Vaporizer Showdown: The Homebrew GrouchyOne versus the Mighty S&B Volcano

About 20 years ago I decided that I needed to give my lungs a respite from the rigors of CannaCombustion so I began to look into dry flower vaporizers which were kind of a new thing back then. That was a life changer, tho I didn’t realize it at the time.

According to the “InterWeb,” “In 2003, a pharmacist from Beijing named Hon Lik created an electronic vaporizer that was mass produced and sold as the “Ruyan.” Within five years, electronic vaporizers would be introduced in European and American markets… Hon Lik created the Ruyan after his father, a heavy smoker, died of lung disease. The inventor was a smoker himself and developed the Ruyan as an alternative tool for quitting smoking.”

I’m not sure if there is a definitive study of the health benefits of using a vaporizer vs. smoking in cannabis. The best work on vape efficacy has been done on tobacco but the consensus (and common sense) seems to be that the lower temperatures used in vaporization, release less of the harmful elements of smoked herb. Vaporizers are often recommended by physicians to medical cannabis patients to allow them to experience the benefits while reducing the potential respiratory risks. I just provided a buddy with Parkinsons some tincture so he could try CannaMeds without smoking at all.

But back then I didn’t find much in the way of commercial vaporizers. A guy in California sold me some components for making my own desktop convection Vaporizer using lab glassware and a commercial-grade heat gun. With a little handicraft I soon had the device working and The GrouchyOne ™ was born. I’ve been using it ever since. Anybody have a vape they’ve been using for two decades?

Fast forward and vaporizers for cannabis have entered the mainstream so there are literally hundreds to choose from today. I’m going to focus on non-portable desktop convection models that plug into the wall and push heated air through your herb. That’s my personal favorite tech and it’s what I know. Lots of other options, YMMV.

Of this class, the Storz & Bickel Volcano is king of the hill. My friend has one of these gold-plated marvels and I suffered him extolling its virtue until I’d finally had enough. So I challenged him to a side by side Smoke-Off.

Picture if you will, two highly opinionated old stoners with their electric vaping gizmos fired up, toking and studiously arguing the fine points back & forth between refilling the bowls with herbal fire. Comedic and fun, especially because we were each convinced we’d carried the day even tho we stopped keeping score after awhile.

I maintained that his silly balloon thingy was over priced, had no obvious advantages, was over-hyped and was clearly outmatched, both in form and function, by my exemplary example of elegant engineering. His argument was equally compelling but I am unable to recall it and our stenographer fell asleep during the shootout.

And so it was that the details of the debate are sadly lost in the dust of fading memory. However, I know, for a fact, that he no longer uses his Volcano while the GrouchyOne keeps on truckin.

The pics below show the construction details, consisting of a 500ml vacuum flask, a “flute” that holds the screen and herb, a black o-ring making a seal between the glass ware, a surgical tubing whip as mouthpiece and the Makita HG1100 heat gun.

If you decide to make one of these for yourself there are two things to note. First off, there are dozens of heat guns out there that can be substituted for the topline one I have, just make sure the business end will fit comfortably in the flute and that it sports continuous temperature control.

Secondly, and most annoyingly, I have scoured the labware catalogs and been unable to find a replacement for the Flute itself. I’m not even sure that “Flute” is the right name, it’s clearly a type of labware funnel but it doesn’t seem to be a common item. Maybe one of you lab rats can help out here, anybody recognize this thingy? In any event I believe the “Makita Welding Nozzle, PR00000034 1-3/8” is a likely substitute.

Using the GrouchyOne desktop convection precision temp Vaporizer.
For a typical session, I load about a quarter of a gram into the bowl and initially set the temp to 250 F. This allows me to savor those volatile terpenes that flash off early on. When you power up, smoke rises from the whip in about 10 seconds and you can hit it right away. I usually wait till the flask is filled with smoky goodness and three or four good pulls await.

If you haven’t experienced those early release volatile terps fully you are really missing something. I get it that they are there when you apply flame to your pipe, but they flash off so fast and then they’re gone. Using a precise temp vape you can fill the flask with a few hits of pure early release terpenes for the next few pulls. There’s no hurry because the smoke isn’t going anywhere. My current GG4 goto herb sports Alpine Forest with a hint of healthy soil for flavor and a surprising sucker punch of buzz.

The next temperature step ramps it up to 380 degrees for the full measure of cannabinoids. That’s paydirt and, using a vaporizer, most folks find they can handle the kind of satisfying, lung-filling draught that would result in an embarrassing cough spasm from a smoking blunt or pipe. If there is one huge advantage to this kind of vape is that (used correctly) you needn’t cough.

The heat gun goes up to 1100 degrees, so I can light the weed on fire, but I never do. After you hit 425 degrees there’s nothing left, you’re burning wood. If you look at the vaped material with a magnifying glass after finishing a session you’ll see that most all the trichomes are gone and what left isn’t very pretty. Take a close look and consider whether you’d smoke that ABV (already been vaped) weed if you knew it didn’t have much more to give. I DO save the ABV herb for the next bubble hash run, but I’m not sure there’s much good in it.

The GrouchyOne Vaporizer Benefits

  • Low cost: the heat gun will set you back between $50-$125. Be sure to get a gun with continuously variable temp control. The glassware is about $30 and you’ll need to come up with a flexible whip and a brass or stainless screen. The Volcano will set you back $500 plus any accessories, and there are LOTS of cool accessories. (including those Dumb looking bags… just sayin)

  • Fine temperature control: Playing with the temperature of your vape will be a revelation if you haven’t experienced it before. Those low temp volatiles in the first few pulls have become the favorite part of my session. Subtle tastes you’d never expect emerge that you want to savor in the mouth and slowly exhale through your nose.

  • ​​​​​​​Rapid Heating: When you turn the heat gun on the first smoke rises in a few seconds. Later tokes are even quicker as the herb is dry and the glassware already warm.

  • ​​​​​​​Variable Bowl Size: Everything from a personal quarter gram to a two-finger party-bowl are welcome.

  • ​​​​​​​Longevity: I think I put mine together in 2003, so, yeah.

Thanks for listening, ask if you have questions, Reply if you can add to the topic (what IS that Flute thingy???) or want to sched a Vape SmokeDown!

And, Really if you are a “seasoned citizen” like me, consider adding a guilt-free deep chest swelling, non-coughing Vaporizer pull on those fragile early terps to your bucket list. You’ve earned it Brother.

Saludos y pesetas,

-Grouchy

The GrouchyOne Ready for Action

$30 bucks worth of glassware

The Bowl ready for a Pinch or a Party

The HEAT!

[And, for the record, I KNOW I’m not the first to think of this…]

18 Likes

Very cool!

this is wild and crazy.
i might just have to try it.

Heat gun? I remember those in the late 90s. Some much more advanced stuff nowadays. I suggest heading over to fuckcombustion forum and do some digging.

herborizer and vapexhale evo come to mind for desktops and the tinymight for portable

there is also some cool open source projects going on using Halogen light bulbs as the heat source (Halo and Highlighter). Almost like that forum as much as I like here but not quite.

7 Likes

Nice writeup. One thing I heard was to make sure the heat gun uses a ceramic heating element, not a metal one.

6 Likes

Thanks @Phil_Bombs, I’ve been looking for a portable and tinymight seems to check all the boxes.

2 Likes

Hi @ReikoX, thanks for reading. :star_struck:

I hadn’t heard that before and Makita doesn’t say. I may need to do a teardown on my gun out of curiosity.

I also should have mentioned that you need a box for the glassware to sit in. It’s kind of top heavy with the gun and the box stabilizes it in use. I repurposed an old cardboard box from some orchard gear for that purpose years ago but after multiple duct tape reinforcements I was embarrassed to offer up the pic.

3 Likes

Thanks for that tip. I’ll definitely check that sight out🤙🏽

Not sure why a ceramic heater is a necessity, coiled heating wires have been around for years. The thing that is different between them may be that the surface area of the ceramic element is bigger and you do not get localized hot spots as you might with an element being cooled down by airflow? Just guessing here, I don’t see a restive wire element being a problem as long as you know you can not jack up the temperature with no airflow.

Other than that, I think I will try something like this. I think I threw out an element from a heat gun. May have to look for it. The heat guns have come down in price, they were $20 on sale around here quite regularly. Just wondering if the vaped substance condenses in the sides of the glass? Mind you, no different than a bong I guess.

Wire coils can give off toxic heavy metals from my understanding.

As much as I hate these commercials, it applies to any heated coil.

4 Likes

Induction is a great way to avoid the off gassing too. :wink:

I know there’s a few vapes out there using it.

1 Like

ill take nickel in my lungs vs the other option.

  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Ammonia
  • Radioactive elements, such as polonium-210
  • Benzene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
2 Likes

No thanks, I’ll use my ceramic/quartz heating elements and rosin. I kicked nicotine several years ago, won’t ever go back.

10 Likes

Congrats on that! Nicotine is a hard habit to kick

2 Likes

Hi @bunny, Good question about the vapor condensing and, as you guessed, it does. After a few months the Flute piece gets really sticky and I end up sticking the glassware in the dishwasher. The flask mostly ends up with a dusting of particles that I toss in with the AVP for bubble hash.

The cheaper heat guns don’t all have the continuously variable heat and that feature is worth a few extra bucks.

Nickle and led into your lungs. Shit, I can make a commercial and say all kinds of shit without them being true. “You ‘could’ be…” Covers a lot of ground without lying I guess. For one thing, I have not seen a heating element soldered in place, so forget about the lead. Nickel? The vaporizing temperature is 2700 C. So forget about that unless you are glowing these things really hot.

Induction heating does not help any more, you are still heating the element to get it to the same temperature but rather than a direct electrical connection you are transferring the energy using induction. You still need a piece of metal to sink that energy into.

Ceramic heaters will not off-gas but I doubt the temperatures the element heaters run at will have them off-gas either. When they get to those temperatures they are going to act as a fuse and melt. I won’t be too concerned what technology is being used.

Mind you, then there is vaping where the product touches the element.

I have read a few articles saying that increased level of metals are found in the blood of people that vape. Some also say that the elements are soldered in place. This is nothing like how your heat gun is made, you also do not touch the elements with your product. So not an apples to apples comparison.

2 Likes

More on this. The FDA mentions the addition of metals to the cutting fluid of the e-juice. Other than that they do not mention the metals coming from the heaters. If it was that easy a call I would think they would have done it.

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/lung-injuries-associated-use-vaping-products

I could spend a few hours looking into it but since I will never melt a substance on a heater and then inhale it, it would not be a good waste of my time. Anybody wants to find a peer reviewed answer (measured) to the question rather than “I think this is it” all the power to you. But a heat gun will not have you breathing in heavy metals from where I am sitting.

1 Like

It’s your choice, I already made mine. :wink:

2 Likes

you have to be careful with the heating elements. They will give off toxins. Some of that stuff might be galvanize . No telling what else could be in there. They old-school aluminum pipes. DIY are some worse.

A choice should be made using correct information. I have been in the heating/manufacturing industry for a few years and am pretty sure your average heat gun is not spewing out metal.

1 Like