Don’t stay in the dark like so many other beginner builders vapers and your first coil will be right as rain and ready to fire.
The intent of this article is simple: to introduce you to some of the most common types of vaping wire and discuss their main uses and characteristics. Some wire is used for vaping with wattage, some with temperature control, and one main type we’ll talk about can be used for both.
None of the information should overwhelm you or burden you in technical data. It’s a high-level overview. The focus will be on single strand wire, and only on wires that are commonly used for vaping. Wires like NiFe or Tungsten can be used for vaping purposes, but you’ll be hard pressed to source them, and they don’t actually offer advantages over the wires that are being presented here.
At one point or another, a serious vaper will try a hand at building their own coils – out of economic reasons, engineering prowess, or just pure fun. Coil building falls mostly within the purview of e-liquid vaporizers, as dry herb vaporizers and dab wax pens use a different form of heating element and do not get typically built or rebuilt by their users. It is not unheard of, however, for people to create or build and rebuild their own wax atomizers for many of the same reasons we’ve just listed. When that time comes for you, all you’ll need to do is pull up this post (because you’ve bookmarked it, right?) and you will have everything you need to start in one place: types of vape wires, countless coil builds, how to make your first vape coils, how to wick a coil, and so on. You won’t be tapping in the dark like so many other beginner builders and your first coil will be right as rain and ready to fire.
When vaping first came about, coils were just made out of thin single-strands of metal. Since then, vapers have been coming with up with innovative ways to enhance their vape experience, whether it be through bigger clouds or better flavor. Inevitably, the Clapton coil was born. The word Clapton is often used as an umbrella term for a range of coils comprised of two or more strands. They can be made with various vape wire types and gauges, most often Kanthal, stainless steel, or nichrome.
By and large, multi-strand coils like Claptons are for rebuildables. Some examples include fused Claptons, aliens, staple coils, etc. The original Clapton was also one of the first coils to require an electric drill, which has set the standard for most exotic coil builds to follow. In this guide, we explain what a Clapton coil is, and cover some of the most popular variations of it.
Why Vape Wire Types and Sizes Matter?
Both the type of the wire and the size matter a lot because of three reasons – flavor, vapor production, and ramp-up time. Each wire type (and there are five) will give you a slightly different flavor, as well as present different building challenges and opportunities. Knowing the different types of vape wires will help you find the perfect one that will match your vaping style and preferences.
When talking about vape wire size, vapers are referring to gauge, the actual diameter of the wire. Most popular gauges that vapers use are 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, and 22 – a majority of vape coils, even the most eccentric ones and used in the best vapes, can be built with these.
The important thing to remember here is that bigger the numerical value of the gauge, the thinner the wire. 28ga is larger in diameter than 30ga but smaller than 26ga. Also, an increase in diameter will result in a decrease in resistance, which means that the wire will take longer to heat up.
That heating period is called the ramp-up time and it’s pretty important – do you want to sit on that button for ages or do you want to be able to vape as soon as you press fire? Keep in mind that exotic vape coils (i.e. the ones that use more strands of wire) will have a pretty lengthy ramp-up time, but the same will also be true for low gauge (larger diameter) wires.
Wattage and Temperature Control Vaping – Which Wires Should You Use?
You know by now that there are two different modes of vaping – the wattage mode and the temperature control mode. Of course, it would be great if we could just use any old vape wire type for both of these modes. Unfortunately, that’s not how it goes. Here’s why: some wire types behave differently when at room temperature than when heated. For example, nickel wire can be 0.15-ohm when at room temperature, but the resistance will go way up when you fire it in your mod, and that can cause problems.
Temperature control vaping works differently than pure wattage vaping, using Temperature Coefficient of Resistance (TCR) of a given wire to regulate the current delivered to a coil. To use the same example, nickel behaves predictably with regards to temperature increase – the wire will always be a certain resistance at given temperatures. A TC mod will use that stable increase to determine the resistance as the coil heats up, lowering the current in order to keep the coil at a safe temperature.
Types of Vape Wires
There are five different types of vape wires generally used: Kanthal (FeCrAl), NiChrome, Stainless Steel, Nickel, and Titanium.
As you can tell, only one vape wire is versatile enough to be used in both vaping modes and that’s Stainless Steel. However, how do each one of these fare when it comes to flavor, cloud production, ramp up time, and ease of use? Let’s find out.
Kanthal wire is popular for a reason, and has been for nearly a decade. It’s easy to work with, has good resistance to oxidation, it’s not springy so it holds shape, and it’s cheap and easy to find. Kanthal especially good for single coil builds, which are not extravagant but get the job done when you’re not in the mood for something fancy and time-consuming. Add to that the fact that it holds shape well when rewicking (which means that you can use a Kanthal coil a good long time) and you have a fan-favorite.
Super cheap Easy to find in vape shops and online Holds shape well Easy to work with Works only in wattage mode Variable wattage Easy to work with Holds shape Wide availability Inexpensive
Not for temperature control Some vapers find the flavor is a bit dull Ramp-up time not as fast as some other wires
Another fan-favorite for wattage vaping, NiChrome is an alloy composed of nickel and chromium. If you’re looking for fast ramp-up time, this is the wire you should look into. Other than that, it behaves similar to Kanthal wire – it’s easy to work with (slightly less spring then Kanthal) and holds shape well.
One thing to keep in mind when working with NiChrome is that it has a substantially lower melting point than Kanthal. Excessive dry burns can cause it to catch fire – and NiChrome fire is not something you want burning under your nose. That’s why you should slowly pulse a NiChrome coil at first. Also, some people suffer from a nickel allergy and should avoid using NiChrome wire.
NiChrome is a decent vape wire that experienced vapers use with ease. It’s a bit more difficult to find in local vape shops, but most online sellers will have it in stock. One thing to note – while NiChrome can technically be used in TC mode (and some mods boast that ability), its TCR is so low that even the most advanced chips struggle with it. So, if you read you can TC NiChrome with a specific mode, take that with a few grains of salt, at least for the time being.
Pros Fast ramp-up time Easy to work with Holds shape when rewicking Relatively inexpensive Wattage mode only Cons Lower melting point than Kanthal (careful when dry burning) Contains nickel (allergen) Not all vape shops stock it
Stainless Steel Wire
The only vape wire that can pull a double duty (work in both wattage and TC modes) is the stainless steel wire. It’s perfect for vapers that haven’t made up their mind between TC and wattage mode or fail to check the modes they’re firing in on a regular basis. Stainless steel wire comes in various grades (410, 413, 316, 316L, 430, 304, and so on), which adds to the confusion a bit and makes it seem as if various vapers are either singing praises or talking down one and the same type of wire. Some grades of SS wire contain almost no nickel (SS is an alloy composed of various parts of chromium, nickel, and carbon), which is definitely a pro for people with nickel allergy.
Other positives include the fact that it can be easily dry burned (thanks to its high melting point), it’s relatively easy to work with, and it holds shape well. That said, some SS wire grades are more springy than others. SS 304, 430, and 316 grades are usually recommended, as they do TC very well, despite the fact that they have a relatively low TCR (temp/resistance change that can make it harder for mods to regulate).
Stainless steel offers a faster ramp-up time, similar to that of Kanthal, and it produces a crisp and clean flavor (which, as always, is subjective). One of the bigger downsides of certain SS grades is that they are not readily available in usable gauges.
Pros Easy to work with Holds shape Fast ramp-up time Cleaner flavor Relatively inexpensive TC and wattage compatible Cons Usable gauges difficult to find for some SS grades Higher nickel content in certain grades Some grades a bit more difficult to work with than others
Nickel, also referred to as Ni200 (pure nickel), is the first wire used for temperature control. It has a TCR of 0.006, making it fairly easy for most chips to read and regulate. Ni200 should only ever be used in TC mode because of concerns of overheating and melting. Namely, nickel wire can leach and, at high temperatures (above 600F), can produce graphite, which is why some vapers are concerned about getting graphite lungs (a debilitating condition sometimes seen in people overexposed to graphite, usually pencil factory workers).
That said, most of the bad rep the nickel wire is getting is blown out of proportion. When used in TC vaping, nickel is a perfectly safe wire. It’s biggest downsides are that it’s rather soft, so it’s difficult to work with and that it doesn’t hold shape all that well. Also, people who have a nickel allergy should avoid it.
On the plus side, nickel is relatively easy to find locally and it’s inexpensive. It’s ramp-up time is faster than that of Kanthal and, these days, it’s easy to find tempered nickel wire which is a lot easier to work with (similar to Kanthal A1) and holds shape well. One thing to keep in mind is that some people actually have a nickel allergy and can have a reaction to their coils. If you see any symptoms like a rash or irritated eyes or throat, then you may be allergic to your nickel coil. This is very rare, just something to be aware of.
Fast ramp-up time Fast ramp-up time Easy to find Inexpensive Decent flavor
Nickel content Soft so hard to work with Doesn’t hold shape
The most controversial vape wire on this list is definitely the titanium wire. It’s a scary one because it does, in fact, release titanium dioxide (which is toxic) when heated over 1130F. However, it has a stable TCR and if you have a functioning TC mod, titanium dioxide poisoning is not something you should ever be concerned about. One piece of advice that’s often imparted about using Ti wire is to heat it until it’s shiny and has a thin oxide layer that simply sticks to the wire.
Most vapers using these vape wires report no problems while using them, so the panic surrounding them is definitely blown out of proportion. Titanium oxide is found in many everyday items like makeup and even some foods. It may or may not be hazardous when inhaled according to the research of titanium dioxide in the daily life, but the evidence doesn’t seem to indicate that any in gas form when vaping should cause a considerable problem.
Now that we’ve alleviated your fears, it’s time to move on to Ti wire pros. Titanium is very easy to work with, holds shape really well, and works exquisitely in TC mode. Also, most vapers using it note that it produces great flavor. Another upside to Ti wire is that it’s a lot stronger than Ni200, which allows you to use it longer without it breaking or bending out of shape.
Easy to work with Holds shape well Stronger than Ni200 Clean, crisp flavor Works great in TC mode
Can’t be used in wattage Toxicity concerns Titanium fires difficult to extinguish Hard to find
If you’re looking to blow huge clouds, a good understanding of vape coils will help you tremendously. There are several things that you need to take into consideration if you want to compete as a cloud-chaser:
Airflow – excellent airflow is essential for big clouds. Make sure you don’t over-stuff your coil with cotton because you will choke it. Wire gauge – lower the gauge, thicker the wire – more surface area that vaporizes the juice. 24 gauge wire is way better for cloud-chasing than 30 gauge, but will need a lot more wraps to get it to a low resistance. Inner diameter – 2 mm inner diameter builds won’t cut it for big clouds and you will need to go to at least 3 mm. Bigger inner diameter provides more cotton-to-wire contact and helps vaporize vape juice quicker. Coil positioning – you want your coils to align with your center pin post so that wicking on each side is even and can absorb vape juice quickly.