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Vape Wires and Coils Intro Part 3, Let's Get Building

Vape Wires and Coils Intro Part 3, Let's Get Building


Welcome back once again to our intro to building your own coils for fun and profit! In Part I, we discussed wire types and hopefully convinced you to include some 26 gauge A1 Kanthal in your initial arsenal. In Part 2 we got you set up with all of the tools and resources you'll need to begin building. Now, it's time to build some coils.

Before you get started, now's a good time to revisit our earlier post about Ohm's law and how it applies to vaping if you haven't already. Once you start coil building you're essentially creating your own electrical circuit, so knowledge as to what you're doing and why (and how to stay safe) is going to be helpful.

To start, let's shoot for a simple 0.5 ohm resistance dual coil build – feel free to go higher in resistance, but until you've got this coiling thing nailed it's probably best not to go into the super-sub-ohm realm where even small mistakes can result in big damage to your gear or yourself.

Using our handy dandy Steam Engine tool, we can plug in our wire gauge and type (26g A1 Kanthal), our coil setup (dual coil), our targeted resistance (0.5 ohm), and the inner diameter of our coil, or the width of the round thing we're going to be wrapping around (2.5 mm). This tells us we're going to need about 8 wraps to hit our target.

If you've got a coiling tool, you'll have marked bars of different thickness, so grab the 2.5 mm setup and snip two lengths of wire, each about 8" long. If you're using something else, like a jeweler's screwdriver to wrap around, you'll want to plug in the thickness on the calculator, as it may call for fewer or more wraps to hit your target resistance.

If you've got a coiling tool, the next step is going to be easy – slide all but the last inch or so of wire through the diagonal hole and pinch the rest on the base. Slide the cap on and count eight full rotations, then twist until the two ends of the wire are facing the same way – you may want to even twist a quarter turn or so past this point, as wire is springy and will recoil a bit. Pull the coil out and you're done!

This may take a few practice runs, as you want to keep enough pressure on the top cap while winding to end up with coils that are touching one another all the way around, but not so much pressure the coils fold over on themselves. Don't worry if you throw out your first couple until you get it right – you should be using less than ten cents' worth of wire per attempt, which isn't bad when you consider throwaway coils can cost three or four bucks.

If you're not using a coiler, the process may take a bit more finesse. Don't worry though, just a couple years ago there was no such thing as a coil tool and we were all using this technique. You're going to have to pinch the wire firmly against the surface and, while applying constant tension to the end being wrapped, make your eight loops with each loop directly contacting the loop before it. Once you've got them, bring the wire around so it's facing the same direction as the piece you've been pinching to whatever round thing you're using to wrap with. Whichever process you've got, repeat it so that you've got two identical coils – don't worry if the tail ends are odd lengths, we're going to get rid of them soon anyway.

Now, it's time to turn to your atomizer – we're huge fans of the Velocity-style dual-post design because it makes coil installation a snap. Beyond that, it's one of the more popular styles for RDAs and RTA bases on the market today.

Back the grub screws (the ones that pinch the wires in place) out enough to comfortably slide your wire through the holes. If you've done this right, your coil should have two tails facing the same direction, one higher than the other. To install, silde the top tail through the top positive (or negative, it doesn't much matter) post hole, the other through the bottom negative (or positive) hole. It may be helpful to slide the coil back onto whatever you used to wrap it with while doing this to help it maintain its shape.

Align the coil so that it's completely within the outer ring of the atomizer – you don't want it touching either the posts or the outer cap once it's installed. Try to keep the coil centered, with the same amount of tail left on either side, then tighten the screws down. Once the coil is firmly in place (don't over-tighten, you could snap the wire), snip the leftover tails off as close to the atomizer poles as possible. You can use wire cutters, nail clippers, or whatever's handy, but we're partial to jewelers' wire cutters). Flip the atty around and repeat the process for the second coil.

Take a look at your coils – if everything is lining up and they look flush, great. If a little out of whack, you can gently align them or pinch gaps with a pair of tweezers (some prefer ceramic-tipped tweezers, which can be used while test firing, but the ones from your medicine cabinet will work fine).

Now it's time to get your creation on an ohm meter (if it isn't there already, they make for handy building platforms). Turn it on and check to see where your resistance falls – if within 0.05 ohm or so (say 0.45 to 0.55 resistance), great. If not, check your connections to make sure your coils are securely fastened and that you haven't clipped a leg off by over-tightening. If all else fails, it may be time to go back to the building phase.

Assuming your resistance checks out, it's now safe to prepare your coil for installation. Pop it on your mod and give it a quick test fire. You don't want to hold the fire button down for more than a few seconds, but you should see clean, even heating – the coil will begin to glow from the inside out, or it may begin to glow evenly all at once. What you don't want are "hot spots" that quickly turn red while the rest of the coil is still cold – these will burn your wick and juice, ruining the vaping experience. Minor imperfections can be worked out by lightly pinching or raking the coil with your tweezers (don't do this while firing if you're using metal-tipped ones!), but major problems may require a new coil be built and installed before moving on.

Remember, no one is a pro the first time they try this so don't be discouraged if, like the other steps, you need a couple times to nail this one. Once you do though, it's time to prep the coil for vaping.

You'll want to choose a wicking material – organic cotton and rayon are two popular choices, though standard bleached cotton balls need to be avoided for the obvious reason (bleach). You'll want to pull a strand out an inch or more long that's just thick enough to fit through the coil. Cotton expands a bit when it gets wet, so you'll want it to slide back and forth through the coil fairly easily, but rayon contracts a little when wet, so you can pack it in a bit tighter, as long as it's not so tight it's pulling the coil wraps apart or the coil out of alignment when sliding through.

As a side note, make sure your hands are as clean as possible when wicking – if your wicks pick up any of your skin's natural oils or other contaminants while wicking, you're not going to get the optimal flavor out of your liquid.

Once the wick is in and aligned, clip the ends off so you'll have just enough to tuck the tails into your build deck and have them touch the ground without crowding out the coils. Remember, heat + liquid + air = vape, so leave your coil room to breathe.

Now it's time to dab a few drops of liquid onto the coil and the wick tails -they'll bend into shape better when wet. Use your tweezers or a tiny screwdriver to tuck them into the build deck and make sure they're not sticking over the side or blocking airflow to the coil.

Congratulations, you've got yourself a custom-built setup! It's time to pop the cap on, juice up, and vape away! After a few builds you'll wonder why you didn't take advantage of the opportunity to save money and enjoy better flavor than you'd have ever imagined sooner! That, and you'll be able to build, install, and wick a coil in less time than it took you to read this tutorial.

If this is as far as you go, great. Many find coil-building to be an interesting hobby, though, and will go on to build intricate coils with all sorts of different wire type, gauge, and construction – how deep down the rabbit hole you care to venture is entirely your choice. Happy vapor trails!