Quality isn't a native you tend to associate with DIY tattoos. By means of example, let's round up the scenarios in which you might enable someone totally unqualified to take it a needle to your skin: due to the fact that it's 4 am at a house party and even the Sports direct mugs of warm white wine have run dry, or since you're in prison. There is no exception, the story behind her homemade skin scribble is far better than the scribble itself.

You are watching: How to make a homemade tattoo machine

Mind you, just because they're not always the most aesthetically-pleasing, doesn't median DIY tattoos don't have actually a specific charm to them. I beg your pardon is why, when I recently uncovered out the the Homemade Gallery—a travel art space in Milan—was hosting a workshop that promised come teach you how to construct your very own tattoo gun, I determined to join.

The occasion was organized as part of the gallery's exhibition La Pelle Abitata (the skin us live in), and was organized by the tattoo artist Piereeno, who described that he'd been functioning on the technique of assembling a functioning tattoo machine for the past year. You deserve to basically usage anything available to do them, and Piereeno's an approach involved a toothbrush, some batteries, and a lighter.

Here are some of the tips and also tricks we learned.

The Tools

Allessandro sitting in former of his tools before the workshop.

Our tools are laid out nicely on the workbench—scissors, pliers, nine-volt batteries with clips to connect them, toothbrushes, lighters, sellotape, tiny electrical motors comparable to what you'd find in an electrical razor, buttons, super glue, a cut knife, and screwdrivers. Every stuff you could have lying around, Piereeno mentions—even if you're in prison.

The Frame

Piereeno mirrors us how to build the frame with a toothbrush.

The very first task is to construct the frame, i m sorry serves together the base because that the handle and will ultimately support the whole mechanism. For this, every we need is a plastic toothbrush and a lighter. Piereeno, who made his first tattoo device last year, tells us to warmth the bit in between the head and the handle before bending it 90 degrees, making sure the take care of remains longer than the head.

I soon realize the the quickest and most effective means to bending the toothbrush is to permit the plastic to catch fire, prior to putting the out and immediately twisting the brush. Sure, you can inhale some fairly toxic fumes, but it conserves time.

The Tube

I found heating the tongue made it simpler to part the pipe in half.

The following step is to develop the tube the the needle will certainly slot through. We'll usage the barrel of a ballpoint pen, cut to about half its length. Part members that the class try cutting the barrel v scissors, which is no only challenging to do, but likewise creates frayed edge that should be smoothed. V my tolerance for toxicity fumes currently established, I use the lighter to warmth up the tongue of a knife cutter, allowing me come slice with the plastic.

At this point, we return to the reminder of the pen. Using the pliers, we eliminate the squid tube and the steel tip. That way, all we're left with is the metal support, i m sorry is placed earlier inside the tube. This is the phase where everything—hands, face, workbench, clothes—gets spanned in ink, assuming girlfriend haven't already set everything ~ above fire.

Maria it is registered the sterilized needle come the motor.

Preparing the Needle

Since finding a sterile tattoo needle in jail is famously difficult, inmates regularly use guitar strings or sewing needles instead. Exterior of prison—and in our case—a sterile tattoo needle with a thick reminder is your finest bet. The guideline can't be used as it is: We require a cable cutter to eliminate the ring at the end of the needle. Then, v the pliers, we fold a centimeter of the needle's base end by 90 degrees and also slot it with the tube.

The Electrics

It's time to begin thinking about the yes, really mechanism. In order to keep the battery life that the machine, we first need to develop a switch. We take the clip indigenous the batteries and also cut the red cable in half. Now we slice ago the insulation and also leave around fifty percent a centimeter of bare wire on the ends. Heating up the insulating material makes it simpler to remove the thick outer coating, exposing the copper inside.

Photo courtesy the Homemade Gallery

Now for the move itself—we use the driver to undo the screws just enough so we deserve to insert the two ends the the red wire and fasten castle again top top the other side. To check it, we connect the battery come the clip and rest the ends of the red cable and black cable on every of the two motor contacts. The motor need to start turning once friend flick the switch.

The Motor and also Transmission

Before us permanently connect the motor to the battery, we must prepare the so it'll drive the needle in a circular motion, producing a continuous loop that the needle walking forward and also backward. To the end, we leave a drop of super adhesive in among the holes in the motor and also insert the reminder of the rotor. The needle is then put inside the feet opposite the one we just glued.

Attaching the mechanism to the Frame

assembled tattoo machines

We're currently ready to attach our mechanism to the frame. To acquire the best measurement, it's finest to remainder the motor and also needle versus the section of the framework with the toothbrush head. It's essential the needle sits perpendicular come the take care of so the it doesn't jam once we attach the biro tube. As soon as we've uncovered the right position, we affix the motor making use of insulation tape, being cautious not come cover the electrical contacts. Once we have placed the engine, we have the right to place the battery underneath, through the contacts encountering the toothbrush head.

Here, we connect the cable of the clip-switch to the motor's contact points and fix the switch in ar with tape, sticking it between the head that the toothbrush and the motor. Lastly, we join the clip to the battery, prior to covering increase the motor v the same tape to make sure it doesn't spark or provide the user an electrical shock.

We're virtually done. Every we have to do currently is affix the tube from the ballpoint pen to the toothbrush handle. With the motor off, we push the needle through the buttonhole opposite the one us glued the rotor to. Then, we insert it into the pipe and, turning the switch by hand, choose the maximum distance that we deserve to fix the needle so that it have the right to move there is no jamming. At maximum extension, the tip have to stick out by around a centimeter. And also there you have it: a DIY tattoo gun.

WATCH: Needles & Pins – DIY: Homemade Tattoos


It's time to test our machine, by inking something or someone. Once doing tattoos in prison, Piereeno explains, inmates regularly use lampblack—a fine carbon make from charcoal or soot—mixed with urine, which is supposed to be sterile as lengthy as the human who produces the is healthy. We will not be making use of that. Instead, we turn to straightforward tattoo ink.

We experiment our tattoo equipments on an array of fruit.

As for our subjects, us decide ~ above a banana and an orange. In ~ this point, our instructor shares the truth that once he developed his an initial machine, that tried to tattoo self on his leg, only for the ink no to settle properly and for the battery to operation out halfway through. He reflects us his discolored tattoo, which, top top the add to side, at the very least proves the he really does know just how to rally a working tattoo gun, and that adding that battery switch wasn't one unnecessary luxury.

Piereeno tattoos his name on a banana, when one man in our course draws the overview of a bottle and another doodles a rather thorough penis. An additional participant, Allessandro, is one apprentice at Queequeg Tattoo Studio, among the oldest studios in Italy. If scribbling top top his banana, he explains to me in detail how any DIY total is unlikely to be hygienic or precise.

Though following the workshop has absolutely given me some sense of accomplishment, i don't think any kind of of united state will be utilizing our brand-new skills to ink our very own skin any kind of time soon. Doodling on pieces of fruit seems irreversible enough, because that now.

DISCLAIMER: Just since you can build a DIY maker and tattoo yourself, doesn't mean you should. In fact, it's basically always a negative idea. However if you room going to execute it, please make sure your needle has been sterilized: girlfriend don't want to shed an arm because of one objectively destructive weed sheet tattoo.

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