About The Origin Of Tattoo Machines?

About The Origin Of Tattoo Machines?

A simple mechanical operating principle

Bringing pure craftsmanship to the mechanical age

Paying tribute to the industrial revolution era that belongs to tattoo craftsmen

图片Tattoo machines are cool tattoo guns in the eyes of passers-by

But in the eyes of tattoo artists, this machine is a tool for making a living

Today I will tell you the origin story of the tattoo machine, a wonderful tool born by accident.

Before the arrival of the tattoo machine, early tattoos were called tattoos, because tattoos all over the world were made by hand-made single-color tattoos inserted into the skin. After the color of the pattern was restored, it was mostly blue, which is also the origin of the name tattoo.

Traditional tattoo needles

To trace the history of tattoo machines, we have to go back to the 19th century when Samuel O'Reilly patented in 1891, when Volta, an Italian inventor, improved the battery. All early tattoo machines and models were battery-powered. The search for history takes us to 1819, when Danish inventor Orestes discovered electromagnetic induction. This basic electrical principle has been used in all patented tattoo machines and is reflected in actual operation. This seemed to usher in O'Reilly's famous patent in 1891. Indeed, O'Reilly's work was the first full-fledged tattoo machine to be patented, but before that, electromagnetically powered punching tools had been developed for a long time.

In 1876, Thomas Eva Edison, a mad inventor from Newark, New Jersey, invented and patented a rotating electromagnetic machine that used batteries to make copies of handwritten materials using an inking pen. The ink shaft then rolled over the perforated paper, and a copy of the original material was completed.

In 1877, Edison had a new idea and made a slight change, adding a curved reed, which vibrated on the coil and produced reciprocating motion for the ink plate. Then the electromagnetic punch tool had a long time to develop.

If you carefully observe how Edison's patent works, you can see that this machine can be easily adopted by the tattoo industry.

Then in Italy an Italian inventor improved the battery. All early tattoo machines and models were battery powered. This device marked the beginning of the endurance of the equipment used by most tattoo artists today.

In 1891, after only slight modifications by Edison, Samuel O'Reilly saw the future of this tool and patented the first tattoo machine in the United States. O'Reilly's modifications included: improved assembly tube with ink cartridges, a switch, punch straightener and pin clamp type needle belt.

In 1892, Samuel O'Reilly invented the electric tattoo machine. Since then, modern tattooing has entered a period of rapid development. It only causes a slight pain and is fast. A simple tattoo can be completed in a few minutes.


Charlie Wagner of New York City also received a patent for a tattoo machine in 1904. Many historians believe that O'Reilly had a dominant influence on the development of the tattoo machine, however, an examination of the original sketches shows that both products used Edison's design ideas.

What most people consider to be the true tattoo machine was designed by Bosch Witt of Detroit in 1929. Witt was not the first of more than 1,000 patents for such machines, and the name of the original designer has been blurred in the long history of tattooing.

Witt's machine was a standard double-solenoid type (a spring-loaded machine), but the coils were placed horizontally with the frame. Other improvements included a touch switch, spark protection, and a needle that could cut the plastic film. He produced and sold a variety of different machine types over many years as a supplier. Witt appears to be the only early tattoo machine inventor to have made a profitable patent market.

The coil tattoo machine consists of the frame (which can be stamped, cast, wire cut, or welded), magnetic coil, capacitor, vibration suspension, shrapnel, adjusting top rod screw and other main components, none of which can be missing.

In 1978, the famous German tattoo artist Manfred Kohrs invented the first motor tattoo machine in history.

Early tattoo machines were crude and mostly handmade, with high manufacturing costs and a single pattern. At that time, electric tattoo machines beat 1,000 times per minute and only pierced the epidermis of the skin, with a depth of only 0.8-1 mm. Today, the manufacture of tattoo machines has reached perfection, and electric tattoo machines beat 30,000 times per minute.


Working principle of coil machine (shrapnel machine):

The transformer is connected to 220v (converted to 110v) and 50hz AC is converted into DC and then connected to the tattoo machine. The working voltage is 0-15V. The two main coils and the square magnet block generate a magnetic field to play a spraying and suction role. The square magnet block uses the elastic force of the shrapnel to generate high-speed up and down reciprocating motion. The square magnet block drives the tattoo needle to work and penetrate the surface of the skin to bring the pigment into the epidermis!


Power on the two coils, turning them into electromagnetic coils

Attract the armature to move, vibrate the tattoo machine downward, and disconnect the conductive contact with the touch rod

Cut off the current, causing the magnetism of the coil to disappear

The armature returns to its original position under the drive of the shrapnel, allowing new current to flow through again

This is how the coil machine works

The working principle of the motor machine:

The motor machine is a motor that converts the rotation of the motor into up and down movement through the torsion shaft). The motor machine is driven by a motor, and the principle is similar to that of a razor, and the tattoo is used in the same way. Relatively speaking, the motor machine has less noise and vibration (higher requirements for the motor if it works for a long time). Light weight, strong power, no noise, super stable, easy to adjust, and easy to use.

The rotational motion of the motor will be converted into linear motion at the needle

If the coil machine is the label of the industrial revolution, then the motor machine to the pen-shaped tattoo machine is a technological revolution. It is like the update from a keyboard mobile phone to a touch mobile phone. The tattoo pen is lighter, more stable, and clean. The disadvantage is that the integrated needle tip needle is expensive and the consumables are not cost-effective.

From the time Edison first used the ink pen to punch holes to the present, the machine has been improved for the first time in the past century. No matter how much it has improved, the perfect tattoo machine for every artist has not yet appeared; almost all tattoo artists will modify and debug the machine according to their own needs and uses to suit themselves. The tattoo machine has also become a very personalized tool. It can be said that no two machines are the same.

There are still many inventors designing and developing tattoo machines in the United States and Europe. Most of these inventors are unable to obtain patents for their designs due to time and money, probably due to the lack of original design. However, as market capitalization deepens, tattoo machines will slowly evolve into better tools.

In theory, at least, that’s how it’s used. Sometimes, changes made to a machine don’t make it any better when the inventor is operating it, but the truth is that in this process of trial and error, what is an improvement for one person may even be an obstacle for another, and so the search continues.

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