The Machine's Frame
"...he comes well prepared...squared off, 8 corners, 90 degree angles, flat top...snake eyes, block head..."
Having a solid base to secure the machine's components is the basic function of the tattoo machine frame.
The rigidity of the tattoo machine frame is the most important quality of a frame, so the material used in it's construction must be considered. There are many materials that fit the rigidity requirements besides metals. Plastics, composites, even wood are acceptable. There are other reasons that the material used in frame construction should be considered beside rigidity.
The material the frame is made out of will determine wether or not there is a need to use a yoke. A yoke is a piece of ferromagnetic material, without windings that connects 2 or more magnet cores. In order to make the coils work as a "team", the coils must be connected to each other by a shared base made out of magnetic material, preferably the same material the coil's core's and armature bar are made from, because these are all part of the magnetic system. A steel or iron frame will serve this purpose but any frame made from any non magnetic material (brass, aluminum, plastics, wood...) will need a yoke. A frame can be cast, machined, punched out of steel and bent into shape, or screwed together in parts.
The material the machine frame is made out of combined with the thickness of the frame will affect the way the machine's vibrations will feel in the artist's hand. But weight has to be considered also. There are machine frames made from iron and steel, brass, silicon bronze, aluminum, and plastics, there have been some made of wood. Any material will absorb vibration. The thicker the frame, wether it is machined on a CNC machine, cut out of a steel bracket, punched out and bent or cast at a foundry, the more vibration will be absorbed.
Myth: "Aluminum machines are chattery".
A very well known artist & "machine expert" in the tattooing community told us this once, "Aluminum machines are chattery". We had some aluminum machines set up and proved him wrong.
Aluminum is an excellent metal. It is light, and rigid. It can come in a variety of strengths, some aluminum is heat treated aircraft grade t-5 or t-6...other types of aluminum may be a bit more bendable. Some grades are more brittle, for example t-6 can be more brittle than t-5 and may break or crack if the fully assembled machine falls from a desk. Never the less, this material, is light and rigid. It is easier to machine than steel or iron, it feels softer than brass or silicon bronze when sawing, drilling or tapping, it is more heavy duty than any plastic and in the right thickness, it will absorb vibration as well as any brass machine frame. The myth that an aluminum frame makes for a chattery tattoo machine is not true. When powder coated, more vibration is absorbed. The final most important quality of a good machine frame, is the drilling specifications. A frame with non adjustable drillings for binding posts, coils, and spring saddles are strongly recommended, so that parts do not have the potential to slide or shift during machine operation. The distance from the spring saddle to the tube vice drilling is also crucial. The frame is the foundation of the machine. The proper function of the machine's moving parts will be dependant on these drillings. On an un-drilled machine frame, always drill the coil holes first and base the placement of the other drillings (spring saddle, tube vice and binding posts-in that order) around the coil holes. Taking into consideration the length of the armature bar / spring assembly.
The frame's "lines" when viewed frontally, should always be at a perfect right angle. This means that the upright part of the frame which accommodates the upper binding post should make a perfect 90 degree angle with the base of the frame which accommodates the coils. If the upright part of the frame is NOT on a perfect right angle, there will be a need for shims or shortening of the binding post, depending on the angle. It is easier to straighten any flaws in the frame before any assembly of parts tothe frame. This can be done with a rubber mallet and a vice. Be very careful when straightening aluminum, especially if you are using impact from a rubber mallet to straighten any part of an aluminum frame, aluminum should be handled with extra care, it only bends once.usual-ly. The spring saddle should be parallel to the base of the frame(A), any frame which is punched out from sheet metal and bent into shape, should always be examined carefully for parallelism of the spring saddle to the base of the frame and examined for a 90 degree angle between the upright support (B) and the base of the frame.
These illustrations show important lines and angles which a frame NEEDS to comply with in order to house the components properly.
An original "Jonesey" frame showing "pits" from sand casting. These imperfections don't matter, it's the drilling / frame specifications (distances, angles) and tuning which count. The Jonesey is an example of a well designed, "cast", machine frame.
The same originial Jonesey frame assembled with more modern parts, showing scars from a hack saw. This particular Jonesey was made from silicon bronze, it is a rare one. Because of the non-magnetic material it's made from, it is necessary to use a yoke on this frame, as a magnetic base for the coils to rest on.
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