Five needle liners, with one exception, are made exactly the same way. Obviously, you will use a five needle jig when tacking them and the five needle head on the needle bar jig and will use the #5 holes for tightening, but the basic process is the same. The exception is the way the five needle group is placed together. The odd needle is in the center of the group. Put them together with your fingers and work them into proper position in the five needle jig before tacking. 14 needle round shaders are done as shaders on shader bars. Use the appropriate jigs. Single needle liner bars are done quite similar as three needle liner bars with a few differences. Only one good needle and two filed bad ones are used. The two bad ones act as a support for the otherwise good but flimsy single needle. When placed in the needle jig, line them up on the shelf just like the regular three needle and tack it. When you remove them, separate the needles slightly in your hand and with a pair of cutters, clip off about 1/4 inch of needle on each end of the bad ones, which leaves the good point sticking out about 1/4 inch from the other two.
Now, let’s deviate for a minute and review a few basic fundamentals. When holding a tattoo machine already set-up, turn it so it is facing you. Not in profile,
but in a front view with coils on the right and the frame arm on the left. You will notice several things pertinent to needle making. First, that the open end of the needle bar (the loop that fits on
the tape on the armature bar), this loop, the open end, always points to the left. This is a standard and never changes.
Now, look down at the opening in an open sanitary tube. Observe that the actual bar is towards you and the needle group behind it. In other words, the needle group is in back and the needle bar is in front. This is also a standard position and never changes. Get this down pat in your head. This position makes for a smooth motion and smooth tattooing. No matter what kind of needle bar is being made, this set-up never changes. Remember that. (Check Tube Drawing in Chapter 6.)
Back to the needle making. You have a nice tight three needle group and are ready to solder it to the bar. If you recall the last chapter, always use a round needle bar for liners. This is now what is needed, a round stainless steel liner bar. With the three needle head now on the needle bar jig, insert the needle group in the small hole in the jig head. The top needle in the triangle should be the uppermost or on the top of the rest, and the group points should be just touching the back of the jig trough located in the head. Place in a round liner bar. On the pin, located in the rear of the jig, fits the liner bar loop. The open end of the loop must always face to the right. The bar rides under the needle group, or the needle group rides on top of the bar. Clamp down the swivel bar and secure snugly with the wing nut. Solder on the needle group to the liner bar. Carefully pull out and you have a three needle liner bar. Check the points for perfection. Store carefully for sterilization and use.
Take hold of the handle with the shelf on the bottom and the hollow tube open at the top. Insert three good needles carefully in the hollow tube. The points are down touching the shelf and the blunt ends are facing up. Make sure the points are all touching the shelf and are all even. “Tack” the blunt ends with a little piece of solder just to hold them together. Let off on soldering gun trigger when soldering needles as it will magnetize and pull needle from jig, making an uneven set of needles. The key here is to use just a little bit of solder, this will keep the needles in alignment, then remove them from the jig. After this step, the needles have to be “tightened” as a group. You will need a Spaulding needle bar jig for this, and the next steps. This is a great device, taking all the guess work out and it is also just about indestructible. The one used here will be the jig for three and five needle liners. There are ten holes on the side of this jig. Three needle for the top and fives on the bottom. You will be using the holes made for three needle groups. Insert the “tacked” three needle group carefully into one of the holes. This will tighten them up. This will go in about 1/4 inch, leaving the rest of the needles hanging out.
Solder these needles together with just enough solder to do the job and no more. No blobs or inconsistent messes here, just a good clean solder up and down the needle shafts. Carefully pull them out. You should have a nice tight three needle group soldered all the way from one end to about 1/4 inch from the sharp needle end. They will lay in a triangle, two needles on the bottom and one between them and on top of them. No matter which way they are turned, you can’t help but get this.
The first step is to sit down and organize your equipment in front of you. Use a good strong light and work on a flat and sturdy surface. Don’t rush through anything since these needle bars are
basically your livelihood and entire bread and butter.
At this point, it is assumed that the tattooist has an intimate knowledge of using soldering equipment. This is not a chapter on how to solder, so a book on this subject should be read, and practice should be done on scraps of stainless steel or old needle bars to acquaint yourself with this process. When it is determined that you can handle your equipment with confidence, then and only then commence with practicing needle making.
Begin by soldering off the old needle groups from their respective bars. Do this over a garbage pail. Solder them off and let them drop into the pail never to be used again. Clean off all residue from the bars and set them aside. Line them all up, liners on one end of the table and shaders on the other end.
The next preliminary step is to choose your needles. In front of you is a small package containing 1000 stainless steel #12 sharps needles. They will not all be perfect. Up to twenty percent or more will be unusable as tattooing needles, but can be used as riders when making single needles. Remove a dozen needles from the package and lay them on a smooth surface. Extreme care should be used in making bars. These are very delicate, and caution should be used to make sure they stay perfect through the entire process. Go back to the last chapter and memorize the drawings on what bad needles look like when under the eye loupe. Inspect all the needles you have just pulled out of the package for such bad ones. Use a strong light, a good eye \oupe and take your time. Keep the good needles separate and on the bad needles, carefully file off the points With the file. Save these because they are going to be used when making single needle liner bars.
The first needle bar we will discuss making will be the three needle liner. You will need a needle jig for these needles. These jigs are the small metal ones with a little handle on them. They have a small shelf on the end with a hollow tube soldered on at right angles to the handle.
Needle making is an art and science in itself. It is not just some process that is performed, but an acquired skill to perfect. You want to make your own needles to be strong, but
to achieve a high level of skill in this field, the technique has to be practiced over and over again through the course of many months. Just like anything in life, the more you do something, the
better at it you become. This is very true with needle making. It can become really frustrating at first and it seems you will never get it right. This is the time not to quit, but to just keep
trying. Stick at it, and eventually you will be making needle bars as good as, or better than the ones you get from your supplier.
The following equipment is needed for making needle bars:
Solder Gun: A good one with a pistol grip for easy maneuvering, and developing
a lot of heat quickly. Solder Flux and Solder: This must be stainless steel flux and solder for soldering
stainless steel needles and bars. Absolutely nothing else. Tinning Fluid: For tinning the tip of the solder gun so you don’t burn the tip
through from high heat. Stainless Steel Shader and Liner Bars: To accept needle groups. Needles: Stainless Steel Sharps #12 needles. Eye Loupe: The highest power of best quality. A 15 or 20 power loupe is recom
mended. Needle Jigs: A great time saving device. These are manufactured (at the time of this writing) by only Spaulding & Rogers Mfg., Inc., others are copies. Clippers: Small pliers for wire cutting. File: Small file assortment (jewelers) Stones: Sharpening stone, around 1″ x 1/4″ x 3″. Plastic Aligner: Make yourself. 1 square inch x 1/4 inch.
This equipment is not stored out in the tattoo shop but in the back room or at home. Keep it somewhere quiet where you can concentrate on what you are doing. Once you get going, you will most likely tattoo all week long, and on Sundays or free nights, make your needles for the upcoming week. You are going to be making a lot of them, about a week’s supply or more at one time.
Before even starting, following the suggestions of the previous chapter on needles, you should have a good supply of needle bars (both liners and shaders) already on hand.
The pre-manufactured needle bars should be examined very carefully. Study them to see how they sit on bars, how the needles are soldered, which side is soldered and all the small details like arrangement of needles and order of grouping, etc. Before you begin, read this entire chapter several times and try to perform all of the steps in your head as you go along so you have some idea of what you are trying to do.