This week I did some reading on the history of the tattoo machine. The modern electric tattoo machine was invented by Samuel O’Reily. It was based on Edison’s invention called th electric pen.
The pen was invented as an early way to copy handwritten documents. The original pen was a huge flop but O’Reily (a stick and poke tattoo artist) saw another use for it and with some modifications to the original design creates the machine we still use today. Check out the Tattoo Machine Wikipedia entry for more information. There are many parts to a tattoo machine here is a quick look from Wet Tattoo at a basic set up how to.
That video is a very basic intro and a good place to start but I went to my mentor to learn a whole bunch more about how tattoo machines work. How to tune them (set the voltage to adjust how hard/frequently the machine strikes the needle so it will hit the skin), more about each of the parts and what they do, and more about needles and different machines for different techniques. I did a ton of offline reading but you can definitely check out blogs like Wet Tattoo and Nick Baxter for tons more info and reading on tattoo machines and their accessories.