Short History of Tattoo Needles

Pinned on August 11, 2013 at 3:41 pm by Itmar David

Short History of Tattoo Needles

The oldest evidence of a tattoo on a human being is that of Otzi the Iceman, purported to have died in approximately 3300 BCE. He had 57 tattoos on his body, showing the practice of adorning the body in permanent ways was not uncommon. There have been several other instances of mummified bodies with tattoos found in various parts of the world, including women. Archaeologist W.M.F. Petrie found instruments at the site of a 3rd century BCE village that may have been used for tattooing. They included small sharp points of bronze set in a small wooden handle. The shape and size of the points were small enough to match markings found on mummies from the same era.

Although it is not possible to definitively reveal if these were the very first tattooing needles, it is the earliest evidence found yet. The region Petrie found the needles was near the ancient Egyptian village site of Gurob, a place where tattooing and body modification was still practiced well into the 19th century. Historians often wrote about the procedure, describing the use of seven needles tied together and used to prick the skin in a particular pattern. After pricking the skin, a mixture of soot and human breast milk is rubbed in the wounds to complete the ritual. In Ancient Egypt, tattoos where applied to children as young as five years old.

The concept of several points in a row to create tiny pricks through the top layers of skin was the basis for the first tattoo tools in more places than Ancient Egypt. The main change that occurred was the transition from separate needle points tied together to a single object with points carved into it. Polynesian cultures used carved slats of bone, as did the Maori of what is now New Zealand. The Japanese tebori needles are a much smaller version and used solely for the creation of tattoos by hand (tebori means ‘to carve by hand’ in Japanese) even today when electrically powered tattoo needles are used. The Polynesian and Japanese methods of hand tattooing share a common method of vibration by hand to create the desired design. With Polynesian methods, two people are needed to carry out the process. One person holds the skin taught so the other can apply the design. Holding the skin tight ensures the vibrations of the needles do not adversely affect the design. With Japanese tebori the artist creates such a fast vibration that it can mimic that of an electric machine.

In 1875 Thomas Edison created an electric stencil pen for perforating paper to make multiple copies of documents. The system was fairly complicated, using a pen, cast-iron holder, wet-cell battery on a stand, and a flat duplicating press with an ink roller. The whole duplicating process was multi-stepped, expensive and time-consuming. However it was the precursor to the electric tattoo needle. One of the very first successful tattoo artists in the US was Samuel O’Reilly, and when he got wind of Edison’s stencil pen he decided to give it a try in his trade. After changing the motor to a rotary configuration, adding an ink reservoir and tubing system, O’Reilly had created the first electric tattoo machine.

O’Reilly patented his machine in New York in 1891, and just twenty days later Thomas Riley of London, England patented his single coil tattoo machine. He had also used a modified version of Edison’s stencil pen, but instead of a rotary engine he had altered a doorbell and applied the coil to the tattoo machine. Not long after Riley’s invention was in use, another London gentleman added a second coil. It definitely added more power, but the two coils made the machine quite heavy and ultimately detracted from the overall skill of the tattoo artist. Eventually someone came up with the idea to attach a spring from the machine to the ceiling to help alleviate the problem of weight.

The modern tattoo machine is lighter, has more power, more control of speed and thus can create much more precise designs. There is also the addition of purpose specific machines such as; a liner machine which is meant to create a dominant line with a single stroke of the needle. The shader machine is used for shading with black ink, although some artists use it for all types of lines. The way in which the shader is designed allows for an artist to retrace a line without causing unnecessary trauma to the skin. The colour machine is used for applying and blending colours by moving at a slow rate and piercing the skin in larger gaps. In this way more color may be pushed into the skin with less harm to the skin.

Wearing a piece of art on one’s body for a lifetime is a choice unlike many others we make in life. The art is not only permanent; it is a statement of something within us. By having a tattoo we are showing an inner part of ourselves that was otherwise unseen. Be sure you are ready to expose that part of you to the world before the needle scratches the skin.

Eastside Tattoo and Piercing Studio is proud to serve the metroplex in the Dallas area. We have the highest standards in medical sterilization. Single use needles and a clean friendly environment to meet all your body modification needs. We have custom artists with experience in styles ranging from new school and traditional to fine line black and gray.For more information about our dallas tattoos please, visit us online today!!

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