points, no sparks, no front spring and no capacitor!
Forget about bending springs and working on machines and work on your
Pulse machine has developed a cult following around the world since the
first model went on the market in 1989.
I first started building Tattoo machines back in the late '70's I started
with rotaries as they were the easiest to make. I found that they held
me back and because of their even power band they did not have much of
a punch. Fine for the smaller clusters like 3's and 5's but not so good
once you wanted to work with bigger clusters which would tend to bounce
off the skin rather then punch through so I needed to hold the skin excessively
tight and they were still not so nice to work with.
I then progressed on to building D.C. machines and found these to be much
better for me.
But there still
seemed to be something not quite right about them and they too slowed
me down. As an artist I wanted machines that I could tattoo with at a
speed that suited me rather then have my creativity stifled because I
was being held back by equipment. It's important to note here that it's
not the speed that a tattoo machine runs at that allows you to work fast
but how the tattoo machine "hits", I didn't understand this
until I made my very first pulse-matic.
So here is my take
on how all the various machines available around the world "hit",
I believe you can assign all machines into one of three catorgeries. It's
very important to realise that regardless of the type of machine an artist
uses, techniques have been developed for all types, which when used correctly
will allow someone with good skills to make beautiful tattoo art regardless
of machine and at the end of the day if you are comfortable using rotaries,
pneumatic machines or D. C. coils and you are happy with the results then
that is all that counts.
they are motor driven they generally have a very even power band, by that
I mean that the power behind the needles when the cluster is half way
down it's stroke and just before it bottoms out is constant, it does not
get stronger or weaker as it travels through it's downward stroke. Because
of this I find they lack penetration with larger clusters. A good rotary
with small clusters will, in my opinion, cause less trauma then a DC machine
when used correctly because they have very little give at the bottom of
the stroke. If you set the needle depth at the tip then that's pretty
much how much needle will go in the skin if the skin is stretched real
tight to compensate for the lack of punch.
2-D.C. COILS. The
most popular machine out their. Prior to making the Pulse machine I used
D.C. machines for over a decade and many great artists use D.C. which
also leads to D.C. machines being popular as many try to emulate the top
artists. With the right set-up with springs, coils, A-bars etc. you can
get a D.C. machine to run fast or slow, hard or soft. The power band of
the D.C. machine is very different to the rotary, the downwards stroke
of the needles start from zero and builds in speed and power as it progresses
towards the end of the stroke, but before the needles reach the end of
the stroke the power turns off at the coil so the needles rapidly lose
speed and force right towards the end of the stroke. This is their one
major flaw! and every D.C. machine ever made, regardless as to whether
it's a shader or liner, lacks power on at the bottom end of the stroke.
This means that if you set the needle depth at the tip, that's not generally
what will go into the skin first hit. Because the points on the D.C. machine
separate before the A-bar is hitting the top of the coils the power is
off before the the needles are at the bottom of the stroke. The tensile
strength in the clients skin will decide to a degree how far the needles
actually go in. Ever wondered if using D.C. why the machine changes how
it sounds and can sound very mellow when working on different parts of
the body, this is why.
So every D.C. machine has this flaw but like all flaws, people will usually
work out ways to mitigate them and that's exactly the case with D.C. machines,
the layering technique comes to mind. When using D.C. the needles only
penetrate a little into the skin with each hit, it can take several hits
in the same place to get the ink down to the depth required, with the
needles getting progressivly deeper with every pass. This is why many
D.C. machines are set up to run at fast speeds like 130/160 Hz for lining,
but when you watch many artists lining with D.C. the hand speed is quite
Try and get your head around this as an example. Machine speed is 130Hz,
that's the needles hitting the skin at 130 times per second, say you have
a 3 needle liner with .35 (#12's) needles, one hit with the needles leaves
a footprint (small dot) .70 mills in diameter, say you need to move the
needles along by 1/4 of the diameter to lay the next dot of colour so
as to have an even edge to the line, this would mean that you need to
move the machine over the skin at a speed of .175 mills per stroke to
lay a nice smooth line. If you times .175 x 130 you get 22.75 mills, this
is how long the line would be after 1 second. That's lining at just under
1" per second! most DC users I know would be lucky to lay a 3 needle
line 22 mills. long in 3-5 seconds! so as you can see, moving a DC Machine
running at a fast speed, slowly across the skin allows the needles to
hit the same spot several times to get the ink down to where it's got
to go. This can also causes the ink to "blow out" and "bloom"
in the skin.
I watched a video recently of a top American artist laying solid black
with a machine that sounded like it was running at around 100Hz and using
a 17magnum, it took 23 seconds and I counted over 50 back and forward
motions over the skin to fill an area of around 10 square millimeters
( less then 1/2" square) But lets say it was only 25 movements for
this example. This works out to around 42500 puncture holes in the clients
skin. The needles did not look like they were much less in diameter then
a #12 but say they were # 10's leaving a dot size of .3mm, then in theory
you should only need to hit the skin around 333 times to fill that area,
but lets say you need to go over it 4 times to make sure all the gaps
between needles are well covered you should only need to puncture the
clients skin 1333 times, that's 41167 less puncture holes in the client.
I have even seen where artists will quickly tattoo over skin with nothing
but a water mix to "Open the pores and make the skin more responsive
to taking colour" before even starting the tattoo. This does not
open the pores but pre punctures the skin so the next hit will get in
a little easier and deeper.
A Tattoo made using the layering methode, using D. C. machines will quite
often look outstandingly bright when just finished, this is because a
large amount of pigment is sitting near to the surface and just below
the surface of the skin, a lot of pigment is lost in the healing process
and a lot will dissapear over the year or two after initial healing, leaving
only the smaller percentage of pigment that actually was deposited at
the correct depth to carry the piece. I hear many comments on how photos
of freshly Tattooed pieces published on the web by some famous artists
look washed out and faded and very dissapointing when seen in real life
a year or so later, this is why.
Because the D.C. machine is so dominant in the industry, no one really
questions whether there is a better way, and if they do they may try a
rotary and be disappointed and go back to D.C. thus confirming in their
own mind that it's the best and they don't even know that they are flawed.
I also classify the pneumatic type of machine that was popular for a short
time as a D.C. simply because they have the same stroke, as the cylinder
driving the needles gets close to the end of the stroke an exhaust port
opens for the air to escape so that the spring can return it up, at this
point there is no power behind the needles so once again skin tension
will play a big part in how far the needles penetrate.
This is the only machine with a different power band to rotaries and D.C.
coil machines. These machines utilize the sine wave frequency of A.C.
power to move the A-bar. Like all machines it starts at zero (top of stroke)
and as the coil energises it pulls the A-bar down towards the coil, and
just like a D.C. machine the speed and power in the A-bar increases as
it travels down towards the top of the coil. Unlike a D.C. machine the
power on the coil increases right up to the time the A-bar bottoms out
on top of the coils. This means the needles, unlike either rotaries or
D.C. machines, get faster, with increasing force behind them all the way
to the bottom of the stroke. The advantage of this, apart from the fact
that the skin requires minimal stretching to get penetration, is that
you get the ink in the skin to the right depth with one stroke and if
you really were capable of laying a 3 needle line at 22 mills per second,
running the machine at 130 Hz, as in the example above, then it's entirely
possible with a Pulse machine. (not that I could line that fast and I
doubt the ink could keep up with the needle! ) because each footprint
of colour goes in deep enough with just one stroke.
The difference in a just finished Tattoo where the pigment pretty much
gets placed at the correct depth first hit is that the colours may appear
a little muted when compared to just completed layered work, as the pigment
actually is in the skin a little and not sitting on the surface, simply
because the skin above has suffered a little trauma and may also still
weep a little blood for a few minutes, usually 20 minutes or so and even
the next day the colours look bright and vibrant and then they get obscured
again as the healing process starts and the scab forms. Once the initial
healing has finished and the skin starts to heal it self completly over
the next few months the colours get brighter and brighter as the "fresh"
shine goes off the skin. This is the opposite to layered work where the
colour gets duller and duller! many new artists in the industry trying
to get a following are putting pictures of their work on social media
minutes after they have done them, and many look outstanding but the true
test to whether you have placed your pigments correctly is how the piece
looks 6 months later!
I am fortunate to
be a fast worker and I line faster then most artists I know with my Pulse
machine running at 100Hz. I can even make beautiful, sharp and clean,
one pass lines simply by using an 8 or 14 round #10 or #12 shader
bar straight out of the pack, I can solid fill an area of black
10mm square in 10-12 seconds, once again at 100Hz. Half the time of a
D.C machine with a lot less trauma to a clients skin.
However because many artists can't grasp the differences and what it means
at the business end of the machine, if trying a Pulse machine for the
first time after coming from D.C they will tend to try to use it like
a D.C. which is a big mistake. They will use all the techniques developed
around a machine with no bottom end power on a machine that has full bottom
end power. They often will crank it up to 130/160Hz and then lay a ponderously
slow line and wonder why they are either chopping the skin or blowing
the colour out the side! The biggest problem by far I have with new Pulse
machine users is they apply D.C. techniques to it. Many artists are simply
not suited to a Pulse-Matic, if you are a fast, confident worker with
the machines you are using but wish you could find machines that would
let you work faster, then maybe they will suit you. If you aren't so confident
or are a slow worker, or a slow worker who thinks they are going fast,
then D.C is probably better suited to you as it is more forgiving of mistakes
and missteps. If you slip off a line using a D.C machine, chances are
you will just have a light scratch which is easy to hide, if you slip
off with a pulse-matic you are going to get an obvious line in the wrong
place! The photos below illustrate what I do with my machines, compare
them to what it would take using your existing equipment. The first photo
is simply of the piece after marking out with a sharpie, this took ten
minutes. The next is the finished outline in #12 5 needle, this took exactly
50 minutes. The third photo shows the completed piece blacked out with
a #10 7 mag. This took 2 and 1/2 hours, total tattoo time 3hours 20 minutes,
the design also goes round onto the chest and the back a little. I don't
rush, just working at the speed I am comfortable with. I know that had
I done this using D.C. I would have spent at least 5 hours on the job
and I would have had to have a touch up session once healed!