This article appears in the September/October 2015 issue of SKUNK Magazine.
IN THE WINTER OF 1998, an introverted engineering student at Cal Poly Pomona worked the arithmetic on how to make the perfect size bowl for the combustion of his favorite herb. He realized that size mattered and lessening the temperature and amount of herb in play resulted in an improved experience. Along with his friend, Linus acquired and took apart a BC Vape, one of the only units of its kind at the time. The unit had a copper plate the herbs would sit on and just burn them creating stale tasting vapor. When the friends adapted the use of a whip and drew the heat from the heater through the herb, a new type of convection vaporization was born.
“We found that vaporizing with convection could kick your butt… we do not want to heat herb with anything but hot air.”
With a repurposed horse barn as a workshop, Linus built the first VaporBrothers vaporizer from wood and parts from the hardware store. The whip was made from metal fittings. (The term “Whip” was also their creation at the time) Loading and unloading was a process. “You had to use a pair of pliers and vise grips to get the thing apart when you were done with the session but it worked really well. At one point my friend got too high and called me from the fetal position on the floor. It was at that moment we decided the vaporizer needed to become the new thing.”
In 1999, Linus was spending time with a progressive group of thinkers and friends. It was about to be Y2K and many people began to fear or perhaps were excited about what the year 2000 could bring. The thought of a complete computer meltdown of the divine structure they lived for and in. This may have sparked some real out-of-the-box concepts that we are just realizing today. People really began to ask what else is possible and how can they could help us get there.
One of the key players during this time was Woody Harrelson, his friends and family. Mr. Harrelson was in the middle of his own quest back to nature and reveled at the thought of inhaling his favorite herbs without any hazardous effect. It was then that people around Woody gave Linus money to make vaporizers for their close knit group. In 1999 the first 15 vaporizers were made of which Woody received serial number 3. Woody’s friend Steve introduced many well regarded musicians of that time with their first “vape.” In fact the VaporBrothers vaporizer gained a real cult following with touring bands. I’ve read that there was an urban legend going around that a guitar roadie helped invent this cool ass device. Some true some not, but still just as fun. The original VaporBrothers were born out of a quest of happiness and health and a good time with friends.
“After these first units in 1999 we really started to work on all of the elements and functionality” Of many convenient aspects learned was that that the vapor’s hot air stream doesn’t affect seeds or stems eliminating any health concerns. Vaporizing stretched their herbs supply by double while producing the sweetest flavors. Those flavors are what has guided development ever since. “So really working on the cleanest tasting hit became a mission one that I’m still on today.”
Just before the millennium Linus was loaned a warehouse by famed Dogtown Venice Skater Ray Flores.
Ray had been producing Empire snowboards in Inglewood but once he closed his US operation, Linus was able to move in to develop and build his vaporizer idea using old snowboards he found around the shop. “Those were amazing times I remember doing all my business from a payphone in a pretty rough neighborhood.”
VaporBrothers soon realized it was time to become a real company- a corporate structure and a host of engineers and more people on staff so meet a demand that was growing internationally. By 2001, VaporBrothers moved into a Venice Beach shop at 730 Washington Blvd. Only one mile from the beach this quickly became the epicenter for a variety of interesting forward thinkers. Support from LA’s underground Dream Circus nurtured this expansion.
“We were building 20 box Vapes at once and having fun showing people how they worked at night”.
“We were finally able to design a complete facility around building vaporizers we also took on glassblowing so we could have complete control over the size and quality of our products. There was so much heart and so much community in around our facility that it seemed like we barely slept. So many amazing musicians athletes and professionals came through the shop to learn this new thing called vaporizing. We had a homeless man living outside who helped bring us equipment for our factory.”
It may have sounded a bit wild but these guys are getting down to serious brain business.
Many friends of VaporBrothers worked in TV and movies so they started to see VB1 box vapes popping up all over. It became an inside joke to put the vaporizer in the background, such as during an interview on “Entertainment tonight.”
After taking over the entire building in Venice and building over 5000 units at that location, they outgrew the facility and moved in 2005 to their current location in the South bay of Los Angeles. It was in this facility where research and development was performed on all vaporizers on the market next to the handmade VB1.
It was at this time that they began to push the envelope with ceramic injection molding. In their testing they found out almost every metal off gasses at high temperatures, however clean ceramic does not. Injection molding made it possible to make intricate shapes out of ceramic that could functionally replace traditionally metal or plastic components. They created a ceramic heating element held in glass with minimum amount of electronics improving airstream.
“Our whips have a proprietary size because it is the perfect size for convection vaporization for herb. It’s these slight details that make the difference between a mediocre and an amazing vaporization experience”.
Despite three utility patents and numerous trademarks to date the VB box is the most knocked off vaporizer in history. Anyone who’s tried a knock off versus an original can quickly notice the difference. “We over research every material and product used in our construction of our vaporizers ensuring the cleanest healthiest hit possible”. Metals, plastics and even some woods cannot say that when heat is involved.
As a result of their research in off gassing and using ceramic injection molding to replace metal components their resources were tapped by other industries. In fact VaporBrothers made contributions to the manufacture of solar cells that are still in place today.
How about that? It always tickles me to find out when such a common innovation was catapulted forward by the research and dedication of people searching the cleanest healthiest inhalation option. “In the manufacturing ovens that create solar cells, we were able to replace metal parts with ceramic thus reducing the amount of metal ion contamination.” Helping inventors and companies realize their product is something that VaporBrothers has been doing for a very long time.
It was about this time that suits entered the conversation and everyone began to urge VaporBrothers to find cheaper materials and go offshore. It seemed like the smart thing to do and financial advisors echoed that sentiment. However contrary to the masses, Linus said “we operate on something I call principled naïveté. We are primarily interested in making this thing better and increasing the level of the experience it may have not have been the best financial decision. We adapted all European certification standards ensuring the highest level of safety. For instance the wood VaporBrothers uses is actually Baltic Birch plywood from Russia as their regulations allow much lower V.O.C. Volatile organic compounds. Most plywoods have trash wood in between them and the quality of the wood plays a role in the experience both visually and aromatically over the course of time not to mention the finishes”.
“It was also during that time the notion of planned obsolescence, especially with cars, computers, and other things we depend on was really irking me. Vaporizers are already prone to break down due to their delicate components and high internal temperatures. We spent so much time eliminating causes of failure we have no wish to add any more. We find the best way to ensure the vaporizer is going to work for the customer is to build it to last forever.”
“Hey we even tried to knock off ourselves overseas and after several attempts we found that our experience cannot be duplicated at a discount. Any shortcut makes the product less effective.”
Since the beginning people have urged VB to come out with a portable. Duplicating the hit of the vapor box was not possible with their simple approach so no portables were made. Then in 2011-2012 VB begin to rollout a new travel pen, called Dabbler, a collaboration with Vape-Pen, the pioneering brand of portable vaporizers for concentrate. VB acknowledged that while vape pens were most often low quality made overseas, they were the best way to use oils on the go. VB and Vape Pen’s creation was a remake of the existing e-cig technology with custom components optimized for reliability and clean taste. The Dabbler’s Inconel wire imported from Sweden wrapped around a pure glass fiber wick that could handle red hot temperatures without smoking or smelling of anything, a big improvement over pens of the time. The VB Dabbler pen was awarded the ”Best Standard Pen of 2013” in HT Magazine.
When Dabbler’s competitors caught up in terms of heating elements and other features, VaporBrothers released a new vaporizer pen at the end of 2014 called the VB Eleven Pen. The pen was optimized to bring the outstanding VB experience at a lower price. VB Eleven is now considered one of the highest quality pens in the market.
The Birth of VB2
“Our dear friend Cheryl was in such intense pain 10 years ago that she had to smoke and vaporize constantly throughout the day just to stay even. Her friends raised money through parties but we knew that fundraisers were only going to support her for so long. The best gift we were able to give was to use our VaporBrothers’ RND to build a device that could let her take medicine in much higher concentrations. Borrowing from our philosophy of creating perfect taste through the use of ceramics we repurposed a heating chip from our box vaporizer model and set it in an enclosed glass vessel with a hole for dropping in concentrates. Anything that fell through the whole onto the heating surface immediately boiled completely away while the vaporized oils rushed up the tube. The heater would burn itself back to white. This device not only made vaporizing extracts easy for Cheryl but it let her increase her intake to levels she wouldn’t have been able to before without respiratory issues.”
In the spring of 2014, VB soft-released the much anticipated concentrate converter, the VB2. Known to many industry insiders and testers as the “Honey Pot” or “Cheese Box” it delivered the perfect hit at the perfect temperature every time with absolute ease. Instead of dealing with an elaborate array of parts with scorching hot metal exposed, the VB2 internalized all these functions to one self-contained device. Vaporizing could be accomplished with abandon- without having to mind hot surfaces or reheat a nail between hits. Made primarily of ceramics and glass this all-in-one device fit right in on a desk or kitchen. However as good as that sounds that’s not the real story here- the real story is why the VB even came into existence.
As a vaporizer enthusiast on the East Coast, and knowing the story behind the VB2, VaporBrothers attracted my attention in 2014. In August 2014 they asked me to join the team and help with PR, product testing and development.
In the last 12 months in true VaporBrothers fashion, instead of getting VB2 made cheaper with less safe components, they spent even more time in R&D working on a new ceramic heater to take the next VB to the next level. Good bad or indifferent this company is always striving to outdo itself- something their consumers are pleased with. They have become a boutique product and service for the everyday consumer. I can speak for myself; the ease of use of this unit makes people who have disabilities much more accessible to achieving the desired level of medication in a short amount of time. This invention truly has brought happiness to our home.
Many smart people told the VaporBrothers they just need to invent more gadgets, to always be the newest thing only less expensive. Linus remarks “sticking by quality we know we are affecting millions of lungs in a positive way and that aligns with our moral compass.”
I don’t know if Linus’ vapor ship will ever land at its destination or if he even knows where that destination is. Guided by good intention morals and friendship these trips tend to take a lifetime. What I do know is that this company was birthed from the positive thoughts of a few. And today is lifted by spirited actions of helping others live a happier life. People are what make up the company Vaporbrothers . People who have real passion and compassion to make the world a better place.
Thank you Linus and thank you VaporBrothers!
For more information on the VB2 and other VaporBrothers products, please visit the VaporBrothers website.