How to make tattoo machine coils

Updated February 21, 2017

Tattoo coils are essentially an electromagnet---they are a plastic bobbin, wound with metal wires and contain a metal core. The tattoo coil is what makes the tattoo gun work and there are generally three different types of coils used in tattoo machines: the 8-wrap coil, the 10-wrap coil and the 12-wrap coil. The number indicates how many wraps of wire is around the plastic bobbin. In order to make your own tattoo coils, you will save a lot of time if you have access to a tattoo coil winding machine. You will also need to have experience soldering, as this is required to bind the two coils together to form one.

Insert the plastic bobbin onto the rod of the coil winding machine. Secure a small section of wire to the bobbin (known as the starting wire) by wrapping the wire around the bobbin a few times.

Move the protective shield in front of the bobbin and turn on the machine to begin winding the coil. If you don't have a coil winding machine, you can wind the wire by hand but it might not be as even and it will take much longer.

Allow the wire to wrap around the bobbin for the desired number of layers, stop the machine. Wrap the coil with electrical tape to hold the wires in place and then cut the wire to release the bobbin. The starting wire and ending wire should be sticking straight up, held in place by the tape. Remove it from the machine.

Press the core into the centre of the plastic bobbin using a rivet press. The coil core is usually made of steel, iron or a similar metal.

Insulate the coils using black shrink wrap. To do this, lay the shrink wrap on a flat surface and place the coil on top of the shrink wrap, lining up the left edge of the coil with the left edge of the wrap. Use a flat edge of a ruler to score the wrap to the appropriate length and cut it with scissors.

Put the sleeve of shrink wrap over the coil and apply heat to the shrink wrap to secure it to the coil. Wear heat protective gloves to keep your hands from being burnt as you complete this part of the winding process.

Repeat the above steps to create a second coil. A complete tattoo coil consists of two coils whose starting wires are twisted together. Twist the starting wires together and leave the ending wires sticking straight up the back.

Solder the tips of the finish wires to allow for a better electrical connection. Then, insulate the wires with wire shrink tubing.

Solder the two wires closest to the core together and then solder the two finish wires to solder lugs. Insulate the capacitor leads and then solder the leads to the wire lugs.

Finish the coil by insulating the solder lug with wire shrink tubing.


Always wear protective goggles and gloves when soldering--the metal will heat up to a melting point and can be very dangerous.


Work in an area that is well ventilated when you solder. Soldering causes smoke to form as you melt the flux, which is quite dangerous to breathe in. Keep your head to the side to prevent yourself from breathing any harmful smoke and never solder in an enclosed space.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic bobbin
  • Coil winding machine
  • Electrical tape
  • Metal core
  • Rivet press
  • Shrink wrap
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Soldering iron
  • Wire shrink tubing
  • Protective googles for use with soldering equipment
  • Protective gloves for use with soldering equipment
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About the Author

Elyse James began writing professionally in 2006 after deciding to pursue a career in journalism. She has written for "The Algonquin Times" as a general assignment reporter and published blogs and articles on Webcitybeat. James holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Ottawa.