Jason Goodrow, otherwise known as "the Goodboy," is a licensed tattoo artist who shares his expertise with the world in his articles.
Tattoo Machine Basics
There are certain basics about your tattoo machine that you need to know as a tattooist. If you don't and suddenly you have machine problems, your tattoo project is going to turn into a nightmare, especially if you have a spring break on you in the middle of a tattoo.
Springs are a challenging subject in general, but this lesson offers some helpful tips on bending your rear and front springs.
Tips for Working on Your Tattoo Machine's Springs
- Most tattoo machines use Allen head screws, so make sure you have the correct type of Allen keys to break loose the whole spring assembly.
- You will need to remove the armature bar and the o-ring to completely disassemble your spring set. (For those of you brave enough to make your own springs, be sure to cut your springs as close as possible to the ones you removed. It does not have to be the most perfect cut, but the closer, the better.)
- Note: Be sure to cut your springs with good tin snips or metal cutters. DO NOT use a grinder or belt sander to get your final shapes. Use a fine grooved file or emery cloth to fine-tune the shape of your springs, because heat will weaken your springs!
After Your Springs Are Disassembled, Slap Some New Ones In
So after you have your springs torn apart, you're ready to slap your new ones on. Don't worry, it is not really that difficult.
You have your new spring stock that is either already pre-cut by a company you researched that provides a quality product, or you are going to use stock that you cut yourself. Either way, how you bend these springs is not going to change a lick.
Putting Your Unbent Springs On
So most of you should have taken your tattoo machine apart a few times by now and that means putting the new springs on will be no big deal. It will seem a little strange at first just because there is absolutely no bend in your front and rear springs, and they just lie flat, attached to the armature bar.
Take a good look at the photo: You don't need to tighten everything down onto the armature bar, just tighten the springs enough so they don't slide around, a little loose is okay.
Attach the Spring Assembly Back to the Machine Frame
Okay, now simply attach your spring assembly back onto the machine frame. You will want to tighten it down pretty well because you will be using the old rear spring you removed to bend the new front spring we just put on!
So a Lot of You Are Going to Ask . . .
How Do You Know When the Bend in Your Spring Is Right?
Well here is the deal: Be observant of your equipment. How much bend was on the last set of springs you had? Because the bend in your springs really does give your tattoo machine its punch to get the job done.
What if I Don’t Bend the Springs Right?
Don't sweat it. I still to this day have not bent my springs perfectly on the first try ever, and there is a little bit of room for error. Don't get me wrong, don't bend your springs back and forth multiple times because that will obviously weaken your springs and even break them. But you can adjust them . . . just be patient and take your time.
Adjusting the Rear Spring
Now that you have bent your front spring to where you are comfortable with it, loosen the spring assembly a little and swing it out sideways on your tattoo machine frame. (You will see what I mean in the photo I provided.)
Simply place your forefinger under the armature bar and give it a little bit of pressure upwards. The slight curve you put in the rear spring controls the depth or the fall your armature bar takes to hit the tops of your coils of your tattoo machine.
What If You Bend Too Much?
So like I said before . . . this is not rocket science. If you over-bent your rear spring, all you have to do is reverse the process. Instead of putting upward pressure on your armature bar, you will simply apply downward pressure to achieve the bend you want.
Note: The thickness of your springs matter, so again pay attention to what spring stock you have become comfortable working with so you can further your learning experience.
End of Lesson
I hope this information helped you figure a few things out, and yes there is a lot of information when it comes to springs. If you have questions, I will do what I can to respond in an expedient manner if the question makes sense.
Thanks for stopping by!
Questions & Answers
Question: How much give should the front spring have on my tattoo machine? My shaders are set to where the rear tension creates substantial back give. I run a small gap but still get a good through do to the "squish". It seems to work great for powder grey effects. My color packer is a whole different setup. I'm guessing that the squish keeps the needle in the skin longer?
Answer: I don't have any gauges or trip tones to read how much hit I am getting with my springs... I base a lot on sound and how hard the spring is hitting on my forefinger... as far as the squish I am not familiar with that particular vocabulary. Intrigued though.
James on August 11, 2018:
Hey there. My ? Is what gage should l use for my front n back springs for both my linern my shader , l tryed for my liner 18\18 , n 18\20 but yet my speed is always showing around 102 but my depth is like it should around 46 54 or 55 l could really need some advice
Jason Goodrow (author) from Washington State on March 21, 2015:
Sorry this took so long, but yes that could be a part of it, spring may not be tight enough, needle could be put in backward too and that can cause the same problems
Take a peek again at some of the lessons, there is some great information on what your talking about.
Thanks for the read
MicBeth777 from North Branford, Connecticut on February 17, 2015:
Hi, i have a problem, i am new at tattooing and its only for my own pleasure, how do i get a good ink line ?and would amps or springs be part of my problem...thanks