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Building a Tattoo machine from scratch

Discussion in 'Channel Zero' started by KaBar2, Apr 11, 2004.

  1. KaBar2

    KaBar2 Senior Member

    Joined: Jun 27, 2003 Messages: 2,126 Likes Received: 64
    Lately I've been getting interested in building a tattoo machine from scratch. Similar to the way I got interested in building banjos from scavenged, dumpster-dived materials, I'm getting interested in building tattoo machines the same way.

    Are there any experienced tattooists in 12 oz.? (Gotta be some--you guys sport more ink than DC Comics.) I'm interested in a book or a manual about tattooing. Anybody have a good source for parts? Plans? Anybody know of a website or message board or newsgroup for people who build tattoo machines?

    I already have catalogs from Spaulding & Rogers Manufacturing (they sell parts, machines, supplies, etc. for tattooing) but I'm looking for the low-end, Do-It-Yourself thing.

    I want to wrap my own 10-wrap coils, cut out and punch my own springs, do my own wiring, solder my own needles on my own needle bars. Do you have information? Help me get knowledgeable about the business end of tattooing!

    Save the warnings about infections---I'm an RN, I know all about infection control. My first purchase will be a good, small autoclave capable of 250 degrees at 20 PSI for an hour. A pressure cooker with a gauge would probably do the trick, but the tattoo industry says otherwise.

    One of my multi-colored biker buddies cheerfully volunteered to let me give him tats for free for the practice. I'm working on flash.
  2. When

    When 12oz Loyalist

    Joined: May 4, 2000 Messages: 10,294 Likes Received: 3
    you crazy old bastard
    i think im going to end up like you when i get older
    i can never stick to just one project

    if i remember correctly these are your current interests/projects
    - dumpster banjo
    -homemade trike
    - diy tattoo machine

    i think i forgot one but cant think of it
  3. vinyl junkie

    vinyl junkie Elite Member

    Joined: Jan 17, 2002 Messages: 4,725 Likes Received: 0
    well there's "tattooing A to Z" by huck spaulding... it's a little out of date, and a little cheezy, but it should be good enough for doing home work...
    there's not really much someone could tell you, over the internet, as far as the actual technique goes... it's all about practice... (by the way, a thawed chicken makes a decent practice canvas)
    as far as building the machine, cheers to you... i thought you were talking about building a tape player machine... but wrapping yer own coils and shit... damn...
    wrapping coils, cutting springs, learning geometry, etc. isn't too hard (takes skill, yes, but eventually it can be done) but building the frame is a little trickier... you really need to be able to do casting or milling to get a decent frame...
    but best of luck to you...
  4. seeking

    seeking Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 25, 2000 Messages: 32,277 Likes Received: 235
    the guy who does all my work makes his own machines. not that that fact is going to help us here, but it is fact none the less.

    probably stuff you already know.

    if you dig around through the 3 different 'issues' you can find diagrams of the machines, and all the different parts labeled.

    you might want to head down to some shops and talk to some guys, too. tattoo folks are kind of weird and inclusive, but if you're sincere and seem a little nuts, usually they'll be into it. they could probably point you towards secret books or something that might help. maybe even have a shitty old machine they would sell you for cheap, just so you could take it apart and fiddle around.

    lastly, like vinyl said, dethawed chicken works, so does tattooing on grapefruit.

    good luck.
  5. Kr430n5_666

    Kr430n5_666 Banned

    Joined: Oct 6, 2004 Messages: 19,229 Likes Received: 30
  6. KaBar2

    KaBar2 Senior Member

    Joined: Jun 27, 2003 Messages: 2,126 Likes Received: 64

    "Machinegun Magazine" is GREAT! Exactly what I was looking for, only it's online.

    Anybody know of any BOOKS on the subject, or have an old copy of "Tattooing:A-to-Z" by Huck Spaulding that they want to sell?

    Thanks very much. Keep those suggestions coming.

    Mayhem, indeed. LOL. "A hundred bucks an hour," that's what I say.

    And then there's HIV, HepB, HepC, etc., etc.
  7. 26SidedCube

    26SidedCube Veteran Member

    Joined: Mar 18, 2003 Messages: 6,590 Likes Received: 10
    A friend did tattoo interning for a year, the only
    tip I can remember from him aside from chicken
    and grapefruit like these guys mentions is for
    adjusting to the awkward weight of the gun/pen.
    They told him to tape a few AA batteries to the
    top of a pencil or pen for the sake of simulating
    the fucked up balance you'll be contending with.

    that's all I've got.
  8. Zack Morris

    Zack Morris Veteran Member

    Joined: Jun 23, 2001 Messages: 9,728 Likes Received: 4
    I would check amazon.com and ebay and alike places for a cheap copy of tattooing from a-z...I know its not a hard book to find and with a little luck you should be able to find it used and reletively cheap.

    There used to be a guy in my neighborhood that had a hobby of building home made tattoo guns and giving himself and his friends really really bad bugs bunny and daffy duck tattooes. I was talking to him about it one day and he said that for a motor he was able to modify the tape drive out of an old answering machine for one and for another one he used the motor out of an electric shaver.

    These just sounded very crude to me and I would let the guy anywhere near me with a needle plus I am sure using these unconvetianal motors presents the problem of not being able to control the speed at which your needle is moving. I guess what I am getting at is if you can find some sort of speed controlled small electric motor it might take a bit of modification but I am sure that you could use it.
  9. High Priest

    High Priest Elite Member

    Joined: Jan 1, 2002 Messages: 4,928 Likes Received: 3
    Get yourself a walkman, a guitar string and a ball point pen. Then get ready to lose ALOT of blood.
  10. Dirty_habiT

    Dirty_habiT Administrator

    Joined: Mar 8, 2001 Messages: 18,128 Likes Received: 76
    fucking sweet Kabar's awesome!
  11. casekonly

    casekonly Veteran Member

    Joined: Aug 6, 2002 Messages: 8,264 Likes Received: 5
    kabar, please be a part of this lecture series that is trying to pop out on the boards. your survival life thread was one of the greatest of greats. true genius.
  12. garcia_vega

    garcia_vega Elite Member

    Joined: Jan 6, 2001 Messages: 2,931 Likes Received: 2
    i tattoo full time in a pretty busy and successful studio. i would say rather than trying to build the whole machine from scratch right off the bat, the best bet would be to buy the frame, and then you could either assemble or fabricate the rest of the parts yourself. to be totally honest with you, i think that winding your own coils is a waste of time. i've done it, and i've used the hand-wound coils, and in my opinion they don't perform any better than ones you'd buy; especially if you buy them from a quality machine manufacturer (ie NOT SPAULDING, and NO ONE WHO SELLS STARTER KITS. superior and kaplan make the shittiest tattoo equipment you can imagine.) the reason that i'd say don't cast the frame is that different people prefer different setups. so if you're just getting into tattooing, it's going to take you a while, maybe even a couple years, to figure out how you want your machines to feel. once you do, then you can cast a frame that suits your needs. everybody has their own preferences. you may want a light-weight machine, you may want a heavy-duty workhorse. you may want a cutback liner, you may not. you're not gonna know until you get some tattoos under your belt.

    i think the best bet is to go middle of the road on everything for your first hammers, and then the next set of machines you get, you can refine it from there. i do have a copy of "tattooing a to z" that i'm willing to sell you, but just be warned that, like vinyl junkie said, a lot of shit in there is way out of date, especially the sterilization stuff. even the machine setup chapter is behind the curve. email me through this site if you're interested in buying the book or if you've got anything you want to talk about more specifically.


    there was an artical in either rolling stone, mass appeal, or vice. eitherway it was about shit dudes make in prison. tat machines in prison are made from fan motors....
  14. skullnbones

    skullnbones Elite Member

    Joined: Mar 20, 2004 Messages: 3,759 Likes Received: 53
    if i could meet one person in the entire world and history and all that. it would be kabar. good luck to you champ.
  15. Overtime

    Overtime Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 22, 2003 Messages: 13,988 Likes Received: 311
    shotgun the first person you use it on!