It’s time to talk about coil building… Learning how to build a vape coil will drastically improve the vapor production and flavor you get from your vape.
Do I have your attention?…
If you ask any of us here at Vaping Hardware what we enjoy most about vaping, you’ll likely get a mixed response.
There are those of us that love to mix our own e-juice, those that can’t help but buy every new mod on the market (you know who you are…) and even a few of us obsessed with finding that ever allusive ‘perfect’ flavor of e-juice.
But one thing we all agree on…
Coil building and experimenting with different vape coil builds is something each and every one of the team is hooked on!
Ok, I know what you’re thinking…
Why build vape coils if I can just buy them?…
It’s cheaper. Next question.
All joking aside, there are plenty of reasons to build a vape coil rather than using pre-built or ‘stock’ coils…
It gives you the ability to experiment with dozens of different coil wire types, vape coil builds and styles.
Learning how to build a vape coil also gives you the freedom to go wild and build for increased flavor, increased vapor production and even reduce or eliminate dry hits!
But the best reason?…
You can take your time and play around with your setup until you find what works for you.
And the beauty of it is, you can just replace the coil when you want to try something new!
Personally, my vaping journey started with a simple set up…
The original Innokin MVP 2.0 and the iClear 16 clearomiser. A basic, yet perfect setup for me at the time.
Vaping with pre-made or ‘stock’ coil heads, which simply screw into your atomiser, was the standard back in the early days of vaping and the iClear 16 is no different.
However, vaping has evolved considerably since then with the introduction of Rebuildable Tank Atomisers (RTA), Rebuildable Atomisers (RBA) and Rebuildable Dripper Atomisers (RDA).
For those of you who are new to vaping I would highly recommend you check out our Vaping Glossary for definitions you’ll find helpful while reading this post!
Now I’m not knocking those early atomisers!
In fact, I still use the iClear 16 and highly recommend them as a great starting point for new vapers.
If you’re looking to get the absolute best out of your vaping in terms of flavor and vapor production (not to mention having a giggle in the process!) strap yourself in and get ready for an introduction to coil building!
What is a vape coil?…
Basically, a vape coil is a spiral shaped heating element made from a length of resistance wire.
The resistance of the wire is measured in ‘ohms’ and the thickness of that wire is referred to as AWG (American Wire Gauge).
The combination of these two determines the power that can be safely delivered through your coil.
The coil is wrapped around a wick which is saturated in e-juice. When you fire your mod and heat the coil, the e-juice is vaporised and this vapor is what you inhale.
The coil is either situated at the top or the bottom of the atomiser. While variations in coil design may change the vapor and flavor output, vape coils essentially all work the same way.
What are the benefits of learning how to build a coil?…
Not only that…
Once you’ve learnt how to build a vape coil you can tailor your vape setup to suit your personal vaping preference or style.
If you prefer a cloud of warm dense vapor, you got it!
If you crave a cooler vape with a focus on flavor rather than clouds, no problem!
We’ll take a proper look at the many, many different coil building techniques and vape coil builds a bit later.
But rest assured, with so many options you’re sure to find a vape coil build that fits like a glove!
Coil building is also FAR cheaper than buying pre-built or ‘stock’ coils.
And every penny helps right!?
What vape coil wire should I use?…
Before we look at the specific vape coil wire types most commonly used in coil building, we need to have a talk about…
The size of the wire…
We’re not talking length here, but the diameter or how ‘thick’ the wire is.
This is measured as a number and referred to as AWG (American Wire Gauge). It’s important to remember that the lower the AWG value, the larger the diameter of the wire.
For example, a 28 AWG is thicker than 30 AWG wire.
And size is important (sorry fellas…)
Without getting too technical; the larger the wire,the lower the resistance which means a larger amount of power is required to heat it.
Generally speaking, lower resistance coils improve vapor production.
Now we’ve got the technical bit out the way, let’s have a look at a couple of different vape coil wire options…
The original and most popular ‘go to’ vape coil wire.
Kanthal is easy to manipulate and holds shape well, making it an ideal choice for those of you new to coil building.
Most of the team here first learnt how to build a vape coil with Kanthal and it’s something we all continue to use to this day.
It’s inexpensive and available at any decent vape retailer.
Just keep in mind, Kanthal can only be used in the standard variable wattage function.
Another popular vape coil wire, NiChrome is similar to Kanthal in that it should only be used in variable wattage mode.
However, that’s where the similarities end…
NiChrome has a lower resistance than Kanthal, which means your vape coil will heat up much faster.
In fact, you’re likely to improve vapor production even if your vape coil build is identical.
You do need to be aware that NiChrome is not quite as easy to build with as Kanthal. Primarily due to the fact it doesn’t hold its shape as efficiently.
The fact it heats faster than Kanthal also means you’re more likely to burn your wick and suffer a dry hit if you’re not careful!
Now that we’ve covered the most common wire types available for variable wattage, we need to talk about;
In recent years, this feature has become increasingly popular, with many of the newer mods now offering this as standard.
Although a basic definition, this is essentially a facility that monitors resistance as your vape coil is heated.
When the resistance changes, the temperature control feature will adjust the power/wattage being applied to your vape coil.
This adjustment prevents dry hits, prevents coil damage and guarantees optimal performance!
However, only certain types of vape coil wire can be used in a temperature controlled mod.
So back to the wire types…
The first wire used in temperature control; Nickel is something the Vaping Hardware team have all built with at some point.
Nickel has a very low resistance to electrical current, which means it’s one of the fastest heating wire types.
However, it’s normally used only in temperature control mode so may not be the best choice for your first attempt at vape coil building.
It can be hard to work with due to the extreme flexibility of the wire and will often lose its shape.
There have also been reports of vapers experiencing a sore throat while using Nickel wire.
While this may just be the unlucky few allergic to Nickel, it’s worth keeping in mind.
This wire type is fast becoming the superman of the vaping world…
The list of benefits to using this wire for coil building are seemingly endless.
It’s extremely fast heating, delivers fantastic consistent flavor and is very easy to manipulate.
It can also be used with both variable wattage and temperature control.
But just a word of warning…
Stainless Steel wire has a very low resistance. If you’re using variable wattage mode, you must make sure the device you’re using can handle it.
The last on our list of vape coil wire types, Titanium can also be used in both variable wattage and temperature control mode.
It’s fast heating, cools down quickly and is reported to provide great flavor.
It’s also easy to manipulate and many manufacturers are now using Titanium for pre-built coils.
However, there are concerns regarding the safety of Titanium in vape coil building…
At higher temperatures, Titanium Dioxide can form which can potentially cause cancer.
Although this has only been tested properly in rats thus far, it’s not something I feel particularly comfortable using.
Coil Building and Ohm’s Law
Ok, so is there anything else I need to know before you show me how to build a vape coil?…
Before you delve too deep into coil building, it’s worth taking a minute to understand the basics of Ohm’s law and how it applies to your vape coil.
The three main components to understand are:
This is the rate at which your vape coil will oppose the passage of electrical current. The lower the resistance, the faster the current will be.
Measured in volts (bet you didn’t see that coming…), this is the difference in electrical potential between two points.
Positive and negative on your battery for instance.
Increase the voltage between those two points and you gain a higher energy output without using any extra power/charge.
Measured in amps, this is the rate at which electrons or ‘power’ will flow through your coil.
Mathematically, Ohm’s law states that V=I x R, where V is the voltage difference, I is the current in amps and R is the resistance in ohms.
Take a look at our purpose built Ohm’s Law Calculator if you want more information!
How does this relate to building vape coils?…
Well, put simply, it all boils down to battery safety.
The resistance of the vape coil build determines what power you’ll be vaping at and how much current will be drawn from the battery.
If the resistance is too low, you’re in danger of drawing more current than your battery is safely able to deliver. This could have disastrous effects; at worst you may vent the battery and it could catch fire or explode!
This is why it’s so important to test your coil to determine the resistance/ohm’s and identify any problems prior to using it.
This is never more important than when using a mechanical mod, due to the lack of any safety circuitry.
Most regulated mods have a ‘fail safe’ feature built into them which will prevent the mod from firing if a ‘short’ is detected. Please see our top tips for vape battery safety for more information!
You’re nearly ready to learn how to build a vape coil…
Before we dive into the coil building tutorial, I think it’s important we take a brief look at a few of the more common vape coil build designs.
Specifically, the terminology involved…
The norm for stock coils, this is basically a standing coil situated in the centre of your build deck reaching toward the top of your atomiser.
The vertical coil can be wicked on either the inside or outside, which is more commonly known as a ‘chimney’ coil.
These coils have gained popularity, due to the improved airflow and flavor as more of the coil surface area is in contact with the wick.
As the name suggests, this is simply a coil placed flat on your build deck, running between the deck posts.
Some people now consider this ‘old hat’ as the popularity of vertical coils has increased.
However, this method was the standard back in the early days of DIY vape coil building and is a design we still use to this day.
Personally I prefer this method as I notice less ‘spitback’ from these when compared with vertical coils.
Choosing between vertical and horizontal coils will often depend on your atomiser, the position and shape of your air holes and the layout of the build deck.
Learning when to use which is just a matter of experimenting to see what works best for you.
A coil with an inner diameter larger than 2mm.
A coil with an inner diameter of less than 2mm.
Both Macro and Micro are forms of ‘contact’ coils, which basically mean they’re tightly wrapped, with each coil wrap touching those on either side of it.
As opposed to a ‘spaced’ coil which is exactly what it sounds like; the vape coil wraps are spaced evenly with a slight gap between each.
And finally… How to build a vape coil in 6 easy steps!
It’s important to remember that the final resistance of your vape coil build is determined by a number of different variables…
Vape coil wire gauge, coil build type, the coil diameter and tail length all need to be taken into consideration.
When I first started vape coil building, I knew roughly what resistance I wanted to end up at but the rest was trial and error.
Fortunately, we’ve done all the hard work for you.
How so you ask?…
Head on over to our Coil Wrap Calculator!
You’ll be asked to input your vape coil specifics.
Once you’ve filled in the blanks, we’ll give you the number of coil wraps required for your desired resistance, the drain in Amps from the battery you’re using and even the ideal wattage to vape at.
If you want to learn more about our Coil Wrap Calculator, please check our handy user guide which can be found here…
But without further ado, let’s have a go at building a single macro coil using Kanthal resistance wire…
You’ll need the following tools:
- A length of Kanthal vape coil wire
- Atomiser of your choice
- A regulated mod
- A Coil Jig (alternatively a screwdriver or drill bit will work in a pinch)
- Needle nose pliers
- Wire cutters
- Ohm’s reader (if you don’t have a mod that can detect resistances)
- Small screwdriver (these are usually included as part of your atomiser kit)
For this guide, we’re building a 1.2 ohm single coil using Kanthal AWG 28.
And yes I know the coil wire in the picture is Ni200… I used Kanthal for the vape coil build.
But hey, if you spotted that you’re paying attention and you deserve a thumbs up!
Back to our coil building tutorial…
Using the calculator, we know we need the inner coil diameter to be 2.5mm and we’ll need 6 full wraps to hit our desired resistance.
How to build a vape coil – Step #1
First of all, you’ll need to cut a piece of the Kanthal resistance wire using the wire cutters.
Ideally, you want a length of approximately 3 inches but maybe for your first try cut a little extra to play with.
Now some people recommend oxidising the vape coil wire, which essentially means heating it slowly and then letting it cool.
This improves the stability of the wire and makes it easier to work it into shape.
Personally, I find Kanthal easy to manipulate anyway but this is down to personal preference.
How to build a vape coil – Step #2
I highly recommend investing in a Coil Jig for this part as it’s far easier than using a screwdriver or drill bit!
What I do is hold the Coil Jig in my left hand and slide one end of the Kanthal under my thumb, forming a ‘+’ with the Coil Jig and the wire.
Press down firmly with your thumb to prevent the Kanthal from sliding and line it up with the 2.5mm section on your Coil Jig.
Now slowly start wrapping your wire around it, making sure to keep the Kanthal as tight as possible during the wrapping to prevent any slack.
Also make sure none of the coil wraps are overlapping, but sitting as snug as possible side by side. When you’ve got 6 full wraps, using your pliers give each lead a firm pull to further tighten the vape coil and even things up.
How to build a vape coil – Step #3
Leave your new vape coil on the jig and set it down for a moment.
You’ll need to loosen the post screws on your build deck until you can comfortably fit the tail leads of your coil through.
Go ahead and do this now; one lead through the positive and the other through the negative.
Keep your coil on the Coil Jig while you do this as you don’t want it to lose its shape.
How to build a vape coil – Step #4
Once you have both leads through their posts, take your screwdriver and tighten the screws to keep the leads in place.
A word of warning though, don’t tighten them too much or you risk snapping your leads.
You need to make sure your coil is in the centre of the posts but clear of the build deck to prevent a short.
Use your Coil Jig (which should still be through the centre of your coil) to push and pull the coil until it’s positioned exactly how you want it.
When you’re satisfied with the position and the coil is as even as possible, remove the Coil Jig and give yourself a pat on the back.
How to build a vape coil – Step #5
Screw your build deck into your ohms tester (or a mod that can detect resistances) and turn it on.
If we’ve done everything correctly, your coil should be reading 1.2 ohms.
If your ohms are fluctuating, make sure your post screws are tight and the coil is not touching the build deck as this can affect the reading.
How to build a vape coil – Step #6
If everything is reading as it should be, you now want to attach your build deck to your mod and fire that baby up!
Hit the fire button until your vape coil is glowing red and then release. Before it has a chance to cool down, grab your needle nose pliers and gently squeeze the two ends of your vape coil together.
Rinse and repeat until your coil is glowing evenly starting from the centre and moving towards the outer wraps.
This will ensure your coil is firing properly and will eliminate any hot spots.
Congratulations, you’ve built your very first coil!
It’s as simple as that!
However, you’re not done just yet…
Before you can use your new vape coil you need to wick it! We won’t go into the specifics here but be sure to check out our step-by-step coil wicking guide for a full wicking tutorial!
How often should I replace my vape coil?…
Ok, so before you ride off into the sunset, freshly coiled vape in hand…
How long is this coil going to last?
The bottom line?…
Deciding when to change your coil depends on a number of different factors and there’s no ‘right or wrong’ answer here.
The wattage you vape at. The e-juice you’re using. Whether you’re a casual vaper or a 300+ puff a day chain vaper… There are half a dozen or so factors that determine how quickly your coil is likely to need replacing.
Typically, I change my coil about once a month to guarantee perfect flavor and vapor production.
Having said that, some members of the Vaping Hardware team are currently rocking a six month (plus!!) vape coil as we speak!
Dry burning the coil every so often will remove any residue or ‘gunk’ buildup. You do this by simply removing the wick and firing your mod until the vape coil glows red.
Ideally, you’ll want to ‘pulse’ your coil with short, sharp bursts. This will clean your coil and you’re all set to re-wick!
Just keep in mind that a coil in need of replacing will affect the flavor and vapor produced… Not only that but gurgling, leaking and unsteady Ohm readings can all be a sign that it’s time to replace a vape coil.
Coil building problems and how to fix them…
So you’ve built a coil, read our awesome wicking guide (link above!) and you’re all set to spend the rest of your day engulfed in a cloud of mouth watering vapor!
But there’s a problem…
Something’s not right.
You’re getting terrible flavor. The big cloud of vapor you were expecting is nowhere to be seen. To top it all off, your coil Ohm’s are jumping around like House of Pain and your vaping mod is flashing ‘No Atomiser’…
We’ll cover the three most common problems you may experience if you’re new to coil building;
If you’re firing your mod and nothing is happening, you’re likely to have a short.
The quick fix here is to make sure your vape coil (and/or post leads!) are not touching the outer wall of the chimney or the build deck.
Although there are other possible causes of a short, this is by far the most common.
If your Ohm’s are fluctuating, check your post screws.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to properly tighten the post screws.
But it’s a lot…
Just turn your mod off, grab your screwdriver and make sure the post screws are nice and tight.
Your mod is flashing ‘No Atomiser’.
Despite the fact you could have sworn you just spent a half hour building a coil and mere seconds ago you screwed it into this clearly confused mod…
Again, don’t panic.
The most common cause of this issue is that the base of your RDA/RBA is not connecting properly with your battery (vape mod). Your best bet here is to clean the connection on your atomiser base and mod with a Q tip.
Then make sure everything is screwed in (but not too tight!) and try again.
What about advanced vape coil builds?…
I’m glad you asked…
A single macro coil is one of the most common and easiest coils to build and is a great place to start on your vape coil building journey.
However, if this tutorial has given you a thirst for experimenting with building coils, you might want to try your hand at a more advanced vape coil build…
Vape coil build #1 – Dual Coil
Although this is more a vape build configuration than a coil type, I thought I would include it as it’s easy to build and will help take your vape coil building to the next level.
These are exactly what you would expect; two vape coils instead of one.
Generally, this will increase vapor production and flavor due to the larger surface area contact between the saturated wick and your vape coils.
Only slightly harder to build (just do what we’ve just done twice) these are a vape coil build type I would recommend for those looking for something slightly more adventurous than the single macro coil.
Just remember that installing a second vape coil will reduce your final resistance by half as you’ve doubled the path the current from your battery must follow.
Vape coil build #2 – Parallel Coil
This is one of my all time favourite vape coil builds…
A parallel vape coil is incredibly easy to build and yet delivers a noticeable difference in flavor and vapor production. This is due to the lower resistance verses a standard single coil with the same number of coil wraps.
Basically, with a parallel vape coil the idea is to fold your Kanthal in half so you have two bits of vape coil wire side by side running parallel.
Then just simply wrap them around your Coil Jig the same way you would with a single coil.
If you’ve already got the hang of wrapping a macro coil, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to transition to building parallel coils and believe me, it’s worth it!
However, one negative is that these coils LOVE e-juice and you’re likely to burn through twice as much than you would with a single vape coil.
Vape coil build #3 – Twisted Coil
This vape coil build type is effectively the same as a parallel coil except you’re twisting the two vape coil wire lengths together to form one strand.
The quickest way to do this is with a power drill!
Personally, I can’t say I notice much difference in flavor or vapor production between twisted and parallel coils.
However, the internet is rife with folks who seem to prefer the twisted so it’s really down to personal taste. Why not have a go and let us know what you prefer in the comments section below?
Vape coil build #4 – Clapton Coil
This vape coil build was originally created by a member of the E-Cigarette Forum.
Made by turning a length of 24 AWG Kanthal in a drill and wrapping 32 AWG Kanthal wire around it.
The Clapton is extremely popular and is known for increased longevity, superior flavor and fantastic vapor production.
This is due to the larger surface area and the fact the Clapton vape coil acts as a wick of sorts as the e-juice will settle in ‘pockets’ running along the coil.
A far more advanced vape coil build than the single macro coil; this is one we suggest you wait to try when you’ve got a bit more coil building experience.
So there you have it folks, you now know how to build a vape coil!
Hopefully by now you have a better understanding of coil building, the wire types you can use and the coil options available.
We hope you enjoyed this guide. Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.
Happy coil building!!