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Vaporizing Oil

As many of ya'll know, burning cannabis may be damn tasty, but sadly it produces some of the same free radicals as burning tobacco.

To its credit, to date research shows that statistically the effects of these cannabis free radicals are less damaging than the same radicals from tobacco, due to the neuroprotective properties of the cannabinoids present.

If that is good enough for you, then you are in luck, but if the term statistically less damaging bothers you too, consider that there are no free radicals created when vaporizing the oil instead of burning it.

If that sounds better, you will be pleased that there is more than one method available to vaporize cannabis essential oils, and that it opens up new horizons with the improved tastes and effects, when pyrolysis isn't present!

In this thread, we will review the different methods of vaporizing and post our own skunk pharmer observations and impressions, but in addition, we will present them this year to student volunteer patient test panels at this seasons classes, and report their impressions and comments.

Our students provide a better cross section of the general OMMP patient population, than just us'n skunk pharmers, so we will hopefully get some insights from their observations.  Students thus far have ranged from young ingénue, to retired hoary old farts like myself.

Looking at vaporization methods available, probably the simplest is a hot knife and a funnel, and the more complex is the evolving E-Cigarette market.

Let's kick this thread off with a comparison of three of the current mainstream methods to vaporize oil, and follow with alternatives and systems evolving as we speak.  Those three mainstream methods are the skillet, nail, and wand.  From there, we will move on to other systems, such as the DIY D-lighter, and E-Cigarettes, etc.

Looking at the systems alphabetically, we will use an Agnostic Taoist oil well, with wands from borosilicate, quartz, and CP Titanium, the Hash Master Kut Curve Skillet, and the KO Domeless Nail.

Before moving there, lets discuss glass versus Titanium nails, skillets, and wands.  Suffice to say, that amongst aficionados, there is a divided camp on whether glass or Ti produces the best flavor, but without exception thus far, our volunteer patient test panels liked the flavor reproduction by a well seasoned Titanium wand best, not that any found the flavor reproduction by the glass wands bad.

My own impression is that glass wands taste like hot glass and Ti tastes like hot Ti, but the highly reactive hot Ti rapidly builds an inert alpha case layer with the nitrogen and oxygen in the air, as well as the carbon and hydrogen in the cannabis essential oils vaporized.  That inert alpha case provides a crisp, but neutral platform for the natural flavors of the cannabinoids and other plant terpenes to come through.

While borosilicate wands work for awhile, they will eventually heat fracture, but we never did fracture one made of quartz.  If you decide you like the taste of glass best, might I suggest quartz for durability and longevity?

If you choose Ti, make sure it is Commercially Pure Ti, as opposed to one of the cheaper and more common structural alloys like 6Al4V, which contain Aluminum and Vanadium.

Rating system:

For evaluation, we will use the following parameters and rate them on a scale of 1 through 10.

1.0       Form:  How purdy is this puppy in appearance?

Is it attractive to look at?

Is it cleanly functional?

Is it art?

2.0       Function:  How cleanly designed is this system in the way it operates?

3.0       How well made?

Could this be passed on as an heirloom, or will you go through a number in a lifetime?

4.0       How successfully does it accomplish the purpose for which it was intended?

The fish trap exists because of the fish, and if something is stupid, and it  works, it isn't stupid, but just how reliably well does it work, really?

The purpose we measured is the units ability to deliver an adequate dose of medication, when operated as designed.

5.0       How easy is it for a novice to operate and control dosage?

If you hand it to a novice, with oral or written instructions, how much experience  will the novice require to operate it smoothly?

Smoothly is defined as being able to consistently load and ingest the proper dosage, without over inhaling to the point of a coughing fit trying to keep up with  the vapor produced, or just altogether losing un-inhaled clouds to the room when  they stop inhaling?

6.0       How efficiently does the system process the oil without internal or external  losses?

How much oil will be lost to condensing films in the overall system and how much smoke escapes the system un-captured?

How easy is it to lose drops of oil from the system?

7.0       How is the taste?

How well does it present the nuances of the individual flavors involved, without  adding flavors of its own?

How repeatable are the flavors dose to dose?

How was the after taste?

8.0       How effective are two hits of the medication when vaporized by this method,   compared to two hits from a joint of the stuff it was made from?

9.0       How portable and fast is the system?

Will you be carrying this system in your pocket, or in a carrying case?

How much support equipment required?

How long to set up and ingest a dose?

Is it usable in view of the general public?

How transportable while still hot?

Here are the first three systems tested in alphabetical order:

Agnostic Taoist Oil Well:

As you can see by the following picture, the Agnostic Taoist Oil Well and Wand system is professionally made by a scientific glass manufacturer and is elegantly simple, with the only art its craftsmanship and simplicity.

It is a deep double walled bowl, with a ring of holes near the top of the inside bowl wall and is sturdy enough, that unless dropped on a hard surface, it could easily last generations.

To operate the system, oil is placed in the well and touched with the wand, which has been heated with a butane torch.  That vaporizes the oil, which is drawn through the pipe via the holes around the inside of the double walled bowl.

For testing purposes, the AT Oil Well was inserted in one of our own Skunk PharmResearch water cooled pipes and we used both an original AT borosilicate wand, as well as our own skunk pharm quartz and CP Titanium wands.

The AT Oil Well as tested is very effective at delivering controlled doses of vaporized oil from light to heavy doses and we gave it a full 10 points.  It does the job.

Novice operation is a mixed bag.  It is the easiest of the three systems for the novice to control the dosage, but the most complex to load the oil well itself.

Solid pieces can simply be dropped into the well, but oil presents more of a challenge and requires a steady hand when loading lower viscosity oils with a dauber, to not touch the sides of the deep bowl.

Getting it off the dauber can be a challenge at times, so one technique that we use, is to scrape the oil off the dauber with a metal wire over the bowl.  We get the residual oil off the wire, but sticking the tip in the bowl and heating just above the tip with a torch.  When the wire heats up, the oil runs down and off the hot dauber, dropping into the bowl.

To operate, after inserting the oil, the patient simply heats the wand with the torch until it is red, lets it cool below red, and then taps the pool of oil in the well, as many times as it takes to get the size dose that they desire.

Taping the pool and withdrawing the ball on the end of the wand, to the top of the well, blocks the top of the bowl, yet exposes the ring of holes at the top of the well.  That  allows vapors to be drawn up and through them, and then down through the pipe.

If the wand is submerged in the pool and quenched, it will have oil adhering to it when it is withdrawn from the well, and be smoking.  Jamming it into the pool and suddenly withdrawing it from the pool, will also splatter oil about the room.

The ball is small and doesn't have a lot of mass, so it cools off quickly.  It is pressed to retain enough heat for two doses or passing between heatings.

System losses are relatively high in the oil well itself, because of all the cold glass the vapors must pass through, but are easily reclaimed to make sleep meds with.

In this case, the pipe that the AT oil well was tested in, is a Skunk PharmResearch creation, made in a small run for the local group.  It has a glass on glass taper fit for the down pipe that the oil well bowl taper sits in, which terminates in a proprietary "Defuzzer" diffuser.

The skunk pipe is diminutive compared to most water pipes, to minimize surface open to condense out the oil, but is actually much larger than the even smaller HMK skillet system also tested.

Clearly some lost opportunity here, that we will be addressing with our skunk pipes, and which is not a function or responsibility of the AT Oil Well as tested.

Flavor and after taste are excellent and the system is effective in delivering medication in any dosage desired.

If the oil well is substantially filled however, the lighter constituents will vaporize off first, leaving behind the less aromatic and flavorful ones for last.  Those last doses of meds, will also be more sedative than the first doses.

Switching oils for taste comparison, also requires multiple bowls.  We use a non-water cooled pipe with multiple bowls in class, for students to compare the fruits of our class labors at the end of the class.

From an effectiveness stand point, it is as effective as the oil.  The system vaporizes it well and presents no restrictions.

From a portability standpoint, this isn't a readily portable system.  A glass aroma therapy water pipe has to be dumped before packing and requires protection from trauma.

Oil transfer tools are required.

A butane torch is required to heat the wand.

It takes a bit to set up and is not something you take a quick hit of in full view of the public.

Only empty oil wells are easy to store, because if laid on their side, the oil will eventually find its way out.

Even empty, but used, the bottoms of the taper get sticky from condensed oil.  We carry oil wells in empty pill containers for that reason.

One item unique to the oil well system, is that once you are through vaporizing, what do you do with the hot wand?  I stick mine in a Pyrex test tube, but other pharmers use an aluminum cigar tube to sheath it in until it cools down.

In summary, the AT Oil Well System is an effective way to vaporize oil and is novice friendly.  We like it and recommend it for home use.


MEASUREMENT 1 through 10


1 Form 10
2 Function 10
3 Craftsmanship 10
4 Effectiveness 10
5 Novice operation 9
6 Efficiency 8
7 Taste. 10
8 Portability 5

HMK Ti Curve:

We feel blessed that Hash Master Kut made and donated a pipe and curve for these comparisons, as HMK is the original mastermind behind the titanium curve skillet!

Most especially since they have gained such popularity that the demand outstrips the supply so far at times that they are also known as "Unobtainiums".

By far the purdiest of the lot tested, and a complete pipe assembly, where the other two were adapted to a skunk pipe.  This assembly is artistic, in addition to function.

HMK and his sister produce artistic essential oil aroma therapy devices embodying  the HMK swing skillet assembly, in a petite inhalation device, that artistically reminds me of something sclooompfing through a 60's and 70's Dr Seuss garden, with a wagging proboscis and fluffy tail.  It looks like the front edge of the intake bell should be rippling as it sniffs along, catching everything in sight.

Our HMK test sled is clear glass, like we likes it for testing purposes, but their custom made pieces are ornately colored and adorned, so no two are alike.  The first pictures are of our HMK assembly and I will try to copy and add pictures of other other HMK creations later. The HMK system has been around awhile and reflects evolution and refinement.  The basic principle behind it, is that you heat the Grade 2 CP Titanium skillet with a torch, and swing it down under the bell (snauze?) on the front of the pipe.  You then dab oil on the hot skillet, with a dauber, which vaporizes and is drawn through the pipe through the bell and down through the pipe.

The curve fits into the pipe body via a ground glass taper, and extends down into the water reservoir, where it terminates into a diffuser, made by closing the tube down to a single small hole at the bottom, and perforating the sides.

Its charms include the knobs on both sides, that make it both ambidextrous and handy for passing, and its petite size minimizes the oil losses to inside cooling surfaces.  A hidden charm is that it is a perfect height to set the butane torch beside it, to heat the skillet, as opposed to holding the torch or wand.

Despite the art, the unit remains cleanly functional and is more petite and has less surface area to lose condensed oil to, than our own skunk pipe.

The fluffy tail is the exception, and could be made less artistic and smaller in diameter, but the effect is to drop the velocity of the incoming vapor stream and that appears to give a fuller mouth taste than our own smaller stemmed pipe.

Hee, hee, hee, I can see a new generation of skunk pipes coming out...........

Our unit is heavy walled and pretty sturdy.  Not saying you could drive nails with it, but sturdy enough that I can see my son ending up with it, if one of the other skunk pharmers skulking in the background, waiting for me to die, don't beat him to it.

As far as fulfilling the purpose for which it was designed, it will deliver any dose size, and is a potent delivery system, that gives or takes no quarter.  The skillet has enough mass to support two doses per heating, which also makes it handy for passing.

Novice operation is a little trickier, with everything simple and easy until we get to dosing.  Dosing is actually simple and easy, but not intuitive and requires some experimentation to get right.

The issue is not any problem getting an adequate dose, but if too much is placed on the skillet, you are stuck with either trying to keep up with the vapor generation and over inhaling to the point of a coughing fit, or leaving vapor escaping into the room un-inhaled.

The gap between the skillet and intake bell is also close, which requires a steady hand or good coordination with two hands, to daub without touching the skillet too soon or sticking stuff to the bell.

Neither a major issue and as keeper of the HMK pipe, with a little practice I've become reasonably proficient at it, despite how blind and shaky as I am.

As far as efficiency, the system itself loses some condensed oil to the curve, but the pipe itself is the most efficient we tested in this group.  As with the oil well, the condensed oil in the curve is easily reclaimed and makes killer evening sleep meds.

Taste is full bodied and excellent once the skillet is seasoned.  The aftertaste is also excellent.

I seasoned ours by heating it to cherry red about four times and letting it cool down  to build up an inert nitrogen and oxygen alpha case, and then after pooling oil on the skillet, I burned it off by taking the skillet to 750F with a propane plumbing torch, to reduce the deposits to CO2 and water vapor.

One of the attributes of this system, is that it is consistent dose to dose, as fresh oil is added each time.  That makes it easy to switch between oils to make taste comparisons.

As far as portability, it really isn't a readily portable system either, because of the water pipe, and need for a torch.  It is also not something that could be used amongst the general public, without drawing attention.

The hot skillet self stores, so unless you are trying to pack it up, it can cool down unattended.

In summary, the HMK Ti Curve pipe assembly works well, delivers an adequate dose, and is handy to use at home.  We like and recommend it.


MEASUREMENT 1 through 10


1 Form 10
2 Function 10
3 Craftsmanship 10
4 Effectiveness 10
5 Novice operation 8
6 Efficiency 10
7 Taste. 10
8 Portability 5

KO Domeless Nails:

Propitiously to our good fortune, KO Domeless Nails also donated four assemblies for our testing.

KO Domeless nails were designed by a bright young engineering student, and as such are clean in form and function.   They consist of a lathe turned #2 Commercially Pure Titanium nail, encased in what appears to be a tapered molded fused alumina case.

The nail is hollow, and the center of the head where the hole exits, is raised, so as to provide an oil reservoir around the inside perimeter.

The fused alumina case insulates the nail from the pipe system, and the nail head is heated to redness and then allowed to cool to dark, before touching the inside rim of the nail with oil on the end of a dauber.

This vaporizes the oil, which is drawn down through the hollow nail and into the pipe.

In this case, we again used a skunk pipe, but had to have special adapters made so that the nails taper would fit.  That of course reduces efficiency and wouldn't be necessary in a pipe designed or the larger taper.

The adapter also raised the bowl above eye level in our skunk pipe, which made daubing blind.

Both the nail and the ceramic sheath are neat, precise, and professionally made.  Barring dropping the ceramic sheath, it is built to last several lifetimes, so heirs may fight over it.

It accomplishes the purpose it was designed for very cleanly and concisely, with no fat left over, as you might expect from an engineered design as opposed to an artistic design.  The artistry is in the clean conciseness.

As far as novice operation, it is simple in design and function, but requires that the novice develop some daubing skills so as to not produce more vapor than they can inhale.

In my case, because I couldn't see what I was doing (not the KO Nails fault), I also dropped some oil down the center hole at least twice, before I got on to dragging the dauber around the inside rim of the nail.

That works well, but it also tends to cause the oil to drop off of the dauber into the well, so it is important that the dauber not have more on it, than one dose.  Like the skillet, with a little practice we got proficient and all liked the system.

As far as system losses, this is by far the most efficient system of the three, as the hollow nail itself, is too hot for the vapors to recondense, but subject to the same losses in our skunk pipe that we tested it in, as any other system plugged into it.

Taste and after taste are excellent after seasoning the nail, which I did by heating it to cherry red about four times and allowing it to cool down, so as to build an inert nitrogen and oxygen alpha case, and then cooking some oil in it until it was reduced to CO2 and water vapor.  I used a propane plumbing torch for that step, so as to save time and butane.

Like the wand and skillet tested, it too is definitely an effective delivery system, which gives or takes no quarter.

Like the oil well and skillet however, it also isn't really a portable device, because of the need for a water pipe and torch, nor could it be used in public without attracting attention.

In summary, the KO Domeless Nail is an effective medical delivery device, that produces good flavor and effect at home.  We like it and recommend it.


MEASUREMENT 1 through 10


1 Form 10
2 Function 10
3 Craftsmanship 10
4 Effectiveness 10
5 Novice operation 8
6 Efficiency 10
7 Taste. 10
8 Portability 5

Progress Update 4-21

As I previously mentioned, it really isn't important what us'n skunk pharmers think, so we have submitted the three systems to volunteer patient test panels, the first of which we kicked off at a 4-20 83rd birthday party that we threw for our oldest patient, Eloquentsolution's Stage 7 Alzheimer's mom.

Lu lu lu lu lu lu lu lu lu lu lu lu lu lu lu lu!!!!!!!!!!!  Pardee, pardee, pardee!!!!!!!!!!

Two gourmet birthday cakes, spaced three hours apart so she wouldn't remember the first.  Hee, hee, hee.............

Here is how the 14 member test panel rated the three systems in the different categories.

Comparison of vape panel scores to skunk pharmer ratings


MEASUREMENT 1 through 10




1 Form 10/7.71 10/8.64 10/7.35
2 Function 10/9 10/8.28 10/8.5
3 Craftsmanship 10/8.28 10/8.71

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  1. Shannon

    I think you meant assess, not access...Not sure though. Hoping that 2013 is as fulfilling for you and your team as 2012 was. Best wishes, be well.

    Reply       Edit
  2. drooskie

    hey i have a vape pen and i find it to have a kinda chemical taste? cant really elaborate on it but every pen i have tried so far has it. do you guys have any experience?

    Reply       Edit
    1. skunkpharmresearch

      We don't use either glycerin or Propylene Glycol, so the chemical tastes that we experience, is a growing phenolic taste as the contents of the cart are used up. Cannabinoids are phenols, and as we evaporate away the lighter cannabinoids and terpenes, we are left with the longer chained, higher boiling point constituets, which taste ever more phenolic.

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