One man's tattoo story.
Interestingly, the tattoo gun was invented by the famous Thomas Edison. The machine was first patented in the US in 1876 as an autographic printer. In 1891, Samuel O'Reily modified this printer into a tattoo gun by adding a tube and needle system.
A tattoo gun uses electromagnetic coils to move the needle rapidly up and down to drive the ink into the skin. The needle moves up and down at 50Hz (50 times a second) here in Australia. Most tattoo machines can control needle depth to almost any degree and different needles are used depending on what kind of work is being done. Most versions of the gun are turned off and on through the use of a foot pedal.
Tattoos go into the lower layer of skin, or the dermis. It is not designed to go into the fatty layer of skin. The tattoo machine has to be exact enough to penetrate the scaly layer and epidermis layer to leave the ink in the dermis layer. The needle of the tattoo machine makes little holes in the skin, which the ink is deposited into. The ink does fade out of the dermis layer after a while, so its recommended that tattoos get refreshed every couple of years.
You paint your car, your house, you may even put art on your walls. Why not make it personal! Not everybody likes the idea of having a needle let alone thousands of them per minute as is required to get a tattoo. Personally, I have a minor fear of even a doctor's needle, I go pale and feel a little faint most times but under the tattoo gun its a different story.
My heart races, my pulse is through the roof and I can't wait to see the finished work, no matter how long its going to take or how many times the needle is going to pierce my skin. My first foray into the world of tattooing was a small tribal type piece on my upper right arm. A Black only style tatt that took a little over half an hour to complete, it was a nice and easy one to bust my tattoo cherry so to speak. My second tattoo was a bit more serious. It took more then two hours and the better part of my left arm from my shoulder to down near my elbow.
This piece was done by a well known Australian artist who goes by the name of "Beans". "Beansy" as I'd come to know him from my many visits to one of his early shops, was a rugged bloke who was covered in ink. He'd won a few trophies, not that they made him any good as an artist but seeing what he'd won for was the decider for me. Beansy did a lot of black tribal work and that was what I was after, so I figured there was no one better to sling ink on my arm. The man even held a Guinness World Record for tattooing for forty hours straight a few years ago.
I had spent a month or so reworking the piece I wanted on my arm. It was a home drawn tribal piece that I'd had a heavily tattooed Maori friend help me with. The design was big, bold and black, with a touch of red around the perimeter to make it stand out.
I was a bit worried that I'd drawn it up to big and it wasn't going to fit around my arm properly. Beans assured me after rolling up his sleeve, that like him, even small blokes have plenty of canvas space to work with. That took a load off as I really didn't want to have to make it any smaller ! I thought it looked perfect exactly how it was.
I booked myself in and spent the next two weeks counting the days.
Beans was a busy bloke. He had a waiting list of up to and sometimes over a month before he'd be able to schedule you in for some work. I don't remember precisely which day it was when I went in all ready to go, only to leave in despair a short time later.
He'd been booked solid for a few weeks and had fallen a bit behind with his appointments.
Argh fuck. I'd spent most of the day getting myself all hyped up for nothing, damn!
I called into the shop a few days later and made another appointment and for some weird reason I can remember it was for a Thursday, some time around seventeen years ago.
The call I received on that Thursday had me pissed off all over again for about thirty seconds. It was from one of the blokes at the tattoo parlour.
"Beans isn’t here today but he just called us and asked if we'd give you a call and see if you won't mind coming in a bit later than planned".
When I finally got to the shop there wasn't a lot going on. A few blokes were in there, although only a couple of them worked there. The others were just dropping by for a look. Earlier I'd had a call from the man himself telling me that he was still running a little late and to let the guys at the shop know when I got there. By 6pm there was only myself and two other blokes there, shooting pool and having a brew till the boss showed up.
Another half hour and Beans was there. He'd been in Ballarat for the funeral of a close mate of his and he kept apologizing for putting me off the first time and being late now. I had to keep telling him not to sweat it as I'd have been home on the piss after the same day he'd had if it was me.
Out of his top pocket he pulled his custom tattoo gun and into the autoclave sterilizer for 45 minutes it went.
"Well we might as well have a feed and a few more brews hey fellas", he said.
Sweet by me I thought. He sent one of the guys down the road for the essential supplies. For the next hour or so we played more pool, ate and drank, and generally hung out like blokes do. This was really turning out to be a good day. I felt a lot better and was 100% relaxed by the time he was ready to start.
Needle time at last!
At somewhere around 8pm he got started. The outline was a piece of piss and the pain wasn't bothering me a bit. Really, it was nothing and I was enjoying myself quite a bit.
Suddenly there was a knock knock at the door.
My Mrs at the time had turned up from her friends place where she had been waiting for me. She'd been wondering where the hell I'd gotten to as she didn't know that Beans ran as late as he did.
She saw how it was going and asked me about the pain. I laughed, "Its fucken nuthin, hahaha".
Then BANG. On the top of my arm he pushed, fuck, ouch, OI! I fucken felt that I yelled.
He just laughed and encourage my Mrs to as well. Bastard! After that I kept the bravado to myself. He didn't do it again, didn't need to. I used to be a cocky bugger. That's one of the times I learnt a lesson that stuck with me for the rest of my days.
After a few more hours he was done. The outline took about 45 minutes and then the rest of the time was spent filling it all in. During the filling in process my arm was pretty numb and the pain had subdued somewhat ! I wasn't going to show any pain this time.
Beans worked like a madman, as if there was no tomorrow. Another hour and a half or so and the job was done.
It came up perfect. I was way beyond happy, I had a grin from ear to fucking ear.
Over the years my amazing tattoo has lost a little of its original color but it still looks bloody fantastic. A living testament to a great artists ability with the gun.
If by some chance you ever read this Beans, Thanks again mate. Its nearly 20 years later I still couldn't be happier with my piece.