tattoo machine info on set up and understandin machines

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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
fine-tuning adjustments
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:

stroke length
spring compression
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:

• the mechanical system
• the magnetic system
• the electrical system

The mechanical system consists of:
• the springs
• the armature bar
• the machine frame

The magnetic system consists of:
• the coil cores
• the yoke or base of the frame
• the coil shims
• the armature bar

The electrical system consists of:
• the coil windings
• the capacitor
• the binding posts and contact point screw
• 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.
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