Now I’m a sucker for a nice piece of customized hardware in my studio. It makes you somehow feel special to be working every day with something that has been built or created especially for you. It also makes a nice talking point for your customers. In my work space I am fortunate enough to have chairs that have been personalized for me, arm rests that have been hang built for me, even one-off sets of machines that builders have given to me. But I must admit that I never owned a customized foot pedal…until now
I became aware of The Wedge foot pedal when I first saw a number of pictures of its Star Wars incarnations popping up in my news feed on the internet. It looked interesting enough, but a foot pedal’s a foot pedal, isn’t it? Needless to say, I never really gave it much more thought. Then, in one of those chance meetings that seems to come out of nowhere sometimes, I was playing skittles in my local Rugby club, when a member of the opposite side introduced himself to me and told me that his son was making custom foot pedals for tattoo artists…and the penny dropped. We swapped info and shortly afterwards I got a message from Steve Miler, offering to make me my very own bespoke version of his new foot pedal, The Wedge. Of course, I was delighted to take him up on his offer.
During the next few weeks, I spent more time looking into the development of ‘The Wedge’ and hearing excellent reports coming back from various conventions, where other artists had met Steve and his business partner Jay Petty, and had had an opportunity to try out The Wedge for themselves. I was intrigued and also looking forward to eventually getting my own pedal.
When my foot pedal was finally finished, it was personally dropped off at the studio by Steve’s father (not a service every customer can expect) and the first thing I noticed, as I removed the object from the box, was just how solid and heavy it was. Most foot pedals are very light and sometimes a bit flimsy. The Wedge, however, is a heavy duty piece of hardware, solid as a rock and capable of doing some serious damage should it ever be dropped onto unsuspecting toes. Resplendent with my own logo, which you can see from the images on this page, Steve had also put in a couple of spare front plates for me; one with the Skin Deep logo on it and one with the Tattoo Master logo, so I could see how easy it was to change them should I ever want to.
Upon actually using the pedal, I found it to be surprisingly sensitive and therefore very comfortable to use. The weight took a little getting used to, as I usually push my pedal about with my foot as I change position during tattooing, but this was a small price to pay for such a solid piece of equipment.
Shortly afterwards I caught up with Steve and Jay and we talked some more about their creation.
So lets begin by filling in a little bit of background about everyone involved in the production of The Wedge foot pedal. Introduce yourself to the readers…
Jay: I began working as a professional tattoo artist in May 2011, after spending 12 years in the building trade since leaving school. I’m still very new to the tattoo world and with lots more to learn still;, But I feel its my destiny now.
Steve: Since leaving school in 1998 I have worked in various jobs using AutoCAD, drawing a range of things from buildings to engineering components. I started my own little venture called Sit CutsAlot with a work colleague of mine, Matt Makins. We make any custom metal artwork ranging from tea coasters to wall signs. You can have a look at www.sircutsalot.com. It was from this that Jay and I met and developed The Wedge.
So tell me more about how the concept of The Wedge first came about?
Jay: I was working at the studio one day when my run of the mill foot switch stopped working…again. Being a sci-fi geek I had recently bought a storm trooper arm rest built by Greg Holmes (designed by Steve) and a set of storm trooper tea coasters, also made by Steve. As the coasters were made from steel, I thought it might be cool to make a foot switch out of one of them to match my arm rest. From there the product went through stages as cardboard, hand sawn wood and milled wood. During this time I sold a few to other tattoo artists, after putting a picture up on Facebook of my prototype. Deep down, though, I thought I needed to make them from metal somehow, so decided to visit various engineering firms, all of which turned me away. I then contacted Greg Holmes to see if he could help but he told me that Steve Miller might be better suited to the job, so I contacted Steve about helping me to design one made from steel. I was pondering over the name, coming up with suggestions like ‘The Big Foot’ and ‘Next Step Foot Switches’ both of which my other half, Clare, thought were stupid. She said, “Just call it The Wedge, that is what is is”. So Steve and I got together over some ink to discuss options…and the rest is history.
How does the division of labor break down between you both? Who designs, creates, and assembles them?
Jay: To start with I would ask Steve if he could make a certain design on request from a customer. He’d send them through and I would assemble them and dispatch them.
Steve: Now we both get ideas for the pedals from customers. I would raw them up using AutoCAD and convert them into a cutting code for a CNC laser. The main base of ‘The Wedge’ was designed using Solidworks sheetmetal feature, which allows you to draw in 3D then convert to a flat pattern for the laser to cut. A 270 ton press break then bends flat meta parts back into 3D shape. These are all manufactured at my place of work, EMS Mansfield Ltd. Once all components have been produced, I will take them over to Jay who installs the wiring, RCA connections and tests them to ensure they work.
They look great too. I love that you were able to make one for me using my personal logo. Is every pedal a custom build, or do you have standard models as well?
Jay: There will be 2 versions of The Wedge foot switch. The first will be cut from 2mm 304 grade stainless steel, powder coated in some cases, with stainless steel ID tags, union jacks, The Wedge floor plate, top quality RCA connector and a stainless mounting plate to enable interchangeable (customizable) top pedals The second will be cut from 2mm 304 grade stainless steel, powder coated, plain floor plate, top quality RCA connector, and a geneeric 2-3mm top plate. And will be non customizable.
Apart from how great it looks, the other thing I noticed immediately about the wedge was just how bloody heavy it is. How much does each one weigh?
Jay: It’s the heavy weight champion of footswitches. Each one weighs approximately 1.5kg. I was worried about postage costs when I first weighed it at the local post office but the weight is a sign of the quality of the product. Plus it looks awesome.
Well it certainly feels like it’s built to last. Every pedal comes with a lifetime guarantee, doesn’t it?
Steve: Yes each pedal comes with a lifetime guarantee, but only on the workings of it. Cosmetic damage is down to the artist to look after. To preserve the look we advise using a softer soled shoe.
Have you thought of maybe producing a lighter travel edition for artists traveling to guest spots or conventions? Or maybe even including a non pedal switch device that you could package with the main pedal as an optional travel extra?
Steve: We have considered making a wedge from aluminum, rather than steel. My concerns with that, though, are that aluminum is softer and more prone to bending, resulting in the possible failure of The Wedge. We are also looking into making a Wedge on-off switch that plugs straight into the power supply. This would be lighter and better for travelling with.
I’ve noticed also that the pedal works by the top plate pushing down onto a metal bump below it to complete the electrical circuit. No button as such. How have you got around the possibility that metal will eventually bend over time to complete the circuit permanently?
Jay: The top plate of the pedal moves such a small amount, I think about 1-2mm to be precise, and it’s the hardened rubber bushes tat flex slightly to allow movement. The last 4/5 months I’ve been testing different methods and ideas with several tattoo artists around the country and found using two plates is the way to go. The lower the point of contact, the better. It’s nearly impossible to bend two pieces of steel with only a 1/2mm gap, it will always spring back because of the rubber bushes. If the worst was to happen and a constant circuit was made, thanks to simple mechanics, we are able to chop and change each individual component, replacing any defective part. All of which are covered by your guarantee.
How do you recommend artists keep the top plate clean? Is there any danger of rust from moisture or spillage?
Steve: We advise artists to use a non alcohol based cleaner to clean their top plates, even though the colors are powder coated they can still be susceptible to thinning. If you were to chip the paint there are no fears of rust as all Wedge components are made from stainless steel.
So overall, what do you feel that the wedge offers artists that other pedals don’t?
Jay: Peace of mind. After getting through over £300 worth of ‘run of the mill’ foot switches in 3 years i realized something had to be done. There’s no other pedal out there doing what we are doing. If you get bored of your current design, as long as you own the premium Wedge, you can take off your top plate and order a new design from us without having to order the entire pedal again.
And how much do you charge for each pedal?
Steve: Premium Wedges range from £180 - £220 depending on the intricacy of the design of the one included top plate with extra top plates starting at £40. The basic Wedge will be £130, available in a range of colors and the same lifetime guarantee.
And where can artists order them from?
Jay: Currently you are able to buy The Wedge direct from ourselves by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will ask you to send an image of your design, we will then look at it to see if it is feasible and then send you a price and PayPal invoice. These are made to order so please allow up to 3 weeks for delivery. Killer Ink and Star tattoo will also be stocking The Wedge in the UK, along with a State side investor interested in bringing the Wedge to the US. But we are awaiting confirmation on this final deal.
Sounds promising. So what do you see as the future of The Wedge?
We have our targets high and have aimed for world domination. Once “The Wedge” has become a household name we have a few other ideas for customizable, robust, built to last products for tattoo artists. With Jay being the tattoo artist and me being the engineer, we should be able to produce products that will aid and make tattooing easier, more convenient, and personalized for each artist. We have recently given three of the customized Wedges out to top UK artists: one to Dave Perry, another to Chris Jones and the third to Mark Poole. Remember, “The Wedge – Art for your Sole”
Got to love a slogan like that!
By Dave Perry, Revolver Tattoo Rooms
Like most tattoo artists that world over, there is a part of me that just cannot help constantly looking for that magical new machine that might just take some area of my work to the next level.
A colleague of mine calls it “machine chasing”… I like to think of it as not leaving a single stone unturned. So when the chaps at TATSoul asked me if I would be willing to take a set of three of the company’s new in-house coil machines for a test run, I was of course, delighted to oblige. After all, what harm could it do? But what I didn’t expect to do was to end up falling in love with these machines straight out of the box. Normally, if I am sent machines to test for a builder, I will use them very sparingly and carefully during the first few days. After all, I don’t want to risk ruining a customer’s tattoo by using machines that I am uncomfortable and unfamiliar with. You can poke, prod and run a machine all you like, but the proof of the pudding always lies in actual time spent on skin; only then do machines reveal their true worth. However, after only a matter of minutes I was amazed to find myself settling in to a six-hour session using nothing else. Since then, I have used them exclusively on every tattoo produced during the past week. In short, they are the best, ‘straight out of the box’ coil machines, that I have ever come across… bar none.
So let’s take a more detailed look at what TATSoul sent me in those boxes. Apart from asking me if I preferred a heavier steel frame or a lighter aluminium frame (I chose steel), I pretty much left everything else to the company. They elected to send me three machines from their Kronos range-a liner, a shader, and a colour packer. these machines are designed and individually hand-tuned by TATSoul’s in-house artist, Erica Kopelow. This is something that happens to ever in-house coil machine they sell. Amazingly, each machine ran perfectly straight out of the box, each with a beautiful action and perfect timing. No extra tweaking or fiddling is required, which is pretty rare for me.
The first machine I used was the liner. Weighing in at a more than manageable 7.6oz, this is a machine with enough weight to turn out good, strong lines without leaving your wrists aching at the end of a long tattoo session. It runs fast, at around 135-145CPS, undoubtedly helped by its fluted armature bar. This is a machine best suited to pushing smaller lines of around five or seven needles. It has a lovely consistent stroke and its copper contact screw makes for excellent conductivity. Loaded with eight wrap coils, this is a perfect machine for turning out those smaller daily tattoos that are so often the bread and butter of many studios.
Now, onto my absolute favourite machine in the range, the Kronos colour packer. This machine is undoubtedly the best colour saturator I have ever used. It picks up effortlessly from where the liner left off, being more than able to execute thicker lines for larger needle groups with no trouble at all. I love this machine so much that I ordered a second one within a few days of me trying it out. Weighing in a full ounce heavier than its liner counterpart, the colour packer comes ready for action with ten wrap coils and a heavier ‘Hard Hitter’ armature bar. Running at around 100-110CPS this is one of the smoothest ‘out of the box’ tattoo machines I have ever used. This action is flawless; it strokes the colour gently into the skin with a firm but non-aggressive ‘slap’. As I have mentioned, by simply turning the juice up a few vaults, it will run that bit harder and double perfectly as a large group liner for working on large back pieces and bigger sleeve designs. Furthermore, I have found a surprising mid-voltage use for the machine as a while shader. It really is like having three different machines in one box, I can’t get enough of using it. In fact, if I had to find any fault with it at all, the only one I could point out would be that the fluorescent orange tape around the could quickly becomes marked and grubby looking. But I can live with that in what I believe is the best machine I have picked up this year!
Finally, last but by no means least, I come to the Kronos shader. Weighing in at a mid-range 7.8oz, this machine is constructed and tuned to be a soft shader. It uses a similar geometry to the liner, along with eight wrap coils and fluted armature bar to help keep it speed up. This machine runs at a nippy 120-130CPS and is extremely consistent in its action. Although TATSoul says it can be run at a low voltage of around six volts, I preferred to crack it up to around eight or nine for my personal hand speed and elastic band load. Despite this extra juice, I still have not encountered the machine heating up even once. It has a nice soft hit on the skin that perfectly accommodates the gradual building up of grey shade layers. Personally, when it comes to whip shading, I prefer the colour packer, but for delicate black and grey portraits and multi-layered realism, this is one of the most subtle shaders I have come across. A real pleasure to use.
In closing, I am extremely impressed with this range of in-house coils from TATSoul. Every machine seems perfectly suited to its purpose. On top of that, they look great wit ha lovely antiqued finish and come complete with a lifetime guarantee. The machines are competitively prices at below $300 each. I have yet to try all of TATSoul’s in-house coil machines but if the Kronos range is anything to go by, they are all worth checking out. Absolutely love these machines, and as I mentioned in earlier, I have already ordered an extra colour packer.
TATSoul and renowned artists came together to produce the highest quality tattoo needles. The acute angle cut into the back of the Magnum Needles will allow them to flow more fluidly through the tube. We have also found the prefect needle taper for the most efficient ink flow into the skin. Envy Tattoo Needles are manufactured with the best quality control in the industry. We pay special attention to flat soldering that will give the most fluid and accurate needle motion.
Early on in 2010 Off the Map decided to go fully disposable, due to the nature of this shop and having 40-50 guest artists per year come through. To ensure that we maintain a completely sterile environment we cleaned up our autoclaves and put them in storage. We strive to maintain strict standards of cleanliness here at the shop and feel that the nature of disposable tubes help us in that.
Get your disposable tattoo tubes at TrueTube.com
3 Step Tattoo Healing Regimen from Pride Aftercare by TATSoul via tattooartistmagazineblog.com
As a tattoo artist, it’s also important to protect your work from the fading and discoloration that can affect tattoos if they’re not properly treated. Although it’s not possible to make sure your clients are consistent with their aftercare routine, you can suggest the right products that will heal and protect your artwork that they wear.
Pride Aftercare by TATSoul has a three step system to cleanse, heal and protect new tattoos. The cleanser, ointment and lotion are specially formulated with natural ingredients to work together for best results.
The latest addition in Pride Aftercare’s system is the Tattoo Ointment. Pride Aftercare Tattoo Ointment is specifically formulated to heal tattoos so you can be assured that the gentle ingredients will in no way affect the new ink. Unlike other ointments, Pride Aftercare’s oil remains intact, allowing for better consistency and protection (see below).
Pride Aftercare’s Tattoo Ointment contains no dyes or fragrances and is approved by tattoo professionals and skin care specialists for its moisturizing and anti-aging ingredients. It may also be used to treat minor skin irritations.
Whether it’s your own tattoo or a piece you’ve just completed, make sure to treat it with the Pride Aftercare system to cleanse, heal and protect your new tattoo. Keep your work remaining vibrant for years to come.
Pride Aftercare’s Website: www.prideaftercare.com
Pride Aftercare’s Instagram: @prideaftercare
Pride Aftercare’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/prideaftercare
I am going to write this review as a dual review, both the liner and shader at once.
We recieved the Veritas Irons Sage Liner and Shader tattoo machines as our first set of machines for review. I have put them through a few months of daily wear and they are smooth running machines that are solidly built. Hard hitting no joke daily money makers i would say. Upon arrival the liner was dead. I was a little concerned, but a quick call to Greg and he had it figured out that during shipping the top rear binding post had spun loose, this is where he admitted a design flaw, the rear upright is so close to the allen wrench screw that you need to cut your allen wrench short in order to get it in there. Pretty cool that he was humble enough to point out a flaw and say he has addressed it in his new deisign of this frame. In a fairly brief conversation I could tell that Greg knew what he was talking about regarding tattoo machines and obviously building them..
Theses tattoo machines have a fairly unique design, with each piece being separate then dovetailed together with a weld from the inside. At first I was a little thrown off by this but after putting them through the rigors of daily use I can say them seem solid as all hell. When I spoke with Greg , he said he cnc machines all the pieces and created a jig to fit everything in place. Most of his parts (binding posts A, bar, etc.) are prefab from a supplier here in mass. One criticism I have with this design is the gap that is created by the rear spring deck, it seems to be fo a few millimeters difference from the rear upright to the actual rear deck and at such a crucial point of any tattoo machine, I feel like it could cause undue tension and fatigue on the spring. A quick plane of that area after the weld could alleviate that “problem”.
Techy stuf:Frames are blued steel, great finish! Sidewinder rear shooting style rear binders. 8 layer coils on both machines, the shader having one and a quarter inch coils and the liner has one inch with a quarter inch yoke. .018 front and back springs on both setups. 22uF35v capacitor on both machines. The liner runs 8.9volts @ 120hz 43% duty , and the shader runs 7 volts @ 100hz 46% Duty as taken off of my critical cx-2 power supply. Short snappy stroke on the liner and a medium/long stroke on the shader. I pushed everything from a 5 mag to a 15 mag in the shader with out any problems what so ever. The liner runs beautifully with 5′s , 7′s and 9′s, I usually don’t go any bigger then that so I couldn’t tell you if it can handle a 14, althought it seems to me it would not be an issue for this powerhouse.
A unique vice grip setup on both tattoo machines where he cut a slot so the right hand side of the vice clamp is free floating held in place by the vice screw. It works like a dream for disposables and has me eyeballing some of the problem machines in my collection, although Greg strongly advises to let a pro do it, as you can seriously alter how your machine runs if you start hacking away at it! The vice screw is one point of weakness I see, I have gorilla mits and tighetn things harder then I realize at times, and I can see already that the dimes used for the vice screws are bending the weld is rock solid, its just the flimsy american money that cannt hold up.
As far as criticisims for this machines I have a few small ones, but they are simply based off of personal preference . First like I said was the vice srew, secondly I would have to say that the fact that the contact screw has nothing on top is troublesome. I usually have to turn a tattoo machines contact screw after three to six months and with nothing to hold on to that could hurt. Another thing is the shader’s front coil could use a .025 shim in my opinion, the rear coil is close to the point of almost touching and I could see with a solid 6 months of wear and tear on the front coil top, where you could run into an issue. The front coil is not perfectly parallel with the bottom of the machine, seems to be leaning forward a tad, I think that a shim thrown in there would get the coil off the wire a bit more, increse levelness and help out a ton. Finally I would say that the coil holes being slotted makes no sense, not like you are going to move them forward or backward of where they are . The fact that there is a slot from the back point of the vice hole to the front of the first coils slot seems to make an undue weakness in the frame. Again these are all just personal preferences.
All in all, I think these unique machines are smooth steady runners. Greg knows what he is doing and from a few conversations with him he already identified a few of the things i brought up so you know with every machine he is just getting better and better. Well worth the money i would surely keep using these machines for years on end. Check out veritasirons.com and unionsupplycompany.com for more info.
Ben - www.BenReigle.com
Holy lag time batman! I got the Soba Brass Deluxe Pilot Shader tattoo machine for review like, um, well….a looooong while ago! Soba sent it my way to put through the daily rigors and see what I could say both positive and negative about it. With the way my year has been it has been rough to get myself sat down in front of the computer to type all this stuff in! That is a good thing though!! What I am reviewing is not the production model, but besides the coil covers it’s no different then what you would order at Workhorse Irons.
I will run you through all the specifics of this machine first and foremost. It is a silicon bronze investment cast machine, pretty much the smoothest running of the common metals used for tattoo machines due to it’s density. More density equals less vibrations. Many would gripe about the weight but it really is not an issue with this machine as the guys over at Workhorse Irons have drilled holes in the upright to lighten the tattoo machine. It is similar in weight to all the other full sized machines on my rack, daily driver weight for sure.
Coils are 1.125″ 8 layer, iron coil core wrapped with premium wire, covered in green gaffers tape, with phenolic tops and bottoms. They sit on a 1/8″ yoke and are shimmed perfectly where the a-bar is parallel to the bottom deck, with a sliver of light showing through the back coil top and the a-bar . The capacitor is an industry standard 47uF35v. Springs are hand cut and punched .018 front and back, with a slim taper to the front spring. The rear All of the hardware on the Brass Deluxe Pilot Shader is deluxe brass that is all turned in house at Workhorse Irons, the shoulder washers match the phenolic on the coils. The use of Torx screws and cap head screw insures you wont have to break out the dremel to slot that son of a bitch button head allen wrench that just stripped out on your tattoo machine!! Just as icing on the cake they have made an antiqued brass Workhorse Irons thumbsrecw that is so solid you never have to worry about a sketchy weld letting loose of your coin while you are tightening the vice.
Having put this tattoo machine through a few months of daily work, I can say it is super smooth running shader and color packer. I have whipped out smoothness and laid in some super solid large fields of color. Sweet looking, ultra versatile, solidly built with ultra precision Attention to detial is very high, and with Soba it’s a given that things are gonna match and be just a great overall package! The only negative I can say about it is the tube vice tends to be a bit tight if you are using disposable tubes regularly. Soba is always one to accommodate and if you are worried about that he can make adjustments for you when you order.
In all, I would say that at $350 off of www.workhorseirons.com these tattoo machines are well worth that investment. Something that you could pass onto the next generation of tattooers when you are old and grey and wrinkly, and i am sure they could pass to the next after them! Soba is a really great guy with the integrity it takes to make it in this business. I highly recommend checking out Soba machines at Workhorse Irons.
Edited by: Trent Aitken-smith , Originally appeared in Tattoo Master Magazine, Issue Twenty One
Name: Andy Dykes (Timeless)
Years Building: 7
Contact Details: www.andydykes.com
I tattooed my first customer around 2006. It was the outline of a piece of tribal on my buddy’s leg. Let’s just say it was a nerve-racking experience to say the least.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO MACHINE BUILDING?
My previous job, before I stated tattooing, was as an apprentice tool maker. So as you can imagine, It wasn’t long after I started tattooing that I started to ‘tinker’ with my machines; probably because they were all crap and never ran as they should. I started off with rebuilds for myself, then for a couple artist I know, and then I progressed onto making frames… with nothing but a hack saw, drill press and bench sander, they were all bot up frames.
After a while I stated to save up some cash so I could purchase a manual mill and a lathe, which made life so much easier. Also at the same time, my dad taught me how to weld. It wasn’t long after I started figuring out how to make all the components needed to build a solid, handmade machine.
FIRST MACHINE YOU OWNED…
It was from a local tattoo supplier, very prematurely in my career; I didn’t know any better and wasted my money. I still have that machine ad it definitely will never get used again. I’ve been tempted to rebuild it on numerous occasions but as it was my first, I’m going to keep it all original as a memento.
FIRST MACHINE BUILT…
It can only be described as a heap of junk. It had a bolt-up fame that resembled a Zeiss animal marker. It didn’t run too well at all. It was solid, but I didn’t give any though to geometry at all-to this day it’s by far the slowest machine I have ever built…and it was supposed to be a liner.
FAVORITE MACHINE BUILDER…
It’s too hard to say. I have a lot of builders I admire and have drawn inspiration from over the years. I’d say all-time favorites would be Percy Waters or Paul Rogers. As for modern day favorites, ids probably say Scott Sylvia, Morgan Pettit, and Donnie Irish, Build my favorite machines that I only personally… Closely followed by half-a-dozen others.
FAVORITE DESIGN INFLUENCE…
I try to base my machines off the old classics. They did all the hard work, they figured to what would or wouldn’t work. That’s probably why I like my machines to look old and distressed. They have more soul and look like they have a story to tell.
FAVORITE MATERIAL TO WORK WITH…
It only use steel/iron to build my machines. I’m thinking of getting into brazing a little more, so maybe in the future I may also start using some brass from time to time.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN MACHINE BUILDING OVER THE YEARS?
I haven’t been building machines to tattooing long enough to give a worthwhile opinion. Although, in the short time I have been building machines, I have noticed more and more ‘machine builders’ coming out of the woodwork. Most only assemble machines, and 99 percent wouldn’t know how to build a machine from raw materials.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST THREAT TO MACHINE BUILDING?
The cheap, imported and readily available parts and machines that are ever present on certain auction websites, as well as numerous other websites. It makes any one with an allen key, who can tighten half a dozen or so screws, into a machine builder these days.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE FOR MACHINE BUILDING?
Its hard to predict. As long as people support builders who put time, effort and care into building a machine, then hopefully it’ll be good. Tattoo artist often moan about people putting out sub-standard tattoos on people and encourage customers to go the artist that can do the tattoo the most justice, regardless of time and price… well the same can be said about tattoo machines. Do your research, get recommendations, and find the right person for the job.
Edited by: Trent Aitken-smith , Originally appeared in Tattoo Master Magazine, Issue Twenty One
I have always loved tattoos, but my love of tattoo machines came about much later; it took a visit to a machine builder’s workshop and seeing a machine being built from scratch that changed it all. From that day, I saw the soul of a hand-built machine, and since then, I have been fascinated. When I became editor of this magazine, I wanted to acknowledge builders who do everything by hand, and so , the Hand-Built Machine Award was born. Five Builders were chosen from around the world to take part; the brief, make a hand- machine that not only looks great but works hard too. So here we go, let me introduce the five machine builders up for first ever, Hand- Built Machine Award…
Name: John Black (The Man In Black)
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Years Building: 34
Contact Details: Blackinkman@gmail.com
FIRST MACHINE BUILT…
I built my first machine from scratch in 1979.
FAVORITE MACHINE BUILDER…
I think my favorite machine man would have to be Paul Rogers, Then leon Miller.
FAVORITE DESIGN INFLUENCE…
My favorite Design would have to be a simple and plain pre-fab. I’m influenced by many things. But most of all I’m driven by the deep-seated desire to just make things and enjoy life.
FAVORITE MATERIAL TO WORK WITH…
I really like working with iron and old rail road spikes.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN MACHINE BUILDING OVER THE YEARS?
The biggest change I’ve noticed lately is people making an effort to get back to a clean, basic build. It’s nice to see people making a machine and refraining from gluing crap all over it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST THREAT TO MACHINE BUILDING?
The biggest harm, I think, would have to be… too many people buying frames, coils, etc., and then trying to see them from a premium price devaluing the work of craftsmen.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE FOR MACHINE BUILDING?
I’m not going to try and predict the future of machine building; it’s got so screwed up in the past 15 years. I’d hate to think it was right in the future, much less next year. As a tattooer I’ve come to grips with my life and thoughts on tattooing. My tattoos will be dead and gone many years from now, but the tools I make, that people make a living with, will be here as long as the iron doesn’t rust away. And that’s some good shit.
Written by: Terry “Tramp” Welker & Trent Aitken-smith , Originally appeared in Tattoo Master Magazine, Issue Twenty One
Eternal Tattoo Supply is one of the long-established, worldwide names in the tattoo world. Started over 30 years ago by veteran tattooer, Terry ‘Tramp’ Welker, ETS is going stronger than ever… and that’s no surprise given the skills and knowledge that Tramp has accumulated since first opening his studio, eternal tattoos, in Detroit in 1980. So when the opportunity to have a chat with Tramp about how it all started and how things have changed over the years came about, we grabbed it with both hands
Like most artists back in the ‘70s and the early ‘80s, tattooing was still very private; it was almost a secret how things were done. We were making our own needles, stencils, ink everything. You could get powder pigment from Spaulding and National and things were very simple. Most of us were only using primary colors, so your complete set only had eight to ten colors. For different shades, I’m sure most of us mixed it right in our ink caps.
“Remember, I started tattooing in 1976 and opened Eternal Tattoos in 1980. Back then there were only a handful of shops in each city and most of us learned by trial and error. When mixing my inks, I would ask around and I also ordered some Spaulding pigments and mixed it with Listerine and a drop of Glycerine. I would experiment and add a drop of Aloe Vera and Vitamin E, put it in a kitchen blender and mix it to the consistency I wanted”
And from those humble beginnings Eternal Ink was born. After making all the inks for his own studio and with the steady rise in popularity of tattooing making the shop busier, Tramp hired a couple of artist to apprentice and work for him.
“Whenever we needed ink I would ask them, ‘Hey, do any of you want to learn how?’ they always said no because it was so messy, and so they didn’t want to do it”
However they still wanted the inks and they would badger Tramp, telling him that he should think about making them up himself and selling them on. And that’s just what he did.
“Being in the Business for over 33 years, I’ve been very fortunate to meet and know a lot of artist. With me doing the motor city Tattoo Expo for the past 18 years, along with my convention partner Brian Everett, and also hosting the Texas Tattoo Round-up for 13 years, I’ve met a lot of great artist, this being said, I was able to put my inks into the hands of a lot of artist when eternal ink started. I would hand my inks out and just ask for feedback from the artist. I made adjustments when needed and worked on my consistencies to be the best on the market. In the beginning I also had another person involved that wasn’t an artist who I put a lot of trust in. They ended up leaving and it was actually a blessing having them gone.”
Around the same time, a new music channel would start a new surge in people looking to get tattooed… things were about to jump forward in tattooing.
“Like I said, back in the beginning, the few colors we used were great. We were all doing mostly traditional tattoos. But then MTV came along and all the rock stars were getting tattoos and practically overnight tattooing changed- pro athlete, wrestlers, football players, basketball players… everyone was getting tattooed. It got to the point that I ended up opening five tattoo shops in and around Detroit. We were so busy it was crazy. All of a sudden everyone wanted to be a tattoo artist. Back in the day, I ended up apprenticing some of the biggest name in the industry – Tom Renshaw, Jay Wheeler, Marshal Bennett, Bob Tyrell- just to name a few.”
But one of the downsides of the rise on demand for tattoos and tattoos supplies was that Tramp ended up having to stop tattooing to run his business. A warehouse was built just outside of Detroit and Tramp began to spend all of his time there, concentrating more on his inks.
“My son Jesse was, and is also a tattoo artist, and I finally got him to come out and help me with the inks. Jesse has tattooed for 20 years and now he runs the ink mixing room. With over 150 colors and working with so many great artist, we pride ourselves on not only being tattoo artists but on making the best tattoo inks on the market,… and with the best consistency, second to none. Our color blends are perfect match each time. Our job is to give the tattoo artist what they want each and every time; our dedication is to them.
But eternal is no longer just an ink supply company. Over the years, Tramp has worked hard in building it into a solid tattoo supply business, where it is hard not to find exactly what you need.
“Eternal tattoo supply and eternal ink continue to grow each year. I have been fortunate enough to see that industry expand and keep on growing. And with society now seeing tattooed people as the norm with most people having tattoos, or at least knowing someone with a tattoo; it has become much more acceptable in the working field. At one time, and still in some cases, people were afraid to show their tattoos thinking they would be look at differently, but now with so many people being heavily tattooed and the quality of the work being done, people are asking to look at your tattoos because of how good the work is.
“Over the years we have become a full supply company and our goal is to give the artists the pest products we can. Being artist ourselves, we can understand the wants and needs of the artist ad we can answer any questions they may have. Anytime we get a call from the artist and one of my staff feels they can’t give the right answer or if someone wants to speak directly to me, I’ll take the call, and if I can’t take the call right them, I make it a point to return all calls. My relationship with the artist, knowing their needs, and providing them with the highest and best quality of ink, is my priority. I’m working with some of the best artist in the industry and making colors for some of them which gives us all different shades and blenders, so the artist has everything all made for them. I continue to search out the best products needles, tubes, machines, etc., to give the artist the best of the best.”
And with all this work, dose Tramp still get time to tattoo?
“I guess you could say I’m totally focused on ETS. With so much going on each day at my warehouse, between the inks and our line of tattoo machines, it doesn’t leave me a lot of time to do much more, I did a tattoo last year- I felt very happy doing it and it was a lot of fun. It’s like riding a bike, once you figure it out and learn it, you don’t forget it. With all the time in between tattooing and not tattooing I think I got better at tattooing.”
The tattoo world is a fickle place, and for someone like Tramp and Eternal Tattoo Supply to stay the distance, there has to be more than just a great product. And it’s not only hard work and dedication; it is being a part of something you truly believe in and love.
“Man, I’m old school, and I’ll never forget where I came from and where I started. I was a one-man shop when I started out. Tattooing has been good to me and I try and give back as much as I can. I’ve been here from the late ’70s when there were only a handful of shops, to the mid-‘80s when the industry started picking up and then in ‘90s when tattooing exploded, I don’t want to look back on any regrets, because what’s done is done. I’ve made a lot of friends doing what I do and without them and the artists’ support; we wouldn’t be where we are today. This is what feeds my family and the great group of people I have working for me, we continue to move forward because of them… the Artists.”
Written by: Mario Rosenau & Trent Aitken-smith , Originally appeared in Tattoo Master Magazine, Issue Twenty One
Mario Rosenau started Stencil Stuff back in early 2006; before then, he had been making his own stencil transfer based on an old, passed down recipe, but was finding that it never worked the way he wanted. At the time, Mario and Mike DeMasi (Art Junkies co-owners) were really pushing the realm of color realism,and as their designs were very complex, they needed their stencil to stay on better in order to pull off what they were doing…
In an effort to come up with a better product, mike began to play around with the old formula to see if he could improve on the recipe.
“after some trial and error, i was able to create a better sticking solution. At the time i was just making it for all of us in the shop. then one day, on of the guys in the shop said, ‘hey, this stuff works so well you should sell it!” A few of the guys laughed and teased me, but being very competitive in life i was like, ‘Oh yeah, ok, we’ll see. i’ll show you’. And that is how it started. the name stencil stuff was really or nickname for it and it just stuck. The guys would shout, ‘you got any of that stencil stuff?’ The name just seemed to fit”.
In the beginning, Mario spend a lot of time trying to work out how to make stencil stuff a viable product, as well as figuring out the means to get it onto the streets and into the public’s hands.
“i knew from my background before it began tattooing, that doing it myself, although it may have worked, was not really the right way to mass produce stencil stuff…nor was it perfect. After countless hours of research, i was able to team up with one of the leading chemists in the skin care industry. together we created a formula that was free of any harmful chemicals and was safe to be used for what it was intended to be used for.”
Right around the time Mario was Finalizing the formula for Stencil Stuff, one of this best friends, Mike DeVries, came on board as his partner. With everything falling into place and two creative and passionate minds working towards the same goal, Stencil Stuff started making its mark on the tattoo world.
“Mike is a very special guy and we think alike when it comes to developing things. Stencil Stuff really went to a whole new level when we partnered up and it was a perfect fit for us. We had the same goal, to develop products that would improve our industry. It is the most important thing to us. What really separates us from everyone else is that we work hands on and with professionals that understand what is needed to created safe products. Products that are lab tested and approved so as to be able to safely state that they are hypoallergenic and safe. We have invested a lot of time and money into our products, and it feels good to know that people appreciate the extra steps have taken to make sure that what we do is the highest quality for them and their clients. we really take pride in what we do. it’s really crazy to think that we have developed a product that has a brand name in which everything is called byt the same label…Stencil Stuff. it’s kind of like what the name Kleenex is for tissues. it’s just surreal”
In the beginning, Mario started running the business out of his house, but it didn’t take long to outgrow the space and it would be several more moves before stencil stuff found its current location.
“almost two years ago we purchased a warehouse in southern California. At times i wonder how long it will be before we will have to expand that. the warehouse is not open to the public as it really is just a warehouse to ship products out of. I have a shipping manager that handles all shipments and a full-time outside salesman that handles all of the accounts. We have a lot of dealers out there. we are currently shipping all over the world and expanding into new countries every week, Larger amounts of products are shipped directly from our Manufacturer, which is a good thing because we would need to place three times the size if we did it all.
“it’s been a learning experience for sure. if you look at our bottles you will see multiple languages as we follow all the guidelines so we comply with all regulations… which is really what we are about, going to above and beyond. What most people are doing our there. Sometimes the Things we do are not even enforced in our industry, So if we follow these high standards, we really feel that we are making sure our customers will get the best out of our products.”
And Stencil Stuff is not the only product that mario and the team produce. there is a lot more ‘stuff’ on their shelves that are gaining just as much popularity as the original.
“We created Spray Stuff which is used to keep your marker drawings on better. Artist that use it really love it! We put the same quality into it to ensure its safeness and it really does work great. it’s the only thing on the market like it.
“We have some amazing new products coming out this year. The first one we are super-excited about because it’s something we have not had that was developed specifically for its purpose… prep Stuff. And it does just what it says! You use it to prep the skin before you apply the stencil. it sanitizes the skin by removing 99.9 percent of bacteria that can be harmful when you’re tattooing. However, unlike soaps or alcohol, it will not remover the important oils in the skin that are needed for good healthy healing. it also makes the Stencil Stuff and Spray Stuff work even better.”
“Mike and i have been really blessed to have both been able to be a part of this industry. We have had success with our shops and careers as artists, but one of our biggest rewards is being able to give back to everyone else! By helping them out, providing products that will allow them to do what they do best, while knowing it’s 100 percent safe to use. We are not guys mixing up stuff in our kitchen and shipping it out. We have the product filed and each batch is tested before we get it to ensure that it is the highest quality it can be. It has not been easy the way we have approached it, but we would not have it any other way.”
Another reason for Stencil Stuff’s continued success has been their working relationship with Sullen Clothing and Sullen TV
“Ryan and Jeremy have teamed up with us to reach out to the industries need for better equipment for the travelling artist, like our recent line of the travelling arm rests, Rest Stuff. Alongside Sullen’s new travel bags, it has helped us branch out to fill a much needed void in the industry. And it has been great working with them. We will soon have the second edition of our travel arm rest with many new features.”
and it doesn’t look like it will end there. With everyone behind Stencil Stuff fully immersed in the tattoo world, it won’t be long before we see another successful product making it into the studios.
“it’s important for us to keep pushing the limits with what we do and continue to push the standards of our products. And, of course, we would not be here without the support of all of our loyal customers. they have all been influential in the success of our company and we thank you.”