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This is not a machine you'd want to find at a children's party. It is, however, a machine that could generate high revenue if properly positioned next to the cash register. That's right -- tattoo machines are now a hot commodity online. What is so surprising about a high-end tattoo machine's price tag is how little it varies from model to model.
While O'Reilly's machine was based on the tattoo rotary technology of Edison's device, modern tattoo machines use electromagnets. The first machine based on this technology was a single coil machine patented by Thomas Riley of London, just twenty days after O'Reilly filed the patent for his rotary machine. For his machine, Riley placed a modified doorbell assembly in a brass box. The modern two-coil configuration was patented by Alfred Charles South, also of London. Because it was so heavy, a spring was often attached to the top of the machine and the ceiling to take most of the weight off the operator's hand. ″To move tattooing forward, German tattoo artist Manfred Kohrs had to take a look backward.″ In 1978 Kohrs "introduced the first new design for a rotary machine in nearly a century. His machine was functionally similar to O’Reilly’s except an electric DC motor, rather than electrified magnets, drove the needles. This slimmer and streamlined version became lighter, quieter, and more portable. It also gave artists more control while ensuring the operator’s hands and fingers cramped less. While some artists gravitated to this rotary revival, others preferred to stick with their trusty coil machines." (Source: en.wikipedia.org)
Before tattoo machines came into use, various types of handheld needles and other tools were used for tattooing, and I can only imagine that it must have been a good sales technique to be able to advertise electrical tattooing around 1890, when the electrical tattooing machines were developed. In this period, several persons applied for patents. The American Sam O'Reilly based his patent on Thomas Edison's electrical pen principle, which is a type of rotary machine. London-based Thomas Riley applied for a patent on a single-coil machine, and Alfred Charles South, who was also a Londoner, applied for a patent on a twin-coil machine. Technically, the modern machines are based on these principles, but they have, of course, been refined. Part of the author's collection of tattoo machines and equipment is presented in figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, supplemented with detailed information in the legends.
Starting out as a professional tattooist back in 1977 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Frank Rosenkilde has personally experienced the remarkable development of tattoo machines, needles and utilities: all the way from home-made equipment to industrial products of substantially improved quality. Machines can be constructed like the traditional dual-coil and single-coil machines or can be e-coil, rotary and hybrid machines, with the more convenient and precise rotary machines being the recent trend. This development has resulted in disposable needles and utilities. Newer machines are more easily kept clean and protected with foil to prevent crosscontaminations and infections. The machines and the tattooists' knowledge and awareness about prevention of infection have developed hand-in-hand. For decades, Frank Rosenkilde has been collecting tattoo machines. Part of his collection is presented here, supplemented by his personal notes. (Source: www.karger.com)