer I was running 7-15 Watts, way too hot for my needs.
Also, TheDukeOfErrl (Reddit) was kind enough to give me the insight: atomizer coils are not designed to run dry. Running them dry will burn them out quickly. Here I am trying to use the heat from the coil to get the wax to slide down the inside of the atomizer barrel. Live and learn. TheDuke also mentioned that some atomizers coils are covered in industrial oil to keep them from burning out when they run dry. The oil is the source of the harsh dry hits people talk about (and probably what was going on with my first sizzling atomizer, I’m very happy I didn’t hit that in hindsight!)
Other Weedist Build Your Own Vape Pen Posts
Read more in the series of posts about my experience with hash pens and my journey of building my own vape pen with e-cigarette parts.
- Butane Hash Oil, Vaporizer Pens and a Cheaper Option: e-Cigarettes
- Build Your Own Cheap Vape Pen Using E-Cigarette Parts – Research & Order
- Build Your Own Cheap Hash Oil Pen Using E-Cigarette Parts – The Build & First Use
- Build Your Own Cheap Vape Pen Using E-Cigarette Parts – Refinement [this post]
Very important detail: you want to vaporize and not burn. That means bringing the oil to boil, that occurs between 150 and 420 degrees Farenheit. There are many dozens of oils in the plant. Some like THC boil off at lower temps. The sleepy stuff seems to boil off last. But over 450 deg. it just burns. A red hot coil is wasting wax and generating toxic smoke.
It's interesting to see, as an e-cig vaper, people coming at this from a concentrate point of view... In the vaping community there is a popular thing called RDA('s) or rebuildable dripping atomizers. These are more work to use but much cheaper as you wrap your own coils and use your own wicking set up. When a coil burns out, you just build a new one from the bulk bought kanthal you'll have on hand if you're doing this, and you're good to go. For e liquid we typically use silica wick or cotton clouds and if you're using oil I would recommend using a small amount of silica wick (just enough to fit through your coil) And using these a dab at a time. Watch ecig videos on YouTube to learn all about building coils and what not and just disregard tank systems. Oh and check out fasttech. com, they're a Chinese website that, though shipping is slow, has great service and reputation in the vaping world and sells both real and counterfeit (it'll say x style device) devices at insanely low rates. You can get a glass globe on there for like 5 bucks and a 5 pack of replacement heads for 4.20 USD. Oh and they have MV E skillet style things for like 5 bucks as well. Just search atomizer or dry atomizer
Well I found a couple different atomizers, the first had some tufts of fiber on the bottom that ripped out when I screwed it together... waste of $10. Then I found one with what looks like a wick in it, odd. Haven't bought it yet...
I'm considering buying a "skillet ecig" type cartomizer for my waxes because it fits my eGo twist threaded ecig battery and the replaceable skillets appear as it they've been designed for concentrates specifically. I haven't heard too many reviews on the pros and cons of one of these. Do you think it would perform as well as the setup you've listed here?
The drip tip A-one the rig and traditionally has been employed by e-cigs to drip liquid phytotoxin onto the new coil and forestall it from splattering back on (and burning) the user, and therefore the the} cone cowl completes the aesthetics however also stabilizes the cartomizer in order that it isn’t solely command in situ solely by it’s threads.
Have you tried using a cartomizer to do this? I got a few with my electronic cigarette starter kit but not sure if they will work or not.
if it's anything designed similar to the aspire BDC, no. reclaim will quickly drip past both the coils and onto the rubber grommet
Yup, I tried a cartomizer in the beginning of my testing. http://www.weedist.com/2013/05/build-your-own-che... Now I'm playing with the Atmos Bullet-2-Go atomizer. They have a unique post configuration that is supposed to work with leaf and wax. I'll never use it with leaf, but if it is designed for that, it is designed to run dry. This site has them for a pretty good price: http://bit.ly/18GjwZn