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Tattoo forefathers 2
Ainu facial tattoos

Thomas A Edison, although most wouldn’t consider him a fore father of the tattoo industry, anyone with the knowledge in the history of tattooing would understand that we, as tattoo artists will be forever in his debt because of his work in the 1800's.

Edison’s 1876, and 1877 patents were a massive influence on O’Reilly’s and Wagner’s tattoo machines. One of his patents was designed to operate using treadle power, passing through a number of wheels to increase or decrease the rpms. Power was then sent through the U joints, to the gear assembly within the hand held portion of the machine (this of course resembling the back tube etc). The power then would circulate to the needle bar, through a cam or eccentric and created the up and down motion that is so familiar today. With all of the parts, and the materials it was made of, it would appear to be a fairly heavy and awkward machine.

While another of his patents, was designed to operate by using either air, gas, water, or other fluids as the catalyst for movement needed for the reciprocating needle bar. The major reason for this, was to reduce the weight, thus making it easier to use. Edison tinkered with the idea of a flexible mouthpiece so that the person using the machine, could blow in the tube causing the rotation. This, of course again wasn’t very practical and didn’t lend itself well to a commercial use basis.

Although his patents were subsequently flops, the inventors who dared to tread in his amazing foot steps, honed the technology that he had laid the foundation for, it is a high probability, that without his failures we would still be sitting down with a stick and needles, to tap our expression into someone’s arm or legs.

As an artist, I would suggest studying every aspect of tattoo. Of course, it isn’t a necessity to the tattooing process, but will allow you to appreciate what you have now. The ease of the tattooing process is far greater than in past years.


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