The popularity that the average tattoo machines designed by Dan Kubin enjoy in the niche is not by mistake.
Besides the fact that these custom tattoo machines are made by a tattoo artist that knows his stuff, it ensures to get the job done quite alright.
Combining that with the fact that he has machining experience from working in the Air Force, you can infer the precision of design and degree that goes into each one of his models.
“To better evolve in his creativity and put out new versions and designs, he even invested in his own equipment”.
That culminates into today’s review, where we look at two (2) of the best-selling, high-revered rotary Dan Kubin tattoo machines in the market today: the DMC V2 and Sidewinder V7.
The DMC V2
The DMC line is a tried, tested, and true rotary tattoo machine.
Dan iterated faster from the first version of this unit to address the personal concerns while also, incorporating user’s feedback, leading to the development of the V2 model.
From the stylish build to the operational efficiency, this handmade tattoo gun fits the bill for multipurpose applications.
What is it in the design?
His machines are regarded to carry a steampunk design element to them.
When asked, though, Dan mentioned that he didn’t have steampunk in mind when creating this model. Instead, he was just interested in making it highly functional whilst looking good.
The DMC V2 rotary machine was developed with a brass and copper frame.
“These high-quality materials are easy to work with, which allowed him to get all the ideas and final concept”.
Looking elsewhere, users can choose to get their DMC V2s in different colors and exterior finishing.
Ranging from Verde Patina, Black Nickel, Jet Black, and Gold to accented colors, he allowed the tattoo artists to use them to express their individuality with the color options that they make.
An ergonomic design of the unit sees an ambidextrous approach to the thumbscrew. This sounds like such a small addition, but it will be well noticed by left-handed tattoo artists.
After all, most of the common units in the market are designed to suit right-handed people, given that they consist a greater percentage of the population.
Voltage range managed by this machine
The DMC V2 was designed to operate within the ranges of 3.8V – 6.5V.
Note that the peak voltage expressed here is expected to be surpassed once the machine starts to get broken in. With constant use, you should be able to draw and use more power from it.
At these voltage ranges, the noise level should not be an issue, but that doesn’t make it non-existent either and it could still be a small bother.
“That is where one of the best improvements over the original version of this machine comes in having up to 50% noise reduction“.
This noise reduction makes a lot of difference for the tattoo artists and their clients, as well as on the power bill.
What about the needles?
Both standard and cartridge needles work well on a regular DMC V2.
This choice is usually a dealbreaker for most tattoo artists, especially those that have committed to one needle style but want to leave the room for testing another one in the future.
For those using standard ones, lining the tip of the needle with your machine comes with relative ease.
“This is not surprising, given the experience of the designer with real-life tattooing situations”.
When going with cartridges, there is an adjustment screw on the V2 to disengage the return spring. Reverse the process (tighten the screw) to get the best results when using standard needles instead.
Where is it performing better?
This custom tattoo machine is best applied to shading and packing works.
This boosts the argument for getting one of these units given that you don’t have to switch to other tattoo gun, unless you plan to do lining.
Switching this tattoo machine for a different use case is straightforward, all thanks to the flipping polarity of the clipcord. Here, you can adjust it to high or low voltage settings.
And, how easy is to tattoo with it?
We have discussed the ease of use in parts and bits around this review, but it deserves a section of its own.
For one, the ambidextrous nature of the thumbscrew makes it equally accessible from both sides and also, a breeze to use for left-handed tattoo artists.
It also continues with a better cam geometry, than present on the original, eliminating snags and retracting faster into the shell.
Likewise, Dan Kubin has made this machine such that you need neither tuning nor lubrication to get them working right.
It is almost a done-for-you setup that is geared towards helping you get the best out of your time working with clients.
What are the possible deal-breakers?
There is not much to see here, and that is not a surprise.
Given that this handmade tattoo machine was designed by an actual tattoo artist, not some company only looking to make a sale, we understand why it would be almost perfect for others.
Some users have slightly complained of enjoying less range with the DMC V2 when using a cartridge instead of a standard needle.
A common fix for that is to install a small washer that pushes the pin aside a little bit more, giving way to make the A-bar even leveler. Thus, generating a better range for the setup.
Besides, Dan quickly moved on from the original model to fix issues like high noise levels, snagging, punch efficiency, and related others, so you have a pretty solid design in this new model.
The Sidewinder V7
With the first version of these rotary tattoo machines, bursting onto the scene in 2010, the Sidewinder is one of the most highly developed series that we have seen.
With the V7 model, Dan brought all of the design and manufacturing in-house, allowing him to make massive optimizations, achieve better quality control and simply putting out the best version of this series.
Another clean design
Sticking true to the design elements on the DMC V2, he offered this machine in a variety of frame finishes.
“The picks include brass, 24K gold, featherweight, black nickel, and black oxide, among others”.
Those frame choices are further niched down into specialized design picks for an added variety to things.
Thus, artists who prefer brass frames, for example, can choose to have polished and patina brass, dark patina, etc.
One notable difference in this line-up is with the weight.
Depending on personal preferences, you can choose to have the Sidewinder V7 in:
– the standard weight option (5.97 ounces – 169 gr) or,
– go for the featherweight one, which comes in at 3.86 ounces (109 gr).
“Not much of a difference in the weight but it is for some artists”.
That said, though, the weight on the machine is more forward-based and concentrated low, giving it an overall solid balance. Thus, it doesn’t create too much strain on the wrists.
The voltage range offered here
A standard V7 should be used in the recommended voltage range of 4V – 6.5V.
The machine can manage more or less than that but that is asking for too much strain (in case of going higher) or less than ideal results (in case of lower volts).
As you use it and get familiar with it, you’ll be able to better establish what voltage settings are right for you.
As a guide, it is recommended to stay under 5 volts for the best results when using cartridges in the setup.
For artists who prefer to go with standard needles, going over the 5V mark will help you with better consistency, and lining works.
We gave it away in the previous section already, but here goes.
This Sidewinder V7 is compatible with both standard and cartridge needles.
“If you have ever used any of the older models, you already know that the cartridge compatibility was a serious concern”.
That marks one of the biggest leaps on this new model for everything that had been going on for the line-up.
Being the first time that it will be fully compatible with cartridges, though, note that it will still do better with standard needles.
“Likewise, it is recommended that you use rubber-based cartridges (over membrane ones, at least) here”.
The rubber cartridges pull the needle grouping towards the tip when in use, providing a more precise delivery. For the membrane alternatives, the needle groupings tend to flop around and might not give you as great an effect.
Where to use it?
This version allows for great lining, shading, and coloring operations.
Speaking of coloring, the geometry of the standard needle setup is such that allows it to pack a lot of colors at once.
The standard needle setup is also great for whip shading but works wonders when you apply it for heavy saturation and smoother fades.
The smoother fade slips in naturally with your work when using the standard needle setup and the machine introduces some of that fine saturation on top for you.
“That is surely one way to make your work look better and achieve desired results faster too”.
Finally, the needle setup is great for black and grey colors. When you need a softer effect, engage more tension on the machine and you are good to go.
Ease of use for any artist
Dan brings up to five-stroke adjustments to this new model, making it more impressive than the previous versions.
“That is only bettered in the fact that you can now adjust the hit easier even while tattooing with the new single spring adjustment system”.
As you should know, lower volts will give you a lower tension level and vice versa.
The ease of use is stepped up in the offering of this unit in more than one weight category.
Even though, the non-featherweight version is still not too telling on the wrists, you have the option of going for what works best for you now.
Finally, you can get more precise tuning with the new and improved, adjustable impact screw.
Giving you more flexibility to change the stroke and quality of delivery in real-time, the machine does make life easier for the pro users who know what they are doing.
What can be a possible no go?
Concerns from the older versions of the Sidewinder included a poorer performance in the lower volt range and how poorly it was managing with cartridges.
Both concerns were fixed on this unit, then some more features were slapped on for good measure.
Looking elsewhere, quality control issues have been brought under wraps with the creator choosing to move production under a single roof rather than sourcing parts from multiple areas.
Right now, there seems to be nothing to take away from this unit.
In a future V8 model – or if that is already in the works – we can only expect to get even better performance there.
The Dan Kubin tattoo machines have been a darling of many for a while now and it is not hard to see why.
His machines were made with a lot of heart, dedication to what works, fast improvements on what doesn’t, and a stylish finish to match.
He also has a practice of his own, where local and international clients come to get tattooed and that can attest the quality of his machines too.
That alone explains why there isn’t much in the way of deal-breakers, and why they are always sold out when they do get back in stock.
For serious artists that want to get their designs coming out right with a no-BS piece of equipment, any of the two (2) series reviewed here, for now, are a good place to look for.
Images courtesy of DK Rotary