This is some information from CR Jordan's new DVD Training series for Tattoo Artists. The following is a rough transcript from "Welcome Tattoo DVD 2" (which is the second part of the series). Welcome Tattoo and Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo (the book) are a MUST have for any tattoo artist.

 

tattoo tubes

CR Jordan talks about tattoo tubes

If you are going to be a good tattoo artist and not just a tattooist, you have to know the tools of your trade. That is why I emphasize that it is so important that you are able to not only tune your tattoo machine but repair your tattoo machine and pick the right types of needles as well as building your own needles, so you are going to need a lot of supplies to do that. Before we go into building your own needles, I want to talk a little bit about the types of needles. If you are brand new to tattooing or you are an apprentice and you are still just trying to figure things out in this industry, it might be a little bit confusing to see all these different types of needles available for sale.
There is four major types of needles that you can purchase. There is going to be rounds. There is going to be mags. There is going to be flats and then there is going to be tight rounds. Now, there is couple different variants of mags. There is going to be woven mags and stacked mags and curved mags. When you talk about rounds, you are going to see loose rounds and tight rounds. Flats are pretty much flats. They are what they are.
Now, it gets even more complicated than that because after we look at the needle configurations, we can talk about the actual needles themselves that make up the needle configurations. Now, I am not going to emphasize too much.
Okay. Once upon a time when I became a tattoo artist, apprentices were the ones in the shop that had to make the needles. It was very tedious. There is fumes. You burn yourself and it is a pain in the ass. However, now it has gotten so cheap with all of the needle suppliers typically coming from overseas that it is very hard to find tattoo artists these days that have the time or even the knowledge on how to make tattoo needles, so I am not going to go too far in depth with the needle building right now but we are going to go ahead and talk about the actual needles themselves that you are going to buy prepackaged. It is really important that when you buy needles prepackaged that they are blister pack sealed. This is going to ensure that those needles are sterile and that they are certified.
All right. Let us talk about what exactly is a tattoo needle. When we say tattoo needle, we are not really talking about a needle, a single needle like when you go get a shot from the doctor like an injection, hypodermic needle. What we are talking about are more along the lines of what a sewing needle or a pushpin needle is. When tattoo artists say I am grabbing a tattoo needle out of this box, they are really talking about a group of needles that are soldered together on a needle bar, so when you will hear me talk about a needle, I am really talking about the group of needles.
The needles themselves are different diameters and different tapers and different lengths. When I talk about diameter, I am talking about how big the actual individual needle is when you look down the needle at the measurement of the radius of the needle. When we talk about taper, we are talking about the very tip of the needle, how it is sharpened essentially, how blunt or how sharp the needle is. There is also textured needles, needles that have been hit with some type of a sandblast material that puts little pits into the needle. Some say that when you have these little pits in the needle that it is going to carry a little bit more ink in those pits when it punctures the skin and it is going to put the ink in a little bit better. A common needle that has gotten a lot of popularity in the past couple of years is called the bug pin needle and these are just really small diameter needles and there is also, I think, long and short tapered bug pins.

 

This is some information from CR Jordan's new DVD Training series for Tattoo Artists. The following is a rough transcript from "Welcome Tattoo DVD 2" (which is the second part of the series). Welcome Tattoo and Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo (the book) are a MUST have for any tattoo artist.

 

CR Jordan shows tattoo needles

Tattoo needle example from welcome tattoo DVD

Once you have figured out what type of needles you are going to use then you have to figure out what type of needle configurations you are going to use. The configurations are going to be the rounds, the flats, or the mags. Now, diving deeper into the round types of configurations, you have the loose rounds and you have the tight rounds. Loose rounds are typically going to be also referred to as shaders and tight rounds are going to be referred to typically as liners. When we talk about mags, we have a couple of different options there. We are looking at woven mags, stacked mags, and curved mags.
Let us talk about flats. A flat needle configuration is typically going to be several needles placed side by side next to each other and then soldered together onto a needle bar. They are flat. They are all just laying flat in a row next to each other.
When we talk about mags or magnum needles, we are talking about woven or stacked mags typically. Now, a stacked mag is going to be a flat needle configuration soldered on top of another flat needle configuration. Typically, the configurations are going to be one less needle on the top of the stack than what is on the bottom. An example would be ten needles on the bottom and nine on top. The top needle stack is staggered so that the top needles are in between the bottom needles.
When we talk about woven mag configurations, it is a flat needle configuration where typically a razor blade is stuck in between every other needle and it is woven in and out between that flat configuration and it is then soldered so that every other needle is a little bit higher than the one before it. This simulates a stacked configuration. However, it uses less needles and you can get a little bit more ink in with a little bit less trauma. The gradients on a stacked mag compared to a woven mag are going to be a little bit finer or a little bit better blended on a stacked mag depending on who you talk to.
Then that brings us to curved mags. Curved mags are either [private levels="basic,level1,level2"]woven or stacked but the trick with the curved mag is the outer needles on the left or the right side of the configuration are a little bit further back than the needles towards the center creating a semicircle from left to right or right to left depending on which way you are looking at it. This is going to accomplish a couple of things. It is going to allow the artist to have a little bit softer blending when they are using their mags and it is going to restrict the artist from being able to do a lot of corner work or lining with the mag.[/private] Some artists will use a regular stacked or a woven mag and they will actually be able to line with the corner of it.
Traditional tattoo rules of thumb for mags or flats are if you ever use a flat or a mag on its side or at an angle that you are going to cut the skin like a razor blade. Now, that is actually true and not true depending on how you tattoo and depending on your hand pressure. You can actually cut the skin like a razor blade with a round configuration just as easy as with the mag. I can tell you that there are many artists who use mags and flats and they line with them all the time on their side or they will lift the needle up a little bit and get into a sharp or a hard to reach spot of the tattoo using the corner of the mag and it does not cause that much trauma but you have to be really careful and you have to really practice this.
How do these tattoo needle manufacturers actually get a group of individual needles into a configuration like a round and once they do get them in that configuration, how do they make it a loose or tight? The loose or the tight needle configurations are accomplished by the jig. Now, jig can be something as simple as a drill bit size tool or there are custom jigs that are actually specifically designed for tattooing. Since you are going to be using solder and heat and flux when you are building your needles if you are building them, then you have to have a type of material for your jig that the solder or the needles are not going to stick to, so it is really important to make sure that the material that your jig is made of is going to cooperate with the soldering process.
Once the needles are laid out, they are put into this jig and the initial solder is done. Now, if the needle configuration needs to be tighter, for example if you are trying to build a liner configuration, that initial configuration will be taken out of the jig and then it will be put into a smaller or tighter hole which will then compress that same group of needles a little bit tighter together and then it is resoldered. That is the best way to create a loose or a tight configuration.
Also, how far down the needle grouping that the needles are soldered will also control how the needles react as far as being loose or tight meaning if a needle configuration is soldered farther up the needle grouping, then those needles are going to have a little bit more flexibility and they are going to have a little bit more give and the outcome of the tattoo will be a little bit softer, so a looser soldered grouping is going to have a softer effect because the needles are going to be a little bit more free to move than a grouping that is soldered closer to the tip which will keep those needles stiff and together and tight, so typically a liner is going to be soldered little bit further down the grouping with a little bit more solder and flux than a shader or a loose grouping.
Now that you have purchased your needles, let us talk about how to identify what the needle configurations are just by looking at the blister packs that the needles come in. Now, on this example I have a 1214RS and that is in red ink. The 12 means that the needles are 12 gauge. The 14 means there is actually 14 needles. The R means that they are in a round configuration and the S means they are in a loose configuration or a shader configuration, so this will be a 14 round shader.

CR Jordan's Welcome Tattoo DVD series

CR Jordan's Welcome Tattoo DVD series

Looking at this example of a mag configuration, we can see 1215CM. Once again, the 12 is for the gauge of the needle, 15 means there are 15 needles and then the CM means curved mag. Now, it does not say anywhere on here if this is a stacked mag or if it is a woven mag, so that is where you have to know the difference and you have to be able to look at it inside the pack or know when you are purchasing them what type of needles you would like and those are the ones you are typically going to stick with.
A lot of artists actually are only going to use maybe five or six different types of needle groupings. I know some artists who only use three or four different types of groupings because they tattoo the same style over and over. It is always good to have the whole variety of needles and matching tubes on hand just in case somebody walks into the shop and you have to come up with something that is a little bit outside your comfort zone and you need that tool that is going to make your job faster.
A long time ago, the rule of thumb for tattooing was you have to use a liner. You would outline your tattoo and then you would use your round shader or your flat shader and you would color in your tattoo. You would use some gradients possibly but tattoos were pretty much the same no matter where you went and almost all the artists tattooed the same style.
As the tattoo machine and the tattoo pigment technology has improved over the years, so have the needles and so have the artist skills. Now, there are really no[private levels="basic,level1,level2"] rules. There are some artists who do not outline at all. There are some artists who will shade first, outline last. There are some artists who will blood line meaning they will do a tattoo with no ink at all just to get a rough outline of where the tattoo is going to be and then they will jump right in and start shading and then maybe go back in. There are some artists who will line single pass meaning they will just hammer in that line and then it is what it is. There is artists who will sculpt lines meaning they will slowly build up the lines with different values and make it thick or thin and continue to shape and clean the lines as they go.
The point of this is there are no rules. There are no liners. There are no shaders, so it is good to get out of the habit of calling up liners and shaders but calling them the loose and tight configurations.
Here is another example of a tattoo needle that is in a blister pack and this one says 1207RL, so we got 12 gauge needle, seven of these needles and they are in a round configuration and then they are in a L liner or tight configuration.[/private]
Okay. Now, we know what needles are. We know that the actual needle is not just a single needle. We know that it is a group of needles. They are soldered together in configurations. Now, you have to have that needle sitting inside of a tube. The tube is going to attach to the tattoo machine. The tube itself is typically made of three major parts. We have the tube tip, the tube stem, and then the tube grip.

 

(so this was just a teaser of what is coming on DVD2 - next month!) Stay tuned. You need to get DVD1 and the Book Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo if you are thinking about becoming a tattoo apprentice!

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