Correct placement of rubber bands and tubes

Are you placing the tubes and rubber bands correctly on your machine? I often see tattooists having problems with their machines, using too many rubber bands, trying to avoid the needle bar jumping into the tube – that causes ink spitting and inconsistence hitting the skin.

Many times, the problem is caused by a wrong alignment of the armature bar. You should check first if it’s correctly aligned, using and alignment tool that you can easily buy from tattoo suppliers. The armature bar must be in place so the needle bar runs through the approximate center of the tube where the machine vise holds it.

But then, other times, the problem is only caused by a wrong placement of the tubes and/or rubber bands. For a start, you should use good quality rubber bands, better if you buy the ones made specifically for use with tattoo machines, with the correct size and tension. Then, you shouldn’t need to use more than one single rubber band in most cases. And it must be placed as near to the machine base as possible. Why? Because it holds the needle bar much better and easier if placed near the base. Imagine you could place it in the lower side of the tube, where the needle hangs out of the tip – that would be perfect, it would need just a little pressure to keep the needle in place, but it’s obviously impossible to place it there. On the other hand, if the rubber band were placed on the upper part of the needle bar, right under the armature bar, it would need a lot of tension to keep it without moving, do you get the idea? So, the lower the rubber band is placed, the better it will hold the needle bar in place.

It’s important that you secure the tube into the vise in a way that just a little part of it protrudes over the upper part of the vise. Ideally, the tube top should protrude as little as possible, that way making space to place the rubber band as near to the base as possible. It can be easily achieved if you use a three-part adjustable steel tube, but other times it’s not possible if you use single piece ones, so just try maintaining it like that as much as possible.

Ok, we have the armature bar aligned correctly, and we have secured a tube into the vise with minimum protruding out of the upper part. Now, we put a rubber band in place, as near to the machine base as possible, taking care it doesn’t touch the base or the tube top. The rubber band must not be twisted, but straight, going around the machine rear, the coils and the needle bar, easily and secure. You will be able to run the machine without problems in most cases, using a single rubber band. Sometimes, if you are using a long throw machine, you may need to add another rubber band to keep the needle bar in place. But no need, in any case, to use a lot of rubber bands, you would only need that if there were other problems with the machine, and it’s always better to fix them first.

Using the least amount of rubber bands as possible is the optimal way. The more you use, the harder you’ll make the coils work. They will lead to excessive friction in the tube tip, as well. Remember the needle is going up and down over 100 times every second, that causes deterioration of the tubes – and sometimes, friction can contaminate your colours with little particles of metal that darken them, it’s mostly noticeable when using white ink!

Oh, by the way….. don’t recycle your rubber bands… 😉 they are so cheap, it makes no sense using them again and again, contributing to possible cross contamination issues. They deteriorate after a few uses, too, and lose tension and consistence.