Fair warning: this guide is still mildly under construction, as I'm trying to fix some of the wording in bits that might be confusing, and I plan to upload pics to illustrate the article whenever I get a chance. But for now, here's the article as-is in hopes it can help some folks out with beginning in the world of rebuilding.
Building your own coils can seem like a daunting task if you've never done it before, but it's really not as hard as it seems. This guide will show you how to build your own coils safely and how to use them for a great vaping experience.
Building your own coils can be a great way to save money on vaping. Pre-made coils can cost quite a bit, and if you vape regularly you might find yourself needing to change coils often. Fortunately, wire and wicking material are inexpensive and can really save a lot of money in the long run.
Rebuilding also allows you to customize your vaping experience to your own preferences. With pre-made coils, you have to use the resistance that the company produces, but with your own coils you can make them whatever resistance you want. Since this is a basic guide, I won't go into too much detail on more complex coil builds, but just keep in mind that you can build the coils any way you want to get a better vape.
Materials You'll Need
Before you can start rebuilding your coils, there are a few things you'll need.
- Rebuildable Atomizer - of course before you start you'll need an atomizer to rebuild. There are ways to rebuild pre-made coils, but they're quite difficult when you're starting out so I highly recommend getting an atomizer that's easier to work with. RDAs are ideal, since they have large build decks with plenty of room to work. However, RDAs do not have a tank, and you have to drip juice onto your wick frequently to keep from getting a dry hit. On the other hand, rebuildable tanks are often a bit more difficult to work with, but you'll be able to use them without dripping. I recommend getting an RDA to work on, in addition to a tank if you need it. Working with an RDA will give you the experience you need to build good coils before moving on to a tank.
- Wire - Kanthal A1 wire is the standard for vaping, being easy to work with and more forgiving than some other kinds of wire. There are several others, including Nichrome 80, Nickel, Titanium and Stainless Steel wire, but I recommend Kanthal for beginners. Nickel and Titanium can be quite dangerous if you use them improperly, and Stainless Steel and Nichrome are both lower resistance than Kanthal so it's harder to build with if you don't know what you're doing.
- Wicking material - there are several options for wick, each with their own pros and cons. The types of wick essentially boil down to three groups: cotton, rayon and silica. Silica wicks are what you'll find inside most pre-made coils for "mouth-to-lung" tanks, such as the ProTank and the eGo disposable tanks. Silica comes in the form of a braided cord. This doesn't have as good of flavor as the other kinds of wicks, but it's a bit more forgiving of dry hits since it doesn't burn as badly as cotton or rayon. Organic cotton is the most popular wicking material among vapers who rebuild, and for good reason. It's easy to work with and will give you much better flavor than silica. Rayon, also known as cellucotton, is a polarizing wick. Some vapers love it, while others can't stand it. Rayon is made of plant fibers similar to cotton, but it's less dense and is used slightly differently. There are also many kinds of organic cotton, from organic cotton balls you can get at a drug store to Japanese cotton, cotton bacon, Muji cotton, and tons of other brand names.
- Tools - there are several tools you'll need: scissors, wire cutters, tweezers (and/or toothless pliers), and something to wrap your wire around. The simplest way to get all these things is to buy a coil maker's kit. Most vape shops carry some kind of coil maker toolkit, or you can buy one online. I recommend flush-cut wire cutters, since you'll be able to cut more precisely than with diagonal cutters. For the "something to wrap your wire around" you can use drill bits, a small screwdriver, or a coil jig specifically made for vapers. If you get a coil maker toolkit it will likely include something like this. I'll put links to the tools I use at the bottom of this article.
- Ohm Reader - these are simple devices that you screw your atomizer into then switch it on to find out what resistance your coils are. This is extremely important, as you want to make sure your coils are safe to use with your ecig.
For the purposes of this beginner guide, I'll be describing how to build coils using kanthal wire with organic cotton wick. If you decide to use a different kind of wire or wick, be sure to ask us here on the forum or do some research around the Internet to make sure you understand how to use it, as each wire/wick is slightly different, and in particular Nickel and Titanium wires can be dangerous if you try to build them using these techniques.
Picking Your Wire
Depending on how you like to vape, you'll want to use different gauges of wire. If you're a MTL vaper ("mouth-to-lung," meaning you take a puff on your ecig similar to the act of smoking where you suck the vapor into your mouth before inhaling) then you'll want to use thinner wire with higher resistance. If you're a DTL vaper ("direct-to-lung," meaning you inhale directly from the ecig) then you'll want to use thicker wire to have a lower resistance.
Side note: resistance is inversely proportional to the wire diameter. This means that thicker wires have lower resistance, while thinner wires have higher resistance. To complicate matters further, wire gauges are numbered from thickest to thinnest, so smaller numbers indicate thicker wire. An easy way to remember this: higher gauge equals higher resistance. For example, 24ga wire is thicker than 30ga, which means the 24ga has lower resistance.
So if you're a MTL vaper, I recommend starting with 30ga wire. For DTL vapers, I recommend starting with 26ga wire. These gauges will be good starting points to get you accustomed to building coils, and of course you can use other gauges once you've gotten comfortable with rebuilding.
Building Your Coil(s)
Building a coil is quite simple. All you need to do is wrap the wire around a post several times. If you're using a coil jig, it'll be very simple, as all you'll need to do is determine which inner diameter to use for your coil. If you're using something else like drill bits or a screwdriver, just see what works. Most rebuildable atomizers come with a small blue handled screwdriver with a 2mm shift that will be great for wrapping coils. Coil jigs usually have several different sizes of posts, ranging from 1.5mm to 3.5mm in 0.5mm increments. In the USA, drill bits are most often in "standard" sizes, so you'll want to use 1/16", 3/32", or 1/8" (around 1.6mm, 2.4mm, or 3.2mm).
If you're building coils for MTL vaping, you'll want to use smaller inner diameter. On the other hand, for DTL vaping you'll need bigger inner diameter so the wick can get more juice to the coils.
Using a coil calculator tool is invaluable, especially when you're first getting started. CoilToy
is a great resource, and there are many other like it. I use an app for my phone called "Vape Tool" but they all do the same thing. You simply tell it what kind of wire you're using, what gauge, the inner diameter of your coil, and the desired resistance, and it automatically calculates how many wraps you need. For example, if I'm building a single coil with 30ga for a MTL tank, and I want it to be 1.5 ohms, wrapped around a 2mm screwdriver, then the calculator says I need 6.75 wraps of wire. Depending on the way the coils are mounted inside your atomizer, it might be impossible to wrap the wire 6.75 times, so I'll just do 7 wraps and it will be slightly higher (in this case, 7 wraps would be 1.553 ohms, which is close enough). For another example, if I want to build dual coils on an RDA with 26ga wire, wrapped around the same 2mm screwdriver, but I want it to be 0.5 ohms, then the calculator tells me I need to wrap it 5.27 times. Round that down to 5 wraps, and Ill have a 0.476 ohm coil. Or if my mod won't fire below 0.5 ohms, I can round up to six wraps which will give me a 0.565 ohm coil. Here are some suggested builds:
For MTL vapers:
— 1.5 ohms: 9 wraps of 30ga on a 1.5mm inner diameter
— 1.2 ohms: 6 wraps of 30ga on a 2.0mm inner diameter
— 1.0 ohms: 6 wraps of 30ga on a 1.5mm inner diameter
For DTL vapers:
— 1.0 ohms: 8 wraps of 26ga on a 3.0mm inner diameter
— 0.8 ohms: 7 wraps of 26ga on a 2.5mm inner diameter
— 0.5 ohms: 5 wraps of 26ga on a 2.5mm inner diameter
For DTL vapers:
— 0.5 ohms: 7 wraps of 26ga on a 3.5mm inner diameter
— 0.4 ohms: 6 wraps of 26ga on a 3.0mm inner diameter
— 0.3 ohms: 5 wraps of 26ga on a 2.5mm inner diameter
Once you've wrapped your coils, the next step is to install them. Most atomizers have a 3-post design, with a positive post in the center and two negative posts on the outside. Some atomizers have a 4-post design, which is actually a bit of a misnomer as there are not four separate posts, but rather two holes in the center post for a total of four post holes. 4-post atomizers are similar to 3-post, as the center post (the one with two holes) is the positive while the outer posts are negative. More recently there have been some 2-post designs, particularly the Velocity-style build deck. In this case, one post is positive and one is negative. It doesn't really matter which is which, as I'll explain in a moment.
On a 3-post atomizer, you need to connect one end of the coil into the positive post and one end into the negative. If you're using a single coil build, this means you won't be using one of the outer posts. Just thread the ends of your wire (known as the "legs" or "leads") into the center post and one into the outer post, and tighten the screws to hold it in place. Be careful when tightening the screws that you don't tighten it too much, especially if you're using thin wire, since the screw can break the lead if you're not careful. Just make sure it's secure, without breaking the wire. If you're using a dual-coil build, things are a bit trickier. You'll need to put the coils into the atomizer opposite one another. Both coils will thread through the center post from opposite sides, and each will thread into opposing negative posts. It should be symmetrical when you're done, with the coils facing away from each other and only one lead in each negative post. Be sure to trim the excess wire as close as possible to the post. This is where those flush-cut wire cutters come in handy, as they make it easier to get close to the post. If you have too much excess wire sticking out, you could get a short in the circuit, which would make your atomizer not fire correctly or not fire at all.
A 4-post atomizer is very similar to a 3-post, except for dual coil builds you don't have to thread both coils into the same hole, because there are two holes in the positive post. This means you can install one coil, screw it in, trim the excess wire off, then install the other, instead of having to install both at the same time. For a single coil build, it's exactly the same as a 3-post, you just put one lead into the positive post and one into the negative.
2-post atomizers are a bit different. Instead of having the positive post in the center, you have both posts on the outside of the build deck. This allows you to have more room to build bigger coils, and also more room for wick in the juice well (the indentation below the coils, where juice gathers to keep from spilling). There are two kinds of 2-post atomizers: those with two holes (like the Phenotype-L RDA), and those with four holes (like the Velocity RDA and Aromamizer tank). When building a single coil, they're both exactly the same: just thread one lead from your coil into each post, and screw it in. For a dual coil build, you need to place the coils opposite each other, with one lead in each post. The difference is that with two holes, you have to put one lead from each coil into the same hole. So you'll have one lead from coil 1 and one lead from coil 2 both in the same hole, opposite each other. In an atomizer with four holes, you have two holes in each post. Just thread each end of the coil into each post, then tighten down the screws on those holes and thread the other coil into the remaining holes. Be sure to trim off any excess wire, no matter what kind of atomizer build deck you're using.
After you've installed the coils, you'll want to dry fire them. This means that before you put any wick in them, you should put the atomizer on a mod and fire it so the coils heat up, then use the pliers or tweezers to gently squeeze the wraps together. The goal is to make the coil look like a compressed spring, with each wrap touching the next. Be careful you don't squeeze too hard, or you might accidentally crush the coil and have to start all over. Once the coil is properly aligned, it should heat up from the inside out, with the middle section of the coil heating up first.
Wicking Your Coil(s)
So now you've got your coil all installed, and it's heating up evenly like it's supposed to. The next step is to install wicking material to hold the juice. This will be different on a tank vs. an RDA. If you're building a tank, I highly recommend watching a build tutorial on YouTube for your specific tank, since they're all slightly different. As a general rule, on tanks you want the wick to be covering the holes where juice flows. This allows the wick to hold juice through capillary action, but prevents excess juice from flooding the coils. On an RDA, wicking is simple. If you're using organic cotton, pull apart a small piece about 1-2" long. You want to have enough that you feel a bit of resistance when you pull it through the coil, but not so tight that it is hard to pull through. Knowing how much cotton to put in your coil is the kind of thing that can't easily be described or shown, you just have to do it and see what works. The general rule is to make it tight but not too tight. You'll want to thread the cotton through the middle of the coil, and then tuck the ends of the cotton down into the juice well below the coil. You can trim the ends if it's too long. You don't want the ends to be too long, just long enough to sit comfortably in the juice well where they will collect juice and bring it up to the coil.
And that's it! You've just built your first coil. I'll include an assortment of pictures to help you know what to do, as well as links below with more information on where to buy tools, wire and wick, and a YouTube link of a build tutorial where you can watch someone actually doing it.