Getting Started: Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers

IGO-LSo you’ve decided that you want to stop spending money on disposable dripping atomizers, or maybe you’ve decided to jump in with both feet and go straight to Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers like I did. Either way, if you’re starting at the same point I was, you are frozen with indecision about which hardware to buy and where to start.

After several days of research I decided to start simple, with the IGO-L. The IGO-L comes in several variants, none of which I’ve seen come with a prebuilt coil (more on RDA hardware momentarily). So you’re going to need to learn to build coils, or pay for prebuilts (I’d rather learn to do it myself and save money and time thank you very much). So what else do we need?

A note about the vendor recommendations in this post:  I recommend Steam Monkey for anything RBA/RDA related because Lance (the owner) is very passionate about doing rebuildables right, and it shows in the way he sells his gear. If the unit came from the factory with a baggie of goodies, he will include it with your order (not all vendors do). Lance keeps his prices on rebuildables low, and that is always a good thing.
If you are just getting into rebuildables, he offers something called a Monkey Can for like $3 that has a sample of different wick and wire that he sells, and it is top shelf stuff. I highly recommend that you pick one or two up to get a feel for what wick and gauge of wire you like.
I am not affiliated with Steam Monkey or Lance in any way other than as a customer and an admirer of the knowledge that Lance brings to the vaping community.

Ancillary Gear

Some people will tell you that if you have an APV that will read ohms, you don’t need a multimeter. I’m not one of them. There are many reasons to have a multimeter, and I firmly believe that if you are rebuilding atomizers (be it RDA/RBAs or Protank heads), you need a multimeter. Be careful when buying cheap meters at places like Harbor Freight, some of them will not read less than 10 ohms. For atomizers the meter needs to read at least from 0-10 ohms, to at least one decimal place.

You’ll need a small screwdriver (usually a philips head, though you may get an RDA that requires a flat head or hex keys, so make sure of what the post screws require before you buy something).

You’ll need something to cut the wick and wire with. I’ve seen people use nail clippers, but I prefer cross cut snips.

See this post for examples of the above.

RDA Hardware

This is the fun part – what RDA to get? There are literally dozens if not hundreds of options here, but since this post is target at beginners, I’m going to stick to entry level suggestions.

As I mentioned earlier the most commonly recommended RDA I see is the IGO-L. It is what I started with, and is not a bad choice (I actually bought a second one of these). They run from $12 – about $20 depending on vendor. You can find it here, among other places.

IGO-L - click to enlarge

IGO-L – click to enlarge

The IGO-L comes different ways from different vendors. From the factory they come in a Youde branded cardboard box with a little baggie of spare parts, some wick and some wire. I could care less about the wick and wire because they are cheap crap, but the spare post head screw and o-rings are something that I would really like to have. If you get it from the vendor I linked it will come with this baggie.

The only thing that I don’t care for with it IGO-L is that it does not have post holes. Post holes make attaching a coil much easier. Not that the IGO-L is difficult to use, it is not. I just would like to see post holes in it.

If I were starting with dripping today, I would get an IGO-W.

IGO-W - click to enlarge

IGO-W – click to enlarge

Not only does the IGO-W have post holes, it has three posts. Which means that if you choose you can easily build a dual coil setup (it makes quad coil building super easy too if you get into it that far). The IGO-W sells for anywhere between $14 and $24 depending on seller and options. You can find it here, among other places.

There are plenty of other options, both cheaper and more expensive, but I feel that you really can’t go wrong with either of these units.

You’ll also need a standard 510 drip tip, in whatever shape, color, and material you desire. You can spend as little as $1.50 on them to as much as $20 or more.

Wick

ekowool-silica

People use all kinds of things for wick, but silica cord is by far the most common. Silica comes in a variety of diameters, measured in millimeters (mm). I personally prefer 2 – 2.5mm Ekowool (a type of silica cord). Ekowool is quite expensive compared to most other silica cord, but in my experience it is totally worth the extra cost. If you pick up a Monkey Can you get a 6″ length of 2mm Ekowool, which is enough for 2-4 wicks depending on how you build them.

This should be enough to get you started, and given that coils on RDAs tend to last for weeks, you should have ample time to decide what you want and order more.

Wire

KANTHAL

Resistance wire is used to make coils. Usually either NiChrome or Kanthal wire is used for coil building. I prefer Kanthal A-1 for a host of reasons. Wire is sold measured in gauge (an AWG measurement for the diameter of a wire’s cross section, expressed as 28g or 28awg for 28 gauge wire). Larger numbers in resistance wire mean the size of the wire is actually smaller, so 28g Kanthal is physically larger wire than 32g.

Cost of resistance wire is going to vary depending on vendor, material and wire gauge. If you buy a Monkey Can you get several gauges of Kanthal to try, and see which you prefer on your RDA. Keeping in mind that this post is targeted at beginners, I really think you should start with a Monkey Can (preferably two or three, as you are going to screw up on the first coil or two). If you want to buy more wire or different wire, just keep in mind that you will need enough to get coil building down.

Different gauge resistance wire is going to give you different resistances. Here is a chart for resistance of different gauges of popular resistance wire:

Resistance in Ohms Per Inch (Ω/in):

 Kanthal Grade----- A-1 ------  A -------- D ----- Nichrome 60 -------- Nichrome 80
 30 awg (Ω/in)----- 0.7 ------ 0.7 ------ 0.7 -------- 0.6 -------- -------- 0.5
 31 awg (Ω/in)----- 0.9 ------ 0.9 ------ 0.8
 32 awg (Ω/in)----- 1.2 ------ 1.1 ------ 1.1 -------- 0.9 -------- -------- 0.9
 33 awg (Ω/in)----- 1.4 ------ 1.4 ------ 1.3
 34 awg (Ω/in)----- 1.8 ------ 1.8 ------ 1.7 -------- 1.4 -------- -------- 1.4
 35 awg (Ω/in)----- 2.3 ------ 2.2 ------ 2.1
 36 awg (Ω/in)----- 2.9 ------ 2.8 ------ 2.7 -------- 2.3 -------- -------- 2.1

Personally I find anything less than 32g to be unusable, and anything more than 28g to be unwieldy.

In the next Getting Started post I’ll show you how to build your first coil, and talk about different kinds of coils that are widely used in vaping. If you’re impatient, or prefer video there are hundreds of coil building videos on YouTube, but I recommend this one (coil build starts at 7:54).

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