Monday, March 9, 2009

Oriel - History of Tattoo Tools

3800 - 1000 BC: Upper Paleolithic (Stone Age), as found at several archaeological sites.
Tattoos were being created using bone and pigmen
t. Typically these instruments consisted of a disc made of clay and red ochre together with sharp needles (8 - 11 cm), some thin and fragile, with a small groove that goes almost to the point. These were inserted into the holes in the top of the disk. which served as a reservoir and source of pigment, as the needles were used to pierce the skin.

Arctic & Sub-Arctic Eastern Siberia.
Made needle punctures through which a thread coated with pigment (usually soot), was dawn under the skin.

Samoa - has used the same method for over 2000 years.
Use a tool made from sharpened boar's teeth or sharpened needles of turtle shell fastened together to a wooden handle. The needles are dipped into a pigment made from the soot of burnt candlenut mixed with water or oil. The needles are then placed on the skin and the handle tapped with a second piece of wood, causing the comb to pierce the skin and insert the pigment. The name "tatau" comes from the sound of this tapping.
Maori applied their wood carving technique to tattooing by striking a small bone cutting tool into the skin. After the Europeans arrived in the 1700s, the Maori began using the metal that settlers brought for a more conventional style of puncture tattooing.
Local practitioners in Polynesia found an eager clientele among sailors and other visitors.

Technological advances in machinery, design & colour led to the set up of a permanent tattoo shop in New York City by Martin Hildebrandt, beginning the tradition of tattooing sailors and Civil War military servicemen.

The most significant factor in the mass-produced tattoo was the electric tattoo machine. (The machine was derived from an earlier autographic printing pen, intended as an engraving device, invented and patented by Thomas Alva Edison on 29th October 1875 in London, England, and the USA in 1876). (see image below)
"Stencil Pen" as submitted to the Patent Office.

Irish American, Samuel O'Riley, invented and patented the first electric tattoo machine at the United States Patent Office on 18th December 1891.
Both machines were based on rotary technology.

Twenty days after this patent was filed, Thomas Riley patented the single coil electromagnetic machine, the first of the modern tattoo machines.

The modern two-coil configuration was patented by Alfred Charles South, of London. Originally, it was so heavy a spring was often attached from the top of the machine to the ceiling to take most of the weight off the operator's hand.

In response to China's manufacturing boom a revolutionary design was found, called the V-RAD, using glass-filled nylon, (a material commonly found in gun stocks), for the tattoo frame, rather than the traditional material of aluminium.
Walt Vail, chief executive of Superior Tattoo Equipment, said
"The most expensive component on a machine is the frame," he said, referring to the outer shell. "If we could just get the frame costs on the units down, we knew we could compete."
Superior enlisted a Phoenix plastics manufacturer, which had previously specialized in parts for swimming pools and turbines, to handle the V-RAD's production.

Modern tattoo machines can control needle depth, speed and force of application, allowing extreme precision.
There are variations in models regarding the number of needles used, but I could not find any information on the design history of this feature.

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