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Zeke Owens: "My Opinion"

"This tattoo machine hurts more than that one."

Disclaimer: Please remember this is only my opinion -- after 42 years in the trade. Tattoo machine adjustment seems to be simple in the beginning; however, the phenomenon of adjustment becomes increasingly difficult as time goes on. Please consider that myself nor anyone else on this web site cannot be held responsible for anything you do after reading "My Opinions" about tattoo machine adjustment relative to pain or any other condition. Problems? Seek the personal attention of a professional.

Keep in consideration that most tat machines are 80mm from the tube chuck screw to the 8-32 hole at the top of the rear spring binding post, 65mm from the tube chuck screw to the top binding post screw that attaches the contact screw and front coil wire to frame, 8 or 10-wrap coils (some wrap front/rear coils 10/8 wrap) and a normal or average front and rear spring set. The front spring is approximately 40 to 45mm in length and about a 42-degree bend relative to the back spring. If the spring set is two-piece it will not run the same as a one piece because the two springs overlap where they are bound to the armature bar producing greater overall stiffness, maybe as much as 50 to 60%. If your machine is running "sweet" and you break a front or rear spring you have a better chance to replace one of the springs and get it back on track as compared to a one piece spring. I also feel two-piece springs last longer.

If you are just starting to tattoo and not getting the ink in, or "bogging" or "checking" down, please resist the inclination to bend the springs, front or rear, in hope that it will work better. Your machine maker or manufacturer has set them where they should be to perform well overall. Remember, the biggest cause of "scratching" (red marks but no ink in the skin) is a loose needle bar.

The loop on the top of the needle bar should attach itself firmly to the "peg" on the armature bar.
To test the set of the needle bar, if you are right handed, grasp the machine with your left hand and raise it up to eye level so that the front of the machine will be coming towards you. While still holding the machine move your left hand's index finger to the top of the armature bar and press down so that it does not move. With your right hand's thumb and index finger grasp the needle bar midway between the loop and the rubber bands. Try to make the needle bar move around the end of the armature bar peg by an up and down movement the same way it runs. Any visible movement here (the cushion between the needle bar and the peg of the armature bar) causes the needle to chop the skin - your biggest problem getting the ink in, and yes it is considerable.

Outside of turning up the power of your power supply this causes your customer to whine more than anything else, assuming you have "looped" (15 power) your New needles and not using more than 3 No. 12 Rubber Bands.

I am only addressing the question "This machine hurts more than that one" and not a tuning question. 

However, think also about your problems like this: there are three parts: 1) Understanding and adjusting your machine, or get some help. Professionals help each other and learn as they go along sometimes for years. In 42 years it's a different surprise every day, folks. 

2) you the artist in knowing what you are doing and are you tuned into your customer and 

3) The customer: skin condition, attitude, stretch.


Thanks, See Ya, Zeke,
8/27/00 at Sacred Tattoo, NYC