Frame Alterations

Tension is achieved by the rear spring. Remove needle bar and holding machine in left hand by the tube, depress armature bar with left thumb and ease it upwards until contacts meet. There should be enough tension so you can see the front spring rise a little more when contacts meet and you release your thumb - then you’ve got it right. You can buy a gauge from a tattoo supply house to duplicate this same tension when you replace the rear spring.
When coils are set where you want them, add a drop of liquid thread to the machine screws the last time you turn them in. This will assure a secure and tight fit. This can also be done with the two screws that hold the posts.
If you choose to wind your own coils, use #24 insulated magnet wire and a hand turned coil winder. Use a point file to keep points clean.

Once the machine is just right, never make any further adjustments. The more it’s run and the older it gets, the better it will function.
On the left side of the machine you will see where the wire from both coils are soldered together. Squeeze some G.E. Silicone rubber into this area to prevent bare wire from short circuiting on frame. As a matter of fact, it’s a good idea to do this all around between the base of coils and base of frame to prevent moisture from entering coils. Use a toothpick to smooth.
While the machine is running, there will be continuous arcing. Most machines come equipped with capacitors to eliminate arcing and cut down on point wear. If you put them on yourself, use one that is 25 volts and 10 MFD. This isn’t critical and you may want to experiment with different ones.

Tips On Assembling Tattoo Machines

If the tube is tight in the frame jaws, the slot gap will have to be widened. This can be done by dismantling the machine and clamping the frame in a vice and sawing through the gap with two fine tooth hack saw blades. Screw the coils to the frame base and use a straight edge to see whether the centers of the coil cores are in a direct line with the center of the tube hole and the center of the spring hanger. If one or both are slightly off center, loosen screw and insert a thin piece of copper shim on the low side under core. Tighten screw and see how it looks; you may have to shift shim several times to get it right.

When the machine is running, the armature bar strikes the front core of the first coil, but must not be allowed to touch the rear core. If it does, file a bit off the rear core surface.
Whenever filing, first mark the surface with Prussian blue (available at art supply shops) so you will see just what you have done and where you are going. Afterwards, remove filings with a Q-tip dipped in glycerine. On some frames, it’s necessary to remove coil to file.
Also, on most machines, you can move the spring-hanger slightly from side-to-side or back-and-forth a bit. Clamp the frame base in a vice and grasp spring-hanger with vice-grips and bend gently. Armature bar can be lowered slightly by filing surface of spring hanger, which you will have to do after you bend it in order to level the surface.
If points don’t meet to make a perfect contact, you can move side-arm in or out and on most machines fore or aft a bit - be sure the base is tightly gripped in vice when doing this. The significance of this is that shading machines perform better with longer fore and aft springs - even 1/8 of an inch can make a remarkable difference.

Trouble with ink in your tattoo machine

If you are having trouble with ink splattering out your tube tip, there could be several reasons for it. A slight splattering is normal. Sometimes it is caused by ink overloading. The reservoir on some bottom ends doesn’t allow for much ink. A square tip is more prone to splattering than a round one. Some lighter frames tend to splatter more than others. Check the tube tips for wear, change them before they wear down to a sharp edge. A machine that is properly tuned and used puts the ink out uniformly and rarely splatters.
By paying attention to these points, you will most likely eliminate any problem:
First, make sure your needle is in the tube right with the needle on the bottom side of the tip. Make sure the open side of the needle bar loop is to your left when it is attached to the armature bar.
Second, make sure the needle bar isn’t hitting the side of the tube as it goes up and down.
Third, make sure the rubber bands are all in good shape and are all pulling evenly. Pull them away from the needle bar one at a time and snap them back into place. Check them to be sure they aren’t weak or worn. It doesn’t hurt to replace your rubber bands every 15 or 20 hours of tattoo time. They don’t cost much and if they aren’t doing their job properly, you can really tax your brain trying to figure out why it’s splattering.

Fourth, make sure your points are properly set. Fifth, look at your tube tips. If they are worn, you will get splatter. Take out the needle and look inside the tip. If there is a groove where the needle rides, file it smooth again. Be very careful not to file away any more of the metal then you have to. The tip is made of soft metal and it’s easy to get carried away. Be careful, a little at a time. On liner tips there will be one groove. On shader tips there will be several separate grooves, like railroad tracks. On the round tips, use a round Swiss needle file to smooth it back out. On flat shader tips and your one needle liner tip, use a square Swiss needle file. If you have to file a tip to get it to stop splattering, be sure to clean it out good with a brush. Sterilize it before you use it again.
The splattering could come from one or all of the above. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else, until you figure it out.
If none of the above worked, change the needle bar to see if that helps.
If that doesn’t work, check the springs and replace them if necessary. Sometimes one side of a spring will break where it’s being held by the screw. It’s hard to spot.
The hard part is, if it starts splattering in the middle of a tattoo, you have to be able to figure it out, or continue with a splattering machine. This will take a lot longer to do if you don’t know what’s going on and your nerves will be shot from anxiety dealing with it.

Problems with your Tattoo Machine

If you are going along and all of a sudden your machine quits, first check to see if it is your machine or your power pack. To do this, try your other machine to see if it will work. If it is your machine and you can’t fix it on the spot, you can always put your needle bar and tube on your other machine and reset the point gap as a last resort to finish the tattoo.
If your machine won’t run at all, it is either a short or an open in your circuit. First check to make sure your points are clean. If there is something caught between them, it will break the circuit. Hold the armature bar down with your thumb to open the contact and blow hard on the points. If this doesn’t clean them, try pulling a small strip of paper through the points while they are closed. If this doesn’t work, try pulling a strip of emery cloth through them, grit side up, then grit side down. Then blow to get any grit out. If this works, you will probably want to readjust the point setting slightly to get it buzzing “just right” again.
Another area that shouldn’t be overlooked is weak coils. If your machine won’t run at all, or has very little power, it could be your coils. If your coils are bad, you can replace them by taking out the two screws in the bottom of the frame, being careful to note which washers go where, under the coils. Replace with new coils. When you melt the solder to disconnect the old coils, reattach your new coil wires at the same time. If your machine has a capacitor on it, you may want to replace it too, at the same time.
If your machine just up and quits on you all at once, or won’t run when you take it out, look for any loose or broken wires or connections. The tattoo machine is really quite simple, with few adjustments and fewer moving parts. Due to the constant vibration of the machine, you have to constantly fool with it, readjusting and tightening this and that. Daily maintenance is the key.

The good running of the tattoo machine

Listen very carefully to the buzz of your machine. You might have to turn the contact screw in or out just a little until you get that right sound. It should sound real smooth. Listen carefully to the sound of the machine as you turn the contact screw and you will be able to “hear” the ideal setting if you pay attention. It won’t be choppy and clatter, yet it will have plenty of power and have a long enough stroke to allow the needle bar to travel between 1/16 and 3/32 inch up and down.

Once you get used to the “purr” that it makes when it is running good, you will be able to keep your points set at optimum efficiency quickly and easily just by hearing it. When it begins to “purr,” take your foot off the pedal and tighten the set screw to lock the contact screw in that position. Then push the foot pedal again to be sure that it is still tuned “right” and doesn’t need any further adjustment.

After you attach the tube and needle bar, you may have to readjust the point gap slightly to compensate for the extra weight. If so, loosen the set screw and push down on the pedal as you screw the contact screw down a tiny bit more, listening to the sound of the machine until it is running smoothly and strongly. Just remember that the smoother your machine runs, the better it will tattoo for you.

Circuit Points of the machines

As you keep the foot pedal pushed down, slowly turn the contact screw down to meet the contact point. Your machine will start to run when the contacts get close enough together to make a circuit. A general rule of thumb is that the gap between the shader points when you push down on the armature bar is the thickness of a nickel. The gap between the points on the liner should be about the thickness of a dime. Nickel shader, dime liner. This distance will change slightly with each machine and with the shape the springs are in. If they are weak, you can compensate by turning down the contact screw a bit, not too much. This measure has to be done with the machine off and the armature bar held in the down position. On a machine with heavy-duty coils, this measurement may be doubled. Another way to do it, is to eyeball the distance the armature bar is travelling, as the machine runs, while you adjust the contact screw. When the distance the armature bar is travelling up and down is about the same distance as a dime or a nickel, depending on which machine you are tuning at the time, then you are right.

The contact point of the machine

Next, line up the contact point in a direct line over the nipple on the armature bar and tighten. Then line up the contact point on the front spring in a direct line with the contact screw. The rear spring should be snug against the rear screw in most cases. Tighten rear screw. The contact screw points to One o’clock, when you hold up the machine and point the front (tube end) to your left. It is in this position when it is new, and should stay in this position.
Attach the clip cord to your machine and turn on your power pack. Holding the machine firmly in your left hand by the frame, slowly turn the contact screw down (clockwise) to meet the contact point on the front spring. Be careful to only touch the contact screw by the rubber tip or it will shock you. If the rubber tip is missing, you can wrap a piece of electrical tape around the end, or even a rubber band in an emergency.

Setting tattoo machines. Continue..

After continued use, the front spring that holds the contact point and the back spring that holds the armature bar to the frame will weaken and should be replaced. If your coloring is getting sketchy, it could be weak springs; one or both of them. If they are weak, they won’t have enough bounce to penetrate the skin anymore and are springing back before any depth is attained. Before removing spring and armature bar, put a mark on the side of the armature bar and continue the mark across the center of the washer on top of the front coil. (See Diagram.) After you have made your repairs, be sure both marks line up when replacing the armature bar. This is important because the armature bar has been seated in on the top of the front coil and should go back in the exact same place for top performance of your machine.
To replace the springs, take needle and bands off, loosen the set screw on the front binding post and back the contact screw out four or five turns. Then loosen the rear screw on top of the machine and remove the entire assembly consisting of the rear spring, the armature bar and the front (contact) spring.
Remove the screw that is holding both springs to the armature bar. First, put the screw back in the hole in the rear spring and start it into the armature bar. Make sure you still have both washers on the screw, on top, above the springs. Next, put on the front spring, placing it on top of the rear spring and under both washers. This front spring will just slide on the screw. Tighten finger tight. Before replacing assembly, take this opportunity to buff your contact screw, removing any pits.
To replace the assembly, slide the rear spring under the loosened rear screw, making sure the rear spring is back all the way against the screw and under both washers. Tighten finger tight.

Setting tatttoo machines

Keeping your equipment running smoothly is very important and takes more than just a little luck. You have to understand all aspects of the machines and how to tune them.
One of your duties will be to check the contact points on a regular basis. Keep the points and the contact screws in good shape so they will make good “contact.”
To set the points, be sure they are first clean and smooth. A point file can be used to flatten the surfaces if either one of them is burned or pitted. Silver points are readily replaceable and if they can’t be filed back into shape, put on a new spring with a new contact point on it, or just file off the old point and put on a new one. If it can be repaired, do so, taking care not to file off any more of the point than you need to. Emery cloth is very effective in cleaning up both the points and the contact screw, also a burnishing file works well.
Use a light touch on the procedure, or you will go through a lot more contact points than necessary. A quick buff job when they get slightly pitted is about all that is required. Be sure to buff the contact screw too, so you will have good contact there.
To get longer life out of the points, spray them with a good contact cleaner occasionally.