"I said do you feel it when you cut me...well alright..."
Springs can be purchased from almost any tattoo supplier in the thickness you may need, to the tune of $5.00-$10.00 dollars a pair.
A 12" length of feeler gauge stock runs between $1.00-$2.00. It can be ordered through specialized hardware stores. Starrett is a good brand. 3-4 pairs of springs can be cut out of one 12" length, and not only is it economical, the spring shapes and widths are yours to control and modify until you find the perfect shape for the function. You will also learn a lot by cutting these yourself, if you are willing to take the time and be patient.
Tools needed for cutting springs:
* spring stock 12" length
* sharpie marker
* tin snips / metal shears
* hole punch is preferred, but not necessary
* Dremmel with cutting disc (the larger disc 1.25" diameter)
* large flat file
* vice grips
* needle nose pliers
* safety glasses
Anyone who tattoos knows and recognizes the basic shapes of the rear and front spring. The front spring is commonly triangular with a "u" shaped slot cut at the back of the triangle, where this spring connects with the armature bar / spring assembly securing screw and washer. The rear spring, basically, we know as a rectangular shape with "u" shaped slots cut into each end of the rectangle. One slot sits against the spring saddle securing screw and washer and the other end is attached to the armature bar assembly / spring assembly securing screw.
To cut a front spring
1) Mark the length of the spring on the spring stock with a sharpie or permanent marker.
2) Cut the stock to length with a pair of tin snips or sheet metal shears. By holding the spring stock with a pair of vice grips.
Mark the triangular shape of the front spring on the cut piece of spring stock with a sharpie or permanent marker. It is better to make the spring stock a little wider and have to remove stock to improve flexibility if necessary than to start with a spring that is too skinny and flexible.
3) Mark the width and depth of the slot which accommodate the size screw you will be using to secure the springs to the armature bar assembly. Normally an 8-32 hex head screw, so it must accomodate a #8 hole (see understanding screw threads p. 39 .
4) With the piece of stock secured in the vice grips, punch out the ending of the slot with the hole punch. Make sure the hole will accommodate the size screw you intend to use to secure the spring to the armature bar assembly.
Keep those safety glasses on.before you cut into the stock, secure the spring with the vice grips. The closer you clamp the vice grips to the hole or proposed cutting marks, on the stock, the stiffer the stock will be and the easier the cutting disc will go through with out the stock flopping around. With the dremmel cutting disc, cut into the stock, following the line from the back of the spring all the way to the hole you have punched. If you DO NOT have a hole punch, cut all the way to the proposed ending of the slot. The piece that is left in the slot, between the dremmel cuts, will break out easily with a pair of needle nose pliers. Smooth the jagged edges of the break with the cutting disc or small round file. This slot is important to have. It makes it possible to change the flexibility of the spring by simply sliding the spring forward or backward. If you do not have a drem-mel, but do have a hole punch, cut from the end of the spring to the hole with the tin snips.
Secure the small piece of spring stock in the vice grips at the back of the piece of stock and cut, with the tin snips or sheet metal shears from the front of the spring toward the back, making sure to leave enough room for the snips to cut all the way to the proposed end of the cut without interference from the vice grips. Do the same on the other side. Wear safety glasses! The pieces of stock which are being cut off, will be extremely sharp at one end and can fly once the cut is complete. You should have a triangular shaped piece of spring stock with a flat space at the tip and a flat section on each side, length wise. These flat spaces should be the same length as the length of the screw slot. Smooth and round any burrs or sharp edges with the file.
This spring is ready for bending. Always leave a space equal to 1/2 the diameter of the securing washer before the start of the bend. The bend should NEVER end up under the washer / securing screw which holds the spring to the armature bar. The bend should ALWAYS be on or in front of the edge of the washer. A bend under the washer will affect the flex of the spring. It will make for an inconsistent performance which can be heard and felt when tattooing.
1) Mark the proposed bend with a sharpie or permanent marker, just in front of where the washer will sit once secured to the armature bar / spring assembly.
2) Hold the thicker back of the spring with the vice grips, put the flat edge of the needle nose running perfectly with the bend line you have drawn and bend the spring. DO NOT be too concerned with the angle you have made just yet, there is room for adjustment. The adjustments are normally made upon complete machine assembly and before tuning.
See examples of spring shapes (p.25). Remember that the springs you have cut, can be re-shaped in order to improve flexibility if necessary.
To cut the rear spring
1) Mark the proposed length of the rear spring stock with a sharpie or permanent marker.
2) Cut the stock to length with a pair of tin snips or sheet metal shears. By holding the spring stock with a pair of vice grips.
3) Mark the width and depth of the slots which will accommodate the size screws you will be using to secure the springs to the armature bar assembly and to the spring saddle on the frame. Normally an 8-32 hex head screw.
4) With the piece of stock secured in the vice grips, punch out the ending of the slots with the hole punch. Make sure the holes will accommodate the size screws you intend to use to secure the spring to the armature bar assembly and to the spring saddle on the frame.
Before you cut into the stock, secure the spring with the vice grips. With the Dremmel cutting disc, cut into the stock, following the line from the back of the spring all the way to the hole you have punched. Do this on each side for each slot. If you do not have a dremmel, but do have a hole punch, cut from the end of the spring to the hole with the tin snips. NEVER use the tin snips only without a hole punch. Tin snips and sheet metal shears will, almost always, leave a small crack running diagonally from the end of the cut, into the spring stock, this will usually result in a break in the spring during operation of the machine.
If you DO NOT have a hole punch, cut all the way to the proposed ending of each slot with the Dremmel. The piece that is left in the slot, between the Dremmel cuts, will break out easily with a pair of needle nose pliers. Smooth the jagged edges of the break with the cutting disc or small round file.
Using a dremmel to cut from the rear of the spring to the hole which was punched out by the hole punch. This makes a smoother cut which is less stressful on the integrity of the spring stock.
This rear spring is now ready for bending. Always leave a space equal to 1/2 the diameter of the securing washer, in front of the rear slot before you start the bend. The bend should NEVER end up under the washer / securing screw which holds the rear spring to the spring saddle. The bend should always be on or in front of the edge of the washer. A bend under the washer will affect the flex of the spring. It will make for an inconsistent performance which can be heard and felt when tattooing. The bend in the rear spring should be made a half of a washer's diameter in front of the rear slot on either spring (front or rear).
To bend the rear spring:
1) Mark the proposed bend with a sharpie or permanent marker, just in front of where the washer will sit once secured to the spring saddle.
2) Hold the spring with the vice grips, put the flat edge of the needle nose running perfectly with the bend line you have drawn and bend the spring. DO NOT be too concerned with the angle you have made just yet, there is room for adjustment.
The adjustments are normally made upon complete machine assembly and done before fine tuning. See examples of spring shapes (p. 26). Remember that the springs you have cut, can be re-shaped in order to improve flexibility if necessary and can be bent some more to increase tension or un-bent to eliminate tension. To assemble the pair of springs to the armature bar, see "Assembling the armature bar / spring assembly" in the "Assembly of the Machine from Basic Frame to Finish" section ( p. 52).
The armature bar is what holds the needle bar. It is connected to the tattoo machine frame by it's attachment to the rear spring, which is attached to the spring saddle on the frame. Simply put, it's movement is regulated by the magnetism of the coils and the tension of the springs. It's length and general size is important to it's rate of movement. It's material must be magnetic, iron or steel. Preferably the same material as the coil posts and yoke, as these are all part of the magnetic system.
The armature bar should cover both coil posts completely, remembering to leave the smallest possible space between the rear coil post and the armature bar (See Illustration B). The armature bar should always be parallel to the yoke or machine base when the armature bar is pressed firmly against the top of the front coil post (see illustration A).
The nub (a) on the armature bar should have the needle bar running directly through the center of the inside diameter of the tube, or slightly behind center, (toward the front coil) making allowances for a rubber grommet, foam tape or piece of paper towel, (whichever you choose to use to make a secure fit for the needle bar loop), as it will push the needle bar loop forward slightly. The distance from the spring saddle to the front of the armature bar should be taken into careful consideration, as should the space between the spring saddle and the rear of the armature bar. This, as stated before, determines what spring gauge, width and length should be used.
The longer the distance, the stiffer (thicker) the rear spring should be. Any spring has a weight tolerance it can support and move correctly, testing these spring gauges is what should be done in order to find the perfect spring gauge for that particular machine's specs. It's not a bad idea to start with a .018 (.457 metric) and move up or down in gauge from there. Don't forget that springs can also be shaped to improve flexibility if you are starting with a stiffer spring, generally .019 and higher is considered "stiffer". This information is explained in more detail later on in the book in the "Spring Tension Test/Ball System" chapter page 59 .
An armature bar making contact with the front coil post is directly responsible for the sound a machine will produce. A small piece of 3M Trans- pore tape will not only act as a muffler and make the machine will sound smooth, but it will also protect the armature bar from wear. Remember, over time, the friction will cause a groove to be worn into the armature bar itself in the shape of th front coil. This friction will also cause the tape to get thin and wear out, this tape should be changed periodically. Also, when changing the tape, the surface of the coil may be covered in adhesive from the previous Trans-pore tape "muffler", this can be wiped off with some WD-40 and a paper towel. A groove worn in the armature bar, from the front coil post, will act as a guide and keep the armature bar wanting to hit in exactly the same place, this is no good, especially if the armature bar is mis aligned to begin with...but the armature bar can be flipped over and re aligned so that the smooth side can be used to make contact with the coil, it will be like using a brand new armature bar. Armature bar weight can be a factor as well. An armature bar can have holes drilled in it or ca be cut to lessen it's weight, to accommodate the movement and flex of a softer spring.
These distances will vary from machine to machine and are crucial to the proper function of the machine. Just by the illustration, one can see that the weight of the armature bar / front spring assembly is totally dependant on the strength, gauge and tension of the rear spring (A), and once assembled, even more weight will be added to the equation, and once the machine is running, even more force will be exerted on the rear spring. The farther away the rear of the armature bar (C) is from the spring saddle (B), the thicker the rear spring gauge should be, the longer the armature bar or the longer the distance to the tube vice hole (D) from the spring saddle (B), the thicker the gauge of the rear spring should be. You will know if the spring(s) should be thicker because the needles will not "hit" with enough force to color solidly and will usually make an inconsistent line. Several companies will sell springs already assembled on their machines without specifying the gauge so it's important to understand these frame distances and the applicable spring gauges. Some spring sets these companies sell in their unassembled machine kits, or on their completely assembled machines, may be too thin of a gauge but more commonly, will be too thick, usually .020. An .018 gauge rear spring seems to be standard for quality performance but assert the distance between the back of the armature bar and the close edge of the spring saddle and use the appropriate spring gauge, .018 may be too thick. A .017 or a .018 back spring can usually used with an .018 as a front spring, so base any spring changes around the use of a pair of .018 gauge springs. See "Spring tension test" (p. 60), "Ball system" (p. 61) for a more in depth understanding of these springs "in use".
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