Coil building technical know how

Five Awesome Coil Builds for Cloud-Chasing Vapers

Many vapers are on a constant quest for the biggest clouds. Putting out huge amounts of vapor isn’t important to everybody, but whether you’re hoping to enter a cloud competition or you just want a more substantial amount of vapor, there are many reasons for wanting to boost your vapor production.

We’ve covered some general tips before, but the rabbit hole gets a lot deeper than that. If you build your own coils, you might be wondering what the best coils for cloud chasing are. Although opinions differ on the subject, here are some general rules and some specific coils you can use to boost your vapor production and a five awesome coils to get you started.

General Rules for Cloud-Chasing Coil Builds

There are so many different types of coils used by vapers, it’s impossible to cover all of them in a short post like this one. We’ll go over some notable cloud-chasing coils, but it’s useful to think more generally about the factors that make a coil good for cloud-chasing. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • Build lower-resistance coils. The simplest rule is that the lower your resistance, the quicker your coils will heat up and the better the clouds will be. This means using thicker (lower-AWG number) wire is the best approach for cloud-chasing.
  • Maximize the coil’s surface area. The more of your coil making contact with the wick, the more vapor is produced. This means that coils with a bigger surface area are generally superior to ones with a smaller surface area. Larger inner diameters and intricate coils made from multiple wire strands make a big difference.
  • Two coils are better than one. As well as increasing the surface area, making dual coils instead of a single one reduces you resistance. Both of these factors notably boost vapor production from your coil.
  • Position your coils centrally: For the best performance in terms of wicking and airflow, it’s best to keep your coils central, right in front of the positive post. This is especially important for ensuring there’s an even amount of wick on each side of the coil.
  • Look after your coils. Coils pick up gunk and wear down over time. As well as changing your wicks regularly (ideally whenever you change flavor), cleaning residue from your coil regularly (when it’s room temperature, of course) and making new coils regularly keeps yours performing their best.

PSA: Battery Safety for Rebuilders

When you’re making your own coils, it’s absolutely essential to understand the basics of battery safety. We’ve covered this separately, but the short version is that you need to use a high amp limit, high-quality battery and make sure that your coil won’t be drawing more current than it can supply.

The best tool for this is Steam Engine’s Battery Drain Calculator. Just select “Regulated” for VV/VW mods, enter your atomizer’s resistance, the power (or voltage) you want to run at and then look for your battery from the list of battery presets.

The “Amp Limit” box at the bottom of the middle-right column tells you the battery’s amp limit and the percentage “headroom” (i.e. how far you are from the maximum safe capacity). Note that the headroom decreases as your battery runs out – it’s best to set the voltage at the top of the column to 2.9 V so you know you’ll still be OK when your battery is nearly dead.

Five Awesome Cloud-Chasing Coil Builds

1 – Clapton Coils 

Clapton coils get their name from the fact that they look like guitar strings (and the equally important fact that Eric Clapton is a legend). There is a central core of thicker wire with a thinner gauge one coiled around it. This increases the surface area of the coil, which in turn makes a huge difference for both vapor production and flavor. The biggest downside is that Clapton coils tend to have a longer “ramp up” time – so it takes longer for them to get up to vaping temperature.

You can make your own Clapton coils, but it’s pretty labor-intensive in comparison to other types of coil. However, ready-made Clapton coils are widely-available, and you can also buy Clapton wire in spools, just like you’d buy ordinary kanthal.

When it comes to making your coil, you just wrap it as you ordinarily would and connect up to your RDA. You can make it a contact coil if you like, but keeping each wrap evenly spaced generally leads to more consistent performance.

2 – Parallel Coils

Parallel coils are like dual coils, except you wrap the two strands side by side and at the same time. The end result looks like an ordinary coil at first glance, but really it’s two individual coils that are interlocked. This again increases your coil’s surface area and it also reduces the resistance, offering huge benefits to vapor production. These coils also tend to ramp up quite quickly, avoiding the main downside to Clapton coils.

Wrapping a parallel coil is pretty easy too. Cut a length of kanthal that’s twice as long as you’d usually use for one coil. Generally, it’s easier to just cut off more than you need, since kanthal is cheap anyway. Now bend the wire in half, using pliers to properly form the bend so the halves run parallel to one another.

All you have to do now is wrap your coil like you usually would. With parallel coils, making them contact coils (so each successive wrap touches the last one) really improves performance and is recommended. It’s important to make sure your wires don’t cross during the process, though, because this can lead to issues with shorts and hot spots.

And it goes without saying that if you want even more vapor, you can make it a dual parallel coil.

3 – Twisted Coils

Twisted coils are similar to Clapton coils, but two equal-gauge wires are twisted together to be used rather than one thinner wire being wrapped around a thicker one. As you may expect by now, the increased coil surface area this leads to provides a big boost to vapor production.

Making a twisted coil is quite simple, too. Start off by cutting a length of kanthal – around three to four times as much as you’d use for one coil is a good rule of thumb. Now bend the coil back on itself so the two ends meet, but unlike with the parallel coil you don’t need to worry about making a really neat bend.

Now manually twist the two ends of the wire together, making five or so turns and leaving a little wire spare at the ends. To finish the job, you’ll need a drill and a paperclip. First, straighten out the paperclip and bend it into a U-shaped hook, inserting this into the chuck of the drill and tightening it down.

Take your kanthal (which by now should basically be a loop, twisted together at one end) and grip the twisted end firmly with a pair of pliers. Now insert your paperclip “hook” through the loop at the other end, and hold it so the kanthal straightens out into two near parallel strands. Fire the drill to start twisting up the wire. You can start slowly, making sure you keep a grip on the other end with your pliers. Keep going until it’s tightly wound, but not so much that it buckles and starts to curl up on itself.

When you have your twisted wire, you can use it in pretty much any type of build, just like ordinary kanthal.  

Stage heating coil

4 – Staged Heating Coils

Staged heating coils are all about rectifying the main downside to more complicated coil designs. For example, Clapton coils offer excellent vapor production and flavor but take a long time to “ramp up.” This is a downside in comparison to simpler coils when it comes to minimizing the time between you hitting the fire button and blowing out an impressive cloud. But staged heating coils change all that.

By incorporating a simple wire design alongside something like a Clapton coil, you produce a coil where different parts reach vaping temperature at different times. So in practice, the coil starts producing vapor quite quickly, but then the amount really picks up a couple of seconds into your draw.

Making a simple staged heating coil is a lot like making a parallel coil. Get one strand of Clapton wire – either bought pre-made or made yourself – and one strand of ordinary, low-AWG kanthal and hold them side by side, so they run parallel to one another. Now you wrap the coil like you would for a parallel coil, keeping the two strands together, ensuring they don’t overlap and making sure each successive turn stays close to the previous one.

When you’re done, you’ll have something like a parallel contact coil, but with alternating Clapton coil wraps and ordinary kanthal wraps. Now you can attach it, wick it up and you’re ready to vape. After you’ve connected it, you can fire your mod to see the staged heating in action: first the kanthal heats up, then shortly afterwards the chunky Clapton wire follows.

vaping staple coil

5 – The Staple Coil

Staple coils are a lot like Clapton coils in structure, but with some crucial differences. It’s the same basic concept, but with the outer wire wrapped around several stacked pieces of ribbon kanthal. The flat edges of the ribbon kanthal makes the outer wrapping look more like a series of staples, hence the coil’s name. The result is a high surface area coil that is generally recommended for flavor, but that also offers massive vapor production too.

Making a staple coil is a little labor-intensive, but definitely worth it provided you have a drill and a bit of patience. There’s a detailed how to video here, but the basic steps are simple enough to describe.

You’ll need several pieces of ribbon kanthal (anything from 5 to 10 is good), cut to an appropriate length for your coil (as always, we’d recommend using too much rather than risking not having enough). Stack these on top of each other neatly. It helps to get them lined up a little bit down from the tips and then pinch them between your index finger and thumb before running your hand down the length of the strands. Cut some strips of tape and wrap them around the ends to keep everything together.

Now you have some stacked kanthal ribbon, you’re ready to wrap the ordinary kanthal around the outside. A spool of kanthal is ideal for this, but if you don’t have one, make sure you give yourself plenty of wire to work with.

Start the process off by hand – wrap the kanthal from where the tape holds the ribbons down onto the main section of the stack. You don’t need to be precise here at all: just make sure there are a few wraps around your tape and a couple around the start of the exposed stack of ribbon. The main length of your kanthal should now be ready to wrap around the ribbon.

Grip the end of the stack of ribbon kanthal (the same side you started wrapping the kanthal around) in a drill chuck. Make sure it’s tight but no need to go too far with it – just make it strong enough so it can withstand a little tug without losing its form.

The remainder of the process is essentially the same as making Clapton wire: fire the drill slowly at first, gripping the end of the kanthal (or better yet, holding a spool by inserting a screwdriver through the center) and guiding the wire so that each wrap is as close to the last one as possible. You can always push the wraps together by hand if they aren’t snug enough after your first pass.

When you reach the end, you’re done with the wire-making process. Just snip both of the ends off (including the first few wraps you did by hand) and then you’re good to make a coil with it as you ordinarily would.  

You’re Just Getting Started…

Although this list has introduced you to some ambitious builds that can boost your vapor production, there are so many different types of coil and so many approaches to improving your vapor production that this just scratches the surface. With these five coils – as well as the next logical steps like dual parallel coils or dual staged heating coils – and a high-wattage mod, you’ll be able to blow clouds with the rest of them. But the truth is, this is probably just the start of your journey. There is so much more to explore for a vaper looking for better performance and bigger clouds.  


Vaping360: An easy guide for learning the basics of vape wires

Olympia Vapor Works: Cloud Chasing Coil Builds – Part One and Part Two

Guide to Vaping: Top 5 Coils That Help Produce More Vapor

Aspen Valley Vapes: 4 Things to Keep in Mind When Building a Coil to Get Bigger Clouds

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