Power Supply Points and Tips for Tattooing
Here's a rundown of some things that we've covered for your basic tattoo machine liner settings:
- You should have a gap of about a dime’s width between the machine contact screw and front spring.
- Check all points on your machine where a screw may be present. Over time, the constant vibration the machine produces can cause screws to become loose, which causes faulty running of the machine.
- If you purchased a tattoo kit, it is always best to check your equipment out. You'd be surprised by what you might find.
- Finally, and this is a preference if mine: before you set up, take some emery cloth and go over your contact screw a few times. This allows for better electrical contact, as you will be removing the built up carbon on the end of contact point.
If you have questions about machine settings, I will gladly answer your questions, please leave a comment.
Power Supplies and Variety
There are a ton of power supplies that you can use. Each popular or non-popular brands offer the same thing: a controlled flow of electricity from their product to your machine. This enables the person to tattoo at a much speedier rate than trying it by hand. Remember, the sewing needle and thread with India ink? Yeah, it is much faster than that.
- One thing to know about your power supply is that it really works like the rest of the others on the market. In order for your power supply to run, you need a source of power yourself. Outside of, that they all work similarly, just with different physical features.
Some power supplies do not display the volts that are being outputted. If you have a power supply that does not have a digital output and simply a dial with numbers, don’t worry. You will need to make sure that:
- Your machine is tuned correctly mechanically.
- A dime-sized width gap is present.
- The clip cord is connected snugly in its appropriate slots.
- The needle is inserted correctly into tattoo tube.
These above-listed factors will make a huge difference in the performance of your machine. Once you have ensured that everything set up correctly, you’re ready for the next step.
Let's Get Tuned In
Turn your P.S. (power supply from here on out) on make sure your foot pedal and clip cord are plugged in the correct slots. Then, double check your clip cord connection to your machine.
- If all is in order, hold your machine in your tattoo hand, and push on the foot pedal.
- If you don’t get the immediate buzz, this probably means that the voltage is not turned on high enough. Slowly turn that dial until you get an even, uninterrupted buzz.
Now you can tell if your tattoo machine is running correctly by checking a few things:
- First, while the machine is running, check visually to see how far the needle is coming out from the end of the tubes tip. (I myself prefer the liner and shader to both have longer strokes. I do not like to drag the tip of the tube onto the client’s skin and sort of blindly tattoo the line that you see with short stroke set liners. With a longer stroke, you are in control of every aspect the needle has to offer. It takes a ton of practice and experience but the payoff is amazing. So, if you are running a shorter stroke setting tattoo liner then you should have set your needles to hang over the tube 1/16th of an inch.)
- With machine running, your needle should be coming out about 1/8 of an inch. If you are running the longer stroke, you hang your needles just about flush with the tube. While the machine is running, your needle should be coming out 1/8 to 3/16th of an inch. This is not much of difference, you might think, but that tiny gap between the skin and tip of needle enables the tattooist to visibly see the lines of the applied stencil.
Understand How to Tune Your Machine
- As your machine is running and the needle grouping you are using is set to appropriate depth, turn your tattoo machine towards you, so that you see the front view of your machine.
- You should be able to see the armature bar nipple that you inserted into the loop of your tattoo needle moving up and down very quickly — so quickly, in fact, that you should not be able to make out the loop on the needle.
Earlier, I mentioned that there are a few ways to tune your machine without a digital reading on your P.S. Well, here we go:
- Looking at the armature bar nipple, and if you are under fluorescent lights, you will notice (as long as the power supply is providing perfect flow of electricity) that the armature bar nipple as the machine is running seems to be a figure 8. (I know that a lot of you know what this should look like but I will provide a great pic so you can see what I mean.)
- I don’t know the exact technical jargon, but basically you are tuning your machine by the fluorescent light as if it were timing light.
If you do see that figure 8 movement as the tattoo machine is running, then chances are that the machine is ready for tattooing with.
If you do not have fluorescent lighting or a digital display on your power supply, you will do the final tuning the old fashioned way. Please make sure that your equipment is set up correctly. Once you are ready, keep your foot pressed down on the foot pedal.
- Begin by turning your power supply dial up, until you hear the buzz of your machine. Once you hear that buzz, pay attention to how your needle looks as it begins to move in the up and down motion. You are now tuning the tattoo machine by ear and eye. Your machine should run smoothly.
- If your power supply is turned up too high, it will sound like a very angry hornet, and there will be apparent sparks flying off of your contact screw and the front spring. If this happens, slowly turn the dial down on the power supply until the sparks have subsided and the machine buzzes in a softer fashion.
- To test it, rub your thumb against the armature bar nipple as the machine is running. The tattoo machine will bog down a bit. But, when you remove your thumb, it will instantly resume its steady buzzing noise. If the tattoo machine bogs down and will not restart after pressing down on the foot pedal, chances are contact screw needs to be buffed a bit or you need to adjust your power setting just a bit.
- Now for the visual part of tuning. You are primarily looking to check that your needle is not flopping around. If you see the needle bouncing around in the tube, there could be a few factors: you might need to add a rubber band, you may have inserted the needle in the tube wrong, or the power is turned up too high. So adjust your power accordingly. When it’s perfect, then it is time to tattoo.
Let’s talk very briefly about power supplies that have digital displays and memory settings. I definitely prefer these types of P.S.’s.
- As a habit, I make sure that my tattoo machines are tuned mechanically first. This works great because the P.S. I use has memory settings built in to remember which voltage is set for a specific type of tattoo machine (liner/shader). There are differences and you will see what I mean when you begin and become more confident in your skills and knowledge.
- What I like the most about the digital display power supplies is that you can see how much voltage you are using, you can also tell if the capacitor is being faulty, because the voltage will different than normal. Also, for the lazy, you can visually set the power settings.
That is the lesson for the day. Remember, if you have any questions or comments please post them below and I will be glad to answer any questions you may have. Talk to you all soon!