Todays interview is with one of my favorite new modders on the scene, Cole Kudzu Palmer, creator of the Kudzu Mod!
Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got started in vaping, what led you into the modding industry, and can you give us the origin and backstory behind the name “Kudzu”?
My actual name is just Cole Palmer. I added the Kudzu part so people could find me easily on Facebook (I’ve started to regret that decision). I’m 35 years old and I’m an e-commerce architect by trade (Is that even a real thing? I don’t think i can just call myself an architect, but that’s what they put on my business card so I just go with it). I started vaping a few years ago to stop smoking. I didn’t even smoke that much, and to be honest I don’t vape that much. For me the draw was all the bits and pieces you could put together and build. It was this crazy new hobby that was in it’s infancy. The speed at which the industry has grown is mind blowing, and I love keeping up with all of it. I love all the new tech that comes out and all the new designs coming from an almost entirely cottage industry (in regard to the high end portion of the market).
I decided to make a mod because I was not impressed with the high end mods I was buying and working on a year or so ago. I was just constantly disappointed by what I was seeing. So instead of continuing to complain about it, I decided to make my own mod. I have this weird mindset where I don’t think it’s fair to speak on a subject unless you have personal experience with that subject. Complaining about stuff wasn’t going to change it, so I designed a mod and built it. It was truly a “put your money where you mouth is” situation.
The origin of the Kudzu name has to do with where I’m from, South Carolina. Kudzu is a plant here that takes over entire fields and mountains if left unchecked. It grows at an alarming rate. Some say you can watch it grow. I really like the sound of the word and the way it looks when it’s spelled, and I wanted the company to be similar to the plant. We want to grow into all parts of the vaping world, and we want people to be able to watch us grow. It’s really important to me that the company stays transparent and open about what we are doing and why. This is why I’m so active on Facebook. I don’t want to be a modder that sits back and lets admins handle everything, I want to be out in front pushing forward.
How’s progress coming with with the Kudzu, Cole?
Right now we are trying to get people mods. We really want to get the Kudzu out there in people’s hands so they can see what we are about. This week we did the insert picks for our first public list and we will hopefully have the mods shipped out in the next two weeks. As far as other new products, we just started prototyping the SX350J kudzu, and we are working on an DNA200 mod that will have a different form factor entirely.
How much product can we see be pumped out from your team each month? Are you guys taking it slow or trying to get out as much as you can?
Our current maximum output is 40 mods per month. This is only possible if EVERYTHING goes right, and it never does. We are more concerned with the quality of our product than the quantity we put out. We want each one to be perfect for the person that buys it. Many times we have to scrap an insert because it just isn’t working, or scrap a frame because it was damaged in some way. We don’t try to force things to work. If a mod isn’t meant to be, it isn’t meant to be and we move on.
You started somewhat of a new trend and started to sell your inserts on your website (www.kudzumods.com), do you think that will start to catch on in the future and focus on getting mods more “mainstream” and having them available on websites rather than just social media types like Facebook?
I think that the community aspect of Facebook is very important. Without all the facebook groups i don’t think the high end market would be nearly as big as it is now. It’s very important for us to keep in contact with our customers and get feedback. That being said, list sales that are completed entirely through Facebook are inefficient. Picking wood before it’s cut is misleading (especially with double and triple dyes). List picks that get stalled because someone is MIA just don’t make sense. So we decided to streamline the process. Initial lists are set up through Facebook, but all picks and transactions are done through our e-commerce site. This gives us the ability to protect ourselves through terms and conditions that have to be accepted before purchase, age verification, and warranty’s that are explicit and agreed upon. The website also gives us the ability to track customer information for shipping and contact details. Most importantly it handles the monetary transactions and links them to the customers properly so there is no confusion.
With all the new chips on the market, which one is your personal favorite and will we be seeing any different chips in the Kudzu? Any plans on a 200W?
I’ll always have a soft spot for the DNA40. I really like that board, and it fits my needs perfectly. However, my needs aren’t the customers’ needs so we plan on making an SXJ very soon as well as a DNA200.
Being a new modder, how has the response and feedback been on the Kudzu?
To my surprise it’s been very positive. I didn’t really know what to expect. I just wanted to make sure the mod was a solid as possible with good wiring and a solid build. I always end up doing a double take when I see someone hand check one of my mods. It’s kind of surreal.
Having played around with the Kudzu, it’s super lightweight and feels great in the hand, what gave you the design concept to make something like the Kudzu?
The main goal with the Kudzu was maintainability and clean lines. I wanted a simple design that allowed for easy access to all it’s internals and way to change it’s look whenever you wanted. I went for an aluminum frame when I knew I would get push-back for it, but we used a stainless steel battery tube to offset the weight loss the use of aluminum created. The stainless tube also adds a great deal of structural integrity to the insert and allows us to get much thinner with the wood so we can keep a low profile. Also, I seriously just didn’t want to make a c-frame. C-frames are prevalent for a reason.
They make sense. There were plenty of times during the design phase where someone would just say “this would all be solved if you just used a c-frame”, and we would all laugh… and then I would slash their tires when they weren’t looking. [Well…that escalated quickly…]
Which conventions do you plan on attending? We’ll be at both The Vape Showcase and The Vape Summit, can we expect to see you there?
I will be at Vape Showcase for sure. I am really excited to see what those guys bring to the table. I’m also planning on attending Summit as well. I’ve always wanted to go to Summit. I’m sure it will be humbling.
What are some of your favorite materials to work with? We see a lot of honeycomb inserts out there, those are my personal favorites but the stabilized burl inserts are amazing too!
From a machining standpoint, if I could work with Juma and nothing else I probably would. Juma is a synthetic Ivory used mainly in pool cues. Versions of it have a snakeskin look and it comes in a variety of colors. It machines nicely and has a very nice depth to it when finished properly. Using Raffir is like cheating. The same is true with Alumilite. They are both very easy to work with. Honeycomb falls in the Alumilite/resin category. It’s very easy to deal with and holds up well. In the end, though, wood is always going to be the best. It’s physically unpredictable and every piece looks different, which is both great and terribly annoying depending on the direction it decides to take.
Your frames are made of aluminum, making the mod super lightweight…any plans on incorporating different material, such as nickel plating?
Our aluminum frames come in two options currently, a Cerakote finish and nickel plating. We are also planning on doing some other interesting plating and anodizing. We made a frame out of a titanium mokume composite made by a company called M3. That was a challenge, but it looked crazy. I’m sure you’ll see some other materials in the near future. We get bored easily.
We’ve asked other modders before but what new mods on the horizon are you excited for?
The Lautus SXJ. The Fernweh. The Hobo 200. The Superleggra looks insane, but I don’t think I need one lol.
What keeps you steady snobbin’?
I have a real problem with atomizers. I can’t seem to sell them. So I basically collect them. Some people collect mods, I collect atomizers. Sometimes I find atomizers that i forgot I had. I think I like them so much because I would never try to make one.
Thank you for joining us, we’re big supporters of Kudzu and we can’t wait to see what else you come out with. Any last words for all The Vape Snob viewers reading this right now? Like, when can we expect to see the next list? 😉
Shout out to my boys at Lautus. They keep helping me, and I have no idea why. Shout out to the prototype team, Jeff my admin for explaining who all these people are that PM me, Matt my business partner that makes all my crazy ideas a reality, Q for being Q, and my family for supporting this insane idea. I have nightmares about lists! We are going to change the way people buy high end mods. I can promise that.