Instructables

How to make a DIY tattoo machine for less than $1 buck!

Picture of How to make a DIY tattoo machine for less than $1 buck!
This is a tutorial on how to make a fully functional tattoo machine for cheap. Why wont you do it? it's mainly house-hold items that you probably have lying around, and its allso fun ans easy to make.

This tattoo machine really works and its able to tattoo a person but lets be clear, this tattoo machine must NOT be used to tattoo a person or any living thing since the parts we'r using are not sterilized and you may end up causing MORE HARM THAN GOOD.
 
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Step 1: Collect the supplies

Picture of Collect the supplies
what we will need for this tattoo machine is:

  - A mechanical pencil.
  - A low E guitar string (must be metal)
  - A broken spoon or any piece of scrap metal.
  - A small electric motor.
  - A clothes button.
  - An electical button or switch.
  - Some batteries or power supply.
  - Some electrical tape.
Could you use a sewing needle instead??
Beachley1 year ago
cool project! I just got done making one
First, I want to state that this is NOT a hate letter. At all. Second, this was a good instruct able. Third, I am not a professional tattoo artist, but I do "scratch" from home using real machines, one of which i hand built, and sterile, single use supplies. I want to address a few things, though. First- much respect for the warning tag on the first step! Second; I have built one of these, and the person who was the recipient of it's torture said it was the most painful body mod experience he had ever endured (and that's in comparison to the 10mm dermal punch I used for his ear conch). That said:
-This is a very basic and clean cut tattoo machine, known in the industry as a "rotary machine". In it's refined and retail-sold state, the concept is identical and varies only materials and the addition of a separate, not on-board power supply.
-speed. The speed of a reciprocating needle is VERY important to the quality of a tattoo, the trauma the skin suffers, stability of the machine, and the speed at which you tattoo the person with. Your best bet in this case is to tinker with resistors of variegated capacities and resistance. They are very inexpensive and available at most electronics stores and hardware stores. They will make a world of difference.
-the needle and tube. The needle itself is not sterilized. Many people do not realize that an open flame, bleach, nor boiling water come anywhere near sterilization. Sterilization is the sum of two factors- pressure of at least 18psi and temperature of at least 250°+. the plastic tube, which should never be used, is not able to withstand the temperatures required without melting. But- great news! The retail world is brimming with people willing to sell anybody-even me- tattoo supplies. If you look on any number of sites, you will find that not only will a 50-pack of single liner needles made of surgical steel and extremely sharp that are already sterilized cost LESS than a set super slinky strings, but the accompanying tubes that match the needle size and are also sterilized cost about +/- $0.80 each. That's probably less than you'd pay for value pen! Could that get any better. And those plastic tube/tip combinations they sell also have nice chunky grips at no extra cost! That's using your noggin AND saving money!
-ink. The ink in a printer cartridge is EXTREMELY TOXIC. It has all sorts of compounds in it, that when dry on paper, are harmless. Think lead, cobalt, and in some cases chromium. Do you really want that in your skin? Ink doesn't "dry" under the skin like it does on paper. Real inks, or pigments, are made using water, glycol, glycerine and sometimes alcohol(not the drinking kind) as binders. So, let's have a look at some more boring economics: inks are pricy. They yield maybe 1/4oz of useable ink in a cartridge. Say the cheap brands cost $20 each. And if you're being fancy, you're doing some color for that awesome effect. So you buy a color cartridge- yellow blue and reddish/pink. You're now at $80. Or $80 you owe to your parents for tearing their cartridges up. Now, open that thing we call interwebs and go to the google. In the google you will again find a plethora of tattoo suppliers. Use that $80 and see what you get- the lowest commonly sold size of ink is 1/2oz, already twice what you get from a printer cartridge and many times what comes out of a pen tube (which is even less safe!). For $80 I'm willing to bet you can get a lovely assortment of at least 10 colors including black and white, in 1/2oz sizes with money still left over to buy a pack of needles and a few tubes with. How can that get any better?
-needle depth. 7mm is extreme. You might as well use something that deep to tattoo from one side of a persons arm and have the ink show up on the other. Okay, that won't really happen but here's what probably will- the ink, at 7mm deep, is below the epidermis, below the subcutaneous, below the connective tissue, and in most places below the skin. 8mm is the size of the large bottom ball on a navel ring. Now way is your skin just a mm less thick than that! So, you may end up with a blur, that in a year may look like a permanent bruise, or more likely, it will quickly fade to nothing, except a scar where the skin suffered the effect of a combined chainsaw-scalpel-blade. 5mm is more realistic, but still too deep for your skin. However, many artists to have machines with a 5mm throw. This isn't to say that all 5mm enters and exits the skin, however. Personally, my lining machine is run on low voltage- around 5.5volts, high output coils, stiff springs, and has a hard hitting throw of only 3mm. And I have it tuned to it's lowest possible throw because I'm heavy handed. That said- the depth of the needle you are using is very easily tunable to whatever desired depth by simply moving the bar closer or further from the center. That's one of the cool things about it!
All things said, your design is not really flawed, just the material execution. In fact, I am going to use this instruct able to build an exact replica using sterile equipment, not even the resistors. I will post results and pictures of what happens!
Best of luck, maybe one day you will unknowingly be an artist working on me :)
Tattoo pigments contain all kinds of rotten constituents that you'd generally expect to see in automotive paints. I am a professional tattooist of twenty years, and anyone who tells you their colors are made of organic fairy pee and daffodil powder is selling you lies. Chromium, cobalt, mercuric sulfide, and a gang of other bad elements and compounds (check the wikipedia page) are what make the pigments which we apply to skin. Some aren't so bad though, like carbon for pigment in black.

Also, the amount of exposure to said elements is another consideration. There are acceptable, safe levels of exposure for just about everything out there, even radiation. Not saying sourcing colors from found objects is cool, just that if you're going to choose to spread information, spread facts.

Your information on throw is a little flawed too, but that's another entire talk. Like you, I run short stroke, cutback liners, but I've seen pros who demand huge dollars working with up to 11mm of throw with no negative effects on the skin. Voltage, spring gauge, how many wraps per coil, machine geometry, and capacitors all have their part in how a tattoo is applied. Unlike most jobs, there seems to be an infinite number of ways to tattoo properly.

When I apprentice someone, I'm not teaching them how to tattoo. I teach them how to keep it clean, and can provide guidance, but ultimately, each artist determines which methods they're most comfortable with.
Finished reading, thanks for all that explanation and things, it is true, my machine is not really suitable for tattooing a person, but can be easily adapted to do so, evendough, i do not intend to tattoo a real person, only some oranges and maaybe a dead piece of pork.

I would be glad to see pictures of your finished machine when ur done!
ayrtont2 years ago
I have done tattoos with home made guns needle and thread and a proper gun the least pain full is a real gun the others don't give good quality tattoos like you do with a real gun if you are goin to do a tattoo on a person ues a real gun
palone832 years ago
where do u put the motor at man
Emiliano Valencia (author)  palone832 years ago
you fix it to the bent spoon
which way iz the motor pointing
Emiliano Valencia (author)  palone832 years ago
toward the center of the machine, the tip should not cross the center.
can i use sumthing other than a guitar string
Emiliano Valencia (author)  palone832 years ago
maybe, but a guitar string is perfect for the job 'cause it is thin, yet strong and it's pretty easy to get.
do u think i can use the metal stuff from a binder or is it to thick
Emiliano Valencia (author)  palone832 years ago
maybe, if it's not too thick, but youll have to try it out for yourself.
do u think the fishing line stuff will work
thx
steve-lane2 years ago
They make these in prisons all the time you can use a paper clip for the needle instead just sharpen the end. What do you use for ink?
uzombee2 years ago
The construction of your machine is top notch, but please remember, people will do this, and will spread disease. What you may not realize is for 30 dollars you can buy a decent rotary tattoo machine from Hildbrandt tattoo supply. Also, like mentioned in the first reply, in addition to sterile needles, tips and grips can be bought that are disposable.

So, if you just want to play on some fruit, go for it, but it doesn't cost huge amounts to get a working rig that you can tat friends or yourself with.
Also, you can use a pencil eraser pushed off-center onto the motor and attach the needle to that- it takes some of the vibration out and makes the tattoo feel less "stiff" and more comfortable! Hope a lot of what I said helps!
XYRiNGE3 years ago
I have real tattoo machine
fn06afranci3 years ago
ive read it several times but i dont understand how the ink gets on to the guitar string. could someone help me out?
Emiliano Valencia (author)  fn06afranci3 years ago
you deep the tip on ink, if u deed it when its on it'll "absorbe" more ink.
aeray3 years ago
Here is an example of a similar rig that I saw in Nicaragua a few years ago. This guy was tatting 3-4 people a day at the hostel we were staying at. He was using printer ink out of a bottle cap and "sterilizing" the rig with a Zippo in between clients: http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/andrewandjacque/central_america/1141761300/tpod.html#pbrowser/andrewandjacque/central_america/1141761300/filename=imgp1745.jpg
i'd like to see a pic of a tattoo made by this. seems...diy scary. and, i hate needles. also, i rated this 5*s. :]
I agree. I have friends that have done "jailhouse" tattoos, and this sounds more interesting.
Emiliano Valencia (author)  NatureBoom213 years ago
tanks, I'll upload a picture of a tattoo made by this thing on an orange, haven't tried it on someone but "someone" is softer than an orange so it should work.
Tattoo somthing onto a piece of pork; since pigs are the closest things to humans.
Emiliano Valencia (author)  Hiyadudez3 years ago
i'll try to get one (dead, obviously)
PREDATOR_UK3 years ago
Where would you find a guitar string at work ?
Emiliano Valencia (author)  PREDATOR_UK3 years ago
you wont, unless you work in a music store or something like that. You can allso use other things as a needle, it can even be a paperclip.
Ouch a paperclip ? You would need to sharpen it a bit :S
Emiliano Valencia (author)  PREDATOR_UK3 years ago
yep, you would need to.
rickharris3 years ago
I wouldn't let you use that on me!!!
Emiliano Valencia (author)  rickharris3 years ago
I wouldn't try to...
Lol..... You guys made me laugh today! Thanks!
Opsenica3 years ago
mate, that needle walks around too much and length of stabbing is very probably not good... i made something similar from very thin needle from doctor, had "tank" with color, but its very nice...
Emiliano Valencia (author)  Opsenica3 years ago
actually, the needle moves a total of 7mm aprox and normal tarroos are 5mm so its kind of good enough
i can see you did not go in some tehnic school or have some tehnic drawing education and you dont know what means 2 millmeters more.... 2 milimmeters more means needle will penetrate into flesh and color will disperse and be blur inside of flesh... good luck tough
Emiliano Valencia (author)  Opsenica3 years ago
well, those 2mm are actually needed for the needle to be able to move on top of the skin, if it only moved 5mm you wouldn't be able to move it.
M.C. Langer3 years ago
muy bueno!
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