A true workhorse

Soba Pilot Workhorse Iron

If you’ve been tattooing for a few years you’ll possibly have a little more love for one of your machines above others, I certainly do.

I got this machine during my apprenticeship, I was doing some programming work for a friend to help him progress his 3D website (I used to play around with 3D animations and trying to get into modelling game characters).  As a gift he bought me some Machine Gun and Tattoo Artist magazines and a tattoo machine.  This turned out to be a Workhorse Iron Soba Pilot Shader.


Before I go any further, there’s no sponsorship or advertising behind this, I don’t know those guys at Workhorse Irons, they just happened to have built what has become my favourite machine.  I’ve bought quite a few machines from Workhorse Irons and the individual tattooers that build for them and a few just haven’t worked for me, I remember buying the Soba Clipper, liner and shader when it was released and I don’t own either of them anymore.  My love affair is with the Pilot.

It’s just over 10 years old, has an ever so light bumpy texture to it, not so much sealed in black, more a matte look, sleek and as sexy as they come. (and this is from a guy who initially had a strong dislike towards the Pilot frame style, I’ve always loved the Walker frame and thought the Pilot looked awkward for some reason)

Soba Pilot Workhorse Iron

If you don’t know about the history of Workhorse Irons I’d urge you to read up about them, a bunch of tattooers who have machine building in their arsenal, use good materials and build solid machines.  People who know and represent the tattoo industry as I think it needs to be, especially in a day and age where it’s being consumed by corporate investors far removed from any love or knowledge of tattooing.


When I first got it it was the slowest machine I had ever used with it’s long front spring flexing and recoiling to slam that armature bar against the coil cores with a smack!  It also happened to be the loudest machine I’d every used, the word ‘tractor’ came up often in the studio.  Yeah it was totally alien to me, everything else I had was kind of zippy and quieter.  I grew to love it though, starting off with 7 mags, I grew to use 9’s and 13’s, it’s good with all of them, such a nice punch to really hit the pigment in, slower hand movements but you know the job’s being done.  A little lighter on the pressure and a change of hand movement and you can have a pretty good whip shade or stir it in gently for softer shades, I just love it.  I think because I was still early in my apprenticeship I adapted what little I knew to the machine instead of having a fixed way of working and trying to get the machine to slot into that, that’s why we have a good relationship.

Soba Pilot Workhorse Iron

One broken back spring in n years, the casual rub of sand paper and that’s all it’s needed, it’s never really failed to do what it was built to although there’s been times where I felt I was failing the machine, finding it difficult to produce what I knew it was capable of.

It’s definitely my ‘go to’ machine and even if I have to retire it one day it’s been with me for most of my journey in tattooing, solid, reliable, looks sexy as fuck and has earned the right to be called a work horse. And yes, I did that sad tattooer thing of getting it tattooed on me, by an apprentice…

Check out some of their other machines, they’re getting into supplies too although being in the UK doesn’t make ordering supplies from them viable at the moment.


Soba Pilot Workhorse Iron