Whether you’re here as an experienced vaper or simply read ahead to get a preview of how your vaping hobby will evolve in the future, we’re going to cover the principles of advanced vaping. If you want to learn how to chase clouds, this is the guide for you. When you’re done reading, you’ll know everything that you need to know about advanced vape kits, using rebuildable atomizers and building your own coils.
If you’ve reached the point at which you’re beginning to consider building your own atomizer coils, you’re probably an advanced vaper. People tend to become interested in building their own coils for three reasons:
To build your own vaping coils, you’ll replace the tank that you currently use with a rebuildable atomizer.
A rebuildable atomizer is a platform that allows you to build an atomizer coil yourself using heating wires and wicks. If you’re currently vaping with a tank system, you use coil heads in which the heating wires and wicks are installed and ready to use. When you use a rebuildable atomizer, you build a larger version of what’s inside those coil heads. When a coil has reached the end of its life, you’ll remove it from your rebuildable atomizer, throw it away and build another coil.
There are four common types of rebuildable atomizers. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses. In this section, we’ll explain what some of the most common acronyms in the vaping industry mean.
An RDA is a rebuildable atomizer that doesn’t provide a reservoir for e-liquid storage. Rather than filling it like a tank, you keep an RDA wet by dripping e-liquid through the mouthpiece from a bottle. The e-liquid soaks into the RDA’s wick and remains in place. An RDA also usually has a depression – called a drip well – that catches excess e-liquid and helps to prevent it from leaking out. Out of all rebuildable atomizers, RDAs usually have the largest build platforms and can thus accommodate the most elaborate coil designs. RDAs have the greatest potential vapour production of all e-cigarette attachments.
The vapour production of an RDA may be enormous, but the lack of e-liquid storage is a major drawback. While you’re using an RDA, you’ll need to carry a bottle of e-liquid everywhere you go because you’ll have to drip additional e-liquid through the mouthpiece of your RDA after every few puffs. An RTA is an alternative that combines the storage capacity of a tank with the benefits of a rebuildable atomizer. An RTA looks much like the sub-ohm tank that you might currently use, but the build platform of an RTA is typically much larger than the coil head in a sub-ohm tank. For that reason, RTAs can often generate more vapour per puff than traditional tanks.
An RDTA is a compromise that combines many of the benefits of RDAs and RTAs in a single product. The term “RDTA” is, in fact, essentially a marketing invention intended to signify that an RDTA gives you the performance of an RDA and the e-liquid storage of an RTA. The two biggest shortcomings of RTAs are small build platforms and poor airflow. An RDTA resolves those issues by giving you a larger build platform that’s positioned above the e-liquid reservoir rather than inside it. An RDTA build deck has holes in the bottom allowing the wicks to dip into the reservoir below. E-liquid travels up the wicks to reach the coils.
Some tanks that ordinarily use pre-made atomizer coils also have rebuildable decks available. To use the rebuildable deck, you’ll install it in place of the standard atomizer coil and build a coil as if you were using an RTA. A rebuildable deck for a tank is typically much smaller than the build deck of an RTA, giving you only enough space to build small, simple coils.
When you build your own atomizer coil, you can build the coil with any resistance you like. Since you can adjust the power drawn from the battery by adjusting the resistance of the coil, any vaping kit that can support a screw-on tank or atomizer can theoretically support a rebuildable atomizer. However, most vaping product manufacturers today build their rebuildable atomizers with sub-ohm vaping in mind. A rebuildable atomizer designed for sub-ohm vaping will have a free, airy draw. If you build a small coil in a large rebuildable atomizer, you’ll end up inhaling more air than vapour and will probably be unhappy with your experience. To have a good experience with a rebuildable atomizer, then, you’ll need a vaping device with:
If you search on YouTube, you’ll find no shortage of videos about vaping – and if you watch those videos, you’ll see that many of the people who post vaping content on YouTube use mechanical mods. We do not sell mechanical mods at Vapekit and do not recommend using them. As the name implies, a mechanical mod is a purely mechanical device; it’s nothing but a tube and a button. Because a mechanical mod has no electronic components, it has no safety features. Even if something about your vaping configuration is unsafe, a mechanical mod will always activate the battery if you press the button – and even some vaping experts have injured themselves by using mechanical mods incorrectly.
Mechanical mods are often inexpensive, but otherwise they provide no real benefits over electronic mods with built-in safety features. If you decide to use a mechanical mod anyway, you are making yourself responsible for your own safety and should take the time to read extensively about the safe usage of lithium-ion batteries.
Sub-ohm tanks have improved greatly in recent years. Innovations such as larger atomizer coil heads and mesh heating surfaces have enabled sub-ohm tanks to approach the vapour production of rebuildable atomizers. Coil surface area is still the greatest factor influencing vapour production, though, and nothing can compete with the coil size that a rebuildable atomizer can accommodate. If you want to experience the best vapour production possible, you need a rebuildable atomizer.
When you buy a pre-made atomizer coil, you’re paying for materials, labour, packaging and shipping. That’s why a pre-made coil typically costs around £2-3. When you build your own coils, on the other hand, a spool of wire and a bag of cotton can provide the raw materials for dozens of coils. Building a new coil may cost only a few pence. Building atomizer coils yourself is truly the most affordable way to vape.
If you use a modern vaping device with regulated power and built-in safety features, your device can display an error message and shut down if you build an atomizer coil that has a short or would draw a dangerously high current from the battery. If you truly want to build atomizer coils responsibly, though, you should know that a coil is safe before connecting it to your vaping device. Ideally, you should test your coils with a standalone resistance tester. You should also understand the capabilities of your vaping device and batteries.
Building your own atomizer coils can benefit your pocketbook while giving you a vaping experience that’s drastically improved – but there is a catch. The trade-off is that building a coil from scratch takes much more time than replacing the pre-made coil in a tank. When you switch from a standard tank to a rebuildable atomizer, the amount of time that you spend replacing a coil will balloon from a few seconds to perhaps as long as a half hour. If you enjoy tinkering with gadgets, the time will fly by. For some, though, the monotony of coil building tends to detract from the pleasure of vaping.
What’s it like to switch from pre-made coils to coils that you build yourself? In this section of the guide, we’ll explain what you can expect when you begin building your own atomizer coils.
When you buy your first rebuildable atomizer, you should consider buying a coil building kit as well. In a coil building kit, you’ll receive many of the below items along with many other useful odds and ends. These are the most important items for coil building.
When you build your own atomizer coils, the possibilities for complex and elaborate designs are nearly limitless. You can find many tutorials for complex coil builds on YouTube. In this guide, we’re going to walk you through the steps involved in creating a simple dual-coil build on an RDA designed to accommodate two coils.
Kanthal is the most common wire for vaping. Kanthal has a moderate resistance and lasts a long time even with repeated heating and cooling. Kanthal also produces a predictable flavour since it’s the wick type that that you’re probably already using.
Compared to kanthal, nichrome has a much lower electrical resistance. Because nichrome is less restrictive to the electrical current than kanthal, nichrome coils can heat up much more quickly. That’s why nichrome is a popular choice for the exotic wires we’ll discuss shortly. Most people detect little to no flavour difference between kanthal and nichrome coils. However, nichrome contains nickel and isn’t appropriate for those with nickel allergies.
Stainless steel has become an extremely popular choice for vaping coils because it has a low resistance and heats quickly while creating a pure flavour that people love. Although stainless steel’s resistance is high enough that it can work in a vaping device’s standard wattage mode, most modern devices can also use stainless steel coils in temperature control mode.
Nickel is an extremely low-resistance metal that isn’t safe to use in wattage mode. It’s appropriate only for temperature control mode. Nickel changes greatly in resistance when it’s heated, and temperature control devices use the change in resistance to estimate the coil’s temperature. Because nickel has a high temperature coefficient of resistance, temperature control vaping devices can estimate its temperature very accurately.
Nickel does have a few drawbacks as a coil building material. The first is that nickel tends to snap back to its original shape when you bend it. The second is that, for some people, nickel produces a metallic flavour. The final drawback is that you can’t test fire a dry nickel coil to check for hot spots as you would with a kanthal, nichrome or stainless steel coil. When nickel glows, it releases toxic gas. You’ll therefore have to build nickel coils with space between each coil wrap to avoid hot spots.
Titanium is a second coil material for temperature control vaping. Titanium is very inert at lower temperatures, and some people find that its flavour when vaping is less metallic than that of nickel. Titanium is a suitable coil material for those with nickel allergies, and titanium coils are a bit easier to build than nickel coils. Titanium does, however, have some of the same drawbacks as nickel. You can’t dry fire titanium because it forms titanium dioxide – which is unsafe to inhale – when it gets too hot. As with nickel, you’ll have to space your coil wraps to avoid hot spots if you’re using titanium.
If you look for coil building tutorials on YouTube, you’ll see coils made using wires with exotic names like Clapton (yes; the name refers to the guitarist), Juggernaut and Alien. The names refer to coils made using multiple twisted, wrapped or braided wires. People create these exotic wires because the resulting coils have very high surface area – and as we mentioned at the beginning of the article, more surface area means more vapour. As you gain experience in coil building, you may learn how to build exotic wires yourself. You can also buy pre-made Clapton and other wires in ready-to-use spools.
Cotton is the most popular material for vaping wicks, and it’s the material that we recommend you try first. Many people like the Japanese organic cotton pads that are available in many cosmetics stores. You can also find pesticide-free cotton marketed as a vaping product under brand names such as Cotton Bacon and Native Wicks. Cotton is inexpensive and easy to use. It carries liquids efficiently. As long as it doesn’t burn, cotton produces a clean and fairly neutral flavour. Cotton can burn when it is dry, though, so keeping a cotton wick wet when vaping is very important.
You can find rayon for sale in beauty supply stores under the CelluCotton brand. Out of the box, CelluCotton has a somewhat wick-like shape, so working with it is fairly easy. Rayon does present a bit of a challenge, though, in that it contracts when it’s wet. Cotton expands when it’s wet, so you must be careful not to use too much cotton when wicking a coil with it. With rayon, though, you must stuff as much material into the coil as possible. Rayon is an extremely efficient carrier of liquid. Some people find it so efficient, in fact, that they trim it at an angle to minimize the amount of material that touches the drip well at the bottom of the atomizer. Opinions vary about the flavour quality of rayon as a wick material. With rayon, you don’t need to wait as long for the wick to re-saturate between puffs as you would with cotton – but some people feel that rayon imparts a plastic flavour. Others find the flavour more neutral than cotton. Try a rayon wick for yourself and see what you think. A rayon wick can burn if it’s dry, but rayon is a bit more tolerant to heat than cotton.
Until sub-ohm vaping became popular among mainstream vapers, silica was the most popular wick material for vaping. Silica is very resistant to heat; your atomizer coil can’t burn it. Although a few people dislike the flavour of silica wicks, most find that it imparts a more neutral flavour than cotton. Silica wicks aren’t as popular as they once were, though, because silica wicks aren’t as efficient as cotton wicks. If you’re using a sub-ohm vaping setup optimized for big cloud production, silica may not be the best choice as a wick material. Silica does, however, work well as a wick if you prefer a lower-temperature setup for mouth-to-lung inhaling.
Building a coil with a silica wick is a bit of a challenge because you can’t squish silica between your fingers as you can cotton. You’ll have to wrap your coil around the wick rather than threading the wick through the coil. Silica is also very fragile despite its tolerance to heat. If the ends of the wick begin to fray, the wick will quickly crumble. Some people torch the ends of silica wicks to fuse the fibres together.
Although sintered ceramic wicks for pre-built coils have been around for a while, there is at least one company that makes ceramic rope wicks for coil building. Kiln treated for durability, a ceramic wick is so impervious to heat that it makes it possible to clean your coil by dry burning without removing the wick. Just fire the coil until the gunk burns away and return to vaping. An additional benefit is that many people believe ceramic has the most neutral flavour of all wick types. As with silica, though, you can’t thread a ceramic rope through a coil; you must wrap the coil around the wick. An additional drawback of ceramic is that it isn’t an efficient carrier of e-liquid. Although you can use a ceramic wick with a sub-ohm coil, you’ll have to wait several seconds after each puff for the ceramic to re-saturate.
Stainless steel mesh was once a popular wick material among advanced vapers. Steel mesh has a very neutral flavour and very efficient capillary action. The drawback of steel mesh is that it doesn’t work well with the rebuildable atomizers that most people use today. Stainless steel was most popular as a wick material for a tank called the Genesis – originally called "Genisis" – that was common several years ago. The typical Genesis setup used a single vertical coil wrapped around a stainless steel wick that brought e-liquid up from a reservoir positioned below the coil. Although steel mesh is an extremely effective wick material, it is difficult to use because steel is conductive and could cause a short if it isn’t prepared properly. To prepare steel mesh for use as a wick, you must repeatedly heat and quench the steel to create a non-conductive layer of oxidation. It’s also difficult to wrap a coil around a stainless steel wick. If any gaps exist between the coil and the wick, the coil will have hot spots. Even today, though, there are many Genesis tank owners who faithfully go through the lengthy ritual of preparing stainless steel wicks because they firmly believe that nothing else provides a better vaping experience.
Hemp isn’t a particularly common wick material, but it is popular with a small subset of the vaping community because it’s an all-natural material that’s a bit more heat resistant than cotton. If you decide to try vaping with a hemp wick, choose hemp that’s thoroughly cleaned to remove all gums, resins and pesticides.