Tattoo Gun





I'm showing you how I made a tattoo gun (and you could)

A few weeks ago a stoner from school offered me $100 to make him a tattoo gun. At first I was worried to construct a product that could be potentially dangerous and cause permanent damage. But while browsing instructables I saw the gun made by graphak and figured if graphak can make his out of toothbrushes and tape, then I could probably do better.

The outlines for the gun are:
+ it MUST be "stonerproof" (strong & reliable)
+ portable
+ look cool
+ accurate
+ changeable needles

Stuff you will need:
+ a moderate variety of tools
+ metal pipes & plates
+ a strong motor
+ battery pack

Step 1: Planning

Common tattoo guns work off the use of electromagnet coils (patent here) . Since I haven't had much success with coils in the past I have decided to use the rotary method.

As in the use of most rotary tattoo guns there is no mechanism to convert the rotary motion of the motor into a linear motion. To create a more accurate tattooing gun I must create this motion without loosing too much torque through friction.

To do this I plan on having a separate linear mechanism in the shaft connected to the cam through a bent wire. This also allows for a more functional method of changing needles by having an opening in the pipe allowing the user to simply unscrew the needle. As well as creating a much more accurate gun.

The gun must be comfortable to hold and easy to use. I will also try to avoid as much vibration as possible, by counterweights ect.

Step 2: Mechanism

Constructing the mechanism:
Find a small tube about the size of a pencil. Many materials can be used, I n my case I am using some aluminium tubing found around the workshop. The next step is to find a solid cylindrical piece of steel, In my case I am using a stainless steel bolt.

Making it fit:
It is better if the bolt (or whatever you are using as the mechanism) is larger then the tube its going to fit into (the aluminium tube). To make the bolt tit inside the tube is a somewhat time consuming process. Begin by sawing off the head of the bolt, this will make it much easier to work with. Then put the bolt in a drill press (or lathe if you have one) and begin filing and sanding until it smoothly fits inside the tube.

Creating the pin screw.
Once you are satisfied that is can slide in and out the tube freely, its time to begin creating the pin screw. This is the part that allows you to have inter-changeable needles, to prevent infection and stuff. Firmly place the mechanism in a vice and begin filing away until you are halfway through. Now find (guess) the center of the flat surface you have created and tap it with a nail. Once you are happy with the placement of the dent its time to find a small drill bit with a screw matching in size. Drill the hole the try the screw out, I had to go through several screws since the metal was so tough it kept killing the threads. I'd recommend the use of a thread taper or something more effective.

Step 3: Tubework

Working on the tube:
In this step we will be creating a small rectangular opening in the tube. This will allow the user access to the pin screw.

More filing:
Begin filing away at a section of the tube; once you get about halfway through begin filing sideways creating the rectangular opening. You will just have to guess how ling it has to be because it will vary depending on the size of your mechanism, so compensate for this. Place the mechanism (bolt thing) inside the tube once you are happy with your cut-away and put the screw back on the mechanism. Make sure that the mechanism can move up and down happily, and then you're done!

Once you are happy to guess how much to the mechanism you need hanging out the tube, cut the remaining thread leaving about a cm to connect the cam to.

Step 4: The Cam

Constructing the cam:
In this step we will be creating the main cam. This is one of the most important parts of the gun and is very tedious to construct.

Cutting and grinding:
Find a fairly thick piece of metal (about 3-4 millimetres), be sure that the metal is easy to work with because you will be drilling tiny holes. Cut a piece about 1 ½ cm long and 6-7 mm wide. Grind the corners round to avoid it interfering with other parts of the gun.
Drill a 1mm hole in the center and then another about 4mm above it. Find yourself a fairly powerful motor to use in your gun, and take a measurement of its shaft width. Then re-drill the center hole to fit the shaft.

Welding the shaft:
This part is a bit of a bastard, on my first attempt at welding the motor to the cam I discovered that the shaft was die cast and it snapped when I welded it. But with some trial and error I got it in the end. If you want to use an alternative method to welding there are many. You could use brass and heat it to expand over your shaft, drill a side hole for a worm screw or even just hammer it on. Whatever works for you!

Step 5: The Frame

Constructing the frame:
In this step we will be building the main part of the gun, the frame. The frame holds all the bits and pieces together and creates the main shape of the gun.

Tube mounts:
Search around for a piece of metal that will happily bend to 90deg without snapping or fraying. Drill a hole the size of your tube (or slightly smaller) and bend it into an extended "U" shape (see picture #1) then proceed to drill the second hole on the other side.

Motor plate:
This is the part that holds the motor to the tube mounts. It is a simple shape to create only having to compensate for the protruding shaft bearing of the motor. Simply cut a piece of metal into a rectangular shape, and then make it able to fit the motor and drill small screw holes to hold it in place. Hold the tube mounts against the motor frame until you are happy with where they will be mounted (along the same centerline as the motor shaft) trace around them then cut off any un-necessary pieces of metal; to create a much more comfortable shape.

Weld the tube mounts to the motor frame, and then grind/file away all the chunky bits. screw it all together and see how it all lines up, Its probably best to test that everything is working well before you proceed to the next step. The mechanism head should be grinded flat and the have a 1mm hole drilled in the center of it (sorry no photos shown). You should then bend a pin to connect the 1mm hole in the cam to the 1mm hole in the head of the mechanism. Put power to the motor and see how everything works (mine worked the first time... to my surprise! See video). Now since there is so much exposed metal we will have to paint it to prevent it from oxidizing and rusting later. Un-assemble the gun and begin painting the frame I used some old pot-belly black paint found laying around the in the workshop; it did the job just fine.

Step 6: Killing Boredom

Killing Boredom:
there are many "fun" things you can do while your waiting for the paint to dry; like drawing a moustache man with some leftover paint. But that can only keep you occupied so long. I began making a wire protector for the motor. This is to prevent the cord ripping away from the connections on the motor. I usually wouldn't do something like this but since I'm making a product for someone who spends half their time baked I thought it was fairly necessary since breakages were likely to occur.

Fun with acrylic:
I found some sheets of acrylic a while back and I've been dying to use them on something. I cut a small piece to shape and drilled some holes so it could fit on the motor nicely: Two small ones for screws, a big one for the lump on the back of the motor and another hole for the wire string. Once your are happy with that, Dip the acrylic in some boiling water for a while, it will go a soft as cheese then bend it into a right angle shape. Screw it onto the motor and solder up some wires.

Find some old string and thread it through the wire hole in the acrylic and tie it off. Begin platting the wires with the string until the whole chord is done. After all that fun the paint should be about dry now and you can move on to more important stuff.

Step 7: Needles and Ink

Needles and ink:
In this step we will be creating the needles and the needles guide (I'm sorry for the lack of photos, sometimes I forget).

Needle guide:
File the end of the tube until you are way passed half way, leaving a plate of metal sticking out. Grind a screw or something you don't really care about until its sharp, then hammer it through the piece of thebe that's left from the filing. This should leave a tiny hole for the needle to fit through. Then bend the plate up against the tube so that it creates a closing for the tube *be sure to leave an opening to pour ink through!

Creating needles:
It's worth buying real tattooing needles for your own hygiene. They aren't too expensive and are much safer. But in my case I'm going to make them myself using guitar wire. Remove the D string from an electric guitar or just buy one, then unravel the thin wire spun around it. Sand one end only in one direction then bend the other end into a loop. Thread it down the tube and place the loop under the screw in the linear mechanism.

Be sure to use water based inks. The best ink of Corse would be a bought one. If you use normal pen ink or anything like that, your body will reject it and all the infected skin will rot and scab. The retard who I'm selling the gun too tattooed himself using a needle and some BIC ink in the shape of a peace symbol, it rotted to the depth that the needle penetrated too in about a week. I'll post some pictures or something later.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

Finishing touches
It's coming to an end! In this step we will be doing the more pointless stuff to make it look pretty and commutable ect.

Grab some of the happiest colours you can find in your shrink-wrap collection and place them in descending order smallest to biggest (be sure that the smallest can fit over the tube) cut each one wider then the first one shorter... get it? Put a small amount of glue on the tube to prevent them slipping off and put the first layer on and hole it over a lighter. Repeat for all the other layers. You should end up with a very colourful grip.

Since the gun I'm making is portable I decide to make a box for it. Place the gun over a block of wood and trace around it, do the same for the battery pack and make a small space for a switch. Router out all the coloured spaces and there you have it a nice storage box. *I ran out of stuff to make a battery cover out of!

You should get as much practice done as possible before using it on living things. Ask your local butcher if he has any pig skin laying around it's a great equivalent to human skin. And get some practice done.

Thank you for reading my first instructable
I'm more then open to any pointers ect.

I am not liable for any damage you cause and all that crap, I mean if you actual build a homemade tattoo gun off my instructions and manage to screw yourself up then that's your fault. I'm merely writing this as a guide or the sharing of ideas and stuff.



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    75 Discussions


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Sure, you spontaneously 'generate' something like 'hepatitis' when applying a tattoo on someone when using a clean set of needles. Can we spontaneously create a 'get rich' infection?? ;-)


    Reply 3 years ago

    That would be awesome to get a get rich virus!!!!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    DO NOT BUY THE ULTIMATE TATTOO BIBLE. It is a waste of money, and is full of misinformation. There are much better books out there, which I will not directly recommend, as those who are not tattoo artists, or genuine about becoming a tattoo artist should not even read them. You need to place a warning on this instructable. Using this gun will lead to disease and bad tattoos. Spend the money, go to a real tattoo artist. You wouldn't perform your own dental work, would you? I thought not.

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I have to disagree with you 100% on this, The Ultimate Tattoo Bible is great. The book is fantastic and is perfect for tattoo reference material. Even the book itself says that even though it gives out info, the BEST thing to do is combine it with a real apprenticeship. Nothing wrong with that. Just my two cents. I loved the book!


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    As to the dental work: Yes. However what were the names of those books. I graduate high school in two months and change, and I'm thinking about tats as a way to help pay some bills. Want to do some research on it first though.


    11 years ago on Step 7

    Sanding the wire is a bad idea. That creates small grooves in the metal that become a breeding ground for bacteria. Go with your first suggestion and use professional needles.

    7 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 7

    or you could just boil the needle in rubbing alc before every use. that will prevent bacteria. =]

    josh owns youdangerousdnl

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 7

    maybe bacteria but not hepititis, staph, or hiv.

    the only real way to sterilize tubes for a real tattoo MACHINE is in an autoclave. and needles should only be used once.

    actually, if you have a pressure cooker, you can put a platform above the water and leave it in there for about 30 minutes at 15 PSI, the items will me completely sterilized. thats biscally a homemade autoclave.


    Reply 3 years ago

    :) multi use tools. However you need sealed packages to put the needles in like the ones they pop stitches out of so the needles don't become contaminated.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    very nice tutorial, and very nice machine you came to do. I do tattos, and the mechanichs you home made, are used in top grade machines.
    If I could sugest, humble honest opinion, not trying to be smart, try adding two springs (up un down cam), the one on the bottom of the cam, should be a litle bit strongest, to mantein needdles up, when machine is off, safer. the cam could fit inside a linear bearring, that should take away friction, noise and vibration. You could make a conector to the cam, this conector may be used as an embrague, to adjust the strenght at whitch needles go in, or if to much force applied if starts turning but not pushing the needle. If I may, i might use your idea in an instructuble of my own, my machine :).

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I see what the first spring is for, but why the second?

    the fact that most of you do not even realize how dangerous tattooing can be, and are saying you want to build one of these, too, just further reinforces why you shouldn't. People could die if you dont have the proper knowledge you need and that takes time research and experience (preferably beginning with the first 2). dont be stupid and you wont go to jail for manslaughter( and possibly lawsuits on top of that). These things are permanent and can affect people positively or adversely for the rest of their lives. people aren't a child's drawing pad. so go pick up some crayons since you're still playing with childish things.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Yes, and Marijuana leads to reefer madness!!!!! Beware!

    More like you can give someone a blood born pathogen.