Which coil gun should I buy as my first?


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Hello there,

I am somewhat new to tattooing and completely new to this site. I've been doing some hand-poked pieces for a while now but god does it take forever. So I've decided to give tattooing with a machine a go, but now I'm completely lost in the sea of tattoo gun recommendations. I've mostly been seeing recommendations for the Dragonhawk machines, that and Solong. I know that I want to start learning with a coil gun as opposed to rotary, and I know I don't want something super overkill and high-end since I am just a beginner. Any recommendations?

Thanks
 

DKJ

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I don't anything about coils but just fir you to know, most of tge industry don't like to hear about "guns" but will refer to them as "tattoo machines" instead.
Really not a problem here but it seems to be a no go with most pros worldwide.

You can search the forums about which coils for a beginner, the subject has been launched numerous times already :)

Peace,

DKJ
 

Cyberthrasher

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I've mostly been seeing recommendations for the Dragonhawk machines, that and Solong.
Ditto about "guns"....we're not shooting anything.
Anywhere that recommends a Dragonhawk or Solong - don't listen to them.
If it came from a site titled "top 10 best of xxxx" - ignore that site.
If you can find it on Amazon, don't buy it and expect to use it for anything serious. Buy it to learn the mechanics and tuning and play on fake skin, then toss it in the box.
Go find a reputable dealer when you're ready to buy a real machine. There are some good builders out there on Instagram too. I buy a lot of inexpensive machines from Forward Tattoo and get a lot of parts to rebuild other machines from them. They're pretty great machines for the price.
 
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Oh, well thanks for letting me know people don't use that term πŸ˜… I had no idea, sorry. I guess I'll just keep scowering the internet then.
 

Cyberthrasher

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I guess I'll just keep scowering the internet then.
I don't understand. Were you just looking for validation of those two brands you listed? I did give you one source for a reputable builder that won't be a waste of your money.
 

MirandM

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I don't understand. Were you just looking for validation of those two brands you listed? I did give you one source for a reputable builder that won't be a waste of your money.
You gave her a recommendation, exactly what she asked for. Whether she follows up on that or not is up to her.
Maybe she didn't read your post yet and replied to DKJ's, have a bit of patience.
 
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I don't understand. Were you just looking for validation of those two brands you listed? I did give you one source for a reputable builder that won't be a waste of your money.
Didn't mean to offend you there πŸ˜‘, by "scowering the internet" I meant I was going to continue my search online and I'll be taking in your vague recommendations of "looking for a dealer" and the Tattoo Foward place you mentioned.

I did state in my original post that I was a fresh beginner when it comes to machines. I was hoping for a recommendation for some kind of simple, ready to use brand that would be decent enough for my first few attempts on my own, and working towards better machines when I got more into it. Considering how little I know, I would say I'm not sure on how to find correct parts or rebuild machines 😐 not such a welcoming site for fresh beginners after all.

Also, why would I want validation for the brands I mentioned when I already said I know nothing about any brands? They were just brands I saw everywhere.
 

Cyberthrasher

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Didn't mean to offend you there πŸ˜‘, by "scowering the internet" I meant I was going to continue my search online and I'll be taking in your vague recommendations of "looking for a dealer" and the Tattoo Foward place you mentioned.

I did state in my original post that I was a fresh beginner when it comes to machines. I was hoping for a recommendation for some kind of simple, ready to use brand that would be decent enough for my first few attempts on my own, and working towards better machines when I got more into it. Considering how little I know, I would say I'm not sure on how to find correct parts or rebuild machines 😐 not such a welcoming site for fresh beginners after all.

Also, why would I want validation for the brands I mentioned when I already said I know nothing about any brands? They were just brands I saw everywhere.
It read as "oh well, I guess I didn't get an answer". Im not offended, but it did seem like my answer,, which gave a recommendation, wasn't good enough.. Forward Tattoo Machines is an inexpensive company with ready built machines and parts ($ 100 to $150 for machines). I have 5 of them plus machines that cost several hundred more. All of them are in my main circulation.

The cheap ones aren't going to do you favors. You'll spend more time trying to decide if you're fighting your te hnique or the machine. Like i said, grab them to learn the parts and screw them up, but get something that's going to run to learn on. Later on you can work up to something like a Mike Pike or Ciferri. Right now the other reason I said reputable dealer is that most places that will sell to you without working in a shop will only sell you garbage. I was lucky that another member here recommended Forward in the past when I wasn't in a shop yet.
 

soulstare22

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well most coils are the same construction, same mechanisms, so the expensive ones and cheap ones are the same complexity to use. They also all do the same thing (move a needle up and down), so they are very simple.

and really just my opinion, I wouldn't sweat using the cheap ones off amazon when you first start if money is an issue and you just want to try it and demo it. The only issue for a coil that would break a tattoo, is if it has a sputtery run. When you turn it on it should be 1 consistent buzz, with no gaps, fluctuations, or pitch changes in between. In addition it must hold that setting for a long time (20hrs+) and not loosen up in the middle of a session. A lot of times sputtering machine is due to shitty power supply, I think a high quality power supply is more important than a high quality machine, since the machines are super simple, while from an engineering perspective the power supply is much more complex and converting ac to a steady dc current is much more complex than moving a needle up and down (which is all a machine does).

I can make the exact same tattoo with a cheap or expensive machine. Knowing how to tune it and adjust your hand to it is the hard part.
The needle hang, tip, and tube settings are prob more important to me than the machine imo.

coils can be difficult for someone learning on their own to figure out tho, if you have no apprenticeship I would recommend starting with a rotary instead.

The general trend among tattooists who use rotaries is to line with a coil and do everything else with a rotary. lining with a rotary sucks
 
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MirandM

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...oils can be difficult for someone learning on their own to figure out tho, if you have no apprenticeship I would recommend starting with a rotary instead.

The general trend among tattooists who use rotaries is to line with a coil and do everything else with a rotary. lining with a rotary sucks
On the matter of finding a cheap rotaty read this thread Disposable machines YouΒ΄ll be amazed at what cheap can do.
If you want a more solid rotary pen check out the Rocket brand on Aliexpress, they have decent machines for small prices, for example $50-60 for an aluminium body pen and $30 for a wireless battery, worth looking at.
 
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well most coils are the same construction, same mechanisms, so the expensive ones and cheap ones are the same complexity to use. They also all do the same thing (move a needle up and down), so they are very simple.

and really just my opinion, I wouldn't sweat using the cheap ones off amazon when you first start if money is an issue and you just want to try it and demo it. The only issue for a coil that would break a tattoo, is if it has a sputtery run. When you turn it on it should be 1 consistent buzz, with no gaps, fluctuations, or pitch changes in between. In addition it must hold that setting for a long time (20hrs+) and not loosen up in the middle of a session. A lot of times sputtering machine is due to shitty power supply, I think a high quality power supply is more important than a high quality machine, since the machines are super simple, while from an engineering perspective the power supply is much more complex and converting ac to a steady dc current is much more complex than moving a needle up and down (which is all a machine does).

I can make the exact same tattoo with a cheap or expensive machine. Knowing how to tune it and adjust your hand to it is the hard part.
The needle hang, tip, and tube settings are prob more important to me than the machine imo.

coils can be difficult for someone learning on their own to figure out tho, if you have no apprenticeship I would recommend starting with a rotary instead.

The general trend among tattooists who use rotaries is to line with a coil and do everything else with a rotary. lining with a rotary sucks

Is it just the tuning and setting up that makes coil more difficult for people working on their own? Or does it have anything to do with how it functions once you have it set up and start working on a piece?

I was already leaning more towards coil, and there are a lot of resources for me to learn from when it comes to learning the technical work behind the machines themselves.
 
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It read as "oh well, I guess I didn't get an answer". Im not offended, but it did seem like my answer,, which gave a recommendation, wasn't good enough.. Forward Tattoo Machines is an inexpensive company with ready built machines and parts ($ 100 to $150 for machines). I have 5 of them plus machines that cost several hundred more. All of them are in my main circulation.

The cheap ones aren't going to do you favors. You'll spend more time trying to decide if you're fighting your te hnique or the machine. Like i said, grab them to learn the parts and screw them up, but get something that's going to run to learn on. Later on you can work up to something like a Mike Pike or Ciferri. Right now the other reason I said reputable dealer is that most places that will sell to you without working in a shop will only sell you garbage. I was lucky that another member here recommended Forward in the past when I wasn't in a shop yet.
Ah okay well then I apologize, I guess its hard to read into someone's tone over a message board.

But yeah, I get that the more high end machines or machines I fit to my own needs will be better when I reach that kind of level, but for now I do think the cheaper ones are better while I'm messing around a bit. I do appreciate the recommendation to find better machines and not go straight for the cheapo ones off amazon, but I just really don't think I'm looking for something I won't feel bad about if I somehow manage to break it or if on some off chance I learn this maybe isn't for me (I'm really hoping it is though).
 

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The coil guys on here have mentioned kylin machines before , very reasonable price ,google them πŸ‘
 

soulstare22

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Is it just the tuning and setting up that makes coil more difficult for people working on their own? Or does it have anything to do with how it functions once you have it set up and start working on a piece?

I was already leaning more towards coil, and there are a lot of resources for me to learn from when it comes to learning the technical work behind the machines themselves.
There are a few different knobs and springs on the coils. Also there is the tube assembly that requires you to bend the needle alittle, and stick it on the a-bar. Compare this to a tattoo pen that uses carts, it is significantly more complicated.

honestly it's still not that complicated, but if u have no apprenticeship it will be difficult to trouble shoot every little problem that is prone to happen with a coil.

like what do u do if the ink sprays? what if the needle doesn't move? what if there is bad ink flow? all way easier to trouble shoot with a cart.
 

soulstare22

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Just telling you..........tuning a coil is a niiiightmare.
only thing on the machine you should be touching is the contact screw (once every month for me when the screw gets grinded down too much), everything else gets twisted on tight, but when they come loose it can be tricky retuning it. Like if u drop it or something

also getting the tube, tip, and needle aligned def requires experience. I still get ink spray from unaligned tube assembly and sometimes i have to reinstall the entire needle/tube again.
 

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Complete tuning really isn't that hard once you play with it and learn what modifications cause what results. The cheap machines are good for that learning.

The big problem with cheap machines is the materials used. Not the design. They use bent metal frames and no Yoke leaving nothing for the magnetic field. Then they use aluminum or oxidized wire in the coil half the time which creates erratic behavior and springs that are either too heavy or too fragile. And that's all assuming the spring deck is properly aligned to be centered with the tube vise.

Those are the things that are alleviated by purchasing from a known builder (not a brand). You don't need an apprenticeship to learn how to tune a machine. I knew how to tune one before an apprenticeship and now I teach my mentor how to troubleshoot her machines. The Eikon Magazines will teach everything needed.

I thought about recommending the Kylin machines because I know they were recommended a lot here. I did end up with one at one point and it was pretty erratic. Once I opened it up I found aluminum wire and some pretty shoddy soldering. For $70 they're not bad, but not something I want to recommended to someone who's just starting and doesn't know what to watch for. I rebuilt mine with parts from Forward Tattoo and converted it from a sloppy shader to a zippy little small configuration liner I can count on.
 

Cyberthrasher

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I just realized that in all of this I never provided a link to Forward. These are the in stock machines. They also have "Build Your Own" where you pick out everything you want and what you want it to do and they build it out for you all tuned and ready.

 
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Hmm well thank you everyone for all your help. I think after listening to what everyone has to say I'm gonna go with a couple of cheap coil machines for now, mess around with them, see if I can tune them properly. That way if it doesn't work out, I won't feel bad about ditching them for one of the nicer rotary pens some of you mentioned.

I'll save the nicer coil set ups for when I'm able to find an apprenticeship, cause it sounds like I might want to have some guidance with those at least.

Thanks again for the advice!
 

Cyberthrasher

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I'll save the nicer coil set ups for when I'm able to find an apprenticeship, cause it sounds like I might want to have some guidance with those at least.
If you sign up for a premium membership we have some complete resources available that will teach you everything you need to know about setting up and building coils.
 

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Agood power supply is more important. Ive seen people (with skill and exp ) do amazing work with litterally a 20 dollar cheap coil machine. Also you can find videos easily to tune a coil machine
 
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Agood power supply is more important. Ive seen people (with skill and exp ) do amazing work with litterally a 20 dollar cheap coil machine. Also you can find videos easily to tune a coil machine
Yeah I actually went ahead and bought one of the nicer, high-end digital power supplies since that seems like a good investment to make right off the bat. I did my first tattoo (on practice skin) today, I kept running into problems with wiping off the ink without it leaving behind dark smudges, and that's how I learned that you have to use a specific kind of soap, not just a paper towel πŸ˜… dumb mistake, but you live and you learn
 

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Yeah I actually went ahead and bought one of the nicer, high-end digital power supplies since that seems like a good investment to make right off the bat. I did my first tattoo (on practice skin) today, I kept running into problems with wiping off the ink without it leaving behind dark smudges, and that's how I learned that you have to use a specific kind of soap, not just a paper towel πŸ˜… dumb mistake, but you live and you learn
on the practice skin vaseline or whatever other lubricant will work the best. Use soap for quick wipes, then every now and then rub some vaseline in and wash that with soap to really clear it up and see where you're at.
 

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Cold pressed coconut oil is way better on fake skin, than vaseline. Doesn't clog the needles. You find it in the grocery store.
That is exactly why I stuck to "lubricant"!!! I couldn't remember what you always recommend so I wrote what I use and then went generic to fill in the gaps :)
 

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I take coils for lining any day. But it has been a love/hate relationship.

From my experience well tuned coils hardly need any tuning appart from maybe tweaking the contact screw a bit.
Well tuned is underlined for a reason because most cheap ones aren't. They're also built with low grade materials so will run less smooth... that can be fixed with tuning knowledge, which I understand you don't have.

A thing to also keep in mind with coils is that they are tuned for specific hand speed and use. So chances are the machine you order doesn't fit your way of tattooing unless you re-tune it. Took me a few machines to figure out what I like and find a machine that fits my current needs.

And coils are way heavier and have most weight in the back, combined with the vibration they are way more tiring for the hands. You'll definitely have some aching joints and tingling fingers in the beginning. So looking for lightweight machines pays.

For me rotaries require hardly any effort to use but more effort to get clean and solid lines with. Coils require way more investment to use properly but are so much easier to line with once you understand them.

You can buy a cheap one to get the feel for the machine and mess about on fake skin. But, unless you spend A LOT of time on learning to tune, don't expect to get a decent tattoo out of such a machine.
If you really want to go coil get a decent one (for instance Workhorse Irons machines)... even the expensive coils are still only one third the price of a high end rotary 😁
 

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If you really want to go coil get a decent one (for instance Workhorse Irons machines)... even the expensive coils are still only one third the price of a high end rotary 😁
I'll always recommend workhorse if you're able. Technically they don't sell outside of a shop though so it's either a matter of finding a seller who won't ask for verification or finding one used and hoping it's not a knockoff. I'm saving up for a pair of Mike Pike brass Jonesie machines right now :)
 

soulstare22

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american machines are too expensive, i get bomb ass shit for under 100$ off taobao in china. 100$ goes a lot further in china, there are alot of domestic manufacturers besides dragon hawk that make decent machines, sadly they don't export internationally.
 
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Well, I did my first shaky tattoo with my cheap coil machines; it's just lines and inconsistent ones at that, but honestly, I think that's just because I haven't held a machine before. I have to remind myself to control my speed and depth; I think I keep going too fast and I keep unconsciously moving my machine up and away from the practice skin.

Here's my first tattoo attempt , he's a lil ugly looking but I'm trying lol I had trouble seeing around the face and tail areas since I didn't know the tricks for cleaning off the excess ink without making a big smudge. Hoping that won't be a problem next time now that I've got my soap and my cold-pressed coconut oil.....

But going back to the actual topic at hand, I didn't really have any trouble with the machine itself. While I know maybe I don't know about all the fine details when it comes to how a machine should run, I was able to find some very informative resources. I messed with the contact screw a bit, used my digital power supply to get the right speed and duty going, and just kinda went from there. The machine didn't overheat while I was using it, It wasn't a super heavy machine so my hand didn't tire out and I think the machine was overall pretty consistent (I say think because I'm clearly still very new to this). The end result is definitely messy, but I really don't think it's because of the machine.
 

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Well, I did my first shaky tattoo with my cheap coil machines; it's just lines and inconsistent ones at that, but honestly, I think that's just because I haven't held a machine before. I have to remind myself to control my speed and depth; I think I keep going too fast and I keep unconsciously moving my machine up and away from the practice skin.

Here's my first tattoo attempt , he's a lil ugly looking but I'm trying lol I had trouble seeing around the face and tail areas since I didn't know the tricks for cleaning off the excess ink without making a big smudge. Hoping that won't be a problem next time now that I've got my soap and my cold-pressed coconut oil.....

But going back to the actual topic at hand, I didn't really have any trouble with the machine itself. While I know maybe I don't know about all the fine details when it comes to how a machine should run, I was able to find some very informative resources. I messed with the contact screw a bit, used my digital power supply to get the right speed and duty going, and just kinda went from there. The machine didn't overheat while I was using it, It wasn't a super heavy machine so my hand didn't tire out and I think the machine was overall pretty consistent (I say think because I'm clearly still very new to this). The end result is definitely messy, but I really don't think it's because of the machine.
Looks good πŸ‘ Most coils are pretty simple to tune. Great having a power supply that shows speed and duty, it definitely makes it easier in the beginning. Some machines seem to run way more consistent than others and don't need constant fiddling with. I found that high price doesn't always mean a great machine. I think Glynn Flew machines are great value for money.
 

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My first coils were Thomas Coils. I bought them on amazon and they were tuned to be a liner and a shader. Not sure how reputable they are but they worked for me on a budget when i was getting the hang of things.

Theres also a book out called "Fundamentals of Modern Tattooing" and that thing goes over how to tune, take apart, and reassemble machines (in addition to lots of other good info for beginners) so i really recommend that!
 
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My first coils were Thomas Coils. I bought them on amazon and they were tuned to be a liner and a shader. Not sure how reputable they are but they worked for me on a budget when i was getting the hang of things.

Theres also a book out called "Fundamentals of Modern Tattooing" and that thing goes over how to tune, take apart, and reassemble machines (in addition to lots of other good info for beginners) so i really recommend that!
Oh yeah! Actually, my cheap little set of machines came with that book specifically, I've been reading through it, and it's very useful
 

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