Tattoo art has evolved over the decades, but little has changed about the machines buzzing away in shops around the world. Since Thomas Edison patented his Stencil-Pen in 1877 and Charles Wagner patented the first tattoo machine in 1904, the standard tattoo machine has hummed away relatively unchanged—that is until 2000, when California tattooer Carson Hill created the first pneumatic tattoo machine. His Neuma machines (neumatattoomachines.com) ditch the industry-standard electric coil machine for a design that runs off of an air compressor. Neumas are smaller and lighter and give the tattooer more control, especially in tighter areas. They have no vibration, diminish stress on the hands, and run smooth at any angle.
For a trade notoriously resistant to change, it’s surprising that the older artists have been most likely to pick up a Neuma. “The old-schoolers are more into it because they’re the ones that have carpal tunnel or tendonitis,” Hill explains. “Those guys come around and they’ve got real issues, like doctors giving them a life span on their tattooing.” Using the new machine, Hill often tattoos for 10 hours straight and says that his stretching hand gives out long before his tattooing hand does.
The smallest Neuma machine, the N2, weighs in at 1.5 ounces; the largest, the Neuma Hybrid, tops out at 2.5 ounces (with a little more weight behind the needle, it is Hill’s preferred machine). There’s also an Electric Module that houses a Swiss-made motor that combines pneumatics with electricity. And you thought your Prius was something special.