How to Tune a Tattoo Machine? [Step by Step Process]

Tuning a tattoo machine is the process of ensuring that the needle hits skin at an angle and depth so as not to puncture or tear it. Tuning also avoids damage to the machine, which can be caused by improper needle depth on the skin. Tattoo artists tune their machines before each use for best results.

The most important aspect of tuning a tattoo machine is making sure that you have just enough tension in your spring coil, otherwise known as “the stack.” The spring coils are located on either side of the armature bar; they’re made up of metal wire winding around two spindles.

In this blog post, I will share how to tune a tattoo machine if you want to know the process of tuning a tattoo machine.

Why Tune a Tattoo Machine?

It is important to keep your machine properly tuned, or else you run the risk of damaging your tattooing equipment. Damaged machines can lead to:

Ink delivery problems, which will affect how evenly ink transfers from the tube to the needle tip Incomplete line formation on your client’s skin Ink flow issues that cause under-saturation of your clients’ skin Ink build-up around the tubes and needle tips, resulting in an overworked machine overheating and shorting out, But if you want to know how to tune a tattoo machine then read along!

What do You need To Tune a Tattoo Machine?

  • Cutting pliers
  • Thumbscrew
  • Needle bar spacer–the type used with screwdrivers
  • Spring coil
  • Spare coils (preferably the same gauge as your current coils)
  • Needle bar (preferably the same one that you are using)
  • Screwdriver

How to Tune a Tattoo Machine?

Begin by pulling apart your machine, starting with removing the tubes and needle from your tattoo arm. Next, check to see if your spring coil is properly attached in the grooves of each side of the needle bar–if it’s not, then you might need to be re-tensioning them after they’ve been loosened up by screwing them together too much.

You’ll also want to check how loose or tight the coils are connected into their spindles. In this case, we’re talking about loosening them on both sides.

Once you’ve checked the coils, we can move onto tuning the spring coil. Tuning is done by screwing the needle bar screws tighter or looser so that it presses down on the stack just enough to make your tattoo needles hit the skin at a desired angle and depth.

Note: If your needles are hitting too deep into the skin, then loosen your form bar screws by turning them counter-clockwise until you achieve satisfactory results.

Next, you need to check that there isn’t any unnecessary stress on either side of the spindles where each spring coil connects–this might be caused if they aren’t screwed in evenly, or one of them might not be tightened up properly.

You may need to loosen your screws to ensure that both sides are at equal tension.

By turning the screwdriver counter-clockwise, you can loosen them up, and if one side is working harder than the other, you can turn it clockwise slightly so that it matches up with the opposite side.

Next, you want to check to ensure there isn’t any extra stress on the needle bar itself by making sure no pressure or force is being put on either one of its sides or anywhere else. If you find a lot of stress, you may need to re-position your plate and spacer if they’re not aligned correctly.

Once you’ve made sure that your needle bar shaft is free of excess stress, you can tune the rest of it so that it makes contact with the coils at a desirable angle–this is done by turning the thumbscrew on the bottom part of your machine. Again, you want to make sure that it’s making contact with each coil properly without any undue stress or friction.

Additionally, you may need to turn your thumb screws on and off again to get them properly seated.  If one side has been tightened more than another, then this will cause your needles to hit the skin at an unwanted angle–if this happens, then loosen up both sides until they’re at equal tension once again.

At armature, bars and plates are essential to your tune-up because they contact the rest of the machine to transmit pressure and movement into it. As a result, you want to check that all 3 or 4 points where these bars come together aren’t exerting too much stress on each other–if there is, then take away some of this force by loosening one end or both so that it doesn’t press down on the opposite side.

This will need to be repeated until there isn’t any unwanted pressure between them when they’re screwed together properly.  If you don’t have an armature bar tool, simply use your thumb or finger to ensure no undue friction.

Next up is checking for coil slippage at the top of the tube–there shouldn’t be any. If you find that your needle bar is loose, you may need to retention it before tuning these coils again, so make sure you check whether or not they’re placed properly when you tune.

Now comes your last and arguably most important step to getting a smooth tattoo needle. This has to do with bonding the coils of your spring coil.  Once again, you will need an armature bar tool for this as well–if you don’t have one, then you can use any cylindrical object that’s small enough to fit between the coils but is still strong enough not to bend or break.

You may need to perform this step more than once or twice, but it will be worth it in the end if you’re running into issues like de-bonding on your needles because they might not be properly tuned right off the bat. You will also want to re-position them so that they sit at an equal distance from the top of the tube–if you don’t, your machine may not function as expected under pressure.

Once that’s done, and you’re satisfied with how it looks, then make sure the rest of your spring coil is seated properly, and you’re all set to start tattooing!

As stated above, this process can be a long one, but it will pay off in the end. Practice makes perfect so if there are any flaws at first, take some time to figure them out before moving on to something else.


Now that you’ve got your machine all tuned up, it’s time to start tattooing! Be sure to focus on your technique and always be willing to learn new things from others to become a better artist over time.

If you have any questions in your mind, then do let me know in the comments below. Until next time, check out some of my other articles:
Hummingbird Tattoo Machine Reviews
How Does Tattoo Removal Work? [Detailed Guide]
Tattoo Healing Process: Stages of Tattoo Healing
Solong Tattoo Kit Review: Ultimate Tattoo Kit
Top 5 Best Tattoo Numbing Cream: The Ultimate Guide

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