How to prepare a stainless steel wick and wrap
a coil for a Genesis style rebuildable atomizer
By Erick Potter
Advancements in vaping technology bring many exciting options and improvements. Dedicated vapers will eventually make the switch to a mechanical or voltage regulated device with a rebuildable atomizer. The atomizer is the component responsible for vaporizing e-liquid. Non-rebuildable atomizers are a disposable atomizer/cartridge combination commonly known as a cartomizer or tank. The cartridge retains e-liquid to be drawn up through the wick and then vaporized by a heating element. A wick and coil are assembled into a component called an atomizer. The world of vaping explodes with options when using a mechanical or voltage regulated device with a rebuildable atomizer. Mechanical and voltage regulated devices often are referred to as “mods,” short for modification. Mods are reasonable in price and have the potential to save a considerable amount of money in the long term. Mods also are compatible with cartridge style atomizers. So, why doesn’t everyone get one? Most people start with a cartomizer or tank. These options are great for beginners because they are simple to use and are premanufactured. A device with a rebuildable atomizer requires the user to build an atomizer with a wick and coil. Although challenging at first, building an atomizer is a rewarding experience.
The materials needed to build an atomizer are Kanthal wire and a wick. Wicks are made of many different materials. Material choices for wrapping wicks are based on personal preference and the device being used. Higher quality materials yield better results. Wicks are made from stainless steel mesh, ceramic, organic cotton or Silica. There are advantages and disadvantages to each material. The two common types of Genesis style atomizers are drippers and tanks. Dripper atomizers contain an absorbent fibrous material like cotton, wool or silica. Tank atomizers use a ceramic or stainless steel wick. Ceramic wicks need no preparation but are much more fragile. Many vapers use stainless steel wicks. Stainless steel mesh comes in different thread counts. Optimal thread count for stainless steel wicks are between 300 and 500 threads per square inch (TPI). A tighter mesh weave has more thread per square inch and typically will transmit e-liquid faster. The base recipe of e-liquid also affects the rate of juice transfer. The base recipe changes the viscosity of juice and can be manipulated by changing the ratio of propyl glycerin to vegetable glycerin. Some vapers prefer a thicker juice with more vegetable glycerin and will require a mesh weave with a lower thread count. A wrapped wick is more cost effective, lasts much longer, allows more control, offers higher performance and produces more flavor.
The wick is surrounded by a heating element known as Kanthal wire. Kanthal wire comes in different gauges. When choosing wire, remember that a lower numbered gauge is larger in diameter. Higher gauge wire is thinner and generates less heat during ignition. Thirty-two gauge wire is a good size to start out with. A range of 28-32 gauge wire is acceptable and will determine the overall resistance within the circuit. Wick diameter and number of wraps directly affects the wire length. The length and gauge of wire work in tandem to determine the circuit’s total resistance. The first step in the process is to prepare a stainless steel wick. Many people prefer a wick made from a tight wrapping of stainless steel mesh explained below.
Preparing a stainless steel wick
1. Cut out a small rectangle of stainless steel mesh about ¾ in x 1 in. Finding the correct size will require experimentation depending on personal preference and the device. The wick may be trimmed later if necessary.
Note: Many vapers sterilize the mesh first by gently washing with soap and water.
2. Start the oxidation process by burning the stainless steel mesh with the butane torch. Hold the mesh with tweezers directly into the flame of the butane torch. Torch both sides getting the mesh red hot.
3. Find a blunt tip syringe needle or a small round object like a toothpick or screwdriver. Tightly wrap the stainless steel mesh around the syringe needle. Roll the wick back and forth between your thumbs and forefingers. After the mesh is rolled tightly around the needle it will resemble a tiny straw. Remove the mesh from the object but keep the small round object handy as it will be needed further in the process.
Note: Experiment with how tight the wick is to be rolled. It might end up with a nearly solid center. Optimal wick density or tightness will depend on personal preference, e-liquid recipe and device performance.
4. Hold the rolled wick with tweezers and oxidize again with a torch. Pay close attention to which end of the wick is held by tweezers. This end will have less oxidation and will be in contact with the e-liquid. Some vapers find it unnecessary to oxidize the entire wick, but at least one half needs to be very well oxidized. The stainless steel mesh is great for capturing and delivering e-liquid. However, it does conduct electricity and will cause an electrical short circuit, which is why the oxidation process is so important. Torch the wick until it has achieved a red glow. The result should resemble a dark black straw. If the stainless steel wick is properly oxidized, it will become an insulator, eliminating the chance for a short circuit. This completes the first phase of building the atomizer. Next, the wick will need to be installed and wrapped with Kanthal wire.
Note: Many people will apply some juice to the wick and then burn it off with the torch, allowing a flame that will eventually extinguish. Repeat this process three to five times to ensure that the wick is completely oxidized. Others find this step unnecessary.
Note: It is more time effective to prepare multiple wicks in the same session for future use. Building an atomizer is much easier if the wick is already available.
Wrapping a coil of wire around the stainless steel wick:
After the wick has been prepared from the mesh, it is time to attach it to the device and wrap the coil. With dripper atomizers it may be easiest to wrap the coil before mounting to the device. Devices that use fibrous wicks are known as drippers, because they have no tank and therefore must be saturated with juice manually. To find out more about drippers, simply visit YouTube or search for the many other online resources available.
1. Remove the battery or engage the switch safety lock. Remove the end cap and drip tip assembly. Reinsert the blunt-tip syringe into the center of the wick, so that it can be held in place. The less oxidized end of the wick goes down into the tank. Leave a gap between the bottom of the wick and the base of the tank to eliminate the possibility of a short circuit. A small gap can be achieved by inserting the blunt-tip needle far enough into the wick so that the tip of the needle protrudes a little from the end.
2. The wick will need to be wrapped with Kanthal wire. First, straighten a length of wire. Leave the wire attached to the spool minimizing waste, making it easier to handle. Most often there will be two screws or terminals. The tallest screw is the positive terminal; the screw flush with the tank deck is the negative or ground. Loosen the negative terminal and wrap the loose end of the wire clockwise around the negative terminal, leaving about an inch of loose wire extending away from the terminal. Tighten down the negative terminal by turning the screw clockwise in the direction of the wrapped wire. This is a standard practice when working with electricity. In most cases connections always are tightened in the direction to which they are wrapped around a terminal. However, later in this process that rule will be disregarded when attaching the wire to the positive terminal.
Note: Many vapers oxidize the wire as well. Oxidizing sterilizes the wire and removes spring tension, making it easier to wrap.
3. After the wire is attached to the negative terminal, wiggle the loose end up and down until the excess piece breaks free. Eliminate any slack in the wire between the negative terminal and spool. Wrap the wire clockwise around the base of the wick. Count three to five wraps as the wire spirals up the length of the wick until the height of the final wrap is even with the height of the positive terminal. “Rat,” our production manager at Juicy Vapor, LLC explains the desired count of wraps: “When you’re using a Genesis style device, if you want a hotter vape take off a wrap. If you want a cooler vape, add a wrap.”
4. Pull the wire tight. The wick should lean slightly toward the terminal without coming into contact. Loosen the positive terminal and wrap the wire counterclockwise around the terminal, so that the wire is pinched between the top of the washer and the base of the screw head. Because the positive terminal is wrapped counterclockwise, it is necessary to securely hold the wire in place while tightening the positive terminal. There will be a natural tendency for the wire to loosen. Try to eliminate slack as much as possible. Wiggle the spool up and down until the wire weakens and breaks free.
5. Use tweezers and adjust the wrapped wire so that the coils run parallel and are evenly spaced. Electricity is temperamental and requires a certain degree of accuracy and consistency. Any imperfections in the coil and wick can create hot spots in the wire, which affect the lifespan and performance of the wick. Try to create a nice, clean, uniform, orderly wrap for best results.
6. Fill the device with e-liquid through the fill hole. The syringe comes in very handy for filling and extracting e-liquid, but some e-liquid bottles come with dropper tips that are small enough to fill the hole. Often there will be a rubber plug for the fill hole that will need to be removed in order to fill the tank.
7. Leave the end cap and drip tip assembly off of the device. Disarm the switch safety lock or re-insert the battery. Ignite the device watching the coils for hot spots. If hot spots should exist, which they most likely will, adjust the coil spacing with tweezers. Adjust until the coils heat up evenly and so that the coils start glowing red from the center out toward the end coils. If properly adjusted, the entire coil should achieve a bright red glow almost immediately. Attach the end cap, so that the air hole is lined up with the wick.
Vaping quickly has become a favored hobby for many. There is no system that captures the imaginative desires of a true hobbyist like a mechanical or voltage regulated device with a rebuildable atomizer. The combinations of equipment and accessories are endless. Building an atomizer can be frustrating, and many things may go wrong. Don’t be discouraged; the benefits far outweigh the challenges. There are many ways to prepare and wrap a wick. The method above is known by many as the “Jack Frost” method. Experiment with different methods and materials. The information offered in this article may be considered by advanced vapers to be simply incorrect. Others would argue that this definitely is a proper method. The truth is, the correct way to set up a device is what works best for you! A poorly setup device will result in hotspots and short circuits. This article is intended to provide a springboard for the vaper who is ready for the next step into the exciting world of vaping. The information in this article was acquired through research, expert advice and experimentation. While the vaping industry has made significant advancements in recent years, development is continual and user driven. Learn what works best for you, and help your fellow vapers by sharing your own innovations.