Keepin' it clean
I am sure you will appreciate the need to strip down your machines from time to time and give them a thorough clean but there are a lot of people out there that don’t have the confidence or maybe the skills or knowledge to do it. But don’t worry. It really is very straight forward and requires basic tools only. You are not the only one out there not sure about taking stuff apart I can assure you. I get sent machines from very well known artists that just don’t know how or just don’t have the time. I believe if tattooing is your life, your chosen career, then you need to know as much as possible about the equipment you are using. I have written this leaflet as a back up reminder to one of my mini workshops you might have done at a convention. The mini workshops are just that and with a limited amount of time there is only so much that can be covered and it is much better to do these things hands on with an actually machine explaining it to just 1 or 2 people at a time than it is just trying to explain theory in a room full.
Where do we start ? Let’s make sure you have the correct tools first. You’ll probably need a 2.5mm and a 3mm allen key ( or american equivalent if you have american machines). You can get a pretty cheap set at DIY shop these days. A small screwdriver and some pointed nose pliers would also be a good idea.. You can probably get all the tools you need in basic form for ten quid or so, maybe less. A small set square is an excellent addition also and is great for realigning springs and armature bar.
Right, let’s take the machine apart. Lets start at the top.
Get a piece of blank paper to put the parts on as you take them off your machine and put them down in the order they come off, mark it on the paper if you have to so you don’t forget.
Using allen key or screw driver, remove the screw holding the front contact post and contact screw to the frame. At this point it is very important to note that this screw is insulated from the frame using nylon or rubber insulating washers. Make sure you know how they go back and in what order so just take off one bit at a time and put them on the piece of paper.
Next, let’s take off the rear contact post. this will be held on with a similar screw either from the rear side or rear underneath of the frame, again with insulating washers.
The reason for these washers is so that the power going through the coils and capacitor do not earth out into the frame. If this happens the machine will not run.
Right. Next let’s undo the bolt/screw that holds down the main or rear spring to the spring shelf or saddle. For now we will take this off as one piece so both springs and armature bar will all come off in one go. Note the order of any washers sitting on top of the rear spring where the bolt goes through.
Right, now we should have a pretty naked looking machine with just the frame and coils remaining and probably already bits of dirt or old ink showing up that you didn’t know were there.
Next we are going to take off the coils. It is very important to make sure you have the correct sized allen key as these bolts can be tight. Also have a good close look before you take them off and see if there are any washers underneath them. If you have a brass or aluminium frame there will also be a yoke, a piece of ferrous metal connecting the coils together to complete the magnetic circuit. There will most likely be, if any, some shims or washers under the front coil. do not loose them, just take good care when taking out the bolt and shake the washers out gently or push them out with the small screwdriver and put them on the paper, mark them as front coil, then do the same with the rear coil and gently remove the coils from the frame and try not to bend the wires or move them about too much as they can be fragile.
Now all that should be left on the frame is your vice clamp screw at the front. Just remove it and put it on the paper. Now you should have a nice bare frame ready for a thorough clean.
Personally I use and recommend small alcohol wipes. you can get them in boxes of 100 for about 3 quid and they are ideal for the job. Just use as many as you need to clean off the frame of any old ink, blood, dirt etc etc. Clean off as much dirt from your coils as you can without disturbing the wires too much, as i said they can be a bit delicate, especially on some older machines, and you don’t want to break them off. worth giving them a wipe down gently with one of the alcohol wipes if you can though.
Right, let’s get on with re-assembly.
Let’s presume that you have cleaned everything and all the parts are sat there on the piece of paper but the springs are still on the A bar.
First thing we need to do is put the coils and capacitor back onto the frame. Get the bolts that attached them up through the frame. Next, put the washers or shims or coil yoke onto the bolts if there were any under the coils when you took them off. It is important to put the same ones back on in the same place. don’t mix up front and rear coil washers. Then offer up the coils into place above the bolts carefully and do up the bolts with allen key a little to keep everything in place , then just do the bolts up. You should now have your frame with the coils sat on it, bolts done up nice and tight and ready. Next step, let’s put the top or front contact post and screw back into place. At this point it is important for me to remind you that the tag on the end of the wire coming up from the front coil and the capacitor ( if it is separate or wired in with the coils) must be insulated from the frame so remember to put the rubber or nylon insulators into the frame and put the bolt that holds the contact post in place through them along with any other washers/ spacers that you took off, hopefully you laid them out in the correct order as you took it all apart. Excellent. Just nip the bolt up at this point, no need to do it up tight yet as we don’t know the exact angle the contact screw needs to sit at until the springs and A bar are back on the frame.
Next up let’s re-fit the rear contact post. Again, whether or not it is on the side or the base, the coil tag and the bolt need to be insulated from the frame so we’ll use the insulators for the screw/bolt to go through again with any washers in the order that they came off the machine. Make sure the wires are not snagged anywhere or have strain put on them and then you can do up the bolt holding the rear post in place.
Ok, now we have a machine looking a bit more complete. The next bit is to get the A bar and springs back into place. Now if you have taken them off as one unit and cleaned them up it is pretty straight forward to get them back on. Just get the bolt and washer back into the rear spring deck and get the springs and A bar into position and do up the bolt. What you will really need at this point is an armature bar alignment tool which any supplier will have in stock. This will hold the A bar in place nicely while you do up the bolt at the rear nice and tight. If you removed the springs from the A bar for either replacement or extra careful cleaning, then you will need to align the A bar and springs with a small alignment tool for this job or as i do by using a small and cheap set square. It is a very simple process of just fitting the springs back onto the A bar, making sure the rear spring is UNDER the front one, then do the bolt up , just nip it up at this point, then get it into the corner of the set square and align it to what looks straight, then turn it over and if the gap between the A bar and the edge of the set square is pretty much even each side when you turn it over then it will be pretty much central. This will be a trial and error thing but once you get the hang of it then it is real easy. Make sure you refit the O ring if it had one and if possible replace it with a new one as they can wear a little.
Just a couple things left to do now. Let’s replace the vice clamp bolt and wing nut or coin or whatever you have fitted, so many machines have different versions but generally most just bolt through and clamp the frame around the back tube of the grip you use. Just make sure it is all nice and clean prior to re-assembly.
Last thing to do is to line up the contact screw with the tip of the front spring, hold it in place and tighten up the bolt so it stays in position. If you undid the contact screw then you machine may need some minor tuning to get back to how it was but generally everything should be same as it was before...... but CLEANER.
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And don't forget, help and advice is free.