Holding a tattoo machine correctly entails much more than just getting a good grip on it and digging right in.
All needle tubes should be stainless steel and all correctly manufactured stainless steel tubes come complete with a knurled grip on them. Knurling is a machinist's term used for pieces of metal with lathed on "criss-crosses" engraved in the metal, commonly used for grip-type surfaces. This is what the needle tubes should have on them. Metal knurled grips are much better than plastic or tape. With plastic type grips, llie hands seem to stick more to them, and shifting of the machine can be erratic. Metal knurling provides a sure grip but also allows readjustment of the fingers much easier in case some shifting around of the machine is necessary.
The basic hold on the needle tube (already set-up in the machine) is the standard pencil-grip. A tattoo machine is held very much like a pencil or a pen. but with a few differences.
When first holding a tattoo machine, you will notice that there is a certain heft to it. Some say they are downright heavy. Don't let this disturb you because in due time they will feel quite natural. The muscles in the hand have to get used to working with the machine. Remember, you will be handling and using these machines for a living and tattoos can take time to put on. Large pieces can take many hours of handling a machine without much rest in between. All of this can be quite tiring at first and this is why you must build up muscles in your hand so you won't get cramps or muscle aches. Before even tattooing, practice holding the machine as much as possible. TVy to constantly hold the machine and "air practice." This can be done while watching TV', talking or just about anything. Several hours a night of practice will have your hand muscled up in no time. Muscles build up fast and get used to a routine pretty quick. Still, it might take several weeks to properly break in the muscles.
Some tattooists prefer light machines and some prefer heavy ones. This is why some manufacturers offer such models as "lightweights," but it should be kept in mind that any machine, no matter how hefty it might feel at first, wilt take some getting used to. But in the long run, it will feel quite good and stable to use. The heft of a machine also acts as a "shock absorber." The tattoo machine when being used gives off vibrations and these can get you tired awfully fast. Just like certain stabilizers or heavy barrelled guns, the more metal there is. the more energy it will absorb, passing less vibration on to you. This is the idea behind tattoo machines and it should be kept in mind that the heft of a machine can actually move in your favor.
Practice holding machines and drawing with the clip cords engaged. The slight pull to the rear caused by the clip cord has a different feel than a machine that is not hooked up. Get used to this since this is the set-up that will be constantly used
When tattooing, the hand rests on the skin, just like writing with a pen. The tube is heiti in the hand like a pen and the rest of the machine is naturally behind and above the knuckles. The palm of the hand is rested on the skin or the base of the work. This is a steady position and creates what is commonly called the "bridge." The palm always goes down first and then the machine is brought down.
The machine is moved around on the skin by using the palm as a pivot By swirling the hand on this palm pivot, the machine swings easily into position. Sometimes rubbing a little carbolated vaseline on the palm and little finger makes it a bit easier. Just make sure too much is not put on to cause slipping and sliding
The Bridge gives a solid foundation for tattooing and must be practiced for perfection. It will keep the hand steady and give you confident lines. In tattooing, every line counts and the professional builds on a solid foundation.
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