Those who use tattoo machines on a regular basis already understand everything that entails getting them to work right. However, this post is for the newbie who frequently calls a tattoo supply company to constantly ask for instructions on how to tune their tattoo machine. So here is a scenario; you get your brand new tattoo machine and you are obviously excited to use it but when connected, nothing happens, it does not make a sound. So you think that the builder did not construct it in the right manner. This is far from the truth. The tattoo machine is perfect as it is and understanding how to tune it is the first step of putting it into effective use.
A tattoo machine is made up of an amateur bar, a contact screw, a front spring and a thumbscrew or a locking nut. These are the main parts of the machine and without them, it cannot function accordingly.
Step one: Find the gap that exists between the front spring and the contact screw tip. This has to be the tip where the contact screw touches the front spring. Ensure that you are holding the machine with your left hand in order for you to easily press down the amateur bar. This will automatically generate the gap. Once you achieve this, tighten the thumbscrew and lock the contact screw in place then let go of the amateur bar. Use the nickel and dime trick to ensure that your lining is perfect. As a nickel is about two millimeters thick and dime is consequently half a millimeter, if the nickel can fit perfectly into this space then you are good to go.
Step two: Troubleshoot the machine at 10v. This voltage may be too high for normal usage but it is perfect for troubleshooting.
Step three: Adjust the spring tension to make a long or short stroke. This is important because it controls the living found in a tattoo. The stroke of your machine is basically the distance traveled by the amateur bar while in motion. This needs to be perfect because it determines if the machine will work properly or not. The stroke strength is measured by pressing your thumb and pressing it on the amateur bar nipple while the tattoo machine is off.
Step four: Determine the dime width of the machine by using the dime gap liner method, which is one of the most basic methods that is used in tuning a tattoo machine. This is basically done by ensuring that there is sufficient space between the dime gap liner and the nickel gap shade. Once you have this right, you can power up your machine and find variations on how to fine-tune if for the right lining, color packing or shading.
All of these procedures need to be followed accurately if you want to understand how to tune a tattoo machine. As you learn how to use the machine, you will find it easy to determine factors like the thickness of the springs as well as the efficiency of the coils. But for now, this tutorial is enough to help any newbie get started!