How Does A Rotary Tattoo Machine Work?

Rotary tattoo machines are well-known for their ease of use and consistency. It is also quieter than the others. It might appeal to you for this reason alone. So, if you are planning to buy a rotary tattoo machine, this guide is for you.

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How Does a Rotary Tattoo Machine Work?

What is a Rotary Tattoo Machine?

High-built body art gun work with the help of an electric motor mechanism. When the motor runs, the needle moves and penetrates the skin. The rotary tattoo machine creates precise tattoo shade and line when the electric motor starts working.


A rotary tattoo machine is an excellent way of creating both shading and lining, which means versatility is the main feature of a rotary tattoo machine. Tattoo professionals use the best brand rotary tattoo machine for the whole tattooing process.


One of the best features of this tattoo machine is, it is lightweight. As a result, a tattoo artist can work with it for an extended period without hand fatigue. Since a tattoo artist doesn’t feel any fatigue, creating complex tattoo design becomes comfortable with a rotary tattoo machine.


You might have one concern hearing that the machine runs when the motor works. Does it create loud noise? The truth is, the motor makes the tattoo machine too quiet. And you will not feel any disturbance while working with it. It helps a tattoo artist concentrate on the work, and thus you will get your required output. Your skin will also feel relaxed.

Working Procedure of a Rotary Tattoo Machine

To go into the detailed discussion of the question, we will need to know about the parts of the operational process, understanding the voltage of rotary machine.

Parts of Rotary Tattoo Machine

The main parts of a rotary tattoo machine are

  • DC or RCA connection point
  • Motor
  • Cam wheel
  • Needle bar
  • Tube to guide the needle
  • Grip
  • Tip
  • The needle

Operational Process

After creating a connection between the machine and DC or RCS power supply, the motor will start rotating, and the cam wheel will start moving. The needle and cam wheel connection is created by the “eye” and a grommet secures the eye.



Once you finish setting up all the parts of a rotary machine, power it up. The clockwise movement will happen to the motor, and there will be up and down movement in the needle bar. Due to the needle bar’s up and down motion, the needle starts working in and out to penetrate the skin.

Understanding Voltage of the Rotary Tattoo Machine

Voltage of the Rotary Tattoo Machine

Rotary tattoo machines are available in both regulated and unregulated options. 

A regulated rotary tattoo machine comes with a pre-set voltage option, while a tattoo artist needs to set the voltage of an unregulated rotary tattoo machine. 



There is no straight-cut process of adjusting the rotary tattoo machine voltage. The voltage range varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Once you finish many tattoo designs and gain experience, you will be able to adjust the machine voltage quite efficiently. 



You will need to keep in mind that the voltage depends on the tattoo artist’s hand speed.

When working with a rotary tattoo machine, you have to follow a general thumb rule.



For a regulated tattoo machine, keep the voltage up when doing lining because faster speed is necessary. In contrast, the voltage needs to be kept low when doing shading because concentration is mandatory in this process.

Setting Up Rotary Tattoo Machine

Setting Up Rotary Tattoo Machine

When buying a rotary tattoo machine, it is essential to learn the best rotary tattoo machine’s characteristics. Features may include machine weight, ink, affordability, and many more.


As stated earlier, the rotary machine differs from brand to brand. However, all manufacturers focus on providing optimum comfortability while operating a rotary tattoo machine.


Whenever you decide to buy a tattoo machine, always look for reviews of your selected item first. And finally, based on your personal preferences, choose a rotary tattoo machine.


Drangonhawk, Bishop, Hawink, Solong, etc. are the most popular rotary tattoo machine manufacturers.


Rotary tattoo machine set up, tuning, and troubleshooting is a bit challenging. But with little practice, you can make yourself familiar with it.


Before starting to work with a rotary tattoo machine, it would be best to ensure that your hands are clean. Also, the tattoo machine and workstation have to be disinfected using the best sterilizing machine.


Step 01: Attach a rubber nipple to the needle bar pin.


Step 02: The retainer screw of the tattoo gun needs to be adjusted to open it. This way, the needle bar and the tube will get some room.


Step 03: The needle needs to be inserted carefully in the tube. And then tightly insert the tube into the clamp.


Step 04: The nipple and needle-bar loop need to be fitted tightly.


Step 05: Keep the needle-bar pin hold and ensure pressing it down along with the connected needle-bar.


Step 06: Ensure retainer screw’s fine-tuning. This way, the needle bar container will get adjusted. And needle-bar retainer rings and needle-bar will come in contact.


Step 07: Make sure to give a well-tight to the needle to avoid wobbling.



After setting up the rotary tattoo machine, connect it to an available power source. Set the device to your required voltage and start operating. As stated earlier, select high voltage for lining and low voltage for shading.

Rotary Tattoo Machine Tuning

Rotary tattoo machine tuning is a part of the gun set up process. Tuning is mandatory, making sure that while tattooing, the needles are running following the exact depth, and adjusting the voltage is also done correctly.


As a result of tuning, the needle will move up and down quite conveniently with the needle-grip and tube adjustment involvement. Once the depth satisfies you, give the tube a well-tight. This will allow you to hold the needle gently while working.


Depending on the lining and shading process, don’t forget to adjust the machine voltage.

Finally, check the machine stroke. For lining, 3mm – 3.5mm (short stroke) is tremendous, and shading goes with longer strokes.

Troubleshooting of Rotary Tattoo Machine

Similar to all other tools, the rotary tattoo machine will also show problems while working. After connecting the rotary machine to a reliable power source, the machine may stop working. It may happen because of many different reasons. 


Improper voltage to run the machine, insufficient supply of power, or if the tattoo gun motor is defective, the device may stop working.

Reduction in the Speed

This is another problem that you may face from a rotary tattoo machine, which is, in the beginning, the machine starts working correctly, but gradually it starts losing speed. Due to a lack of power, rotary machine speed may reduce. Also, if the housing comes into contact with the needle-bar pin, you can face this problem. Moreover, if the needle-bar retainer gets worn out or becomes too tight with the needle-bar, the rotary machine will lose its speed. Furthermore, make sure the motor is working efficiently.


The piston of a rotary tattoo machine may get clogged because of the struggling motor. Also, the motor can show struggling performance if the adjustment screw remains too close to the cap. Adjusting it downwards will solve the problem.


Better Needle Control

When the loose needle-bar pin loosens up, or the internal piston gets stuck, the tattoo gun suspension can be jammed. 


Also, if you don’t lubricate pistons when it is new, it will get jammed.


Does your needle-bar pin show wobbly characteristics? It happens when the internal pistol spring is faulty or loose. 


Again, when you miss lubricating your tattoo gun, the piston-bar pin and piston will become unsynchronized. 


The truth is, whenever you face any problem in your rotary tattoo machine, read the instruction manual meticulously. Most of the time, you will get solutions to your rotary tattoo machine problem, and you will also learn how to deal with the problem.

Rotary Tattoo Machine Maintenance

The wear and tear of a rotary tattoo machine are inevitable. An adequately maintained tattoo machine will never show you faulty performance, and it will last long for 10 years, at least. 


Rotary tattoo machine maintenance is a daunting task. And you can’t avoid it. Otherwise, the tattoo outcome will not be good. Let’s learn about some key areas where attention is mandatory.

Learn the Signs of Wear and Tear

A beginner will find it challenging to understand the signs of wear and tear. But a skilled and experienced tattoo artist can easily find out the problem of a tattoo machine. They have strong knowledge about the working process of a rotary tattoo machine, and this knowledge helps them understand the sign of wear and tear of a rotary tattoo machine. 


Once you start getting poor performance from a rotary tattoo machine, don’t assume that the device will recover without maintenance. The truth is, without TLC, the machine will not deliver a good performance.

Apply Proper Lubricant


A rotary tattoo machine can get rusted because of improper care. Rust can reduce the efficiency and productivity of the rotary tattoo machine. Even some vulnerable areas like springs, armature bars get damaged due to rust. It makes these parts stiffen. 


To get rid of the rust problem, you have no other choice except to apply proper lubricant. Lubricant blocks rust to save different parts of the rotary tattoo machine. Also, lubricant assists the tattoo machine in working freely.

Buy Quality Cleaning Equipment

You can’t miss the periodic routine of cleaning your rotary tattoo machine. It is no secret that potential health risks are there in the tattooing process. But a tattooing process may become risky if only adequate safety measures are not taken. A client’s safety is entirely on the tattoo artist’s hand when a client sits on a tattoo studio chair.


To ensure superior safety, it is essential to buy the premium quality cleaning equipment for your tattoo studio. Using hospital=grade disinfectant is a must, as well as sterilization of every tattooing equipment is mandatory. Proper cleaning with the right equipment will reduce the potential health risk undoubtedly.

Learn to Fix the Problem of Your Rotary Tattoo Machine

The rotary tattoo machine wire can get loosened or disconnect, or the cord may break anytime. Also, carbon can build-up in different parts of a rotary tattoo machine. Your rotary tattoo machine will show poor performance because of this. Moreover, 2 essential elements of a tattoo machine: tube and tips, can show stress signs because these 2 parts handle heavy use.


It would be helpful if you keep some spare parts of the rotary tattoo machine in your toolbox. And learning the fixing process will help you save a few bucks. You can learn the fixing process from the rotary tattoo machine’s instruction manual or following a few videos on YouTube.

Follow the Assemble and Disassemble Process Correctly

You may need to disassemble your rotary tattoo machine to accomplish some serious maintenance. Assembling and disassembling a rotary tattoo machine is one of the complicated tasks. The device will not work correctly for sure if you follow the wrong assemble and dismantle process. 


So, you should have a clear knowledge of the assembling and disassembly of the machine. Reading the instruction manual and careful research in the different videos will give you the proper assembling and disassembling knowledge of a rotary tattoo machine.

Frequently Asked Question

Do the rotary tattoo machine hurt more while tattooing?

While tattooing, you can’t avoid getting hurt. But the rotary tattoo machine is gentle on the skin. Since it works quietly, you can remain relaxed during a tattooing process.

Is it worth buying a rotary tattoo machine?

Rotary tattoo machines deliver consistent performance, and they are easy to control. Also, they don’t create continuous buzzing while working. So, both the tattoo wearer and artist can focus on their job. Rotary tattoo machines are promised to deliver the desired tattooing result.

Last Words

You may find it difficult to set up and take proper care of a rotary tattoo machine in the beginning. Since you have already learned how a rotary tattoo machine works setting up and taking care of your machine will become more comfortable than before.