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We're going to sit down and talk about tubes today and not the kind you slid down at the water park that summer you purchased a bedazzled speedo thinking it was a good idea. I can only imagine sparks. Tubes are as simple as they sound, but there are a few variations that need to be discussed.
In all simplicity, tubes are designed to guide the needle while you're working. To handle the constant motions of the needle inside while making sure you can keep a solid, trustworthy, grip on things. If we were to break a tube down into sections, you'd be looking at 3 pieces. This applies to both autoclavable tubes and disposables.
Tube - A basic hollow cylinder that will be held by your machine.
Grip - This is exactly what it sounds like. You need something to hold onto
Tip - The section of tube the needle will be poking out of. It’s also going to be the area of a tube where the style and size will matter the most
Disposable Tubes vs Autoclavable Tubes
Both styles of tube will do the same job and get the same result. However, there are some key differences. One of the biggest being that one of them is disposable. As in, you throw it away after a session with someone. Now, compare that to the autoclavable tubes which can be used again after they have been properly sanitized.
Pros - you’re able to save some money in the long run by sanitizing them between sessions if you’re willing to invest the time in the process (or have an apprentice you trust to handle your dirty tubes…. TRUST being the key word here). These will also provide you with a bit more weight in your hand but whether that’s a good thing comes down to personal preference. You have more options as far as your grip goes. Autoclavable tubes can come with a removable grip or you will need to purchase them separately. However, you can find tubes that are machined with a grip on them already.
Cons - You will have a sea of tubes to invest in and then sort through when you need one. With them having to be sanitized, there is a level of inherent concern surrounding reusing tubes. One of the biggest reasons a lot of artists now shy away from metal tubes is that they open you up to the risks of infecting a client, or yourself, to a lot of blood borne pathogens and with disposables now becoming cheaper, it’s a more reasonable option. If an autoclavable tube isn’t sanitized perfectly, you could possibly infect someone with a life-threatening illness.
The weight of your machine is heavier due to a metal tube as well. Now, as I said in the “Pros” section, this aspect comes down to personal preference. However on a long session it can cause fatigue in the wrist and fingers for some.
Pros - They are one time use. Which means, you’re not risking cross contamination as you might with an autoclavable tube. They are light, which reduces the overall weight of your machine (again, personal preference). There is no worry about having to store, clean and sanitize disposables as they already come to you pre-sanitized and bagged. This allows you to give your rosy cheeked customers the guarantee that these tubes have only caressed their wonderfully smooth and blissful skin. They’re going to feel better about you stabbing them repeatedly in the epidermis. This is also why we produce our own line of disposables, to keep costs down for artists who want quality products without spending an arm and a leg.
Cons - Lets go ahead and kill this bird for the 4th time, the tubes are lighter in weight, which is…. you guessed it Billy! PERSONAL PREFERENCE. Moving forward, disposable tubes can be a bit more costly in the long run, but it’s a minimal cost month to month compared to the medical bills of treating MRSA. Similarly, to some autoclavable tubes, you cannot change out the grip, as it is molded into the tube.
All this information can apply to standard tubes and grips along with a cartridge grip and needle setup. With both designs you still must properly dispose of the needle after a session with someone.
Just the Tip
The tip of your tube will play the largest role in your performance. Without the proper tip, you’ll have a bad day. Trust us. This is to say that there are a multitude of tips available to you as a licensed artist. It isn’t anything to fret over, just something that you need to be aware of when purchasing and looking for the proper tubes. With needles coming in many variations, you will need the proper tube to match.
The design of the tip can vary in a few different ways, but there are 4 main categories that you need to be aware of. So, let’s break it down like R. Kelly in 1998
This one should be obvious, as its most common. Usually paired with a round liner or shader.
Shaped like a diamond with a slight taper to it. The Base and top of the tip coming to a sharper “v” than the two side points. These are usually used with smaller needle groupings when lining. It gives an artist a crisper line without worry of the needle moving or “walking”, even slightly, left or right while doing line work. Nothing means you have to use a diamond tip for line work as it comes down to preference. However, it does provide you with more stability. Diamond tip also creates a larger gap above the needle which allows for better ink flow.
A tip that encases standard mag, curved mag and stacked mag needles. A more rectangular opening to allow for the wider needle set on a mag.
Like the closed mag above and using the same styles of needle. The most notable difference being that there is no top plate covering the needle. You still have your backing behind the needle and 2 guide rails on each side but the open top allows for greater inflow.
Even though you have different styles of tip and tube, you still need to make sure that you’re using the appropriate size and style needle with each one.