Tattoo Machines I Use

11July 2019

Every artist has their set of tools they use, the tools they love and the tools they wish they had.  I am lucky enough to have all the tools in my wish list.  My tattoo machines are becoming a collection that is pretty useful.  All of my tattoo machines can not be purchased by scratchers or artists simply working out of their kitchen.  That doesn’t make them special. 
I use coil machines.  A coil machine is American Traditional tattooing.  Tradition is something that should be followed until there is something better to follow.  I don’t use my coils out of tradition.  I use them because it’s what I know.  I like how a coil machine has some give to it or some play to it like a paintbrush on canvas or board.  Using a coil machine is like working on a canvas.  I like them because it is easy for me to fix a coil machine if anything breaks.  I’ve built a few machines, and where none of them are great, knowing how to do that is knowing how to fix anything that it might need.
The best I have ever used are Aaron Cain Tattoo Machines.  Everything he builds does the job.  They are the highest quality machines out there to date.  I know there are a lot of great machine builders out there, and I know that a handful of them are amazing machines.  I have tried the “top” builders’ machines, and I just really like Aaron Cain.  I like how they look, I like how they work, and I like how his tattoo machines make my work more efficient.  I can get an overwhelming large amount of work done in a single day with his machines.  Every other machine I have played with can not keep up with the work load a Cain can.  He is a fucking cool dude who does killer tattoos, and makes amazing machines!
 Aaron Cain Lycky’s Supply Rinos Liner and Shader set.
These are great, and they worked really well for me until I needed something with a bit more punch to it.  I used these 6 days a week for 3 years.  Right now they are tuned differently than when I first bought them.  These are not my “go to” machines for daily use anymore.  These are my specialty machines and I use them both for delicate work where I want the heal to appear soft and transitional.  They were sold through Lucky Supply as a large batch of machines that Cain built specifically for sale through Lucky. 
I have the liner tuned for small needles from a 1pin to a 4pin.  I tuned it a bit softer to use the liner for delicate, tiny details.  I wanted a good punch through the skin, but not too much so I don’t go through the dermis and cause blowout, which is a penalty when you use a small needle with a machine the has too much punch.
I tuned the shader as a kick-start.  I know, everyone frowns on a kickstart and whatever, they have their uses.  I use the kick starter because it is like cheating to create soft transitions of black to skin tone or color in the skin.  I only use a 9mag or 11mag in this.  I really only use 9mag and 11mag shaders these days.  
These two were faithful tattoo machines until I decided they weren’t anymore.  I could very easily make these my daily machines whenever I want; but I do not want to do that.
Aaron Cain 1995/2013 Jonesy Liner.
I don’t use this machine anymore.  I have others that do its job.  This bad boy is just collecting rust and dust in my drawer.  I bought this from Lucky Supply.  I tuned this to push larger needle groupings of a 9round to a 14round.  It pushes larger needles easily at 9.5 or more volts on a Critical.  I don’t really like running my machines fast, and this bad boy requires speed and is at its best at 10 volts on a Critical.  So I put it into retirement as soon as I found a machine that can run slower with the same punch.  I intend to let my apprentice use it when he is ready. It is a great all around machine and he should find it very useful.

It came with this awesome t-shirt of Cains design sketch from 1995.  I don’t wear it anymore either, I don’t like brown earth colors.  I will give it to my apprentice at some point.

Aaron Cain Mokume Liner and Shader.
These are part of my “go to” daily use set up.  I love these machines.  They look good, however they need a bit more cleaning and care than other machines so they don’t rust or tarnish.  Okay these look great with a classic look that feels like a Bulldog in my hand.  They are kinda weighty, and the shader gets heavy in my hand.  I love them both.  I bought them from Lucky Supply as a set.
The liner can push anything from a 4round to a 14round with ease at 9.5 volts on a Critical.  I tuned it to really lay down solid smaller lines like a 4round or a 5round at 7.5 to 8.5 volts on a Critical.  I use this every day.
I tuned the shader very little, as Cain had it set up almost perfect for how I wanted to use it.  I run this at 9 to 10.5 volts on a Critical and I really only push 9mag and 11mag needles anymore.  This is my color packer.  It lays down smooth consistent color.

Aaron Cain Super Conductor.
These two liners are fantastic.  I bought them directly from Cain.  They both can push a large to very large needle so smoothly you would think I was using a sharpie.  I have tuned them very little.  When I bought them I told Cain what their intended use was and he tuned them for me.  They are perfect. I use them every day with a 10round-hollow or a 14round (They are the same line; the 10 does less damage to the skin but needs a slower hand.) I love the look, and as the superconductor ages, they look even better.  I typically run both of these at 8 volts on a Critical.  

Aaron Cain Damascus Steel
This is a liner and a shader I bought from Cain directly.  They are amazing, and I use them for everything.  I only have to adjust the speed to get what I am looking for.  I would call them my cement breakers and they make my job easy.  They are efficient and as powerful as I need them to be for a 12 hour work day.  I like the triangle shape to the frame in Damascus steel.
The liner is crazy powerful.  I broke a spring on the second day while using it on a smaller tattoo.  I had to back off and give the armature bar a bit more room to move the back spring.  It took me a couple of weeks to get this sucker tuned and under control.  I prefer to use the liner for large needle groupings.  This baby hits so fucking hard I can slowly lay solid single pass lines all day at 7.5 volts on a Critical.  This liner is by far the strongest I own.
The shader is a color packer or a tribal machine.  This baby can not do soft.  I have not used it enough to be able to say I have it under my control.  I like it, although I have not used it enough to know where it will fall into my toolbox.  This shader will probably become my main color packer and the Mokume will be my backup.  

…I have a nice collection of tattoo machines where I am able to work on several different styles of tattoo work.