Fed up of spending £20 a month on coils and heads?
Maybe you want powerful juicy flavours or mammoth clouds, custom made to your tastes. Maybe you’re a bit of a vaping geek and want to better understand the intricacies of your hobby. Or maybe you just want to try a modified super tiger coil.
Whatever the reason, welcome to the coil building club – things are about to get interesting.
What are the benefits?
The customisation offered means you’re far more likely to find a coil that you love, and with a few tweaks and modifications you’ll find your dream coil in no time.
Broadly speaking, the main benefits of building your own coils are:
- Flavour Maker – Homemade coils can be designed to focus on flavour, giving you rich and powerful notes delivered straight to your taste buds.
- Huge Cloud Production – Those cloud chasers you’ve seen on youtube are almost certainly using homemade coils.
- Cost Effective – A modest investment in the tools you need will usually pay itself back within a month, depending on your consumption.
- Craftsmanship – It’s a skill — there are good coil builders and bad, it’s immensely rewarding to see your progress and finally make that holy grail coil you’ve been looking for.
What do I need?
You’ll need some special tools and materials to begin, but they don’t cost much and once you have them you can build literally hundreds of coils for the price of a couple of branded heads.
Note: We’ve included amazon links where possible for your ease, they are NOT affiliate links, we make no money if you click them.
The Wire – No, you don’t need you to ‘reup’, what you need is resistance wire. These come in many types; kanthal, nickel, nichrome and stainless steel to name a few. For the purposes of this article we’re going to focus on kanthal wire, as it’s the most commonly used and building coils is already tricky enough without having to understand ten types of resistance wire and their specific properties.
Kanthal is a ferritic iron, chromium-aluminium alloy, but that’s not very important, what is important is that it can be heated to very high temperatures (1400’C) without breaking down, perfect for our coils.
The main thing to look out for when buying wire is its gauge. Gauge refers to the thickness of a wire and, confusingly, the larger the number the smaller the diameter of the wire. Kanthal wire used in atomizer builds is usually between 24-34 gauge, with 34g being the smallest diameter. Remember; the smaller the diameter of the wire, the higher the resistance, we’ll come back to this later.
We’ll be using 24 gauge kanthal wire for this build. Here’s a link to some well-reviewed wire spooling.
Flush Cutters – You’ll need a pair of wire cutters, the most important aspect of the cutters is that they’ll need to be able to cut close to the coil, so flush cutters are what you’ll want. These BeadSmith flush cutters are reasonably priced and thin tipped, allowing you to manoeuvre the cutters into those awkward little spaces in your atomizer.
Tweezers – You’ll need some tweezers for pinching your coils closed. They should be ceramic tipped as we’ll be running current through the coil to heat it up while pinching it, the handles will get quite hot otherwise.
Rod Base – You will need something to wrap the coil around. While there are specialist tools for this purpose, a small drill bit, screwdriver or even a hypodermic needle head will do the job perfectly. We’ll use a 2.5mm mini screwdriver.
Wicking Material – This is what you’ll stuff inside your coil to wick up the ejuice. Silica and cotton are the most common materials. Silica is less likely to burn and can handle a dry hit or two without being ruined, but the flavour and cloud production is lessened. Cotton on the other hand will burn after one dry hit but has superior flavour and cloud production. You can buy a bag of cotton balls at your local pharmacy or silica wick on amazon.
Scissors – To trim your silica wick or cotton wick.
Resistance and Ohm’s
Okay, so you’ve got all your tools, you’re ready to go. Hold your horses for a moment, we need to go back to school to understand what we’re actually doing.
Remember earlier we mentioned that the smaller the width of the wire, the higher the resistance? This is important; when we build our coil we’re going to have to think a little bit about how the resistance of the wire will affect our final design.
In simplified terms you can think of electricity as water in a tank leading to a pipe; the pressure of water flowing out of the end of the pipe is the voltage, the amount of water flowing out over time is the current and water in the tank is the amount of electrical charge. The width of the pipe is resistance (measured in ohms), a smaller pipe has a higher resistance and vice versa. When we use a smaller pipe (higher resistance) less water can pass through it (reduced current) and so we need a higher pressure (or voltage) to match the output of the bigger pipe.
Our kanthal wire is the same, smaller gauge wire means less electrons can pass through it (it has a higher resistance), so it will need a higher voltage to reach the same temperature.
When using thicker wire the resistance will be lower. If it’s too low (less than 0.10 ohms) we risk damaging our battery, so we need to ensure we keep the resistance at least above 0.10 ohms. The way we increase the resistance other than using a smaller gauge wire is to use a longer length of it; the longer the wire, the higher the resistance. To use the water analogy, it would take more pressure to push water through a pipe that was a kilometer long than one that was a meter long.
If your mod has an ohm reader as many do, you can install the coil on your mod to check its resistance before firing, in fact many mods won’t fire a coil with a resistance below 0.10ohms. Alternatively you can calculate the resistance using an online calculator like this one, or you can buy an atomizer ohm reader online.
We’re going to do 6 wraps of 24 gauge kanthal which should give us a coil with a resistance of about 0.3 ohms, perfect for big clouds and juicy flavours.
How do I build it?
Here comes the fun part, take your tools and spread them across a table within easy reach (it’s also worth putting something underneath like a rubber mat to protect your table).
1. Cut off a stretch of kanthal wire, give yourself more than you think you’ll need as it’ll make coiling and cutting easier. 10cm should be enough.
2. Take the 2.5mm screwdriver, drill bit or rod that you’re using, and hold it in your off hand between the thumb and forefinger near the base of the rod. Place the wire between your thumb and the rod, pointing upwards and leaving 2/3rds of it above your thumb. Your thumb should be holding the wire firmly against the screwdriver.
3. With your dominant hand, pull the loose wire above your thumb taught (this is important, a constant pull on the wire will leave you with closer coils and a tighter shape), then wrap it over, behind, underneath and then back up the side of the screwdriver your thumb is on. There is now one coil on your screwdriver, we’re nearly there!
4. Repeat the last step 5 more times, ensuring that each new coil is nested as close to the previous coil as possible, ideally there should be little-to-no gap between them, but don’t worry if there is, that’s what the tweezers are for!
5. On the sixth and final coil, leave the wire pointing downward on the opposite side to where it started (where your thumb is holding it). This should leave you with two strands pointing down to the floor.
6. Insert the strands into your empty rebuildable atomizer. You will need to loosen or unscrew the pins, which differ from atomizer to atomizer, then pull the two lengths through so the coil sits neatly inside. Leave the screwdriver in the coil during this part to stop the coil warping. Do not fire your mod at this stage or you may short circuit it.
7. Once you’ve fiddled a bit and gotten the position right, tighten the screws on your atomizer and cut the stray lengths now poking out as close to the pins as possible, if the wire touches the base of the atomizer you will get a short circuit so take your time and get it right.
8. Carefully remove the screwdriver, you may need to twist it gently. Your coil should now be firmly secured in place and ready for the final stage. Grab your tweezers now.
9. There’s probably some gaps between the coils right now, that will cause the coil to heat unevenly so set your mod to a low voltage, attach the atomizer with your new coil to it, and pinch the coil tightly from end to end with the tweezers. Fire your mod in pulses, taking care not to overheat it. We want it to be red hot, not white hot. Squeeze and let go, check to see if the coils are next to each other. If there is still gaps, repeat the process. Take your time here, it’s the final stage. We’re doing this to remove ‘hot spots’ — parts of the coil that heat up much faster than the rest, this will not only give you poor vapor and flavour but if the hotspot gets too hot during use you may get a dry hit or even melt the hot spot, which will require a rebuild.
10. Your coil has probably changed colour slightly, don’t worry that’s normal. If the coils are close together and there are no gaps the coil should turn an even colour as it heats up. Once you’re satisfied you’ll need to thread some cotton or silica wick through the hole in the coil. The amount used is a matter of preference, although too much will stop the cotton from wicking properly and give you a dry hit quickly. Remember; less is more with regards to wicking.
Cotton wicks will significantly fill out once there’s some juice on them, our advice is to try and put enough through the coil that it fits, but is slightly loose. Now drench it in juice, it will expand to a tight fit. Give it a quick fire to make sure it works and put the cap back on.
All that’s left is to enjoy your first ever homemade coil!
Quick tip: If you do get a dry hit with cotton, simply pull out and throw away the cotton, pulse the empty coil carefully until almost white hot to burn off any residue then rewick it with fresh cotton. Good as new!
Beyond the Basics
Once you’ve built a few of these and played around, you should consider trying some of the more advanced builds. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular types of coils:
Single Coil – This is what you’ve already built, but there’s a lot of room to play with; different gauges, different lengths, alternative wrapping. Go nuts!
Dual Coil – This is a common next step in the coil building world. Many atomizers offer the space and configuration to insert two coils (some offer up to four). You simply build and install two coils instead of one. Doubling the surface area of heated wire in contact with the ejuice makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour and vapour production. Two coils also means halved resistance, so you’ll need to make sure each coil has at least .20 ohms of resistance or you’ll fall below the dreaded 0.10 ohms limit.
Twisted Coil – By taking two lengths of resistance wire, attaching them to a drill and pinching the other end you can spin them into a twisted or braided coil. This again doubles the surface area, but of course raises the resistance, you’ll need more voltage to power one of these.
Clapton Coil – One of the more popular advanced coils is the clapton coil, named after Eric Clapton. Looking at one it’s easy to see why; the wire looks like a guitar string, a thick gauge wire with a smaller wire wrapped tightly around it. This massively increases surface area and can boost your flavour to the next level. Tutorials for this build are all over the internet and youtube.
Super Tiger Coil – Similar to the clapton coil, this coil uses a larger gauge wire with a thin kanthal ribbon wrapped around it for an even larger surface area. These can achieve extremely low resistances, so take your time and get to know the craft before you try this one.
That wasn’t so bad was it? Most people are surprised by the ease of building your own coils once you’ve got the gear. It may take a few tries before you get your first working coil, but after that the only way is up! Check vaping forums, youtube and other guides for inspiration on what to try next. The key to building great coils—like most skills—is practice.
As always, happy vaping.