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KaBar2

Building a Tattoo machine from scratch

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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.

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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

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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 it's a little out of date, and a little cheezy, but it should be good enough for doing home work...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...

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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.

www.healthservices.gov.bc.ca/protect/pdf/tattoo.pd

 

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

http://www.machinegunmagazine.com/html/wha...e/contents.html

 

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.

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SEEKING

 

"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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Guest HESHIANDET

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....

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well i know a way to make a tattoo machine for under twenty bucks.. its isnt the most comfortable thing to get a tattoo by but it will do the trick.....you buy one of those things used to cut hair. the electric shaver typt things.. you take out the little razors in there and realine the movable parts so that they are now moving vertically. then you install a needle in there.like a sewing needle. you wrap a string through the threading hole in the needle and soak that in the ink then you turn it on and it works. you have to have some controll with it or the needle will go pretty deep. but hey its cheap and it works.

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I dont know how helpful this will be but i did have a friend that built his own tattoo gun and was able to do good work with it. I used to rack pieces for him sometimes and if im not mistaken he used pieces of a radio, guitar strings posibley for the coils and various other pieces of metal just for the actual gun part. I might be able to get in contact with him and find out exactly how the hell he was making them.

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Dunno if anyone posted this yet but i heard an electric toothbrush modified with a needle and india ink is the way to go.

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Originally posted by casekonly

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.

 

Can you taste his prostate yet?

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I've had alot of freinds who tattooed professionally and made their own over the years. Personally I would never get tattooed by one of those prison rigs. Though you could make some halfway decent ones. I've heard of all kinds of different designs. I don't know how this will work but try hooking a rheostat up to your power cable. It might be able to adjust your motor speed for you. I think if I remember correctly back to my apprenticeship that the professional machines adjust with the distance of the coils to point of contact. I guess this varies the conduction. You might however want to get some professional needles at least. I'm pretty sure the bigger needles will collapse your arteries. Try it on some skinny dude with bulbous arteries! :D Tell him it's for science. haha...

I could tell you how to solder liner and shader needles and basic technique.

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Well, I've got a couple of things going for me

 

First of all, I'm an RN, so I already have the sterilization thing and the aseptic technique thing and the avoiding-cross-contamination thing down. I figure If I can do surgical bandage changes and surgical drains, I can do tattooing without killing anybody.

 

Second, I have a two-year AA degree as a machinist. I don't have many big tools, but a great deal can be accomplished with hand tools. I bet that I could build a West Coast style tattoo machine (the Spaulding & Rogers "Supreme" and "Stinger outliner" are good examples of a West Coast machine) with a side plate with nothing more than the hand tools I own right now.

 

I have a buzz box arc welder, and access to an oxy-acetylene torch. I bet I could weld up a frame in no time.

 

One of the reasons I want to wind my own coils is so I will know exactly how they are made. One thing I am still a little confused about---does the term "eight-wrap" and "ten-wrap" coils mean eight turns, or eight LAYERS of wire? I'm thinking it has to be "layers" of wire. Must be pretty damned small gauge wire. I'm guessing 22AWG or 24AWG solid copper wire. Anybody know for certain?

 

Another way to go would be by buying a kit and putting it together just for the experience. I can get an "okay" kit for about $65 or $75 off of eBay. Any and all suggestions will be appreciated.

 

Anybody have any tat machines for sale for a reasonable price?

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the number refers to layers of wire, not turns. i've actually forgotten the specific gauge that i used, but you seem about right. it's thin wire. i've actually snapped it a few times being too rough when assembling machines. the guy who apprenticed me (he was very knowledgable about machines by the way) had me wind a set of 10 wrap coils just so i could see how they work and how they did it back in the day, but like i said i haven't really used them in a while. right now i'm using 10's on everything, but i started out using 8 wraps on my liner and 10's on the shader. i think that was a good way to start. the only reason i'm using 10's on my liner now is because i can go faster if i have a lot of work to do--but it took a while to get the accuracy with outlining to be able to work that way. generally, you want your shader to have a longer stroke and more punch than the liner. other things you can do are using a wider, heavier armature bar on the shader, using a stronger capacitor on the shader, or slightly increasing the bend of the angle on the front spring on a shader. the most common way is to increase the distance of the contact points, but the ways i mentioned before that help you increase power without making too much of a gap in the points, and without you having to run the machine at such a high voltage. with your background in machining, i'm sure you could pull off building a machine. but the question is, are you going to like the machine when you finish it? that's why i would advise you test the waters by building a kit, then if something bugs you about those machines, adjust it when building your own. but that's just my opinion. hope that helped and good luck!

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Garcia Vega

 

Thank you very much for the help, it sounds like good solid advice. I'm pricing shit on eBay, and I have a correspondence going with a guy who builds machines as a sideline to tattooing. How much do you want for the Huck Spaulding book?

 

I'm looking for a good power supply and and either a first-class pressure cooker or a stove-top autoclave, too.

 

Let's see now---my recent interests have been:

 

---trainhopping and re-claiming "lost" hobo jungles (I really love this stuff)

 

---writing a screenplay and making DV movies (wrote the script, still working on trying to figure out a way to make the movie)

 

---building banjos from dumpster-dived materials (built four, so far, and I have three or four in various stages of completion)

 

---learning to actually play the banjo (still working on this)

 

---building a three-wheeled bicycle using a shopping cart (I haven't tried this yet, but I'm still thinking about it)

 

---building my own tattoo machines, and getting into tattooing

 

---finally buying my own 13x40 machine lathe and a decent drill press (still working on raising the money)

 

Life is too fuckin' SHORT, people. Ain't no way you can do everything you are interested in.

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