Danny Knight

Published: 28 February, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 189, August, 2010

Danny Knight was receiving international acclaim in the tattoo industry, long before his South Coast buddies Ami James and Chris Nunez put tattooing on the television map. In a career that began in 1989 and has spanned over 20 years, moving from New York to Vegas, from Vegas to Florida.


Danny Knight has worked hard to hone not only his distinctively clean traditional tattoo style, but also to create some of the finest tattoo machines available on the market today. In fact, look closely at the guys working on Miami Ink and you’ll notice that more often than not those are his machines being regularly used to produce the tattoos that helped send this business of ours into commercial overdrive.

 

I was lucky enough to catch up with Danny in March, just a month and a half away from the opening date of his Orlando convention, and talk machines, tattooing and of course… Miami Ink…

 

Just who is Danny Knight?

Husband, Father, Tattooer, Machine Builder, all around good guy.

 

Tell me about your tattoo career to date. How did you get into the industry?

I had a real interest in Tattooing at a young age. I started hanging around “shops” back when tattooing was still underground in New York in the late ’80s. I hung out long enough until I got put to work sweeping floors and it just evolved from there. After I left New York and came back to Florida, I began working at Tattoos by Lou. I made some amazing friendships and learned insurmountable knowledge from some of the finest artists South Florida had to offer.

 

After a few years I moved to Ft Lauderdale and opened Rock-a-Billy Tattoos with my brother. We sold it a few years later and I moved to Vegas. We stayed there for a few years before coming back to Florida and settling in Orlando. That is when I opened Cast Iron Tattoos, 8 years ago. I am not a big fan of snow, so coming to Orlando was perfect for me.

 

How much of your time is split between tattooing and machine building these days?

Because my tattoo shop is connected to my machine shop, I just work according to what that day requires of me. I have the convenience of having both my Tattoo shop and machine shop in the same building. Luckily for me the building right behind me is a full service machine shop, they allow me to use whatever I need.

 

My time really gets split between taking my youngest son to ride motocross, watching my youngest daughter do gymnastics, and whatever my wife plans for me. I think I have found the perfect balance between family and work.

 

When did you first begin making your own machines?

I began building Machines in 1998 in Las Vegas. I wanted to see if I could. What started out as a hobby, turned into a second career, which I am very grateful for. It allows me to give back to the industry that I care so much about.

 

What was the first machine you built? How was the experience?

The prototype that I built did not go so well. In all my trials and errors, I made the prototype out of stainless steel. The conductivity was not good. So instead of making a yoke, I gave it to my wife and started all over again.

 

Do you still have it?

My wife has it, and will not give it back.

 

A few months back and was watching a DVD of the first season of Miami Ink, and I noticed that nearly all the artists in the shop were using your machines. Now I know that you are also based in Florida, but is there a story behind that?

We all had worked at Tattoos by Lou at one point over the years, but I worked directly with Chris and Ami. We have remained close over the years. We were all at a convention a couple months before the show began, the guys bought the machines from me and loved them enough to use them through most of Miami Ink series, which I am very grateful for.

 

In later episodes Dan Dringenberg’s machines became more widely used… why do you think that was?

There is no respected tattoo artist that uses only one kind of machine. Any good artist will have multiple machines. Dan was fortunate to be a part of Miami Ink in later episodes and he builds a really nice machine and is among the top machine builders.  

 

Did you ever visit the guys on the show?

From time to time on a personal level to spend time with my old friends.

 

Ever get asked to go in front of the cameras?

There was going to be a segment with Chris Nunez, where my cousin was getting tattooed. I was going to come on and discuss my machines, since Chris was using them. But the hurricane season messed up the schedule, so I was unable to participate.

 

In the UK there is a lot of confusion over what happens to the guys at Miami Ink when the cameras stop rolling. People have visited the studio on holiday and they do not tattoo out of there. As a friend of theirs, can you shed some light on where Chris and Ami tattoo when they are not on screen?

Miami Ink is a brand name owned by the Discovery Channel. Chris and Ami own a shop a few doors down from the Miami Ink location called Love/Hate Tattoo. When they are not filming that is where they work.

 

How do you think shows like Miami Ink have affected our business?

There are pro’s and con’s. The upside is that show opened up a whole new perspective to the general public and made tattoos more acceptable. The downside is that now everyone thinks that they can be a tattoo shop owner, because it is trendy and profitable, and not because they have a love for tattooing!

 

Is there anyone you’d still like to meet?

I am very approachable. I have a strong belief that once you think you have all of tattooing figured out, it’s time to quit. There are always things to learn and good friends to be made.

 

Go on… name drop. Who’s the most famous person you’ve tattooed?

I am not a huge sports fan so I was not sure who they were until someone else told me, but I have tattooed a few of the Miami Dolphins, and a few of the Miami Heat players. I tattooed boxer Razor Ruddick, Wrestler Rey Mysterio Jr, and Motocross stars, Matt Boni and Sarah Whitmore. As I said earlier, I really try to be approachable and available to anyone who walks into my shop.

 

When was the last time you yourself were tattooed?

The last tattoo I got was a number 10 to celebrate me and my wife’s 10 year wedding anniversary.

 

How would you describe your own tattoo style?

I like to do mostly Traditional American and Japanese styles, but I like all styles of tattooing. I even do tribal on a weekly basis. I am just happy that I am not doing manual labour for a living.

 

So how does your average working day pan out?

Hopefully with money in my pocket! It really depends on time of the year, between spending time watching my youngest son ride his dirt bike, my youngest daughter doing Gymnastics, playing with our 3 dogs, doing the convention, building machines, tattooing, and travelling, I have a pretty full plate, but luckily I have an amazing wife who keeps me on a schedule and makes sure that I am able to accomplish all of the things on my plate with relative ease.

 

And on top of all of that you also have your own convention to run. Tell me about the Tried and True Tattoo Expo (www.triedandtruetattooexpo.com). I’d imagine you are pretty proud of it.

Extremely proud!  Lately there has been an influx of promoters holding 5-10 shows a year! They do not care about the industry, only about their pockets. We wanted to bring a higher standard of show by having people actually in this industry putting on a show for the Artists, vendors, and guests to enjoy equally! We want the public to be exposed to a genuine tattoo experience, like shows used to be years ago. People would be excited for months, and talk about it for months after! We wanted to bring that to Orlando.

 

And this should be even better now you’ve moved it away from Hurricane season eh? 

We believe so! We took it out of Hurricane season and into tax season. It’s a better time financially and much better weather! This way people could bring their families, enjoy the show and enjoy all the attractions that Orlando has to offer.

 

What other conventions do you like to attend?

I like to attend a few shows in the states to see friends that I don’t always get to see. I have been doing a little traveling abroad and I really enjoy it. I really like learning about different techniques and traditions. I haven’t gotten to do much overseas yet but I look forward traveling more and getting to meet some other amazing artists from all over the world.

 

And I hear you were also recently selected to be a board member of The Florida Professional Tattoo Artist  Guild.

I decided to get involved in the guild to help my industry with some upcoming laws that affect the tattoo community in my state.

 

Where do you see your business moving in the future? What are your plans?

We are in the process of expanding the shop and working on some new machine ideas, we are also getting ready for the upcoming convention and I have some plans to travel this year.

 

I know your son is very into dirt track racing, but do you see him one day following in your footsteps and going into the profession?

He loves riding his bike, and he already shows a heavy amount of interest in tattooing. I want him to do what makes him happy. I will be proud of whatever he chooses to do, as I am proud of all of my children, but at this point he is the only one who shows a strong interest in tattooing.

 

Okay, in winding up… tell me a funny tattoo anecdote…

I guess I’ll tell you about the first time I met Jerry Rigger. I was attending one of his machine tuning seminars quite a few years back, and at this point we had never met. He was telling the class about my machine, stating it was the nicest he had seen in years, and it was from a kid he had never met “D Knight”. He had no idea I was in the class. At the end of the seminar, I went up and introduced myself and thanked him for the kind words. We have been friends ever since.

 

Danny Knight’s Cast Iron Tattoos

2818 S Orange Avenue

Orlando Fl 32806

407-843-8009

 

Shop and appointment Info

www.castirontattoos.com

 

Tried and True Tattoo Expo Info

www.triedandtruetattooexpo.com

 

Credits

Text Dave Perry Photos courtesy Danny Knight

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Skin Deep 189 24 August 2010 189
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