If you’ve done much vaping at all (or even reading about vaping), than you’ve likely realized that you can stand to save a lot of money by performing more of the maintenance yourself. Some people mix their own E-liquids, some actually build their own mods, some refill their own cartridges, etc… but in this guide, we are going to show you how to build a coil.
Building your own coil could be appealing for several reasons. It could save you money, but could also give your vaping habit more depth and technical sophistication. If you wish to be a true, hardcore vaping enthusiast and enjoy the mechanical parts of it as much as the vaping part, then building your own coils is probably a step that you will inevitably take at some point anyway – and in this guide, we are going to help to get you started off on this journey on the right foot.
What you will need
We actually used the Coil Master DIY V2 kit to get started with building coils – and had a good experience with it. Right now, the V2 is no longer sold – but the V3 is available, so we would recommend that you pick one up. The kit contains pretty much everything you need to get started, which is pretty awesome.
You will also need a rebuildable tank atomizer. We chose the SMOK TF RTA G4… which his really, really cool. So for the purposes of this review, when we refer to our tank, this is what we’re talking about.
In the G4, since it’s a quad deck, you actually build 4 coils – which we liked. You can also buy it in the G2 version, which only requires 2 coils.
Quick note about building coils
Coil building can be one of those areas of vaping where people get nervous – but there is no reason to be. As long as you’re careful, follow necessary safety precautions, and use common sense, you should have absolutely no problem coming up with an awesome coil that will work really well with your tank.
We are certainly not coil-building gods – but we still had a good experience with it, and that’s what it’s all about. You don’t have to be a ‘pro’ to enjoy coil-building – that’s for sure!So just take your time and have fun. And above all – be careful and safe!
With that being said, this is a very beginner-level guide – so hopefully it will help you to get started.
A closer look at the Coil Master V2 Toolkit
The Coil Master kit came in a neoprene case, with all of the tools and components you need to get started.
- We got Japanese organic cotton wicking material (completely natural and unbleached, which is awesome).
- A pair of Coil master wire snippers
- A pair of needle-nosed pliers
- Flat and cross-head screwdrivers
- Ceramic tweezers
- Another pair of needle-nosed tweezers, for threading cotton
- A pair of foldable scissors
- A reel of wire
- An Ohm reader, which you can screw your tank right onto
- A coil jig, which comes with different sizes, ranging from 1.5 to 4 Mil.
- And then you get the stems that you build your coils around
Alright, that’s pretty much what you will find in the kit. We took all of the tools out and set them aside so that they were within easy reach.
A note about the atomizer, and RDA builds vs. RTA builds
Note that it can be very, very difficult (if not just plain impossible) to build atomizers for a lot of tanks, as they tend to be super small and impractical. A lot of tanks were built with the idea of a disposable coil in mind, which is why we bought a rebuildable atomizer.
A rebuildable atomizer is specially designed to make building both accessible and easy – so obviously, it would be in your best interest to buy one if you’re interested in building your own coils.
It’s also important to understand that there are basically two different types of rebuildable atomizer tanks on the market today… RTA tanks, and RDA tanks.
RDA tanks are basically rebuildable drip atomizers. This is the type of a deck where you build your coil/coils – but you actually drip your E-liquid right onto the coil. You get massive types of clouds from this type of a device. They’re actually extremely popular with cloud chasers.
The RTA is the other type – which is the type that we will be using in this guide. We chose an RTA mostly for the convenience, because this type of an atomizer actually comes with a tank that you fill up – which is more like a traditional E-liquid tank.
On a drip atomizer, you need to constantly feed it E-liquid – whereas, on an RTA, you just have to refill the tank, as you would with any other tank.
A closer look at the SMOK TF RTA G4
This is a beauty of a tank. It has a hefty capacity, a top-fill design, and obviously features a deck that you can use to build your own coils with.
To get to the deck, you simply remove the base and the deck/atomizer from the bottom of the tank. It’s quite small – but you’ll quickly see the four posts that you will need to put coils on.
Honestly, we might have gone with the G2 at first had we thought about the ease of use – because we needed to build 4 coils for this one, whereas with the G2 we would have only needed 2 – but that’s ok.
This is still an awesome tank, and we certainly loved it!
This kit comes pre-installed with compton coils – which are basically coils made from twisted wires that are then wrapped around a jig. This provides a lot more surface area, and makes the coils very effective – but don’t be deterred! Building your own coils is fun, and will certainly become one of your new favorite things to do!
Getting started – Video Version
Step 1 – Getting ready
To start with, we screwed the deck onto the Ohm reader. We didn’t switch it on or anything, because we didn’t yet have any coils installed – but the Ohm reader that came with our kit functioned very nicely as a work-stand, so that’s how we got started.
You will notice that each coil that came pre-installed in your deck was probably held into place by two small screws. One at the top, and one near the bottom. On a 4-deck atomizer like this, the coils will go on vertically, so one end will attach to a post, and the other to the base in the subsequent hole.
This should be pretty easy to see when you examine your deck. The coils will then serve as a power conduit, but will heat up when the battery begins to pump power through them – and the resistance will create heat, which will then atomizer the E-liquid.
Word of caution! Don’t loosen the screws on the post and the base very much, as they fall out and get lost very easily! You should leave them tight until you are ready to install a coil, and then only loosen them enough to fit the wire inside – and then tighten them again.
Step 2 – Assembling the Jig
We’ve decided that we’re going to wrap 3 mil coils, just so that we can be sure that we will be able to fit the cotton wicking through them. They can be quite small, so we just wanted to start with something that will give us plenty of room.
At this point, we also took a moment to take stock of which tools are going to be essential. The Ohm reader is absolutely essential – both for building, and for testing. The needle-nosed tweezers are also very important, for the cotton wadding. The needle nosed pliers are also very essential.
The ceramic tweezers are perhaps not essential – but they are very helpful as they help to keep the heat at bay while you work.
The wire cutters are an absolute necessity – so make sure that you keep those handy!
The screwdrivers are also extremely important – as you can’t unscrew the screws on the deck without them.
And of course… the wire itself.
The scissors are important as well, for cutting the cotton wicking.
Out of this entire kit, if there was a part that would seem to be less important, it would probably be the coil jig. The Coil Master toolkits come with jigs, and they are helpful… and the kit, overall, provides a ton of quality and comes highly recommended – but the jigs themselves are not necessarily an essential part of the kit.
With that being said, they do make life easier!
How do the jigs work?
For step 2, we are going to quickly describe how the jigs work – just so that you can understand the basics before moving on. So we recommend that you get them out and follow along as we continue.
First, you need to screw the top off of the jig itself. The end is pretty much a cap with a hole in it… and you will notice that there are small angled holes on the top that you just removed. There are two in the side, and two on the top. Make a note of these!
Next, you need to choose your stem. We chose to use a 3 mil stem, as mentioned before – so that’s what we used to get started.
The stems are pretty much small metal sticks that fit into the jig. To assemble the jig, you take your stem and slide the skinny part through the center hole of the top that you removed, so that the larger base is actually inside the jig top and the skinny part is sticking out of the top of it.
The larger base will keep the stem from coming out.
Next, you screw the lid (with the stem still installed) back onto the base of the jig.
Once everything is tight, the jig will be assembled with the stem sticking out of the top.
Now, you need to find the other part of the jig (the part that fits loosely over the stem) that matches the size of the stem, and slide it on. It will feel a bit loose and will allow you to move it up and down and around a bit – but the fit should really be snug (make sure that you’ve chosen the size that matches your stem).
Using the jig is super-simple beyond this point. Basically, you’ll thread your wire through the top of the coil in one of the small holes, and feed the end out through one of the angled holes in the side. Then, you will twist the loose part of the jig around so that it forms a coil from the wire around the stem.
You can make as many wraps as you want – and once you’re done, you simply clip and remove your wire – and the job is done!
Continuing the coil construction… Step 3 – Figuring out coil length and number of wraps
In step 2, you assembled your jig and are ready to wrap your coil. So now, you’ll need to break out the wire. Be careful when you get it out of the package, as it can tend to ‘spring’ out and make a mess everywhere!
The wire that we had to use was Coil Master branded. It was standard Kanthal A1 Resistance wire, in 24GA. It’s actually quite cheap to buy – but we got ours in the kit.
Keep in mind that the higher the GA, the smaller the wire. 24GA is pretty standard, and would be a good normal wire to start with.
Now, before you get started with wrapping the wire, you might begin to realize that you’ll have no way of knowing how many times you should wrap the wire to produce a coil that gives you the right kind of resistance.
To simply use trial and error would waste a lot of wire – so we did some searching, and found a very nifty website called www.steam-engine.org. This website allows you to put in the type of wire you’re using, along with the Gauge of the wire, the type of coil setup you’re using, and the target resistance. You also need to put in the inner diameter of the coil (ours will be 3 Mil).
You’ll also need to put in the leg length – which, for us, seemed to default to 5 mil. So that’s what we left it as.
Note: Keep in mind that each coil will affect your resistance. On a multi-deck device with 4 coils, resistances will be quartered (1/4R). So, in other words, if your resistance is supposed to be 0.25 Ohms, then you’ll be wanting 1 Ohm resistance through each coil (because 1 divided by 4 is 0.25).
Once you input all of this information, you will get the results. For us, we saw that we needed to do 8.54 wraps on our wire. So, we will round this up to about 9 – and that will give us what we need for our project.
Once you know how many wraps you’ll need, you should basically know how your coil will need to look. You’ll know how long to cut them, how many times to wrap them, and which direction the legs should face in conjunction with one-another (ours need to be facing opposite ways, because the contacts are at the top and bottom of the deck).
This will give you pretty much everything you’ll need to know to build your coil.
Step 4 – Building the coil
Don’t be too conservative with your wire. There’s nothing worse than accidentally building the coil a little bit too short, because that will waste the entire coil instead of just a small snippet of wire from the end!
So when measuring out the wire, make sure to leave plenty of extra – so that you won’t end up wasting too much with a coil that you can’t use!
With that being said, measure out your wire and give it a snip with the wire cutters. You will now have a length of wire that you can use to make your first coil.
The next thing that you will need to do is feed the wire into your jig (if you’re using one).
You will see that there are two small holes on top of the jig (close to the stem). Slide your wire into one of these holes, and push it through until it comes out the side. Just use your thumb to hold the wire that came out the side against the jig itself while you proceed with the next part, as this will keep the wire from pulling out of the jig
Next, you’ll need to use the top part of the jig to twist the wire. This part should be pretty self-explanatory. Since you already know how many loops you’ll need, you can simply twist until you get as many as you need.
Keep in mind that you don’t want the coil wire to overlap – you want to loops to butt-up against each other.
Once you’ve got the coil twisted, you can remove it. You should be able to count the number of turns, or loops, it has in it – and should be able to see which way the legs are facing. If the leg that was stuck through the hole is sort of pointing off in a weird direction, you can simply slide the coil back onto the stem without inserting the wire back into the hole – and press the coil against the base of the jig.
This will cause the wire to bend up to where it’s straighter and more vertical.
Next, you might want to grab your needle-nosed pliers and pull on the legs while holding the loops onto the stem with your thumb – just to tighten up the loops. You can use the needle-nosed pliers to form the legs or straighten them out, as needed.
And finally, once you get the coil ‘finished’, you can trim it down – but keep in mind that you should take great care not to trim the legs too short, lest it not fit right and you end up wasting the time and energy you have already put into it!
Obviously, you will need to do this 3 more times to create a total of 4 coils if you have a 4-coil deck. You will only need 2 if you have a 2-coil deck.
Step 5 – Installing the coils
Alright! At this point, you should have your coils built and trimmed to fit… so let’s talk about installation.
To begin with, choose a post and base on your deck. Unscrew the post very slightly, and then slide the appropriate leg of the coil into it. The easiest way that we have found to do this is to use the needle-nosed pliers that came with the toolkit. Grasp the coil by the loop, and use the tweezers to maneuver one of the legs into the post.
We find that it’s easier to attach the post side first, as it’s a bit more challenging than the base!
Once you have the wire securely fastened to the post, you can use the stem/jig tool to maneuver the loops of the coil around so that you can ease the other leg in behind the base screw. Once you’ve done this, tighten the screw nicely, and the coil will be basically installed!
To be honest, this is a small, detailed, fiddley job that might frustrate you a bit at first – but honestly, it wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be, and it turned out very nicely really – which we were happy to see!
You might need to use the jig a bit to move the coil to the right spot. You will also need to repeat this process for each coil – but once you have them all installed, you should be good to go onto the next step.
Step 6 – Test the resistance
Next, we used the Ohm reader to test the resistance of our new coils. With our coils, we were shooting for 0.2 ohms, and we actually came up with 0.19, which was pretty darn close! The closeness was certainly helped by steam-engine.org, so a big thanks to them for doing the calculations for us!
Next, we put the deck back onto the base, and put the base onto our favorite vape pen. We didn’t fully assemble the tank – because we wanted to make sure that the coils were going to heat up like they were supposed to.
In our case, the coils actually glowed when we activated the battery – which was a good indication. This meant that we were getting the heat we wanted – which is awesome!
But we also noticed that one of the coils in-particular wasn’t glowing as nicely as the rest – and we also noticed that it was sitting a bit lower on the deck than the others. So next, we decided to fix this.
First, we used our jig to move the loops upward a bit, so that it looked more like the others. Second, we used our ceramic tweezers (Be careful! The coils may still be hot!) to squeeze the loops closer together – just to make sure that everything was as tight as possible. It’s important that the coils remain as tight as possible, to get the proper conduction. A good coil will begin glowing from the inside outward – so keep this in mind as you work on your coils and adjust them! It might also be a good idea to re-tighten the screws on any coils that aren’t glowing as well.
Once we made these changes, our coils all glowed quite nicely! The improvement was quite dramatic, actually… and we were pretty thrilled with the results.
Step 7 – Make the cotton wick
Start by cutting strips of wicking material with your scissors. The key to wicking well is not to have it too tight going through. If you imagine your wicking material like a sponge, you want it to be nice and loose so that it can absorb as much E-liquid as possible.
You want the wicking material to make good contact with the coils, but also to fit loosely around them.
Once you cut your strips, you should pinch and twist the ends a bit.
Once you’ve worked a nice point into your wicking material, you should proceed to attempt to thread it through the coils. For each coil, you’ll need a separate piece of wick. Now, thread it right through the coil. You should make the wicking thick enough that it is somewhat held in place by the tightness of the coil – but you should still be able to pull it through.
The two ends will then get tucked down into the two adjacent base wells, which is where the base screws are located. Obviously, this process may differ with different tanks – but that’s what we needed to do with our tank, anyway.
In the end, you should have four cotton wicks, each one threaded through a coil with the two loose ends shoved down into the base wells. You will need to have two cotton wicks shoved down into each screw well, so it might take a bit of doing to get right.
The best way to shove the wicking down into the screw wells is with your needle-nosed tweezers. It might stick out of the bottom a little bit – but that’s fine.
You might need to trim the cotton down to size once you fit it through – which is also fine.
The cotton goes a long way, actually – so you should be able to get a lot of wicking out of a single sheet of it!
Step 8 – Apply E-liquid
For this step, you will simply apply E-liquid to the coils and the wicking before assembling the tank and putting it back together. This will prime the coils and get everything ready to go! You should dab it on all around the coils, and feel free to put plenty on them!
Once you finish this step, feel free to fire away and give it a test run. You should be able to hear the E-liquid sizzling as the coils atomize it, and you should definitely be able to smell it!
After the test, you should re-prime the coils and the wicking before moving onto the next part.
Step 9 – Put the tank back together and fill it with E-liquid
This step should be pretty self-explanatory. Just put the tank back together, and then fill the tank up as usual.
At this point you have successfully built, wrapped, installed, and wicked your own coils! It’s a bit of a chore at first – but you will probably quickly realize that it’s actually not as difficult as it might have seemed at first.
Honestly, we thought that it was going to be more difficult than it was. We were actually a little bit worried that it was going to be too complicated, and we almost aborted the mission – but we’re happy that we didn’t. Those worries were completely diminished once we got started.
The Coil Master Toolkit really helped, and we loved the SMOK RTA G4 tank – so we had some of the best tech available to us, which really helped.
One thing that we would maybe do different the next time is that we might have gone for the G2 tank instead of the G4 tank – but honestly, that’s just because we were novices at this getting started, and a G2 tank gives you a lot more space to work with.
But at any rate, we thought it was a good experience – and if you like technical things and don’t mind fiddling around with tools and wiring, then this might be an excellent pathway to get started down.