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Why Tattoo Mafia Assembles their own Needles [2011-12-06]

There are many advantages to assembling tattoo needles in-house.  This is great information for other tattoo artists and our clients.

Today tattoo artists typically use pre-made tattoo needles.  This means the needles are usually assembled in foreign countries to keep costs down.  Most are machine made, those advertised as hand made are usually assembled by someone who knows nothing about tattooing.  Most likely a factory with an assembly line to produce quantity, not quality.

Over the past 14 years it’s been a process of elimination.  Having tried just about every company offering pre-made sterilized needles.  Some of the issues we had were:

1)  Damaged Needles – This was our #1 reason for not using pre-made.  We check every needle before setting up to do a tattoo by looking at the needle through an eye loupe,  On average we found about 4 needles out of a strip of 10 that were bad.  Some damaged needles will look like the tip was hit against a hard surface during the assembly or sterilization causing a flat end.  We’ve also found needles with the pins folded over, in a hook.  Either of these can damage the skin, causing the tattoo to be more painful and even slow healing, cause scabbing and even scaring.

2) Sterilization / Shipping – With these needles being packaged / sterilized and shipped across country we worry about how sterile this is once it reaches the artist.  We’ve received damaged boxes, some were even past the expiration date for sterilization.  The needles are sealed in blister packs, which we also found sometimes to have damaged seals.  Possibly due to moisture or heat during shipping.

3) Quality and Performance – There is no comparison when it comes to the quality.  Pre-made needles vary from company to company.  Some are made too tight and some too loose for our style.  Here at Tattoo Mafia, we like to do fine detail and use a wide range of needles.  By assembling needles in-house, we can make a specific needle to do a portrait, a large solid tribal or a tiny design with thin lines.  This makes each tattoo we do even better, having the perfect needle for each clients tattoo.

By assembling these in-house we can offer a level of quality control and sterilization most can not.  Our needles are usually assembled and used within a week to 1 month of sterilization.  Kept in a clean, dry, enclosed container.  There is no climate change or chance of damaged pouches.  Each needle is inspected as it is made and reinspected before use.

We’ve both worked studios where the owner would always order the same needles, maybe 2 to 3 different options for a liner and the same for a shader.  This limits your ability and options when designing a tattoo.  Most artist learn how to assemble their own needles while serving an apprenticeship.  This can be time consuming but, can save a little money and guarantee you are involved and have control of what you have to work with.  Unfortunately, most people training new artists have worked for so long with the convenience of ordering pre-made and having them shipped to your front door, that this trade is slowly being forgotten and not being passed on to the artists of the future.


If you are learning to tattoo, ask questions, see if this is something you can learn while you have the chance.  It will be a valuable asset in the future.  As for tattoo collectors, if your artist uses pre-made needles you can:   Ask your artist questions like, where their needles are manufactured.  Ask to see the sterile package to make sure the expiration date is good and the package is sealed properly.  Look to see that the indicator has changed, ensuring proper sterilization. (not all pre-made needles are pre-sterilized.  Some are shipped in blister packs to be sterilized by the artist.) Most Important! – Make sure your artist checks their needles!  This is a must.  Take a good look at the damaged needle shown and I’m sure you would not be happy to know this was used on you.