I had an idea for keeping things interesting on this long road trip through the southwest. I was going to gather a few bits from each hackerspace and build something using minimal tools while we were driving down the road. I settled on the idea of a really simple “jailhouse” tattoo gun. I knew I could build one from parts I could source very easily and that I wouldn’t need much in terms of tools to make it happen.
Here’s what I had:
- leatherman micro multitool (though I only used the scissors).
- A roll of electrical tape
- a spool of wire
- a handful of DC motors (one had a little cog on the end of the shaft)
- a battery holder from a handheld fan
- a few switches
- various pens I found in the vehicle
- a short piece of guitar string
I was able to wrap wire around the leads on the motor, through the switch, and to the batteries very easily. The electrical tape ended up holding everything in place quite nicely. Actually the electrical tape was the key player here as it ended up being structural as well. I needed the motor to be perpendicular to the barrel that would hold the needle and enough electrical tape made that happen.
The cam on the end of the motor consisted of a tiny piece of tubing from the ink cylinder inside a pen, taped to the outside edge of the cog that came on the larger motor. A barrel was created out of the rest of the pen and taped into place. The final part was simply bending the wire to fit inside the cam and travel down the barrel, then trimming it at the end so that it wouldn’t stab too deep.
The Tattoo gun works about as well as you would expect. It is extremely difficult to make a strait line and the ink transfer below the skin is fairly poor. Add on top of that the fact that we’re not using real tattoo ink, the results are pretty horrible. As I said in the video, DO NOT DO THIS if you want a tattoo. Go to a professional. You’ll get more hygienic, higher quality, results.
However if you absolutely NEED a tattoo before you reach your final destination, it is possible to cobble a tattoo gun together in your lap out of scraps.