Granted, it was intimidating. Even for a guy like me with multiple college degrees and a solid grasp of chemistry, I was less than confident in my ability to make the magic potion that I'd been buying at like 14,000% markup (that's not a made-up number. That's real.) I watched a ton of videos on YouTube of folks who reminded me WAY too much of my obese uncle Mike mixing crap up in their basements that they bought from Wal Mart (no joke. Apparently Wal Mart sells VG.) Don't get me wrong. I'm entirely certain that what they concocted was perfectly acceptable, but yikes.
So I did what I always do and researched the crap out of the subject until I felt absolutely comfortable with the idea. And what I found is that I could produce a radically satisfactory juice and actually control the exact contents of it. In the end, I actually feel quite good knowing exactly what I'm putting into my body. And it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. If you want to jump in headfirst and start mixing your own, I'm not going to give you a thorough how-to here. But I will tell you the process by which I used and the places that I secured my materials. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Here's the cliff's notes.
The first thing I did was math. This is a bit tricky due to the fact that there are more than one variable at play. The three major variables are:
% of VG vs. % of PG
% of the juice that is flavor (almost always in a PG base)
% of the juice that is nicotine (usually suspended in a PG base, but available in VG as well)
It is really a bit mathematically challenging to set yourself up with a kit of goods that will allow you to vary the PG/VG % without buying both PG-based nicotine and VG-based nicotine. But it's possible. The higher the mg per ml nicotine in your base that you buy, the less of it you have to use to achieve your desired nicotine strength (and therefore, the less of a chance that your plain nic juice is messing up your PG/VG %. The catch is that you can't seem to get VG-based nic that is higher than like 36 mg / ml. But the PG-based nic is available up to like 100 mg / ml. Okay that gets a bit confusing. Don't get overwhelmed.
In the end, I decided that I was going to try to always aim for about a 50/50 PG/VG mix. And if I bumped in one direction, I would attempt to go a little higher VG in order to increase my vapor production. I bought my nic base as a PG base at 48 mg / ml. So where does that leave me since I vape at 12 mg / ml? Something like this:
I need to dilute the 48 mg down to 12 mg. That means that 25% of my finished product will be PG-based nic juice.
The next thing I needed to consider was flavoring. I talked to a couple of folks in my local shops and found that they mostly mix their flavors between 10 and 20 percent of their total juice. They vary the % depending on the flavor. The company I'm ordering my flavorings from is Mt. Baker Vapor and they recommend using their flavors at between 15 and 40% of the total mix. I would definitely recommend starting low, but have found that 20% is a sweet spot for me on most flavors. Since the flavor is almost always suspended in PG, that means that another 20% of my total juice is PG. Here's where we are at:
25% PG (nic-juice) + 20% PG (flavoring) = 45%
That leaves room for 55% plain VG to be added and gets me just about exactly where I want to be. If I am working with a strong flavor like cinnamon that only requires 15% flavor, then my VG % goes up to 60% which makes my cinnamon finished juice a little thicker. I love that 60/40 mix.
The one problem with this is that unless I decide to decrease flavor or nicotine levels, there is literally no way that I can increase my VG beyond that 60%. I have been told that there are some VG-based flavorings out there, but I haven't dug enough to find them. And I haven't yet bought any of the VG-based nicotine juice. If I really wanted to push that VG % up and have a nice set of supplies to really tailor each juice flavor, I'd buy a big bottle of VG-nic-juice to have on hand.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Not all flavorings are made the same. Some out there are incredibly stronger and literally only require a couple drops in a 10 ml bottle of juice. When in doubt, pop the company and email and ask about % range. Often in the reviews of flavorings, there is at least one or two people who have explained exactly how they mixed theirs.
IMPORTANT NOTE #2: You should be wearing gloves when messing with concentrated nicotine. At the level that I bought (48mg/ml) getting some on the skin will give you a pretty nasty headache and make you sick to your stomach. Any higher than that and you could get really sick or burned. That's bad news. If in doubt, play it safe and keep the nic level lower on your first order while you get the hang of it. Wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area.
Where I got my products: I bought most of my standard gear from My Freedom Smokes. You can find their website linked in my page called "Links" at the top of this page. They sell USP grade nicotine juice, PG, and VG. The bottles I received had the dates of production on them and they are super fresh and safe. I also bought some big old syringes and some little plastic bottles from them. They sell "The Flavor's Apprentice" brand flavorings and I bought a few of them from these guys because of the reviews of those specific flavors. You'll pay $5 per 15ml of flavoring through them, so it's a bit pricier, but it's good stuff. The rest of my flavors, I bought from Mt. Baker Vapor for $2.99 per 15ml. I haven't been disappointed in the slightest with Mt. Baker's flavors or their customer service (which was downright impressive.)
Cost: In the end, I'm sitting here with enough supplies to keep me in about 10 different flavors of juice and enough finished quantity to last me a solid year of vaping. And I paid a total of about $80 including shipping for everything. I literally worked it out that my finished cost per mL is somewhere in the neighborhood of like 7 to 10 cents. And again, I am the one controlling what goes into it.
Time: If you don't have the time to kill, then by all means buy the premixed juices. Jumping into DIY is a bit of a commitment. In my case, I'm a tinkerer. It was only natural. I simply can't sit still for a minute and wanted to figure it all out. If you don't have time or are unsure, there is no shame at all in buying premixed juice from a reputable shop.
Flavors: And there IS a big pro AND con in the DIY arena. There are flavors that vendors carry that they have tinkered with for days and months to get just right. Some of the premixed juices could contain as much as a dozen flavors in them. I certainly don't have time for that mess. So there will always likely be a flavor or two that I order online that are proprietary to one company or another. On the other hand, when you DIY, you can really tailor the flavor to your own tastebuds. I spend a chunk of my evening vaping a watermelon, green apple, black cherry mix that wasn't too bad. I won't make it again, but it was an interesting fruit salad experiment.
Steeping: One last thing. Many of the places you likely have bought pre-made juice from comes already aged a bit. Not always, but often. Some flavors are great right out of the bottle. But I've found (for some reason) that almost all the flavors that I DIY require at least a couple of days of just sitting and resting before they are even remotely any good. And some flavors (like Mt. Baker's Hawk Sauce) don't even begin to get palatable for me without a week of chilling in the drawer.
So that's just my two cents on getting started in DIY. There is quite a bit more to learn than I've typed here. But I think if you understand the differences in the ingredients and have a basic grasp of ratios, it's really not all that hard. So at this point, I say do a YouTube search for "DIY vape juice" or something like that and see where it takes you. Check out the products at some of the online vendors. And have fun.
Legal disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, a lawyer, a chemist, or a pharmacist. I'm an average guy and what I typed above was little more than my own experience and technique. You are wholly responsible for your own actions. So please be careful and do more research than you've read here. This is not the least bit comprehensive. It is just an intro to the subject.