How to Build Your Own RDA Coils (A Beginner’s Guide for Wire Wrapping)
Building your own RDA coils can seem like a daunting task when seeing what other people are building, or even watching your local shop do a rebuild. I know that I couldn't have been more happy than when I built my very first using 26 gauge Kanthal.
Don't get me wrong, by no means was it pretty, but it worked and opened the door to endless coil building possibilities. Whether you are researching for building your first, or have done a few builds and just want to make them a little better I wrote this to share what I have learned so that you can get to know how to build a coil.
In my experience the RDA coils that are meticulously installed, are the ones that provide the best experience. Wrenching down your RDA screws often does more harm than good.
Poor RDA maintenance is another culprit for another discouraging RDA coil building attempt.
It isn't surgery, but it’s pretty close, so if you take the time to straighten your Kanthal, why wouldn't your installation be just as careful?
Kanthal A1 heating coil in the best in class wire you can find for your RBA
Wrapping your RTA/RDA coils:
I find that the Steam Engine Vape Calculator is an invaluable tool, especially if you don’t own an Ohm-meter. The accuracy of this site is fantastic, and in my experience is accurate to plus or minus 0.1 ohms. More often than not, after I install my coil builds they read out exactly what steam engine calculated.
The actual wrapping is important from the beginning of coil building. If your wire isn’t straightened, you are going to build a sloppy one. I started straightening my wire as best as I could by hand with mixed results.
I eventually broke down and purchased a Ryobi drill, and get perfectly straightened wire every time. Whatever you decide to use to wrap your coil around, make sure you are keeping constant tension on the wire. I have been unable to snap Kanthal or nickel wire by hand thus far.
The end result of wrapping with even tension is a gorgeous coil that doesn’t require much adjusting.
Do your best when wrapping them to keep them as uniform as possible. I have seen a couple of methods for this. First is the more traditional wrapping the wire around your screwdriver or drill bit with your off hand. The second would be rotating your screwdriver or drill bit, while maintaining tension with your other hand. Whatever your personal preference, the end game is always uniform wraps.
- When I wrap a coil I am as careful as possible to keep firm and even pressure with my off hand on the wire. This ensures that your inner diameter will be as even as possible.
- If your first coil looks like the picture below don't worry, you can still make a perfect version with a little patience.
Installing your RDA coil builds:
While Kanthal is a more forgiving wire to install into your RDA, nickel wire is not. It is paramount to the effectiveness of your build that your nickel wire is trapped in the center of your post-holes. That being said, why wouldn’t you install Kanthal wire the same way?
I have found that using my screws to trap the wire inside the post-holes sacrifices conductivity. Taking a little bit of extra time during the installation to ensure your coil build is in the center of each hole pays off in the long run.
I started building mine by wrenching my post screws down as tight as I could get them. This more often than not damages the wire or wires and prevents a good connection. I tighten my screws down just past finger tight, and I have found my coils are far better connected than wrenching them down.
Also if you re-use the vape coil builds, the legs that are installed are undamaged with carefully securing them under the screws.
Knowing your RDA is also important. For example the Plume Veil V2 has very sharp screws right out of the box. The Hobo V2.1 utilizes “grub” nuts, which are flat on the bottom.
Also realizing that after you heat up your coil build, it expands and contracts is key.
I pulse the firing button on my mechanical mod or box mod to check for “hot spots”. These are areas of the coils that heat up the different areas. It is important to have one that heats up evenly from the inside to outside of the wire.
This can be achieved by “pulsing” or momentarily pressing the firing button on your device, releasing it after the coil is red hot and using tweezers or pliers to crimp the wraps together. Holding slight pressure with your tweezers or pliers will cause your coils to settle more evenly, this also is the time to correct any imperfections or gaps that occurred during the wrapping process.
You can re-insert the screwdriver or drill bit back into it to readjust positioning, and ensure it is lined up with your airflow on your RDA. It is important to note that you should never dry fire nickel wire builds, this will damage the coil and cause issues with your temperature reading.
NEVER under any circumstances introduce metal into your live electrical circuit while it has power.
- Leaving the screwdriver or drill bit inside your coil during installation will give you complete control for perfect post hole placement.
- If your coil isn't perfectly aligned on your build deck use the tip of your screwdriver or place your thumb over the coil to move it into place.
- Inserting and removing your screwdriver a couple of times is a good way to remove any remaining hot spots after your coil is aligned.
Wicking Your RDA Coil:
I personally use Japanese organic cotton or Cotton Bacon by Wick N’ Vape. There are a bunch of different wicking materials out there from silica, to stainless steel mesh; this decision is up to personal preference. It should be noted that failure to oxidize your stainless steel mesh would result in a short in your coil.
The advantages of organic cotton are superior flavor, as well as it being readily available and cheap. Organic cotton is also very easy to work with, as it can be made to fit just about anywhere in your RDA.
I have personally used, as well as seen many different methods that teach how to wick RDA coil builds. The point behind the wicking material is to ensure that your coil has sufficient juice supply to prevent charring your wick.
For example a super Nano (a coil wrapped around a piece of Kanthal wire) has an impossible to wick inner diameter. Placing a cotton cloud (a small bit of wispy cotton) underneath provides juice to the coil and intense vapor production.
As long as the wick is in constant contact with the coil, and saturated thoroughly with e-liquid, you will have an amazing vape.
Certain vape coil builds require a certain wicking method; the Nano dragon will not perform the intended way if it isn’t wicked properly. Like with the super Nano , the Nano dragon is a small diameter coil build. The Nano dragon is angled down away from the positive post, and the wick closes off the backside of the coil.
This provides a blanket of wick to the coil that causes vapor to shoot out of the top. The best part of wicking is experimentation. You can wrap the exact same coil as someone else, but if you're wicking is different you may be getting a completely different experience.
Some people say less is more when wicking, but on lower Ohm builds require much more liquid. Keeping this in mind ensuring that your wick fills up the entire diameter of the wire, and fits snug will result in better juice distribution. As long as your wick doesn’t impede on the airflow of your RDA, you can do whatever works best for you.
Vape Wire Selection:
With a coil build from a brick and mortar shop running about $10, and a spool of Kanthal running $7.75 for 100 feet of 28 gauge it’s more cost effective to do yourself. I have also found that you aren’t going to get twisted builds, or Clapton coils built from your local shop. If they did, I am sure the cost would be insane based on the difficulty of certain RBA coil builds.
Nathan has already published an article about different suppliers of wire. The two that I have used are Lightning Vapes and TEMco Industrial. I won’t go into too much detail on the particular shops as the article about them already has that information. In my experience TEMco Industrial has a longer time to wait for orders of nickel wire, where as Lightning Vapes seems to have an endless supply of wire.
TEMco Industrial is based in California, and is also the manufacturer of “Vapo Wire”. Lightning Vapes is based in Florida and is slightly less expensive. Lightning Vapes is imported wire, and TEMco is American made.
That being said wire selection is what can make or break your particular build, or possibly even turns you off to rebuilding. I have found that 26 or 28 gauge wire is a good starting place for anyone getting into rebuilding.
While 26 gauge Kanthal is springier than 28 gauge, it is a more substantial wire and once straightened it is fairly easy to work with. Doing some research will help you make your decision on which to purchase first or buy some test wire from your local vape shop.
26 gauge wire has a lower resistance than 28 gauge, meaning that it will require more wraps of 26 gauge to create a 1.0 Ohm coil than with 28 gauge. That being said lower resistance wire is required for lower Ohm building.
For example in order to wrap a 0.2 Ohm coil with 28 gauge around a 3/32nd drill bit, it would be a dual coil consisting of 2 wraps. This sacrifices vapor production as well as flavor production, so using 22 gauge Kanthal in the same scenario would require 7 wraps, providing greater surface area as well as vapor production.
There are many different types of wire out there for coil building, ranging from Kanthal to G-Plat wire. Each wire has a different purpose, and offers something different to your vaping experience.
Ribbon wire offers incredible flavor, but doesn’t produce very much vapor by itself. Twisting wires together creates juice channels within your coil build. This translates to a wire that has wicking properties by itself; in addition to getting better heat with a ribbon wire build.
There are literally thousands of videos on You Tube, and a lot of them are works of art. You as the builder have the advantage of being able to take a coil build and add to or take away from that particular building idea. Once you start building your own, you can start testing different builds and find your perfect match.
I started by building standard dual and then parallel coils. I was incredibly happy that I had built what was making the vapor in my RDA; from there I started building those that looked interesting to me.
I would recommend spending a couple extra dollars and getting an Ohm-meter to ensure that your coils are safe, as well as safe batteries. The Samsung 25R 2500 mAh, LG HE 2500 mAh, or the Sony VTC 5 batteries are all good options for relatively safe and are on our best vape batteries review.
We hope this guide has helped you in your quest to learn how to build a coil. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.