By Jay Brown
The tattoo machine has been around for 135 years now, the first stencil pen by Thomas Edison was used by tattooers. Then in 1891 Samuel O’Reily came up with his version of the tattoo machine and then it has just evolved from there. The odd thing is, the basic concept of the machine hasn’t changed all that much since the turn of the century, and the inline electromagnetic coil type machine still reigns supreme in today’s modern world.
I am a tattoo artist of 25 years, but I am also a tattoo machine builder. In this day and age it seems like everyone is building or assembling machines, some who haven’t been tattooing long enough to know the nuances of the machine itself, yet others really understand the geometry, and workings of a machine due to years of experience tattooing.
A few years ago everyone had to have apprentices, and apprentices had apprentices, now it seems the fad is to build machines. I personally do it because I have had a passion for tattoo machines since the beginning, hacking off Supreme frames in the 90s to do it as a version of Paul Rogers’ Mad Bee or Mike Malone’s Rollo-matic. And then 10 years ago I began building machines, starting out with some basic designs and bolt together-s in steel and aluminum, then cast brass only doing 13-20 a year. Now I work with steel, kind of gone full circle, all though I still do Jonesy replicas in cast brass. In the past few years I have made it more a full-time venture. Now I build 50-100 a year, all handmade and my designs and geometry. I really enjoy building good quality tattoo machines, and knowing that the artist using it gets to create beautiful skin art… So how do you know who a good machine builder is? (more…)