First, for the uninitiated; a typical tattoo will involve an outline and than color/shading and those steps are accomplished using typically two different tattoo machines, tuned to the specific task. The two tattoo machines for the tasks are colloquially named liner and shader. I run my liners to oscillate around sixty times a second and my shaders at fifty times per second, but each machine runs differently and now let's go through some of my main machines that I used day in and day out.
The one machine that I have used through out my ten plus year tenure in tattooing is the frame I built out of 1080 carbon steel that has been heat treated; frame geometry is based on one of Percy Water's frame designs which I felt worked well as a liner. The material was chosen to be favorable to magnetism, a very ferrous metal that encouraged magnetic attraction as that is the driving force of a tattoo machine. The frame was cut on a Bridgeport three axis and everything else hand fitted and finished as my tooling was limited at that time. The frame has seen many color changes but I have left it red as I have come to affectionately call it 'Fisher Price my first tattoo machine'.
The coils are twelve wrap which are slightly bigger than the typically large wound coils at ten wraps and my coils are hand wound and in phase to one another. The phase correction was done by reverse winding the rear coil to create a balanced polarity in the magnetic field, which translates to a smoother and more consistently running tattoo machine in the end. The same coil design concept will be repeated for each of my machines and have been running them that way for most of my tattooing tenure. The contact screw is pure copper which I prefer for my liners.
The front and rear springs are hand cut to this day, I collected steel bands that were used to ship lumber with at lumber yards and as far as lumber yards were concerned it was trash so I was able to collect a lot of it for free. This is key as this is how tattoo machines for were built once upon a time, by found materials available to the tattooer's environment. The steel bands are made of tempered spring steel (you can tell it was tempered by the brilliant blue finish) and is an ideal material for tattoo springs. I would go around collecting this stuff in my car and gauge it later with a piece of metal I cut gauge slots in to and sort them by thickness. I have come to find that I prefer a thickness of .019" for my liner springs.
The next machine is designed and produced by Pulse International out of CT, which is owned by Tim Brewer who is a wonderful tattooist and a long time colleague and friend. I have one of the first runs of this machine and it runs beautifully to this day. It is made of 1065 carbon steel which is cold rolled and than is CNC and EDM cut, perhaps one of the first american tattoo machines produced with very high tech cutting methods when it was first introduced.
Seth Ciferri. The machine is made from iron and was produced using a lost wax process. Iron is a very classic material for a tattoo machine as well as the process and I liked the way it ran at a convention and bought it then.
Well, those are my oft used tattoo machines that are now tuned up to prime running condition, I may be tempted to come out of retirement for a few select appointments....oh, and for those that may be wondering, I run my machines on a first generation Pulse Intl. power supply, which was at the time one of the first power supplies that was not only produced for the specific purpose of running a tattoo machine but was also completely engineered from the ground up for the sole purpose. It is a tank of a power supply that I have used across the world and can't say enough good things about.
Pulse Int'l power supply!