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The One Where We Start Building Coils...Or, The Right Tools For The Job

by Matt Protzman on January 15, 2016
So, the only thing that I like more than writing about vaping is actually vaping. I started a few years ago, and I wish we had access to some of the hardware that's around today...or even just the knowledge that the community has accumulated.

Some of this information was discovered as more people from different backgrounds and specialties found vaping. Most was learned through trial and error. More trial and error than I would like to admit, in all honesty. We had no idea about building coils back then, when the first real RDAs hit the market. The go-to build was a few loops of silica wick, wrapped with some spaced 30 gauge kanthal, sitting in a Phoenix dripper, or maybe in the DID genesis atomizer. Be glad that you are fortunate enough to have skipped past the days of the CE4 Stardust clearomizer and the ViVi Nova tank. All great devices in their day, but we are light years past that now. The original Protank changed everything, bringing bottom coil design to the mainstream, along with being one of the first Pyrex tanks that was in an affordable price range for the average vaper. I will admit, I was a bit of a snob when it came to my atomizers, and I refused to use pre-built coils once I had learned to rebuild those tiny clearomizer heads. Luckily, you don't have to be me! Let's dive right in.

The re-buildable atomizer deck

One of the innovations that I love the most is the introduction of the RBA [rebuildable atomizer] deck to the range of sub-ohm tanks. The pre-built coils that are available today are amazing, leaps and bounds ahead of anything we could purchase or even build just a few years ago. But I'm a particular person, and I actually love to build. I love getting to sit down with some wire and few tools, and producing something that performs exactly how I want it to, and the fact that it looks cool is a bonus. The other reason why i love the RBA deck is that I know building can seem intimidating to a newcomer, and the simple RBA deck from a SubTank or Arctic tank may be their entry point to trying a coil build for themselves.

So that's why we're here today, to start a semi-regular series about building, from the RBA deck beginning, up to the crazy coil art world of drippers. And since this is the first class of Coil Builds 101, we need to start from zero, and go over the supply list for the course. Ready? Let's go.


Couple choices here, but we are going to keep it very simple for the first couple sessions, so just some Kanthal A1 or Nichrome. We will get to temperature control and some of the more exotic wire materials down the road, but we need to crawl before we walk. I recommend that you get a few different sizes...maybe some 26, 28, & 30awg.

What's AWG? American Wire Gauge, just the easiest way to make sure we're all on the same page. Wire isn't expensive, which is good, because we're going to mess up a lot when we start, and it's going to get tossed in the trash. I know, I don't like to be wasteful either, but trust me. It's not worth trying to salvage a few inches of Kanthal.

Assorted precision screwdrivers, Allen keys, hex wrenches

Whatever came with your atomizers, but not the little blue screwdrivers. Seriously. No. Little. Blue. Screwdrivers. If you don't have one, pick up a set of precision drivers from Amazon or your local hardware store. I like this particular style, for reasons we will get into in a later session. But get whatever works for you, and in the beginning, they will double as your coil wrapping rods.

Flush Cutters

These ones. Don't go cheap on these. Don't think that a small set of diagonal snips will work in their place. [well, they will. in the beginning. but your life will be so much easier if you just get a good pair of flush cutters.] Take care of these, don't use them on things you shouldn't, don't try and cut things that are too hard for them, whatever else your mom would say about taking care of your toys. You don't want to start getting nicks and chips on the cutting edges, because then we've defeated the entire purpose of buying flush cutters. I recommend Amazon, or a hobby store. Haven't seen good ones at the local big boxes, but maybe your's stock them, so feel free to take a look.

Pliers, and maybe some tweezers.


Just a pair of small pliers, I have some I prefer more than others, but any of these ones will work. As you build more, you will be able to determine what type work best for you, or work best for a particular build. Tweezers...they come in handy. Seriously handy. Ceramic ones are amazing, but not strictly needed. I'd hate for you to get a pair and realize that building coils isn't for you, because unlike everything else on this list, they aren't very useful for much else. If you can get a pair of ceramic tipped tweezers for a good price, get them. If you're not sure that building will be your thing, just use whatever ones you have around, and make the decision later. I built for years without ceramic tips, and still use regular metal tweezers on some builds.

Wicking Material


Lastly, wicking material. Going to be totally honest here, and I am prepared for the pitchforks and torches, but I don't like cotton. Yeah, I said it. Don't like cotton balls, don't like organic cotton strips, not even a huge fan of organic Japanese cotton pads. I like rayon. CelluCotton. I recommend rayon to everyone. I have my views and opinions, and you have yours. I know that not everyone is a fan, so I will be using multiple materials for wicks, just so everyone is equally disappointed as we go. Anyhow, you will need some wick.

Grab whatever you prefer, and we'll make it work.

There are other assorted odds and ends that i use to make things easier, but these are the core items to begin the assembly of your build kit. As we go, we'll take a look at them, as we begin to move past basic coils and set-ups into the more advanced and exotic. We will also get into some coil theory, battery safety, basic engineering, and assorted shenanigans. 

Suggestions? Complaints? General Calamity? Use the comment section below, and meet me back here in February with your supplies and the RBA deck from the tank of your choice!

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