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From Cycling to Vaping: How Topstone Vaporizer Creator Will Bosch Found His Road to Cannabis

July 21, 2017

We always love hearing stories about how people get involved in the cannabis space, and we recently heard one of our favorites when we sat down with Will Bosch, founder and creator of the gorgeous Topstone vaporizer, to discuss cycling, design, and cannabis.

We’re fortunate enough here at The Hemponair to meet a lot of interesting people in the cannabis space, and I have to say, your story is definitely one of the more intriguing ones we’ve come across. I’d love to start by giving our readers a bit of background into that story and how it led you to cannabis. You were at one point a semi-pro cyclist, correct?

Right. Ever since I first got on a bicycle about six years ago I knew I wanted to take it to the pro level. At the time most cyclists would say I was living the dream—my whole life was training, eating, racing, and traveling. I was traveling up and down the East Coast chasing bigger climbs, better weather, and stronger people to ride with.

And somehow that chase led you to South America?

Yeah, following a year on the road training and racing, I spent three months in Manizales and some other towns in Colombia. I was there with a friend who was a pro rider and we tapped into the network of pros down there, including Cesar Grajales, who’s a legend in the community. Colombia was an incredible place to train. The climbs were literally up volcanos—80 miles going straight up.

Sounds wild. And unfortunately a bit too much so, huh? It was there where you contracted the parasites, no?

Yup. In 2014 I flew from Medellin to Miami and signed a pro contract. Unfortunately three months later I was back home in Connecticut, incredibly ill with multiple types of parasites.      

That’s awful. What was the timeline like? And how did you figure out it was parasites?

Well parasites are really tricky to diagnosis. I was traveling around rural areas in Colombia so it wasn’t all that surprising to me, but getting my doctor to realize that took months. I had a GI doctor who kept insisting I had ulcerative colitis, and then when it got worse he told me I had a tumor in my lower intestines. That’s when I really got fed up and switched to an infectious disease specialist who was able to run the right tests and immediately see that I had multiple types of parasites in my system. That “tumor” was actually a nest of the nasty things.

Ouch. So what happened next? How did this all lead to cannabis?

At the time I was on so many prescriptions for the infections until a doctor eventually recommended trying cannabis. Turns out it was a total necessity for getting my health back. The cannabis helped level everything out for me. It helped me stabilize my weight, helped me eat, sleep, and helped reduced the crazy inflammation in my body. I look back at photos from that period and I looked so weird, like obviously suffering from malnutrition but also super swollen everywhere. The other medications killed off the parasites, but cannabis was what got my body back to normal.

And was this your first time trying cannabis or have you used it before?

(Laughs) I will admit to partaking in recreational fun with friends here and there. We don’t like to drink but we do love our Dutch Masters. When I got serious about cycling I quit, but once I became an actual patient and then got involved with the industry, I became a regular consumer. My friends still actually give me a hard time about when I “quit.”

Hilarious. Any differences you noticed between using it back before you “quit” and when you actually started consuming as a patient?

Absolutely. I honestly couldn’t appreciate the medical aspects of cannabis until I was sick, and now using it is a totally different experience. I’ve become more thoughtful about how I’m consuming, how it can be used as a tool for healing. I also think that’s one of the main tensions in terms of people being skeptical of cannabis as medicine—because most people’s experience of cannabis involves having fun on the weekend or this antiquated, and now disproven, notion of being a “gateway drug.” But using it for pain management or because it was the only way I could eat, that made it clear to me that there are so many different dimensions to this plant.

There certainly are. Speaking of which, do you have a go-to strain or flavor? Are you more of an indica guy? Sativa? Hybrid?

Indicas all the way. My go-to is Advanced Grow Labs Indicol H. If you’re from Connecticut you know about Indicol H, it’s a local favorite. Since becoming a patient, cannabis has become about enhancing recovery and rest. If I take anything sativa I’m getting lost and confused in the grocery store like an amateur. (Laughs).

It happens to the best of us. And obviously you enjoy vaping, but how about any other methods of consuming? Joints? Edibles? Any favorites?

I’m not really that picky. I’ve been trying all kinds of stuff. I had some drinks from Green Golden Infusions last week that I really liked—easy to digest and subtle effects. I also really enjoy Galaxy Gummies for deep REM sleep. That’s the beautiful part about legalization, all these new methods and products and businesses giving us so many different options.

For sure. It truly is giving birth to a whole new industry. And on that note, let’s talk about vaping and what brought you here in the first place. This is one gorgeous piece of hardware I’m holding right now. What led you to create it? And why a vaporizer over, say, a pipe or any other method of consumption?

There were so many days when I couldn’t open up a pen because it had been laying on its side. The resin made the threads sticky, the airbox got clogged—it was a mess. But I love the concept of vaporizers. It’s a tool that’s easy to use and gives immediate relief. A few seconds with a vaporizer and I’m medicated. I get to put it down and continue on with my day. But most vaporizers are disposable, plastic, and small—pretty much junk. I wanted to bring the excitement and artistry of a beautifully hand-blown piece of glass, for example, to the world of vaporizers.

Well you’ve certainly accomplished that. Why “Topstone”?

I grew up off Topstone Road in Redding, Connecticut.  It’s this big windy road with farms and parks on it and it eventually turns into a dirt road. To me, that’s quintessential Connecticut. Calling this company Topstone is about always rooting back to my local community. That it also happens to allude to some cannabis slang is a happy coincidence.

There are obviously a lot of vaporizers out there on the market. What makes Topstone different?

Topstone is about changing how it feels to hold a vaporizer—you feel sophisticated and clean, even proud to hold it. I’ve noticed a lot of apathy surrounding vaporizers, where people settle for something that gets the job done but then don’t care if they end up throwing it out in a few weeks or if it gets lost in a junk drawer. But Topstone is American-made, aesthetically beautiful, and functionally super-clean. It’s a vaporizer people get excited about and are proud to own. It’s about giving people the option to go with an artisanal vaporizer rather than a disposable one.

And why a tabletop vaporizer and not something smaller or more portable?

I was inspired partly by old tabletop lighters—this idea of a functional object that also has an aesthetic, artful display purpose. That and also because there are already so many portable options to choose from. I didn’t need another pen, I needed something reliable that lives at home.  

Well we definitely appreciate the uniqueness of it. Was there a reason you decided to make it only compatible with concentrates?

Well I’m not a huge fan of oil cartridges right now. They’re really convenient, sure, but they’re also often cut with things like propylene glycol to keep it fluid so all the concentrate can get down into the atomizer without any clogging. That’s a purity trade-off, and I’m a purist. Also the vaporizers that take cartridges are built with what I think are really questionable materials—do you really want to be sucking on a coil that cost twenty cents to make? I get paranoid about that and I’ve noticed I get pressure headaches when using those types of atomizers.

So how would you do it definitely then?

If I was going to design a vaporizer that takes cartridges, I’d partner with a concentrates company that keeps the cartridges pure. They’ve got to be willing to spend the money on high-quality atomizers. Testing is really important too—lots of cartridges say they’re pure and there are no additives, but who’s actually testing that? It’s difficult to discern as a consumer.  

And what about flower?

On the flower front, I’d actually love to design a flower vaporizer. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about whether Topstone offers a flower option. Right now, we don’t, but it’s something I can see us developing in the future.

One of the things I’m most impressed about is that you actually build and assemble each vaporizer yourself by hand? Did you have any prior experience building or creating things in the past? Or were you always just one of those “handy” types of guys?

(Laughs) I definitely live up to that “Bosch” name stereotype—both of my grandfathers were engineers. The Bosch one worked on the Hubble telescope and the other patented his own inventions. I grew up in his machine shop tinkering with all his tools. I’ve always been building various things, whether for bikes, cars, and now, vaporizers!

And how long does it take you to make a single vaporizer? What’s the process like?

I make them in batches, so I can make about 10 in four days. We’re actually in the beginning of a redesign. We’re making a few changes to the product so we can transition from making small batches to easily filling larger orders, but right now the process is very labor intensive. I work with local machine shops to get our materials and then I’m going in by hand perfecting the tolerances on the 3D printed stainless steel, sanding down the mouthpieces, things like that.

Do you ever make mistakes and need to start over?

In the beginning, sure—it was definitely a learning process. But now I’ve figured out what level of detail is needed at each step, so the process flows extremely smoothly.

As for all the different components and pieces, you source them all locally here in the States, correct?

Yes, everything on the piece is American-made. I know exactly where everything is coming from—big things like the wood for the mouthpiece all the way down to the LED light. That’s a big part of our values here at Topstone, making sure we’re sourcing the best materials and choosing to work with other local artisans.

Another thing I love about you guys. It’s a great feeling to buy something that’s all American-made and locally sourced. How did you go about finding all these local artisans and suppliers?

I actually had a lot of contacts coming out of the cycling industry. A lot of passionate people who were manufacturing wheels, bike racks, all kinds of inventions and projects. These are people I’m close with. When you’re riding together for hours and hours every day, there’s a bond and a willingness to share what it takes to develop a product. I got a lot of support and connections from that. But honestly, when it comes down to it, it’s just picking up the phone and making calls to suppliers and manufacturers. You send over the part files and explain what materials you want, then just have a conversation to see what’s possible and where it can go.

And do they know where their parts are going? That they’re being used to build a vaporizer?

(Laughs) Yeah, I thought it best to be upfront about that. Transparency ensures that each material, piece, and part is optimized specifically for our vaporizer. Our suppliers understand our attention to detail and passion, so they get excited about the design too.

I’m sure. After all, it’s not every day that they come across a cannabis vaporizer. So how have things been going for Topstone up until now? What’s been the reaction from people? From the industry?

We’ve already got great feedback from Dope Magazine, HydroLife, Massroots, a shout-out in Leafly, and of course, amazing support here with you guys at The Hemponair. I’ve also been going to seshes in Rhode Island to meet other patients and hear their thoughts. It’s validating to see both industry and patients understanding the kind of lifestyle Topstone is all about.

We can certainly relate. And what about your friends and family? How do they react when you tell them you’re now in the cannabis industry? Obviously a lot different than cycling…

(Laughs) For sure. I’m open about being in the industry, which I think is easy for me because I’m also open about being a patient. My family has been supportive because they saw the way medical cannabis helped me heal and get my life back. My friends were actually more skeptical than my family. They were jealous when I first got my medical card. But once they tried the first prototype and actually held it in their hands, it all came together for them.

So what’s in store for the future? Any plans on rolling out other vaporizers or cannabis-related products?

We’ll always be focused on making this vaporizer even more polished. I’ve been testing a Version 2 design and we’re so excited to start taking pre-orders. We refined the idea of a countertop piece, giving it a magnetic charging platform so it can stand on your countertop while it charges. It really pushes the idea of a vaporizer for the home—one that looks gorgeous but also delivers whatever level of dosage you need. Other than that, I’m always open to doing custom limited runs, partnering with grow-ops, dispensaries, even fashion labels, interior design houses, restaurants, whatever… if you want to produce a custom run, come talk to me. For real!

I’m sure you’ll be getting a lot of calls and emails after this interview. And what about cycling? Any chance you’ll ever give the sport another go professionally?

For a long time, my answer to this was yes. It’s a hard thing to let go of, especially being so close to breaking into the pro circuit and then having the rug completely ripped out from under you. But coming out of competitive racing gave me the space to tap back into my passion for designing, engineering, and building. At this point, I definitely wouldn’t trade Topstone for a pro contract.

Well we’re glad to hear you’re happy with the tradeoff, and we’re sure a lot of others certainly are too. And finally, before we let you go, what about cycling while high? Are you a fan? Any tips or suggestions for someone deciding to give it a try, whether casually or for sport?

(Laughs) I’m a fan during the winter months. I’m indoors spinning on a trainer so it gets me focused and cuts some of the boredom from being inside. However, once spring and summer hit, I’m riding outside trying to be as present as possible. The “road high” is most definitely real, and you don’t need cannabis to tap into that. That being said, a good indica certainly helps with recovery.

Photography by John Shyloski 

 

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