So, are you interested in learning the basics of how to make a tattoo gun? Even if you don’t plan on building your own tattoo gun, it helps immensely to know how to tinker and repair pre-made tattoo guns that you purchase normally! I provide the instructions to build both a professional tattoo gun to use for work and a DIY tattoo gun that you can use to practice at home. Obviously, I recommend going through an apprenticeship, internship, or some sort of classes before you start using any of these on people (especially for the homemade tattoo machine). If you want to practice at home, you can use fruit like oranges and lemons or specially purposed practice skin sheets.
Also, don’t forget to investigate how tattoo guns work! This will help you understand everything in this article better.
How to Make a Professional Tattoo Gun at Home
Before I talk about how to make a DIY tattoo gun, let’s cover how to make a tattoo machine for professional use. A professional tattoo gun needs to use disposable needles, needs to come apart for cleaning, or needs to be autoclavable. For that sort of thing, you want to know how to make a tattoo gun without a guitar string. Believe it or not, learning how to make a tattoo machine is easy and quick to pick up. Follow these instructions and learn how to tinker and tweak your own tattoo gun into perfection. Even if you already have a professional tattoo gun, knowing how to customize it will do wonders to your productivity.
Professional Tattoo Machine Parts
Before we assemble this, let’s go over our parts. It’s no use following instructions if you have no idea what pieces we’re talking about, after all!
- Armature Bar – Connects all of the critical components, responds to the magnetic field of the coils, and makes your needle move!
- Back Binding – Holds everything together properly.
- Barrel – Grip of the tattoo gun.
- Coils – The electrical power houses of your tattoo machine and the engine behind the needle.
- Contact Point – Point where the contact screw meets with the springs. Controls the flow of electricity in your tattoo machine, which in turn controls your stroke and needle depth.
- Frame – The metal skeleton that you attach all your parts to.
- Needle – Self-explanatory
- Tube – Holds the ink during your tattoo process.
As you build your first tattoo machine, all of this will start to make much more sense. Once you finish building, you can even go and tinker with some of your other machines!
How to Make a Tattoo Gun for Work
Let’s learn how to make a good tattoo gun for professional use. Make sure you have all of the parts mentioned above, plus a bunch of sturdy rubber bands.
- Thread the needle through the barrel, with the loop positioned on the top.
- Attach the barrel to the tattoo machine.
- Attach the loop on the needle to the front of the armature bar.
- Use rubber bands to keep the needle steady against the back of the tube.
- Make sure you have between 1/16th and 1/32nd of the needle showing at the end.
- Connect to a power source.
If everything works properly, then powering your machine on will cause the needle to move up and down. Let’s go over the mechanics of tattoo guns so that you can troubleshoot anything strange you see.
How Does a Tattoo Machine Work?
As power runs through the coils, they generate a magnetic field around them that manipulates any nearby metal. Their purpose is to move the armature bar up and down, which in turn moves the needle up and down. By adjusting the contact point of the contact screw, it adds or releases pressure to the armature bar, and you can change the speed and depth of the needle. Pretty nifty, right? These are the basic mechanics of a coil tattoo machine.
The needle and tube require a bit of explaining as well. The tube works like a palette and holds the ink for you during the tattoo session. Your needle must withdraw, pick up ink, then go forward again in order to deliver a good amount of ink to the skin. Any shorter than 1/32nd of an inch will not pick up very much ink or penetrate deep, while any longer than 1/16th will pick up enough ink but do a lot of damage to the skin. Shaders will want a shallow needle, while liners need the longer needle to really deliver solid color.
Use the contact point to adjust the stroke of the needle, but be aware that tuning the same gun many times can get you inconsistent results. This is why many artists opt to use two or more tattoo machines for their work. Lots of power supplies support two different machines at the same time and cycle the power with a flick of the switch. The amount of power you supply to the tattoo machine also affects the speed of the needle, so make sure you also have a good tattoo power supply to go with your custom gun.
How to Make a Homemade Tattoo Gun
Surprise! You find all the tools to make a simple tattoo gun inside your own home! I’m not just talking about some needle and ink stuff, either. I’m talking about the real deal: an electronic tattoo machine gun! Although manufactured machines work better, potential tattoo artists who would like practicing find it useful. While I don’t recommend using it on actual skin, you can use it on things like lemons or oranges to see how tattoo guns typically work and practice your artistry. After that, you can upgrade to real guns and stock your store up with some of the best tattoo chairs. If you want to learn about the inner workings of professional tattoo machines, check out our full tattoo gun article. Anyways, let’s learn how to make a tattoo gun!
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First, you find all the essential ingredients. The motor proves difficult to find, so we start with that. Anything that requires motion should have a motor. Go ahead and sort through all of your old machines and see what you can use. Do you have an old video game controller? If it has a rumble feature, then it has a motor. What about an old cassette player that was replaced by your CD player…that hopefully has been replaced with an MP3 player by now? That has a motor, too.
Next, go ahead and find a mechanical pencil, a spoon, a high E guitar string (which will be the thinnest string available at a music store), a charger or adapter (anything that charges a power or device from the wall), and some electrical tape. Okay, so maybe that guitar string isn’t laying around the house, but it should still be easy to acquire. If you can’t find a local music store, go ahead and use the ones below. They’re nice on your wallet and give you just what you need!
Plain Steel Guitar Single String
Go ahead and remove everything from the inside of the mechanical pencil. Be sure to keep the eraser, though—that part will be important later. Next, you’ll be using the spoon to attach the motor to the pen. The motor will be held by the dip, while the handle will eventually be taped to the end of the pencil. You can bend the spoon however you like, but I recommend a shape that keeps the motor lined up with the pen. This will help immensely with balance.
Go ahead and tape the motor to the dip, making sure the wires stay in plain sight and the motor seems sturdy. There should be sharp prongs sticking out of the motor—go ahead and leave those exposed, too. It’s essential to make sure the motor stays in place while working, so go ahead and test that now. Do your best to flick off the motor. If it doesn’t budge, you’re set for the next part.
Take the eraser from the mechanical pencil (you did keep it, didn’t you?) and attach it to the prongs on the motor. Stick the guitar string from earlier into the center of the eraser, then bend it 90 degrees so that the rest of the string runs parallel to the spoon handle. Now, you’re finally ready to attach the motor to the pen! Insert the guitar string into the mechanical pencil and run it through. You might want to cut excess string now, to make things easier for later. Tape the handle to the pen and double check that everything is sturdy before moving on.
Finish Building a Tattoo Gun
Lastly, while the wire you chose is unplugged from the wall, go ahead and cut the end that charges/powers (in other words, the part that doesn’t plug into the wall). This will expose two wires. Go ahead and do your best to remove the outside insulation and split the two wires. One has a positive output, while the other has negative. There should be two wires sticking out of the motor. Go ahead and attach one wire from the charger to one wire from the motor, and then attach the remaining wires together.
You can attach them with tape, but for now, don’t secure it too much. Carefully plug in the charger, making sure the wires touch nothing else, and see if the motor spins. If it does, awesome! If it doesn’t, all you need to do is switch the wires. On the other hand, if neither of work, something went wrong with your motor or charger. Simply locate new ones to try.
Your new pen is technically usable now! However, There are some ways to vastly improve its performance. If you have sandpaper or incredibly sharp knives, go ahead and refine the edge of the guitar string until the end is sharp. This will vastly improve the performance. If you do not want a wire attached to the gun, you can instead use a battery, with the wires attached to opposite ends. The downside to this is that it will be difficult to power on and off, and you’ll have to adjust the balance of your tattoo machine gun. On the other hand, the gun will be easier to maneuver.
There are also ways to make the pen a little easier to use and more aesthetically pleasing. You can choose to use a pen, rather than a mechanical pencil—just make sure the tip of the pen is very thin, so that the string does not stray while you are using it. There are far more interesting designs and varieties for pencils than pencils, which makes it easier to customize the look of your tattoo gun. If you want extra grip, most stores that sell office supplies will have them.
Using The Tattoo Gun
Although you know how to build a tattoo gun now, don’t go crazy and start tattooing people with one. This tattoo gun is meant for practice only, and because it was made from random stuff laying around the house, is vastly inferior to commercial tattoo machines. If you use this on a person, it is unfair to them, as it will not offer nearly the same quality. Plus, it doesn’t live up to any kind of health standards. Health inspections are frequent at tattoo shops, and if you’re caught tattooing people with illegal equipment, you will be fined and possibly face criminal charges.
Are you trying to set up your own tattoo shop? Check out how to make your store look professional with this set of equipment guidelines! You can also learn what basics to keep stocked for your clients with our lotion, numbing, and sunscreen pages.
Use this gun to practice your skills. Practice makes perfect, and this gun is the first step towards learning how to work a tattoo machine! You can use fruits with hard skins on the outside—such as oranges—to practice on. I promise that your friends will be way more impressed if they see you improve on non-living subjects before moving on to the real deal. It shows that you have a respect for the art and a deep understanding of your own ability.
Do you still think building a tattoo gun takes too much time, or maybe your budget rests a little lower? The following kit works great for beginners!
Complete Tattoo Kit with 2 Machine Gun, 10 Color Inks and Power Supply by Dragon Hawk
As always, thank you for reading! Stay tuned for more articles every week at InkDoneRight.