rotary…vs…coil

Greetings Speakeasy friends!

This is Marléna here, writing my first real blog post! The past few weeks here at Speakeasy Tattoo Los Angeles have gone by in the blink of an eye!

A few updates: We’ve gotten an upgrade on our drinking water! No more lugging the precarious 5 gallon water jug back and forth to Albertsons. Just in time for the hot summer days, this really means a lot to me because I love staying hydrated. Also, this past week was our bi-weekly art night at Speakeasy! This week we all drew and painted James! The highlights of this art night included whiskey, *not* listening to feel good music, the hot dog croissants that Jesse brought, and of course getting to make art together! Here is a pic of Scott discovering tongs, while the nun silently judges him.

Another update, which brings me to the body of this post: last week Scott gave me the heads up that I should plan to have tattoo practice homework in a month and some change. This is exciting because it means I need to start thinking seriously about what tattoo machine I will use to practice, and eventually tattoo with. Which brings me to the question many apprentices must ask themselves- Do i learn to tattoo on a coil or rotary machine ???

I’ll take a moment to briefly describe the main differences in how these different machines work, then I’ll list the main differences between the two. The needle of a coil machine is attached to the armature bar, which is pulled downward towards the coils by their electromagnetic field. When the armature bar is pulled down, it loses connection with the contact screw, and the circuit is broken. The armature bar then springs back up and re-establishes connection with the contact screw, starting the circuit over again. It is this on-off electromagnetic circuit which drives the needle. In a rotary machine, the needle is attached to a spinning circular motor. The constant spinning is what drives the up and down of the needle. Now let’s take a look at the main differences between a coil and a rotary machine.

noise output– the loud buzzing sound commonly associated with tattoo shops, is the sound of coil machines at work. I have had the experience of getting tattooed in a small-medium sized shop with 5 tattoo artists running coil machines at the same time. It makes sense so many shops play metal really loud all day, it blends over the loud buzzing pretty well. Because rotary machines are driven by a spinning motor, it is much quieter than the buzz of a coil machine.

versatility– rotary machines are more versatile because that can be used interchangeably as liner and shaders. Coil machines have more adjustable components accessible, which allows the tattooer to make adjustments to how the machine runs. Rotary machines use an interior motor, and because of this they are less adjustable or customizable. However, it isn’t really a downfall that rotary machines are less able to be tinkered with. Rotary machines are versatile because they can be used interchangeable as liners and shader, with a complete range of needle groupings.

quality of motion– if the job of a tattoo machine is to drive the needle up and down, it’s important to think about the quality of this up and down motion. The motion of the needle of a coil machine can be described as hammer-like, or punchy. This hammer-like quality is a result of the on-off circuit. A rotary machine is driven by a consistently spinning motor, which creates a slightly more fluid up and down motion.

weight– rotary machines are much more lightweight than coil machines. Less weight on the hands and wrist allows artists to work longer without hand cramping/fatigue. Additionally, working with less weight on the hands and wrist helps to prevent muscle strain over time.

maintenance– because rotary machines have internal motors, they are different than coil machines which can be easy taken apart, fixed, or modified. Some rotary machines require lubrication, but they have less complicated maintenance that coil machines.

That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading

Until next time,

-M.M

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