Most vapers start on cig-a-likes or Ego-style e-cigs like this:
After a while though, you may be after more from your device. Maybe it's just not as satisfying as you think it should be, or maybe you were just intrigued by all the massive clouds you see on your Facebook wall. However you come across them, you eventually discover rebuildable atomizers and wonder if you should take the leap.
What is a rebuildable atomizer?
A rebuildable atomizer is simply an atomizer that requires the coils and wick to be made by hand instead of using replacement coil assemblies. They are favoured by many because of their increased flavour and vapour production. Additionally, rebuildables tend to be far more efficient at vapourising e-liquid, and as a result, many find they can significantly lower their nicotine levels by using a rebuildable.
There are two main kinds of rebuildable atomizer:
1. Rebuildable tank atomizers (RTAs)
2. Rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDAs)
For the purposes of this blog post I will discuss the most common types of RTA and RDA and not go into some of the more esoteric designs.
Rebuildable tank atomizers (RTAs)
RTAs generally consist of a rebuilding deck with two posts and juice channels, a "chimney" section for the atomized vapour, surrounded by a tank section to hold the e-liquid.
Most RTAs on the market today are the Kayfun-style design. When you fill the tank section, you suck on the atomizer without firing to create air pressure inside the tank. Then when you fire your coil and draw on the atomizer, the change in air pressure inside the chimney section draws e-liquid up the juice channels onto the wick.
The main advantage of an RTA is the ability to hold a large amount of juice without having to drip directly onto the wick every couple of puffs. The disadvantages are in airflow - many of them are a tight draw, and if they are not wicked correctly flooding and gurgling can happen.
Rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDAs)
RDAs also consist of a rebuilding deck with posts, but instead of juice channels and a chimney section, RDAs may have a small juice well to hold small amounts of liquid, or a flat deck with no juice reservoir. The wicks go through the coil and rest on the base of the juice well or flat deck, and the air is drawn either through holes in the sides of the cap or in the deck underneath the coils for bottom-flow juice well designs.
RDAs also vary in the number of posts. Some have a simple two-post setup, others have three posts, with a centre post or block and two posts on either side. Some have four or more posts, but we won't go into those here.
RDAs by far produce the best flavour and vapour, however the requirement to drip liquid onto the wick at regular intervals puts some people off.
What are the benefits of switching to a rebuildable atomizer?
Sub-ohming and custom resistance
Of course these days we have beasts like the Aspire Atlantis or the Kanger Subtank, but before they came onto the scene, going rebuildable was the only way to sub-ohm. Even now with these sub-ohm clearomizer options, going rebuildable gives you a lot more flexibility in choosing your own coil resistance. If 0.5 is not hot enough for you but 0.2 is still a bit too much, you can build yourself a nice halfway 0.35ohm coil and vape in your sweet spot.
Rebuildables are undoubtedly the kings of flavour. Being able to choose your own wicking material, adjust your airflow and customise your resistance gives you endless possibilities in searching for the ever-imminent perfect vape. As mentioned above, RDAs have the upper hand in the flavour department, but any rebuildable will give you a better flavour than your little Ego silica wick clearomizers.
If you're an aspiring cloud chaser, rebuildables are the way to go. Again RDAs have the unfair advantage because of the smaller distance the vapour has to travel from coil to tip, but any rebuildable option will be better than Egos for the old cumulonimbi production.
Buying replacement coils regularly can have an impact on your wallet, albeit not the same as buying five packets of cancer sticks a week. But rebuilding supplies give you a lot more mileage, and are cheap. One spool of resistance wire and one packet of organic cotton sheets can last you for months on end and cost less than $10!
What will I need before switching to rebuildables?
The right tools
Once you've added your new RTA or RDA to your shopping cart, the next items you need to add are:
1. Resistance wire. If you're new to the game, choose 28 gauge Kanthal. Nickel wire should only be used by experienced rebuilders with strong knowledge of Ohm's law. You can use other gauges of Kanthal once you've gotten coil building down pat.
2. Wicking material. You are spoiled for choice here, but the most common choice is cotton, be it in sheets or balls. Silica wicks are also available and can be used if you're not confident working with cotton.
3. Small pair of pliers or tinsnips. You will need these to cut your lengths of resistance wire and trim the legs of your coils, so they need to be small. You can also use nail clippers if you so desire.
4. Tweezers. These are used for squeezing your coils, and should be ceramic-tipped if possible. For more information on this please see our blog post on building your first coil.
5. Scissors. These are used for cutting and trimming your lengths of wicking material.
6. Ohms meter/resistance tester. This is a small outboard unit used to check the resistance of your coils prior to installing onto your mod. If you are using a regulated mod it is optional but still recommended.
7. Coil jig. This is used for wrapping your coils, although you can use a drill bit, small screwdriver or large gauge syringe needle if necessary.
Your new rebuildable should include a small screwdriver or Allen key for the posts, and if you're lucky some spare screws and o-rings.
The right knowledge
You will need to learn a few new skills:
1. Coil building. As mentioned above we have a blog post about this, but you can learn off YouTube or a generous vaping friend or relative.
2. Wicking. If using cotton, you will need to learn how to create wicks of the right thickness. Again we have a blog post about this. (How good are we?)
3. Ohm's law and handling electricity. It will now be up to you to determine the right power levels for the right resistance. A regulated mod makes this easier, but it is vital that you understand the principals to ensure you don't blow up your mod and for your own personal safety. And yes, you guessed it, we have a blog post about this.
Are rebuildables right for me?
As with everything in the vaping world, whether or not you use a rebuildable is entirely a matter of personal preference.
You should seriously consider switching to rebuildables if:
- Your current setup isn't satisfying you
- The only way to ward off your cravings is through chain-vaping
- You want better flavour
- You want to blow massive clouds
- You want to switch to a lower nicotine e-liquid
- You are tired of fighting peer-pressure from your more experienced vaping friends and want to feel the sweet relief of giving in
Rebuildables may not be right for you if:
- Your cig-a-like or Ego is all you need to quit smoking
- You're not good at doing small fiddly things with your hands
- You prefer the convenience of tanks and pre-made coil assemblies
- You have no desire to sub-ohm or cloud chase
- You are sensitive to high levels of nicotine
- You're not interested in larger sized setups or being teased by your co-workers about sucking on something that looks like a dictaphone
To sum it all up though, I think I speak on behalf of all rebuilders when I say:
Give it a go!
I have never once regretted the switch. Rebuilding my own atomizers is a much-loved hobby and I have learned a lot from doing it. Plus (nerd alert) it makes me feel more "connected" and "invested" in my vaping journey. Plus, now I'm hooked on RDAs, nothing else quite stacks up.
If you're toying with the idea but are still not 100% convinced, I highly recommend buying a simple two-post RDA (and a regulated mod if you don't already have one) and giving it a go. You may just find the vaping experience you've been looking for!