Machine tuning – tattooing basics – tattoo magic eur j gastroenterology hepatology impact factor

Machine tuning is hands down the most important thing you will need to know about machines themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say, "I don’t need to know how to tune a machine. I just use it out of the box and its fine." This kills me. If you are going to operate any kind of tool you need to know how to do so properly. The theory behind tuning your machine is to get the machine running as smooth as possible. The less vibration the easier operation will be. If you want a smooth straight line then the machine has to be in tune. When tuning a machine, many factors come into play. Your grommet on the armature nipple needs to be in good shape and your o ring on the front spring also needs to be in good condition. Another thing not everyone looks at is the quality of the contact screw. If it’s dirty or has carbon build-up it will not get a nice smooth connection. Contact screws can be made from brass, steel, copper, and silver. Copper is fair, stainless and brass will work, but in my personal opinion silver is the better choice. Brass and steel are a very hard metal and they also spark a little. Over time they will burn a hole all the way through the tip of a front spring. If the machine is out of tune it will burn a hole much faster. Silver is a softer metal so front springs will last a very long time. Silver is also less incline to spark so you have less problems with plastic machine covers. The only thing I don’t like about silver and brass is that they tarnish. Because silver is a very soft metal you have to be careful not to tighten you’re set screw to hard, it can eat the threads right off of the contact screw.

You also want to take a look at the hole in the frame that your front binding post screws into. Almost all machines have a longer hole than needed. The reason for this is more adjustment. With the machine sitting on its yoke, if you barely loosen the screw you can move the entire front binding post assembly up or down to adjust for lining or shading. Moving the front binding post upward is better for color and shading, down is better for lining, and the center is universal. I just run the binding post in the center. Either way you set this option, the tip of your contact screw should be dead center in line with the hole for your tube vice. The best way to check the alignment is to hold the machine like a pistol that you’re about to fire. Hold the machine so that you can see the contact screw tip closer to you. While holding the machine at this angle, move your head a little to one side to see if the machine is level. If not pivot the "contact screw" up or down till it is level. You can check to see if the armature bar is also in the center position by doing the same thing only looking in the tube hole with the armature bar away from you. The more in line the armature bar and the tip of the contact screw are to the center of the machine then the less resistance you have while the needle bar is in motion. This will make for a steadier stroke.

I have already talked a little about the stroke but what exactly is it? The stroke of your machine is the distance traveled by your armature bar while in motion. The duty cycle of the machine is the length of time that the front spring stays in contact with the contact screw. The duty cycle is measured in percentages. If your duty cycle is 50% then the time the front spring touches the contact screw and time it does not touch the contact screw while open is the same. If the duty cycle of the machine is 40% then the front spring is in contact with the contact screw 40% of the time and away from the contact screw 60% of the time. Studies have shown that optimum duty cycle is around 55%. This can be measured by using an electronic multimeter that has a duty cycle setting on it. You attach one lead to the clip cord post in the spring saddle and the other lead to the contact screw. Some newer power supplies come equipped with a duty cycle reader. The stroke strength is hand measured by taking your thumb while the machine is off and pressing on the armature bar nipple. You want to push the armature bar all the way to the coils. If you apply pressure to the front spring then it will bend and you will not get an accurate measurement. The old way of machine tuning is a little less technical. If you’ve been around tattooing you may have hear of the old nickel and dime trick. A nickel is about two millimeters thick and a dime is about one and a half millimeters thick. The nickel and dime trick means that if you can just fit a nickel in that space then you’re good for lining, and a dime if good for shading. This is not always the case.

The idea is that if your lining, then you need to be a little deeper so you’re black is darker, while shading your working the skin a little more so you don’t want as much depth to avoid scarring. Definitely sounds like a good idea, but all this does it set the stroke a little different and it does not smooth out the action of the machine. Like a few close held ideas about tattooing, this was cool for the sixties but not by today’s standards. Most tattoo artist use two machines in the course of one tattoo. You set one machine up for shading and one for lining. Doing this means you don’t have to switch needles and tubes. You just use one for each. Since this is a guide for beginners, most apprentices can only afford one machine at first (speaking as a veteran artist I find it’s easier to do this anyway) you can also set one machine up universally to do both. I set a few machines up to do different things and different styles but any artist can tell you they have one machine that they like more than any other.

To set a machine up for lining you want to adjust the front binding post all the way down, as far from the top of the frame arm as possible. Make sure to pivot the contact screw tip to the dead center of the tube vice; unless you choose to use a cutback. For a liner, if the machine is sitting on the yoke and you are looking at the frame side, the contact screw will be at about six o’clock, where a shader will be about four o’clock. Some machines are made specifically to accommodate these angles, and some are universal. If your front spring isn’t touching the contact screw just right then loosen it and move it up till it fully touches the screw tip. To properly tune your machine you