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Tattoo Machines - Get Under the Skin

Nov 7, 2007
Traditionally tattoos have been used for both decorative and spiritual reasons. The tattoo dates back to Neolithic times. Archaeologists discovered the body of a man they named 'Otzi the Ice man'. His body was found preserved since his death circa 3300 BC and exhibited 57 tattoos.

In Samoan cultures men tattooed to signify an ascendance to a leadership role. In 1720-1870 Japan, tattoos were used to signify that the wearer was a criminal.

In recent times, tattoos have become increasingly popular. Once synonymous with bikers and gangs they are now popular with celebrities. Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, David Beckham and Britney Spears have all brought tattoos to the tabloid spotlight and as a result their popularity is booming.

If you are looking to get a tattoo then this article will guide you. Tattoos are applied by a tattoo artist. Typically these artists use an electronic tattoo machine. This machine has a needle on the end that penetrates the skin and leaves a trace of indelible ink a millimetre under the skin.

Tattoo machines have needles that can penetrate the skin up to 3000 times per minute. The needle pierces the top level of the skin called the epidermis and leaves ink in the dermis layer of the skin. This layer is more stable and it ensures that the tattoo will remain in place. The tattoo is permanent and visible through the thin epidermis.

Tattoo machines were invented in the late 1800s and have not changed greatly since. Tattoo machines typically consist of a sterilised needle, a system that supplies the ink through the needle, an electric motor and a foot pedal that allows the tattoo artist to control the speed of the needle.

The tattoo machine is reminiscent of a sewing machine and works in a similar way. Some modern tattoo machines have multiple needles depending on the shading and detail required.
The main source of concern when having a tattoo done is safety. A tattoo requires the skin to be pierced repeatedly and therefore there is a level of risk. Tattoo artists go to extensive lengths to reduce the risk of infection and disease.

Most of the materials used for the tattoo, including the needles, are single-use and re-usable materials are sterilised before each use. This is done by using an autoclave. This unit is typically found in a hospital and essentially boils or steams the materials. The autoclave is set to the correct temperature and for the correct length of time to ensure that the tattoo equipment is safe.

Choosing the right design for your tattoo takes time. Clients can design their own tattoos or work with the tattoo artist to create a unique design. There are also an enormous range of designs that can be picked from a selection in the tattoo parlour.

This selection is called flash and features popular designs, often including the latest celebrity offerings. Most artists use the stencil of the design to ink the outline, usually with black. They then spend time shading the image. After cleaning the area the tattoo artist will then add colour if necessary. The artist will then clean and bandage the area.

The tattoo will generally heal in two to four weeks. Tattoo machines cost in the range of 80-135 pounds and many are hand built. Heavy duty coils provide a machine that runs smoothly and most are fully adjustable. Some tattoo machines enable the artist to use them to add lines, shade and colour.

Most tattoo machines are made from steel, brass, iron or aluminium and can last for years. A good tattoo machine should come with a few relevant spares such as springs, so be sure to check with your supplier before you purchase.

If you are new to tattooing then starter kits are available for around 200 pounds and include everything you need. Please note - I would strongly recommend purchasing some practice skin before you go to work on your mates!
About the Author
Shaun Parker is an expert on the tattoo industry and tattoo machinery. To find out more, visit Tattoo machines
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