There are always ways to do without, but there are certainly ways to make any process a lot more complicated, more professional, and more of an adventure.
I personally want to make dedicated tools for stick-and-poke tattooing. After seeing several professional hand poke tattoo artists selling stick and poke tattoo tools, which they won’t sell to ‘scratchers’, so I decided to research how to make my own. The advantage of tools like this is that, unlike a pencil or other improvised tool, they can be easily sterilized. Also tools with a bit of weight can help the artist bounce right along, letting the inertia do some of the work.
This type of rod, round or otherwise, is available in many diameters, and other metals such as steel. All it is is a handle with a hole to insert a needle, and a ‘set screw’ connecting to the hole from the side which allows a set screw to hold the inserted needle firmly. All you need is a hacksaw, metal files, a drill, drill bits for metal, and some accessories to tap the threads in the drilled hole. These tools are readily available at your local hardware or automotive store. You can take it a step further and engrave or etch designs in the tool itself. I also think the blogger might make these if asked (he sells other custom tools), not to mention a local small machine shop.
A simpler option for a tool with a bit of mass is a No. 6 XACTO type knife handle. This could be carefully drilled in the center to accommodate the diameter of a needle in addition to a razor. As the name ‘No.6’ implies, XACTO makes a number of handle sizes, many of which could be appropriate for stick-and-poke. This XACTO knife is also sold in a set on amazon for $20 which includes many blades and two other lighter handles. The blog linked above also explains how to build this handle from scratch.
One more simple tool would be a pin vise It works like the XACTO, but is already rounded to accommodate round wire, pins, drill bits, etc. They come in many sizes some of which are either too big or small for a tattoo needle diameter.
This one is $3.20 with free shipping on ebay.
Yet another option I might pursue would be to cast some custom handles from pewter which I already work with. I’m also going to message the previously linked blogger to see what his price is for a tool like that, as he already sells the other tools he makes. I expect the price to be around 20-30 Euros.