shaneenholm

swinggates and the pike...the more you look the less you know

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I may have talked about this elsewhere but i thought some of you may be interested in this as my first post here Jaz Dringenberg turned me on to the site

As most of you know the swinggate is a machine design that is usually attributed to bob shaw...as in the "bob shaw swinggate". I had always known it was a manifestation of THE PIKE but stumbled on some fascinating facts about it and its invention....

('the pike' a small area of long beach california like coney island for want of a better description)a few streets cedar way,chestnut place,seaside and at various times lots of tattoo shops or a few...Bert grimms,Leeroys,Long beach tattoo(the 1st one) the rose,seven seas,and alot of others)

nonetheless bob shaw has always been a hero of mine..he did my first tattoo when i was16....30.00 a hotstuff coverup(like hotstuff sitting on a cliff covering up my "led zep' handpoked" beaut".....i digress

recently I acquired all of Lou lewis's machine building stuff..(recently last 5 years)Lou was partners at times with ernie sutton and they had a small tattoo supply company they ran out of their main street shop called LOS ANGELES TATTOO SUPPLY i have a flyer from 53( this is a new computer i will try to post it)....basically they were taking Jonesys and reworking them...cutting the top of the sidewing off or all of the sidewing and rewinding the coils with 26g. wire for a smoother ride replating them etc....In fact that flyer is the firstttime i saw "handmade"...anyway they made really nice machines I have a few of them...Lou was doing some real trick shit with springs..he was doubling up front ones...and i have one that he used a super floppy front spring that has a gap smaller than a dime but a 3 mile throw.... another that the abar hits the top of both coils square and alot of them were I think his search for a better machine pre capicitor(73 ish) as if you collect old machines as i do you know what the feel is but some of his really run good... but that is another story

well i knew of lou lewis because leeroy always said he was the best tattooer on the pike.....so whenever i heard his name i would perk up and listen... sutton and lewis had a shop at 10 cedar way upstairs in the early 60s...fred thorton was partners with captain jim at the long beach tattoo..they called it "the other corner" lewis and suttons lease was up so fredthorton went to the landlord and'bought out" their lease...not an uncommon practice when tattooing was smaller....so Lou and ernie took all the plastic off the flash and house painted it filled the shitters with cement and left that to thorton... sutton moved back to downtown and Lewis went to work for Bert grimm.That is of big importance in the invention of the swinggate

bert grimms was always the flagship of the pike....and there were usually pairs of tattooers...I know it was opened in 27 and i know people like Lawson and red gibbons and charlie barr etc worked there before bert bought it....regardless the 60s had Zeke and lou working the nightshift and bert and bob working the day shift. later(70s) it was nolan and hongkong tom etc....

In 1964 the health department came in and told them due to a hepatitis out break that the sponge and bucket days was over....at the time the setups were four machines outliner black shader ,red and green machine....they wanted them changing tubes and inks etc....and they wanted them to start doing it yesterday

So lou who held various jobs everything from a customs agent and postal inspector to a machinist(thats the key) for the airplane companies during the war went home that night and came back with the swinggate design. I have a roundback jonesy that was one of the 1st from the collection of his i obtained which caused me to investigate this matter..i knew it was super early and real trick so.....)

It is a simple enough design and easy to put on...you do not even need to remove the coils....so that was the birth of the swinggate...in fact the swinggate we know now Bob Shaws..well the first runs were waters frames waters #2...the iron ones...they would cut off the back dual binders and half the vice and rechrome them....I have seen some that were never completely built and you could see the indent left on the back upright from the dual binders and the PW or W stamped on the inside of the front upright...I am not sure if they took old machines and reworked them or if bob shaw had a connection for abunch of waters frames...I am pretty sure waters died in 51 in anniston alabama but there may have been alot of NOS left....hard to say

Lou finished out his career at bert grimms...he died in 1969...so i figure with the relationship he had with shaw after his death it was natural that shaw kept the design.I also know alot of retired tattooers that tattooed on the pike that refer to tubevices simply as "gates"...so the impact is evident....There was a run of ASluminum jensens(jensen specials) that were swinggates....I do not know if there are 11 or 22 but jensen cast a tree of 22 with the specials...anyway those must have been made right after lewis died and jensen filled lewis chair before bert and him had a flling out and he finished his career at Leeroys....(the reason i mention this is jensen was a great machinist..he was Barbers machinsit that is why there is a Barber perfection machin pre jensen goping off on his own...different in design but same name..i think Baber was F. W. barber but i could be wrong, but obviously the swinggate was good enough for an old machinist like jensen to give it a whirl...

as a side not i inherited some of jensens machines and his engraver and springpunch from Bill mokry...when bill died. why i mention this is jensen was not using a swinggate at the time of his death he was sawing them back at least the ones i got that were his...some of you that were around Maaske when he was friends with leeroy probably know more about that then me and i am curious if there were any jensen swinggates(not aluminum... in the stuff erik was getting from Leeroy...so i do not know if that small run of jensen aluminums with the swinggate were just his "team' enthusiasm when hewas at grimms or truly though they were a winning design.

I also beleieve thats Zeke was the first guy making cutback liners...he was taking machines and hammering back the front and hammering forward the back and viola' instant cutback....I think lou lewis may have had a hand in that too..since they worked together at bert grimms.....but i will write about that later..when i have my photos hooked up here as examples

If you want to see Los angeles tattoo supply company machines they are floating around..they will have the modified sidewing but will be rechromed so it looks like it was cast that way....Masters in sandiego had alot of them a few years ago (tahiti felix)

I always had a hardtime with them as i am a jonesy freak and when i would come across one that was modified and rechromed i would have a hardtime believing they were jonesys....But through a little digging i found that Lou was buying them for 3 for 10.00(maybe cheaper if he was buying them unbuilt) and modifying them then reselling them for 10.00 and 12.00 bucks depending on the plating....also the other trick shit he was doing for that time period.... regardless I thought i would do this as my first post.

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Thanks for joining us at Last Sparrow Tattoo forum and kicking it off with a huge contribution on the history of tattoos and tattoo machines from The Pike. I/we look forward to more rich contributions and pictures when you get your new computer squared away.

Until then.....have a good evening.

Lochlan

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thanks for saying that you guys....yeah all my pics are on my old computer..i will take some of some of the machines here...but I want to do one on Zeke owens and the cut back liner....as wayback Scott sterling had a frame that was bent to shit that jerry told someone to send to Zeke to make a liner....so i remembered that and started taking pics and collecting liners Zeke had made..and collecting stories of how he did it...(with a vice and a hammer true machine building ingenuity)anyway they were hammered like i mentioned above...then when i got Lewis's collection i figured all the time Zeke spent with lou there is a link there..i will get to some photos drectly

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dsc05006w.jpg

Ok these are some LATSCOS and the swinggate that started the investigation..the roundback in the lower lefthand corner has the gate....

the upper left is a mainline Latsco (note the rechromed after modified sidewing...rewrapped coils and the binder setup....he would embed a screw in the hex binder and then conncet it with a nut...all but the ernie sutton have this...look at the lou lewis one and the ones to the far right are mainline jonesys..the brass one rollo built into a shader and the upperone is a early chromed jonesy(see how modified the LATSCOS are...alot of material off the frames...No? Pretty trick....a friend of mine has a goldplated sutton and whitlock has a goldplated lewis)my theory is they were close with the plating company and as tattooers tend to do were trying different shit....also notice the badass springkeepers..not bad for early 50s....

more on zeke and the cutback later..i had a hardday at the office...one of those guys has a tattoo the size of a pea in the center of his arm and wants to turn it into a quarter sleeve with clouds and smoke...NIGHTMARE....but i am grateful to be working....

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oh yeah sutton and lewis were also locksmiths...it has it on thier 412 main street business card....so i think the spring keepers were from door lock parts...or some such thing...thanks for having me here fellas

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awsome shit man. I have a few modified joseys from the pike but now ill have to look a little closer, i got mine from phil sims a few years ago they are real nice and all have swing gates on them and have been replated. ill get some pictures on here. as soon as i can get that together. thanks scott

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zeke4je3.png

zeke3uj9.png

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ok these are a few early 'cutback liners' zeke made in early 70s...note the hit back front uprights and the hit forward back uprights....you got to figure that up to a point machine frames were niether liner nor shader...however at some point in an investigative manner scott sterling and i put a machinist ruler on some machines to see exactly where they were at(like jonesys and waters etc) well a jonesy actually has a longer geometry than a bulldog belilieve it or not(slight but still beats it)

but I say all that to point out that at some point Zeke( or Zeke and lou maybe) came to realization that shorter gemotry equals faster machine....

Now i want it to be Lou lewis as i dig that guy but i am not sure that is where zeke got the idea... I heard a story from a friend that was visiting Zeke at ace that zeke lined a devil dog in about 30 seconds and my friend was blown away...so zeke saw the expression on his face laughed and said"you too can do the same thing...do you have your machines with you?"of course he did and zeke took it(it is the top one pictured here) and took it apart beat it with a hammer in the manner before described....my friend was horrified as that was his favorite machine...

anyway to make a lonmg story longer Zeke made it better...note the bent uprights..the last is a roundback jonesy...at this point early 70s..they were trying to lighten the frames anyway they could....(holes)

also to keep with the swinggates..the top two..look at the gates on those...aluminum and these did not start their lives as swinggates..the red one i am almost sure is a waters #3 modified and rechromed...(a #2 would have a thinner upright) so please any machine collectors( iheard from the wilsonian that you scott sylvia have a great collection) please let me see your hammered liners.....if any turn up...again thanks for having me here fellas

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Good morning and once again thanks Shane for contributing to our new project in a fashion we have yet gotten into by starting a new arena on tattoo machines. I comprehend very very little of what you are saying but am in awe to all of it! I am learning about tattoo machines from assisting Scott build them but this is purely as a friend helping a friend so he directs and I do asking questions along the way here and there never planing to let them leave as I do not want to disrespect the craft that I know many have bleed, schemed, welded, and tinkered away on for decades. So I remain zipper lipped not that I really have that much to say on this manner but in awe of the tattooers that are so dedicated to learning and knowing as much as they can about everything tattoo related.

Thanks and I look forward to your writing as well as the other tattooers that are machinist and tattoo historians giving me and other readers some insight in to just how much you love what you do!!!!

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lochlan,you brought up a good point I know this is a tattoo enthuasist forum but i saw some familiar names and figure tattoo 101 is a good place for history...It ain't like we are giving up tthe feet of wire on a PR or iron strength etc......etc....right?? Besides i am not a machine builder...not for reals...we need a place like this to bring it all home anyway....again thanks for having me and if I get stuff mucked up...hey what can i say...let me know....

I cannot see and I want to see the pics Juan posted....bad...help...or am i tipping my "i aint as computer savvy as my son cause i am an old man " hand

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Shane, I think you put your post in a perfect spot and hope others that know this stuff share a piece of their knowledge with the rest of us. Like I mentioned I am always in awe when people are so passionate as well as contributors to what they love.

Juan, Can you pls fix your post/pictures when you get a moment so we can see. I know you got some Puente Pickle skills in this arena and would love to see your contribution? Thanks homie.

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Shane I always look forward to your posts on all the forums, so much great shit, so incredibly informative, I could read this stuff all day.

Thanks so much for sharing with us!

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thanks for letting us in on the story,,,it made for a good informative article... i really like the shape of the Jonseys and have always wondered about them and their history i've enclosed a pic of a Jonsey Machine I got from Donnie Irish.

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thanks for letting us in on the story,,,it made for a good informative article... i really like the shape of the Jonseys and have always wondered about them and their history i've enclosed a pic of a Jonsey Machine I got from Donnie Irish.

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