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Monday, March 20, 2023

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Build your own vape pen

Cannastick, ATMOS, TripleX Vapor, The Kind Pen: the market is certainly filled with quality vaporizer pens. But there is a threshold to get in.

If you buy a new vaporizer pen off the shelf, you’ll also be vaping at least $60 out of your wallet. And that’s entry level. Most pens cost over $100.

Fortunately, there is a do-it-yourself alternative. If you’re willing to forgo brand name vape kits, buying your own vape components separately is a great way to save some green while burning off your other greens.

Search for savings

Looking for such a deal, SF Evergreen walks down Haight Street and we find ourselves at Head Rush, a sleek smoke shop beneath Piedmont Boutique’s famous long-legged fishnets, just a block from Masonic Avenue.

As we walk in, Allen, the shopkeeper, raises his dreadlocked head to say hello. Behind the counter are a whole range of vapes, including the high-end Storz & Bickel-made Crafty vaporizer, and several Atmos models.

When we ask him for an affordable pen vape solution, he steers us away from the glitzy products and into a simple glass case at the front of the store.

Inside are a whole range of components, from vape batteries to chargers, and parts that contain flowers, oils or other concentrates.

These aren’t as flashy as the $100 vape pens, but what they lack in flair they make up for with one key feature: affordability.

“In the end, it’s all just electronics,” he says. This means that these built-in vape parts will work just as well as an expensive stock model.

But we’ll see.

We choose an herbal nozzle for our, ahem, dry plant matter. It has a narrow cylindrical rubber mouthpiece that extends into the chamber that houses your flower. The thread size is 510, making it compatible with a number of well-known vape accessories. The room isn’t huge, but for that and a heating element together for $11.99, we’re already off to a good start saving some money.

The Kanger EVOD battery is long and cylindrical, and Allen tells me it’s the same battery used in some of the brand name vapes. Bought myself, it’s a cool $12.99. Finally, a small USB charger (specially suited for a vape pen) costs $4.99.

With tax, we can get out of the smoke shop and spend only $32.52, well below the price of a nice vape pen set. Screw the cylindrical pieces together and you are ready to vape.
But what sacrifices do you make in quality for such a low price?

test run

Pulling the DIY vape doesn’t sound like a cheap alarm: we may not have had such a smooth shot with an AbsoluteXtracts pen, for example (we used flowers vs. extracts), but hey, we were still stoned.

It’s about the journey, of course, not the destination, and it’s a noticeably smoother experience than lighting a bowl.

And after a few days of use, the battery still goes, go, go.

So what are the drawbacks?

Speaking in general, George Marquez of Dabz Personal Vaporizers told us that choice of materials (and therefore cost) matters a lot with vape pens. The build quality of the heating elements, the plastic quality used can all increase the durability of the pen.

With extended use, our more affordable, generic vape pen can bite the dust. But Allen, of Head Rush, said the ending isn’t much to worry about. All pens need to be replaced at some point, he said, so the quality of the pen you buy should depend on how often you plan to use it.

The lesson? If you’re vaping on a budget, try building your own. It may not be the Mercedes of vapes, but like a Honda it will get you where you’re going.

Photo by Mike Koozmin

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