Have you ever wondered why just about every tattoo shop you go to is using different tattoo machines?
Shouldn’t tattooing be like being a rockstar? You just pick up a Gibson Les Paul like everyone else and start shredding. Sadly, tattooing isn’t that simple. Let’s look at what makes a tattoo machine and how the minute differences in parts effect its overall function.
Tattoo Power supplies come in many shapes and sizes. Almost any tattoo machine will run on a standard tabletop DC power supply. Power supplies can have quite a range in price, varying between $40-$400.
The exact specifications of the power supply is pretty much up to the tattooist. All you need is an uninterrupted supply of DC voltage. Some of the more expensive power supplies have extra functions like digital readouts that can measure volts, Hz, duty cycle, follow through and more.
When you increase the power on your power supply the needles don’t go up and down any faster, the magnetic field is increased, which draws the needle down harder and allows the skin to be punctured more easily. This is what appears to make the ink go in faster.
Coils create a magnetic field that move the armature bar. Coils are usually rated by the number of wraps or layers of wire around the core. Typically tattoo machines use three different types of coils. 8, 10, and 12 wrap.
The 8 wrap coil is used mostly when doing an outline with a 1,3,4, and a 5 needle outliner. It is not recommend to use an 8 wrap coil outliner machine when doing larger outline work such as when a 8 or 14 needle outline is called for. You would have to increase the voltage by turning the power supply up, which would in effect increase amperage. When you increase amperage more power is being used and an 8 wrap coil is to small to dissipate the heat. This condition would make the tattoo machine run hotter and possibly cause the machine timing to break up, causing an uneven outline.When you are going to use a 8 or 14 needle outliner, I would recommend using a 10 wrap coil tattoo machine.
The aesthetic appearance of a tattoo machine can vary widely. When selecting or building a machine, care must be taken in selecting the proper materials. 99.9% of all tattoo machines have a frame made of solid metal. The metal frame not only provides structural support for the machine, but conducts the electric current needed.
Some tattoo machines use a bulky frame, others a very minimal and light design. The choice is really up to you and your personal style.
Springs hold down the armature bar at both ends to move the needle when the magnetic filed is cycled off. Different spring lengths, size, and weights are all considerations when choosing your springs.
Your spring choice, just like every other aspect of your tattoo machine, will be unique to your situation and design. Changing springs will effect the performance of the armature bar which drives your needles. Finding the perfect springs can be a long process of trial and error.
There is a capacitor placed parallel with the coils. The purpose for the capacitor is to both cut down the spark generated by the magnetic field turning on and off, but to balance the frequency of the circuit. What does that mean and how does it work? I’m not a physics professor so if you want to learn more about the intricacies of a tank circuit, look here.
To keep it simple you must know that changing the capacitor value will change the performance of the tattoo machine. If you are keeping your voltage at a constant, changing the value of the capacitor will cause the tattoo machine to run faster if you decrease the uf value of the capacitor and slower if you increase the uf values of the capacitor.
Needles are the end of the line when it comes to a tattoo machine. A tattoo needle is actually a group of needles soldered to a needle bar, together in a pattern. Round patterns are used for outlining while shaders are usually arranged in straight lines. The exact number and configuration of needles is dependent on what the tattooist is trying to accomplish.
Some tattooist make their own needles while others prefer to buy manufactured needles from tattoo supply companies. The choice is yours.
What’s The Bottom Line?
A good tattoo machine should be well balanced and tuned to the persons need and skill. Each machine will run different than another tattooist machine. With a well balanced machine you should have the tool you need to improve your skills.
Handmade tattoo machines are usually of superior quality than production line machines since the craftsmanship and attention to detail is much better.