At one point or another, a serious vaper will try a hand at building their own coils – out of economic reasons, engineering prowess, or just pure fun. Coil building falls mostly within the purview of e-liquid vaporizers, as dry herb vaporizers and dab wax pens use a different form of heating element and do not get typically built or rebuilt by their users. It is not unheard of, however, for people to create or build and rebuild their own wax atomizers for many of the same reasons we’ve just listed. When that time comes for you, all you’ll need to do is pull up this post (because you’ve bookmarked it, right?) and you will have everything you need to start in one place: types of vape wires, countless coil builds, how to make your first vape coils, how to wick a coil, and so on. You won’t be tapping in the dark like so many other beginner builders and your first coil will be right as rain and ready to fire.
Ready to build right now?
Let’s dive in!
Why Vape Wire Types and Sizes Matter?
The first thing we need to discuss is vape wire. Both the type of the wire and the size matter a lot because of three reasons – flavor, vapor production, and ramp-up time. Each wire type (and there are five) will give you a slightly different flavor, as well as present different building challenges and opportunities. Knowing the different types of vape wires will help you find the perfect one that will match your vaping style and preferences.
When talking about vape wire size, vapers are referring to gauge, the actual diameter of the wire. Most popular gauges that vapers use are 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, and 22 – a majority of vape coils, even the most eccentric ones and used in the best vapes, can be built with these.
The important thing to remember here is that bigger the numerical value of the gauge, the thinner the wire. 28ga is larger in diameter than 30ga but smaller than 26ga. Also, an increase in diameter will result in a decrease in resistance, which means that the wire will take longer to heat up.
That heating period is called the ramp-up time and it’s pretty important – do you want to sit on that button for ages or do you want to be able to vape as soon as you press fire? Keep in mind that exotic vape coils (i.e. the ones that use more strands of wire) will have a pretty lengthy ramp-up time, but the same will also be true for low gauge (larger diameter) wires.
Wattage and Temperature Control Vaping – Which Wires Should You Use?
You know by now that there are two different modes of vaping – the wattage mode and the temperature control mode. Of course, it would be great if we could just use any old vape wire type for both of these modes. Unfortunately, that’s not how it goes. Here’s why: some wire types behave differently when at room temperature than when heated. For example, nickel wire can be 0.15-ohm when at room temperature, but the resistance will go way up when you fire it in your mod, and that can cause problems.
Temperature control vaping works differently than pure wattage vaping, using Temperature Coefficient of Resistance (TCR) of a given wire to regulate the current delivered to a coil. To use the same example, nickel behaves predictably with regards to temperature increase – the wire will always be a certain resistance at given temperatures. A TC mod will use that stable increase to determine the resistance as the coil heats up, lowering the current in order to keep the coil at a safe temperature.
Types of Vape Wires
There are five different types of vape wires generally used: Kanthal (FeCrAl), NiChrome, Stainless Steel, Nickel, and Titanium.
As you can tell, only one vape wire is versatile enough to be used in both vaping modes and that’s Stainless Steel. However, how do each one of these fare when it comes to flavor, cloud production, ramp up time, and ease of use? Let’s find out.
Kanthal wire is popular for a reason, and has been for nearly a decade. It’s easy to work with, has good resistance to oxidation, it’s not springy so it holds shape, and it’s cheap and easy to find. Kanthal especially good for single coil builds, which are not extravagant but get the job done when you’re not in the mood for something fancy and time-consuming. Add to that the fact that it holds shape well when rewicking (which means that you can use a Kanthal coil a good long time) and you have a fan-favorite.
– Super cheap
– Easy to find in vape shops and online
– Holds shape well
– Easy to work with
– Works only in wattage mode
– Can’t be used with temperature control
– Some vapers find the flavor is a bit dull
– Ramp-up time not as fast as some other wires
Another fan-favorite for wattage vaping, NiChrome is an alloy composed of nickel and chromium. If you’re looking for fast ramp-up time, this is the wire you should look into. Other than that, it behaves similar to Kanthal wire – it’s easy to work with (slightly less spring then Kanthal) and holds shape well.
One thing to keep in mind when working with NiChrome is that it has a substantially lower melting point than Kanthal. Excessive dry burns can cause it to catch fire – and NiChrome fire is not something you want burning under your nose. That’s why you should slowly pulse a NiChrome coil at first. Also, some people suffer from a nickel allergy and should avoid using NiChrome wire.
NiChrome is a decent vape wire that experienced vapers use with ease. It’s a bit more difficult to find in local vape shops, but most online sellers will have it in stock. One thing to note – while NiChrome can technically be used in TC mode (and some mods boast that ability), its TCR is so low that even the most advanced chips struggle with it. So, if you read you can TC NiChrome with a specific mode, take that with a few grains of salt, at least for the time being.
– Fast ramp-up time
– Easy to work with
– Holds shape when rewicking
– Relatively inexpensive
– Wattage mode only
– Lower melting point than Kanthal (careful when dry burning)
– Contains nickel (allergen)
– Not all vape shops stock it
Stainless Steel Wire
The only vape wire that can pull a double duty (work in both wattage and TC modes) is the stainless steel wire. It’s perfect for vapers that haven’t made up their mind between TC and wattage mode or fail to check the modes they’re firing in on a regular basis. Stainless steel wire comes in various grades (410, 413, 316, 316L, 430, 304, and so on), which adds to the confusion a bit and makes it seem as if various vapers are either singing praises or talking down one and the same type of wire. Some grades of SS wire contain almost no nickel (SS is an alloy composed of various parts of chromium, nickel, and carbon), which is definitely a pro for people with nickel allergy.
Other positives include the fact that it can be easily dry burned (thanks to its high melting point), it’s relatively easy to work with, and it holds shape well. That said, some SS wire grades are more springy than others. SS 304, 430, and 316 grades are usually recommended, as they do TC very well, despite the fact that they have a relatively low TCR (temp/resistance change that can make it harder for mods to regulate).
Stainless steel offers a faster ramp-up time, similar to that of Kanthal, and it produces a crisp and clean flavor (which, as always, is subjective). One of the bigger downsides of certain SS grades is that they are not readily available in usable gauges.
– Easy to work with
– Holds shape
– Fast ramp-up time
– Cleaner flavor
– Relatively inexpensive
– TC and wattage compatible
– Usable gauges difficult to find for some SS grades
– Higher nickel content in certain grades
– Some grades a bit more difficult to work with than others
Nickel, also referred to as Ni200 (pure nickel), is the first wire used for temperature control. It has a TCR of 0.006, making it fairly easy for most chips to read and regulate. Ni200 should only ever be used in TC mode because of concerns of overheating and melting. Namely, nickel wire can leach and, at high temperatures (above 600F), can produce graphite, which is why some vapers are concerned about getting graphite lungs (a debilitating condition sometimes seen in people overexposed to graphite, usually pencil factory workers).
That said, most of the bad rep the nickel wire is getting is blown out of proportion. When used in TC vaping, nickel is a perfectly safe wire. It’s biggest downsides are that it’s rather soft, so it’s difficult to work with and that it doesn’t hold shape all that well. Also, people who have a nickel allergy should avoid it.
On the plus side, nickel is relatively easy to find locally and it’s inexpensive. It’s ramp-up time is faster than that of Kanthal and, these days, it’s easy to find tempered nickel wire which is a lot easier to work with (similar to Kanthal A1) and holds shape well.
– Fast ramp-up time
– Easy to find
– Decent flavor
– Nickel content
– Soft so hard to work with
– Doesn’t hold shape
The most controversial vape wire on this list is definitely the titanium wire. It’s a scary one because it does, in fact, release titanium dioxide (which is toxic) when heated over 1130F. However, it has a stable TCR and if you have a functioning TC mod, titanium dioxide poisoning is not something you should ever be concerned about. One piece of advice that’s often imparted about using Ti wire is to heat it until it’s shiny and has a thin oxide layer that simply sticks to the wire.
Most vapers using these vape wires report no problems while using them, so the panic surrounding them is definitely blown out of proportion.
Now that we’ve alleviated your fears, it’s time to move on to Ti wire pros. Titanium is very easy to work with, holds shape really well, and works exquisitely in TC mode. Also, most vapers using it note that it produces great flavor. Another upside to Ti wire is that it’s a lot stronger than Ni200, which allows you to use it longer without it breaking or bending out of shape.
– Easy to work with
– Holds shape well
– Stronger than Ni200
– Clean, crisp flavor
– Works great in TC mode
– Can’t be used in wattage
– Toxicity concerns
– Titanium fires difficult to extinguish
Hard to find
How to Build a Simple Vape Coil
The Internet is full of great video tutorials that show, step-by-step, how to build your own vape coils, especially the simple ones made out of one strand of wire. Still, for clarity sake, let’s briefly touch upon what you’re going to need for coil building and how the process looks like.
What you will need to build vape coils:
- An ohms reader
- A coil maker (specialized tool for building vape coils) or a small screwdriver (2 mm)
- Vape wire
- A small screwdriver or an Allen key that fits the screws of your RDA
- A lighter or a propane/butane torch
- Nail clippers or wire cutters
- Tweezers (ceramic tip)
- Now you’re ready to build!
Before you start, it’s always a good idea to check just how many wraps your vape coil will need until you reach your target resistance. A coil wrapping calculator such as the one provided by steam-engine.org is great for that. In this particular case, to get a 1-ohm resistance from a single SS 316 coil with a 2 mm diameter, we will need eight full wraps. Ahead of coiling, make sure to oxidize your wire (heat it with a lighter or a torch until it glows) to make it less springy and easier to work with.
Wrapping the coil - cut 4 - 5 inches of wire and use your screwdriver to make wraps. Start near the shaft of the screwdriver so you can hold the wire in place with your thumb. Continue wrapping it around the screwdriver, making sure that your wraps are as close to one another without overlapping. Once you’ve reached 8 full wraps (the ends of the wire should face in the same direction), leave the coil on the screwdriver and proceed to the next step. Note that using a coil wrapping tool usually results in nicer looking coils and is faster, at least if you’re a beginner.
Installing the coil - unscrew the posts on your RDA carefully (not all the way out so you don’t lose them) and use the screwdriver to carefully position the ends of the coils into the post holes (one positive and one negative). Make sure that your coil is positioned at the center of your RDA deck. Now, tighten the post screws gently. Remove the screwdriver and trim the protruding legs as close to the posts as you can (nail clippers work like a charm here).
Test firing the coil - now that the coil is installed, it’s time to test fire it. Before you do that, make sure to check the resistance with your ohms reader. Simply screw your RDA onto it and it will display the firing resistance of the coil. Don’t be alarmed if the reading is off by 0.1-ohm up or down - that happens often. However, if the discrepancy is not within that range, check to see if the post screws are tight and if the coil is touching the posts or the deck. Adjusting those two things a bit will usually solve the problem.
After that, attach your RDA to a mod and briefly fire it until it glows. What you want to see is even heating, starting from the center of the coil and moving to the ends - you don’t want any hotspots that might cause the coil to snap in two. Use your tweezers to gently pinch the coil together and repeat until it heats evenly.
You’ve now successfully built a single, 1-ohm coil - congrats! However, this is just the beginning. While most vapers are happy with single coil builds, it’s important to note that there are many RDA coil types, ranging from simple to extravagant. For some of them, you will have to use several strands of different wires, as well as multiple tools, including even an electric drill. But - baby steps first! For a recap on how to build simple vape coils, check the video tutorial below.
How to Wick a Vape Coil
Once your vape coil is done, it’s time to wick it. Beginner builders can have a problem with this, which is a real shame since without proper wicking, all that effort that went into building a coil is wasted.
First thing’s first - you will have to choose a wicking material. There are many options out there to work with, so choose the one you’re most comfortable with:
- Organic cotton
- Japanese cotton pads (Koh Gen Do)
- Rayon fiber
Now, an answer to how to wick a vape coil is simple - with patience and a bit of practice. For best results, follow the next few steps (we’re assuming you’re using cotton as it’s the most popular vape coil wicking material right now). Make sure to watch the video as well, as it demonstrates four different styles of vape wicking that might come in handy one day.
- Stretch the cotton into a rope-like shape - take a ball of cotton and pull on it until you have what is, effectively, a small cotton rope. Make sure that it’s at least several inches in length since you can easily cut off the excess.
- Thread the cotton into the coil - pinch one end of the cotton and thread it carefully through the coil installed to your RDA. This is fine art - the thickness of the cotton should be just enough to go through with a slight pull, but not so thick to bend the coil out of shape. Also, if there’s no resistance, your cotton is not thick enough and will not wick properly, resulting in a lot of dry hits.
- Cut the ends of the cotton - make sure that you leave enough to fill the juice well of your RDA. Different RDAs will require a different fill so you will need to experiment with this.
- Tuck the cotton under your coil - use small pliers or scissors (or even a toothpick) to tuck the ends of your cotton vape wick underneath the coil. Make sure that the ends are touching and that the cotton is not sticking out of the juice well.
That’s that - now you can add a bit of vape juice to your dripper coil and vape away.
Vape Coil Wicking video:
Best Coil Builds for Clouds
If you’re looking to blow huge clouds, a good understanding of vape coils will help you tremendously. There are several things that you need to take into consideration if you want to compete as a cloud-chaser:
- Airflow - excellent airflow is essential for big clouds. Make sure you don’t overstuff your coil with cotton because you will choke it.
- Wire gauge - lower the gauge, thicker the wire - more surface area that vaporizes the juice. 24 gauge wire is way better for cloud-chasing than 30 gauge, but will need a lot more wraps to get it to a low resistance.
- Inner diameter - 2 mm inner diameter builds won’t cut it for big clouds and you will need to go to at least 3 mm. Bigger inner diameter provides more cotton-to-wire contact and helps vaporize vape juice quicker.
- Coil positioning - you want your coils to align with your center pin post so that wicking on each side is even and can absorb vape juice quickly.
3 Best Vape Coils for Clouds:
Here are our three favorite coils designed for cloud-chasing:
Dual Coil 24 Gauge
Twisted 22 Gauge
The Clapton Coil
Best Coil Builds for Flavor
If you’re not into big clouds, then you’re probably a flavorista. That’s perfectly fine - there are some awesome coil builds aimed exclusively at maximizing the flavor output. You will need to keep a few things in mind, though:
- Airflow - usually, less air means more flavor because the air gets more easily saturated with flavor particles. Pack your juice well with cotton a bit more than you normally would for a cloud-chasing coil.
- Wick positioning - minimizing airflow is all well, but you need to make sure there’s enough room under the coil for air to circulate. Make sure to leave a small hole in there so that the air can easily pick up flavor particles.
- Wire type - this one is very subjective, but most flavor-chasers suggest using Ni80 or Stainless Steel 316L for great flavor.
- Wick type - again, subjective and will depend on the wattage you’re vaping on, but vapers have been seeing great flavor results with Japanese cotton wicks.[/su_list]
3 Best Vape Coils for Flavor
It bears repeating that flavor is really something that’s very subjective. What tastes great to someone might taste stale or overpowering to another vaper. With that in mind, we proceeded to choose three top coils for flavors based on forum feedback from a number of vapers. Word of warning – all of these coils are difficult to make so don’t get discouraged if it takes a few tries.
The Framed Staple Alien Coil
The Staple Staggered Fused Clapton Coil
The Tri-Core Fused Alien Clapton Coil
Crazy Coil Builds
You probably thought those flavor coils were difficult to build, but wait until you see what we have in store for you here. These crazy coil builds will make you work your fingers until they’re bloody and raw. Sure, they look beautiful, but are they really worth the hassle? Judge for yourself.
The Dragon Skin Coil
The Juggernaut Coil
The Poltergeist Coil
The Tsuka Soaker Coil
The Dual Twisted Clapton Helix Coil
Vape Wires and Vape Coils In a Nutshell
As you can see, finding your vape nirvana can be a challenging endeavor. With so many vape wires, gauges, and coil types out there, it can take quite some time to stumble on a setup that perfectly fits your vaping style. Still, it’s a fun process and, if you have the time, we’re sure you’ll enjoy exploring different flavor nuances that come with every new coil.
If you have any questions about vape wires or vape coils, make sure leave a comment below. And, if you decide to try your hand at building any of the crazy coils we’ve featured here, give us a shout – we’d love to see the end result.