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Homemade Tattoo Gun

  Since I got my tattoo, I've been fascinated with the art. It's amazing that some of the stuff is done the way it is, but most impressive to me is prison tattoos. How can someone make something that is so complex out of such limited supplies? Well, me being me, I had to try. With some basic guides online, I set out to build it. Sound tough? In addidion, I decided to do it only using tools available in prison to prisoners!
  First, to just lay it out, I don't condone the use of these things, nor will I use this on myself, and I don't think you should build one yourself to do your own tattoos. Go to a parlor and get something you'll be proud to wear for the rest of your life. Also, if you do make one, you need to not use it on yourself. First, this isn't clean or sterile, so you'll get AIDS. Second, if you make your own ink, you'll get some other disease and your body may attack it making you sick. All in all, if you make one and want to use it, get some meat or something and work on that, or some foam. Anything that will accept ink. There's my speech.
  So, I got the materials: A motor from a tape player, a paperclip, sand paper (could use a cinder block if it can't be acquired) a pen, hot glue sticks, a lighter, a plastic cup (or any semi-rigid plastic), some tape, and a battery (and if lucky a battery holder, depending on the type of battery).
  The principle is this: use the battery to raise and lower the needle attached at an off center point and guided to a pen. I took the motor and wrapped some plastic around it and melted the hot glue with a lighter to hold it in place. I want to be able to remove the motor and battery and needle for cleaning, so after I lock the motor in I snuck it out. I then attached the pen perpendicular to the motor. I took the motor out, broke off a sprocket from the gear on the motor, and then wrapped it in tape, then dabbed some hot glue on to hold it in place. This is usually accomplished with a pencil eraser, but those eventually crumble and I think this'll hold up better. I made the battery holder and used a lot of glue to stabilize it so it didn't rock, which is nice. Finally, I had to make the needle. I straightened out the paper clip and bent the top off at 90 degrees to fit into the sprocket. After sticking it in, I measured how low the paper clip stuck out when the motor was spun to the bottom and broke it off at a good distance out from the bottom. Then I removed the paper clip and started sharpening it to a needle. After getting it to a satisfactory point, I stuck it in. I descended the needle and then used the lighter to lightly heat the tip of the pen and squeezed it with my fingers to make it tighter around the needle so it doesn't vibrate so much. Finally, it's all together and works! I used it to etch into some plastics, and poked myself a few times (without ink) to see how it compared to getting a real tattoo. It's much more crude and goes deeper so it hurts more, plus it's a fat little needle. All in all, though, it's pretty amazing that I was able to make it in about an hour with no tools whatsoever. A prisoner would make ink from pen ink or some other stuff around, I haven't researched that much, I just know they only use black ink. To sterilize the needle, they burn it with the lighter. Here's some pics, feel free to mail me with questions and stuff!

Tattoo Gun 1
This is the whole gun/pen thing. Looks pretty sinister, huh?

Tattoo Gun 2
This is the back of the motor, the back of the motor mount, and the battery holder, plus the wiring. Simple, notice the crappy Hot Melt. That's what you get with a lighter!

Tattoo Gun 3
Here's the battery connector, the motor mount, the top of the pen, and most importantly the crank of the motor. It's the sprocket on the motor with a tooth knocked off, a little hot melt, wrapped in some masking and electrical tape. Rudimentary, but it works well.

Tattoo Gun 4
The paper clip needle connects with a 90 degree bend at the top into the hole into the sprocket of the motor. This is what it looks like in the down position.

Tattoo Gun 5
This is the paper clip needle in the up position. It's about a 1/4 inch difference from top to bottom when the needle is moving, and depending on how far the needle sticks out from the pen it sticks differently into the skin. A more advanced gun may move the pen shaft or connect to the motor with an adjustable height, but for prison this would work fine. I mean hell I filed it against stone, this isn't exact science anyway.

Tattoo Gun 6
You can see the needle descend down the pen shaft, even though it moves back and forth the angle from top to bottom is so slight it's negligable, the big movement is up and down.

Tattoo Gun 7
The tip of the pen with the needle up. It looks mangled for a reason, the pen is natively much wider than the needle, so I let the needle down and used a lighter to heat the pen. I then squeezed it to make it tight around the needle, not too tight though. Without this, the needle slides back and forth violently, making straight lines impossible.

Tattoo Gun 8
Finally, the needle down.

8 Responses to “Homemade Tattoo Gun”

  1. Elvis Says:

    The procedure was really fantastic. Become a fan (big fan) of this site. This is what I was searching for. Thanks for your invention and to share with “Help seeking Prisoners”. One more thing!! Your Photos are really great especially The one where your wife was sleeping on your lap. It was really romantic. You love her much, huh?
    Best of Luck!
    “Help seeking Prisoner Elvis”

  2. dude Says:

    dude not to be un cool but I got the whole kit off ebay for $30…and I can fully clean it everytime, If some one tried to use your gun on me skin it would probably give me superaids

  3. Sachin Says:

    It is realy nice home made gun.

  4. Nojuan Especial Says:

    “First, this isn’t clean or sterile, so you’ll get AIDS.”
    Oh good lord.. *facepalm* You can not get AIDS from yourself or from things just being dirty or not sterile. You can only get AIDS from the blood of someone infected with AIDS or HIV.

  5. Nojuan Especial Says:

    *Blood or sex fluids

  6. Greendog Says:


    looks way better than the shit we use in Spanish jails 😀

    There are some places you can’t just order that kind of stuff and you have to make it yourself 😉

  7. Greendog Says:


    I smuggled some ink thanks to my ‘permisos’ but my mate use to make his own ink not with pens, he says that do no work, but with … plastic smoke, burning some plastic fork or knife, a piece of carton above the smoke so it stick to it, scratch the plastic ashes, mix the black powder with prison soap and there you go, bon appétit 😀

    This is not the darkest black, with time looks more like dark blue but I see his 9 years old tatoos, they still fine.

    I have to admit that I don’t like the idea of this Ink, no idea if that can release a skin cancer or someshit like that.

  8. darrell Says:

    hey man i love tattoos even though im 16, im look for ways to already start my art on people and i too am fascinated with prison tattoos, thanks for the insight!

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