How a tattoo machine is running is referred to as machine function or machine set-up. There are two factors that describe machine function. They are:
the speed of the machine
the force of the machine
The REQUIRED SPEED of a machine is determined by the tattooing process being done. An outlining machine runs faster than a machine used for coloring. A machine used for shading runs at a speed somewhere between the two. The exact speed at which a machine should run is dependent upon each tattoo artist's style and personal preferences.
The REQUIRED FORCE of a machine is determined by the needle configuration being used. Closely spaced needle configurations require more force. Needle configurations with more or larger diameter needles require more force. Needle configurations made of short taper needles require more force than similar configurations made of long taper needles.
Machine function is the working outcome of the combination of the parts and adjustments that are present on a specific machine set-up. Any alteration to machine function becomes complex due to the interactions of the machine systems.
There are two basic categories of machine adjustments. They are:
SET-UP ADJUSTMENTS are made to establish the speed and force (function) of the machine.
FINE-TUNING ADJUSTMENTS are made to balance the relationships of the machine systems.
There are two SET-UP ADJUSTMENTS on a machine. They are:
The stroke length of a machine is determined by the distance of travel of the armature bar from it's highest point to it's lowest while the machine is running.
Spring compression is the term used to describe the interaction and combined effect of main spring return force and timing spring resistance.
MAIN SPRING RETURN FORCE is made up of a combination of three factors. They are:
main spring dimensions, main spring angle of deflection, and main spring tension.
TIMING SPRING RESISTANCE is established by the dimensions of the timing spring.
There are two FINE-TUNING ADJUSTMENTS on a machine. They are:
Rubber band tension
Air gap, point gap balance
Set-up adjustments must be made with consideration of the effect those changes will have on the interactions of the machine's mechanical, magnetic and electrical systems. If the machine's systems are so far out of synchronization that fine-tuning adjustments cannot bring the three systems into balance, then changes must be made to set-up adjustments or parts must be changed to get the machine to function properly.
A tattoo machine has three systems that must work together for the machine to function properly. The three systems of a tattoo machine are:
â€˘ the mechanical system
â€˘ the magnetic system
â€˘ the electrical system
The mechanical system consists of:
â€˘ the springs
â€˘ the armature bar
â€˘ the machine frame
The magnetic system consists of:
â€˘ the coil cores
â€˘ the yoke or base of the frame
â€˘ the coil shims
â€˘ the armature bar
The electrical system consists of:
â€˘ the coil windings
â€˘ the capacitor
â€˘ the binding posts and contact point screw
â€˘ the springs
The objective of any proper machine set-up is to achieve synchronization of the machine's three systems while controlling the speed and force (function) of the machine.
Have you ever seen a tattoo artist zip through a tattoo with such ease and with lightning speed, and wonder how he does it? Well being familiar with the tattoo design sure helps but, the main reason is that he is using the right tattoo machine for the right job.You wouldn't drive a V.W in a Grand Prix and expect to win would you.
In this 1st tech tip I will be discussing the tattoo machine, and at the heart of the machine is the coils. The coils are the backbone of the tattoo machine. I will try not to get too technical so that it can easily be understood by everyone.
There are three different size coils being used in tattoo machines. 1. The 8 wrap coil. (wrap meaning how many layers of wire are wrapped around the center core of the coil) 2. A 10 wrap coil. 3. A 12 wrap coil.
The 8 wrap coil is used mostly when doing an outline with a 1,3,4, and a 5 needle outliner. I would not recommend using 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 a 8 wrap coil is to small to dissipate (give off) the heat. This condition would make the tattoo machine run hotter and even possibly cause the machine timing to break up and cause 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.
When you think about it...the more needles on the needle bar...the more skin you have to puncture...the more skin you have to puncture the greater resistance...and the greater resistance the stronger the tattoo machine you need.
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 down the needle down harder and allows the skin to be punctured more easily. This is what appears to make the ink go in faster.
The same principal applies 's with a 10 wrap coil shader tattoo machine. If you are going to use a 4 , 5 , or six needle shader then a 10 wrap coil tattoo machine is just fine, but if you are going to use a 11 through 17 needle magnum tattoo needle then I would suggest using a 12 wrap coil tattoo machine.
I've always believed that whatever works for you is just fine, but if you want to get the job done quicker and easier, it helps to use the right machine for the right job. If you work in a high volume tattoo shop like ours, and you do a lot of tattoos, this tech tip could make life a lot easier.
Until the next tattoo tip..keep the ink flowing.........
Whether you use ROUND or FLAT tube tips, all tattoo tube tips need maintenance.
All tubes and tips need to be cleaned and inspected thoroughly.
1. Tube and Tip Cleaning After soaking your tubes overnight in the disinfectant of your choice, I use a small nail brush to scrub my tubes and tips. After scrubbing the outside of the tubes and the tips, I use a pipe cleaner and a Q-tip to clean the inside of the tubes and the tips. This cleans out all excess ink that may be left inside. If you don't remove this ink it will stain your tubes when you sterilize them. When finished cleaning you will need to put them in the ultra sonic.
2. Tube and tip maintenance Check the tips of your tubes for wear and tear. If you notice grooves inside of your tube tips then you will need to get out a jewelers file and do some filing These grooves are caused by the rubbing of the needles against the inside of the tube. The amount of wear and tear depends on how many rubber band you use to hold your needle bars in place. You can use a flat file for your flat tube tip,
and a round file for your round tube tips. If you don't file these tips the ink will start to spit and the grooves will make your needles wear prematurely.You must be careful not to create a sharp edge of the end of your tube tip. If the tube tip is warn beyond repair then it is time to replace the tip with a new one.
This tech tip on cross-contamination I think will be the most important tech tip that I will ever write, because cross-contamination is something that should not be overlooked and should be taken very serious by everyone involved in the tattoo and piercing industry. For those who don't already know, cross-contamination is the spread of micro-organisms from one surface to another or from something that is contaminated to something that is not. One of the biggest mistakes that I see when I visit a tattoo shop or when I'm at a convention is cross-contamination....now don't get me wrong, most tattoo shops do follow strict methods to prevent cross-contamination..but there are a few that need to clean up there act. All the sterilization in the world is not going to make a difference to your client or to you if things are getting cross-contaminated. Cross-contamination is a very serious and a very deadly situation. When I tattoo I treat the situation with what I call UNIVERSAL PRECAUTIONS. Universal precautions is a system that prevents the spread of infections from person to person. Simply put, it means that I treat all blood and other body fluids as potentially infectious. Treat every client as if they have every known disease to mankind. With this in mind you tend to take every precaution and you are much more aware of cross-contamination. Some of the ways that cross-contamination can occur is as follows:
* if strict attention to hand washing is not observed
* if clean instruments are placed on unclean surfaces
* if contaminated and clean instruments come into contact with one another
* if one or more tattooist use the same equipment or materials
Here are the most common observations that I have noticed:
1. answering the telephone with soiled gloves
2. adjusting overhead light with soiled gloves
3. adjusting power supply with soiled gloves
4. touching ink bottles or ink tray with soiled gloves
5. adjusting or handling furniture or equipment with soiled gloves
6. stuffing garbage into the garbage can without changing gloves
Simple things you can do to prevent cross-contamination. Preparation of the work area is the key. It is very important that you completely prepare your work area so as to avoid having to leave the work area in the middle of a tattoo to get something that may be needed. Interrupting your procedure increases the risk of cross-contaminating surfaces.
* place a container labeled "dirty instruments" in the work area for the collection of non-disposable instruments for sterilization.
* cover any work surfaces with disposable coverings.
* make sure all the items needed are in easy to reach places.
* ensure that the work area is clean and tidy and free from items and objects unrelated to the tattooing process. Before putting on your gloves, you should be sure to cover surfaces that may become contaminated, in the event that an item has to be handled or adjusted while tattooing.
1. place the required amount of single use, disposable ink cups into your stainless steel ink cup trays and dispense inks into cups
2. cover light fittings and power pack controls with cling film
3. cover spray bottles with single use plastic bags, so only the nozzles are exposed.
4. place water to be used for rinsing between colors in disposable cups and dispose of water and cups after each customer.
5. tissues or wipes to be used during tattoo procedures should be stored where they cannot become contaminated
6. clip cord should be covered with cling wrap.
7. tattoo machine should be covered with a single use plastic bag.
8. rubber bands on the tattoo machine should be changed after every tattoo.
9. a new disposable single use razor should be used on each customer then disposed of.
10. stencils should never be reused.
11. Acetate stencils should never be used since they cannot be effectively
12. remove petroleum jelly from container with a sterile tongue depressor. Never use your bare finger or gloves.
13. area of skin to be tattooed should be cleaned and disinfected
using one of the following:
a. 70% isopropyl alcohol
b. alcoholic (isopropyl and ethyl) formulations of 0.5-4% chlorhexidine
c. aqueous or alcoholic povidine-iodine (1% available iodine)
The time between skin disinfection and skin penetration should be at least 2 minutes...but preferable 5 minutes. Multiple-use deodorants should never be used prior to the placement of a stencil. Remember cross-contaminating is not only deadly to your client but also you and your family and the whole tattoo industry. So do the right thing and KEEP IT CLEAN! JOHN
P.S. if you use an ultra sonic cleaner before your sterilization, make sure that it has a top on it to prevent any microorganisms from becoming air borne and contaminating your shop.
This tech tip is not about how to outline, itâ€™s more about expanding your horizons by utilizing the correct outline for the style of tattoo that you are doing. For example, have you ever seen a tattoo that was just too weak because of its outline....or a tattoo that just had too many lines and was too complicated...?
In this tech tip Iâ€™ll present some outlining strategies that when used appropriately can make the difference between a good tattoo and an outstanding tattoo. Back in the 70's when I started tattooing all I used was a 4 needle outliner and I used it on everything I did. It was versatile, it could have the appearance of a 3 needle outline(fine line) if I worked off the tip or a 5 needle outline (solid bold line) if I just worked it right...
I worked this way for many years.... I did this because this I the way that I learned to do things. It worked fine until I got involved with doing larger pieces. When I did larger work I noticed that something was just missing and could not figure it out. I started studying the master tattooist of that time period and what I notice was that they were using different outlines in the same tattoo. It wasn't the design, or the shading or the color (although they all contributed to a great tattoo) it was the use of varying outlines in the tattoo that did it.
I started asking around to fine out how to make those different size outliners and got a lot of help from some old time tattooist that I knew. They showed me how to make a jig and then how to assemble the different needle groups. They also showed me how to make the different tubes to use with them. Now anytime that I do a tattoo that is bigger then the size of a baseball... use at lease two different outliners.
When I take on large size pieces I will start with a five the beef up some lines with a eight and the beef up even some more with a fourteen needle outliner...and if I have to I will finish the job with a 3 for the real fine line detail. There is one thing that sticks in my mine that an old time tattooist once told me...if you cant make out what a guy has tattooed on him from across the room then it ain't worth the skin that it was put on. By using different size outliners in a tattoo it gives the design more of a three dimensional look.
If I could use graphics in this tech tip I would show you some examples (I will talk to Gillan & Gena about using some graphics in the future) but for now you will just have to use some of your artistic abilities to figure out where to use thin lines and where to use thicker lines. Until the next tech tip...keep the ink flowing.
P.S. Just remember what I told you in my first tech tip..if you increase the amount of needles that you are using then you will have to do one of two things...turn up the power or use a tattoo machine with a larger amount of coils!
This tech tip will be for those of you who just buy your needles and strap them on your machine without any adjustmens or fine tuning. If you make your own needles then you probably know what will be discussed in this tech tip. Whether or not you make your own flat shaders or your own rounds for shading and coloring, there is one more thing that you need to do before you strap them on your machine and use them.
If you take the time to spread the needles of the flat shaders with an exacto knife then the ink will flow down the needles at a better rate and the needles will puncture the skin a lot easier. If the needles are not spread, it is harder to penetrate the skin,
resulting in having to turn your power supply up, in turn making the machine working harder, which will cause the machine to run a lot hotter,
Also, if you spread the needles on your fat shaders, you will cover a larger area of skin and get the job done a lot quicker. The chances of scaring the skin is greatly reduced. One way that I find to spread the needles is to lay the needle bar flat
on a piece of glass and with an exacto knife real carefully put the blade between the last needle on one side and from the needle tip slowly push down toward the solder...then spread the last needle on the other side...working your way to the middle needles. Always spread them a little at a time as not to cause the needles to split apart and separate from the group. This usually happens on the end needles. With a little practice it becomes easier and easier. You might want to practice with some used flat shaders that have been sterilized, till you pick up the knack.
Now as for the round needles that are used for shading and coloring...if you are making them yourself then make or buy a jig that makes them loose, you don't want to use tight round shaders to put in color, it will not get the color in evenly and will opt to scarring more easily. And I find that if you solder the needles together further
back from the tips then they wont be as tight.
There is another thing that I do to help the ink puddle up on the skin (this is something that you want your ink to do) and that is to take the solder out of the groove of the underside of the flat shaders. Remember the ink travels and gets under the skin from between the grooves of the needles, the ink around the needles is usually pushed away by the elasticity of the skin. I also file all the excess solder that may be there, this keeps the splattering down. One way to eliminate splatter is to put a slight bend in the middle of your needle bar forward to compensate for the tension of the rubber bands.
Good luck and I hope this helps you get the ink under the skin a little bit better and a little bit faster.......John
Everything you wanted to know about apprenticeships but were afraid to ask.
First let me say that even though this tech tip is off the beaten path, due to an outstanding amount of email, I feel that something had to be written about apprenticeships. So here goes
Find someone who you feel comfortable with. Someone who has enough time in the business that knows the technical aspect of tattooing. Someone who knows the difference between a fence post and a binding post. Someone who is respected in the industry. Someone who is going to start you off from the ground up, learn about machines, to make needles, make inks, customer relationship. Someone who has a clean shop and clean work habits. > CROSS-CONTAMINATION Because the habits you learn from the beginning will reflect in YOUR tattooing habits. Most of all someone who will treat you and his customers with respect. Now if you could just find someone like thatâ€¦donâ€™t fearâ€¦there out theyâ€™re somewhere. Now you have to ask yourselfâ€¦ why should this person share everything they know about tattooing with me? What do I have to offer that person? Ask yourselfâ€¦ What am I willing to offer? Well firstâ€¦ how about a lot of time in his or her chair? Letting them do some serious work on you. By doing this you are letting them now that you are totally dedicated to the art of tattooing. While you are in the chairâ€¦talk to him or her and let them know you are interestedâ€¦let them know what you have to offer himâ€¦herâ€¦or the tattoo industry. Go to shows and conventions and meet some of the other artist. Visit there shops and see how things are run in other shopsâ€¦ this way you get the feel of what goes on in other shops.
Donâ€™t let the blind lead the blindâ€¦ make sure that the tattooist is a good tattooist and knows the technical aspects of the business. He or she could be the best artist that you have ever seen, but if they donâ€™t know to technically place the ink under the skin properly and if it fades in a year or twoâ€¦ then you will not make it in the business very long. Check out his shop. Is it dirty? Is it run like a business or is it just a hang out for the local kids? Check out these things because if you are going to apprentice there then you are going to have to spend a lot of your time there and this is probable where your first job as a tattooist will be. Make it worth your time and effort.
If the first thing that comes out of their mouth is dollars and cents and sign on the dotted lineâ€¦then RUN, and donâ€™t look back! REMEMBER, the art of tattooing is taught not bought it has to come from someone who takes you under their wing because they believe that you will one day add something to this business that may be lacking and that you will add something positive that you will bring tattooing to a new positive acceptance and most of all you will represent the tattoo industry and give it the image and respect that it deserves. Donâ€™t be usedâ€¦donâ€™t let someone lead you on by telling you that they will teach you how to tattoo but every time you go to the shop they either have no time, arenâ€™t in the mood or just want to keep you around just to do odd jobs they donâ€™t feel like doing-cleaning, making stencils, picking up there lunch etcâ€¦ Now like I saidâ€¦ it is very hard to find someone who fits this criteria of what to look for in someone to apprentice under, but if you want it bad enough, then you will go get it. Also, you donâ€™t have to apprentice under just one tattooist, you can (work) apprentice under a few different shops. This way you get a good foundation.
I myself have never taken on an apprentice. Though I have helped out many young tattooist. Fortunately I have a 13-year-old son who has gone all out in learning the businessâ€¦ he comes to work with me on the weekends during school time and all week during the summer. He answers the phone, keeps the shop clean, answers the customers questions, sets up for me, mixes inks and makes needles, and draws a bit for the customers, etc. This is the way to go, from the bottom up. Last year he built his first tattoo machine from spare parts and practices on grapefruits in his spare time. Every old time tattooist that I know whose sons have grown up in this business have all done it this way, from the bottom up and everyone of them have made it in this business and have made a big impact in this industry. Remember, learn the business from the bottom up and donâ€™t give up your full time job.
Setting up your machines before you start your tattoo. Here is some simple steps that one might overlook before starting your tattoo that could effect to outcome of your next tattoo.
1. Make sure that the length of the needle is set properly whether it be set for a long stroke or a short stroke before you start tattooing.
2. Make sure that the needle bar is not rubbing on the inside of the tube. This can cause the machine to slow down and not run properly. This condition can be corrected by removing the needle bar and slightly bending the needle bar, but allow for the tension of the rubber bands. When the needle bar is not set correctly the machine usually spits ink.
3.Make sure that the loop on your needle bar is very tight on the armature bar. If not there will be too much play in between the needle bar loop and the armature bar resulting in premature wearing of the nipple on your armature bar which can result in the ink not going in evenly and will look patchy. Whether you use rubber grommets (which should be changed for every tattoo) or use tape use a pair of pliers to tighten the loop on your needle bar tight enough that it cant be pulled off easily from the armature bar.
4. Make sure that your rubber bands are not to tight or to loose. Being to tight or to loose will cause problems. To tight will cause excess ware to your tube tip, and being to loose will cause the needle to move to easily and not get a straight outline or put the color where you intend it to go. Also after putting on your rubber bands (which you must change for every customer) pull them forward and give them a snap to let them fall back into a natural position. You don't want them to be all bunched together.
5. Make sure that your contact point on your binding post and your front spring are not worn and are clean of carbon and lint....it they are then just file them with a jewelers file.
6. Check the armature bar where they come in contact with the center core of your coils for carbon build up. The carbon can easily be cleaned with a squirt of alcohol and running a business card in between while holding the armature bar down.
7. Check the needle tips under a eye loop to see if they are hooked or dull. These are some of the small things that you must do to produce a good, clean tattoo, and you should do these things every time before you start a tattoo. It saves you time and you don't have to break your concentration and there will be less chance of cross contamination.
When the bottom of your armature bar wears out do to long time contact with the center core of the coils...just turn the armature bar over and use the other side!
Does your tattoo machine seem like its getting old and tired? A little run down? Even after adjusting the armature bar and maybe replacing the rear spring. Well the problem might just be that you need to shim your coils. For those of you who don't know why or how to shim their coils then this tech tip may be just what your tired old tattoo machine needs.
First, in order to check to see if your coils need to be shimmed you should hold your tattoo machine in front of you at eye level...then press the armature bar down and check to see if the top of the front coils center core hits the bottom of the armature bar before the rear coil does... it they both hit at the same time, or if the rear coil hits first, then its time to shim the coils. What you want is for the front coil to hit the armature bar and the back coil to be just a hair short from hitting the armature bar.
Now in order to shim the coil you first must determine what coil you are going to shim... If the back coil is hitting the armature bar then unscrew the front coil from the bottom of the frame and lift the coil up enough to slide a shim under the coil and put the screw back in and tighten. Now press the armature bar down again and recheck the distance between the armature bar and the top of both of the coils center core.
Again the front coil should hit first and the rear coil should be just a hair short from hitting the armature bar. If the front coil hits first but you have a lot of space between the rear coil and the armature bar then you should shim the rear coil so that the rear coil is just a hair short of hitting the armature bar. Now you may ask yourself "what is a shim?".....well a shim is a flat washer that comes in many shim sizes from most tattoo supply companies....or do like I do and just go to your local hardware or
electronics store. After you adjust your shims make sure that you check the distance between the armature bar and the coil. Good luck ...any questions just drop me a line..... John
P.S. When I adjust my shims I usually take the whole machine apart and clean all the parts including the frame and then resolder all wires and connectors.
This tech tip is for those of you who want unlimited access to free front and rear tattoo machine springs. When I got into this business I use to make front and rear springs. It was easy and it was free. If you go down to just about any factory that receives freight on pallets you will find all the material you ever needed for free. What you will be looking for is blue steel banding wire. It is use to wrap freight onto
pallets. When the freight arrives at the factory the banding wire is cut and thrown away along with the pallet. If you take the banding wire and cut it, bend it, and punch holes you can use it for front and rear springs. All you will need is sheet metal snipes and a metal punch and pliers. Just remember to file the corners smooth after you get done cutting the shape of the springs. If you don't file the corners they can produce nasty cuts. Any question just give me a call...John
P.S. If you feel want to go all the way...you can also add contact points on the front springs...you can buy them at some tattoo supply companies.
Its a NO NO and every once and a while I run across someone who has this tattoo on them that looks like a big blob of smeared ink. Unable to make out what the tattoo is, I then notice why. Something is missing ....an outline and shading...then after talking with the person I find out how this monstrosity got under there skin...it was the brainchild of some up and coming tattoo artist. The tattooist thought that he would break all rules of tattooing and create a tattoo without an outline and without shading....great idea...but it just don't work...YOU NEED AN OUTLINE AND SHADING !!!!....unless you are one of the great tattooist who have total command of the tattoo medium...or you are doing background or negative space tattooing, or special effects....a outline and shading is needed........OR IT WILL LOOK LIKE THIS and in five years it will look like a big blob of ink.
What they are and when to use them.
For those of you who have never used or heard of a bloodline, a bloodline is exactly what it sounds like. It is the technique of outlining without any ink. You use just water to lubricate the needle. When you do a bloodline it leaves a red bloodline for the time that you are doing that tattoo, and then goes away when the tattoo heals. If you are doing a large piece then you may want to use what is called a greyline.
A greyline is when you mix 3-5% black ink with the water so that it will leave only a faint grey line for future reference to color or shade off of.
Bloodlines are used when you don't want a noticeable black outline. This gives you a chance to pull off certain special effects such as soft smoke, background effects that you don't want to overpower your foreground, negative space and geometric shapes.
When you shade or color off these bloodlines they will no longer be noticeable.
Again....use a bloodline if the tattoo is to be completed in one session and a greyline if you are going to do the tattoo over many sessions...but if there is any doubts about how long the tattoo is going to take ...put in a greyline...good luck John.
What makes a good-looking tribal? Nice and solid black. The right placement. Sharp and even curves. Tips that come to a clean point....Well I can't tell you how to put the black in solid (you should already know how to do that) and I cant tell you where to place the tribal (the placement works best with the curvature of the muscles) but what I may be able to help you out with is smooth curves and tight tips.....when I do any tribal work (and I do a lot of that in our shop) I use an eight needle outliner...I guess by now you must be asking why an eight? I thought that you said the tips are going to be pointy...well I use an eight needle outliner because it produces a wide enough outline that you don't have to slave over getting up to the outline without going outside the outline with the color, and this makes the job goes much faster. Also with a wide outline it is much easier to produce a nice curve or straight line then it is using a five needle or a three needle....but now you ask yourself, but what about those pointy tips of the tribal that you talked about? Well, ... what I do when I am coloring my tribal in is to turn the shader needle sideways when I come to the tips and produce the sharp tips that way...(I use a five or a six flat to color tribal unless it is really big in which case I use a 14 or 17 mag and then finish the tips with a five or six flat). See when you turn the flats sideways you produce what is equivalent to using a single needle. because all the needle on a flat shader will produce a line that is as wide as a single when used sideways...like I said in my other tech tips. This may not be for you, but it sure works well for me and also for all the other Tattooist that I turned on to this tip.... John