Boy do I appreciate hand craftsmanship.
Even though I totally suck at it and am more of a “gadget” kind of guy, it has always fascinated me how others can literally create something out of nothing.
The sweat and work they put into something, giving it their all, and then just standing back after it’s all said and done, just smiling consumed with accomplishment (or sometimes scratching their head).
Luckily today, we’re going to be talking to someone in the winner’s circle and that man is Ed from Ed’s Tote’n Tokes.
“Hey Ed, give us a little intro on what you do, my man!”
Hello, I am Ed from Ed’s Tote’n Tokes. I hand make choice wooden pipes, dugouts, and vapor stems from the world’s finest and rarest woods.
I have been in business for just 7 years and have really been blessed in my business and life. I started out making pipes and dugouts in the beginning after growing up around my old hippy father. He made some of the neatest wooden pipes for himself and friends and I remember just being a little boy handing them around when they were toking. I guess I got the wood bug way back then because the older I got, the more I thought, “Hey I can make those too and I bet my friends would dig em also!
So that’s where it all started. I learned how to make a website and before I knew it, I had sold wood in every state of the US and was covering the globe one country at a time!
“That’s awesome…quite a story! How do you pick the woods you make these from?”
I hand select only the best boards from species like Royal Jamaican Blue Mahoe, African Zebrawood, South American Leopardwood, and Mexican Cocobolo, just to name a few. Species I never knew existed were out there! Over the years I have built some really solid relationships with dealers from all over the world and am able to offer these unique, rare woods to my customers.
“So, how’d you get into the “stem making” biz?”
As I said before, I started out making dugouts and pipes and then one day a guy asked me if I could make a stem for a vaporizer which was the MyrtleZap, a log style vaporizer.
At that time, I had never heard of vaporizing so I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. I made a couple vapor stems for the unit, he helped spread the word and, before I knew it, I was making vapor stems. I soon got my own vape and learned how much healthier and cleaner it was for my mind and body.
I was really taken by the device and wanted to get another.
Not long after that, I had a guy ask me if I could make a vapor stem for the Magic Flight Launch Box. I ordered a MFLB and began turning these sweet little vapor stems for it. One thing lead to another, I got in touch with Magic Flight, and am now supplying all their wooden vapor stems as well as fine exotic species for myself.
“Damn, bro. This just keeps getting better. Keep going…”
Just as it happened before, another guy propositioned me with the Arizer Solo. He told me all that was supplied for it were glass stems. He was always dropping them and we all know glass doesn’t take a fall well!
I gave it some thought and tried a few different designs until I got it right. I did some looking around and found that really dense hard wood species seemed to work best for me. They are easy to turn and hold up well with sustained use, especially African Blackwood, Guatemalan Granadillo, Nicaraguan Cocobolo and Ukrainian Bog Oak. The Blackwood is super dense and has a lustrous finish that matches very well with the black Solo. Nicaraguan Cocobolo which I have just run across not too long ago is by far some of the finest and most colorful wood of the species I have found yet. Both of these woods finish really well and feel like glass in the hands and on the lips. Bog Oak is a one of a kind find! Thousands of years ago, large oak trees fell in the muddy swampy bogs of European countries as well as other areas like the Ukraine. This wood has been submerged there in the muck and mud soaking up minerals that have been naturally staining it black as night. The pieces I have been working were radio carbon dated to 5,460 years old and are almost priceless!
“Wow, that’s insane. So how do you make the stems?”
Making Arizer Solo stems is a lot of fun!
I get my woods in raw board form, most in planks but some in slabs.
First off before do anything to them, I look them over for their natural characteristics, abnormalities, burl eyes and knots.
I like to leave the piece as Mother Nature intended with no artificial stains or unnatural additives. I like the piece to speak for itself.
Once I’ve looked it over and have a feel for how it needs to be cut, I begin ripping it to the size I need on my table saw.
I then take it to the chop saw and cut it into short blanks that are the right length.
Next, they are off to the drill press next to have a nice clean hole bored all the way through. There are no obstructions or holes that reduce airflow in my stems.
It has a 5/16″ hole drilled through the blank to provide adequate airflow for thick milky clouds.
Once the blank has been bored it’s ready for the fun part!
I place it on the wood lathe, crank it up to 2,800 RPM’s and put my roughing gouge on it to begin truing up the piece. You can get an idea of what its going to look like just by looking it over in the beginning, but after turning the blank on the lathe you can discover it’s beauty.
It really starts looking good when I have taken off about a 1/2″ or so – that’s what you can see it take shape. It’s rich tones and vibrant colors are hidden by the saw marks and wax sealer but now it really starts to show itself.
“Awesome stuff. So, how do you shape them?”
I take my skew chisel next and turn it to the desired outer dimension. It always feels good to eyeball it close to the right size.
I am working in .001″ and getting it close by eye is the shit!
After that, I taper the mouth piece end to 14mm so it can be used with water pipes or what have you with a 14mm female attachment. I turn down a shaft on the opposite end to be installed in a stainless steel bushing I have made in my metal shop.
Then I finish the piece by sanding it with a high grit sand paper and polish it with wire wool to really make it shine.
“This stuff sounds pretty detailed…”
For sure. There is a lot of work that goes into making these stems. I still have to make the SS bushing in the metal shop which is more turning on a metal lathe. One important factor on the bushing are the four notches that are milled on one end. These notches provide for more airflow and a less restrictive draw.
The wood stem is then hammered into the SS bushing for a tight fit. I then drill a small hole just into one side of the bushing through it and through the wood shaft and install a SS pin to ensure there is no separation between the wood and the SS.
When in use, the high heat will shrink the wood and the SS will expand, it can’t be seen but it does happen ever so slightly. The pin holds the wood in place and won’t allow it to come apart.
I grind, sand and polish the outside of the pin so its flush with the bushing and looks clean.
Most of the hard work is done by this time. After I’m done with that, I then install a 1/2″ SS screen and a 1/2″ internal retaining clip over the screen so it will sit in place all snug and tight.
At that point, all that’s left is to buff the wood, then treat it and seal it with a natural organic beeswax/mineral oil mixture – Bomb Ass Butter that I make myself. It penetrates the wood and leaves it with a shiny glossy look that really pops!
It’s really a trip how all these pieces are of the same species, the Nicaraguan Cocobolo, and yet they all look different.
That is what is cool about wood – no two pieces are exactly alike.
“I’m super impressed, man. Thanks for taking the time out to give my readers a look into what you do!”
If you’d like to check out Ed’s website and see what else he has to offer, you can find it here. This guy’s super down to earth and I’m sure you guys will be super happy with his products.