The tattoo machine works very much like a powered artist’s paintbrush, delivering paint to a living canvas. The design is fairly simple and consists of three primary parts: the main section; which the tattoo artist grips and which holds much of the working parts; the sanitary tube; and the end of the machine, which is primarily for balance.
In the main section are the real ‘works’ of the machine. Two iron rods are surrounded by wire coils and are called the ‘coils’ of the machine. They transmit power from the electrical supply to the coils and use magnetic charge to move the needle set, regulated by a spring. A spring screw attached to two flat springs serves as the contact point. This is a very similar set up to a doorbell; push the button and it activates the machine. Today, most tattoo machines are operated with a foot pedal so the tattoo artist can have both hands available for drawing.
In the sanitary tube at the front of the machine is the tube that contains the tattoo machine grip which the artist uses, as well as the tube tip and the needles. This entire section should be sanitized in an autoclave before being used, as it is the section that contacts the skin. Needle sets of from one to seven needles are inserted in the tip of the machine. The needle set is dipped in permanent ink, then gently pressed to the skin. When turned on, the tattoo machine inserts the ink 1/16” below the top layer of skin. Some needles are only polished at the very tip so that they can hold more ink.
Variations on the tattoo machine include liners, used only to draw the outline of a tattoo, and shaders, which fill in the tattoo outline with color. There are also rotary machines, although the newer coil machines have pretty much replaced the older rotary designs. Electricity directly moves the needles up and down with a rotary machine. It is much quieter and can weigh quite a bit less than a standard coil machine.
Written by MaciekV7