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soda can label embossing Make: Projects   Soda Can Label Embossing

emossing the label Make: Projects   Soda Can Label Embossing

Positive response to the recent review of my antique Tapewriter label embosser got me thinking about lower-cost ways to make embossed aluminum labels. A comment from reader Rick Hyde (“Actually, the aluminum is so ductile that I bet any Dymo machine can emboss it.”) led me to wonder about feeding aluminum strip to one of the inexpensive, “grocery store” label makers designed for plastic tape, and when I began looking for accessible sources of thin aluminum sheet metal my first thought was to use soda cans.

Experiment proved that yes, soda can metal embosses well enough in a small plastic-tape embosser, but there were three main problems:

  1. Cutting uniform strips of out of the side of a soda can was not easy.
  2. At 0.003″, soda can metal is much thinner than plastic embossing tape (0.011″), and does not advance reliably through the mechanism.
  3. Though the metal cuts easily with scissors, doing so tends to raise burrs that interfere with smooth feeding.

The first two problems were solved by using a paper spiral-cutting template designed in software, printed onto an adhesive-backed label, and wrapped around the can before cutting. The template guidelines make it easy to cut a strip of uniform width, and the adhesive paper, if left in place during the embossing operation, brings the thickness up to 0.009″ and eliminates feeding problems.

can unwound1 Make: Projects   Soda Can Label Embossing

Finally, the burr-raising problem was solved by using nibbling shears, instead of scissors, to make the cut. A small burr is still produced, but it is easily smoothed by “stropping” the cut strip against a leather strap. Detailed instructions are here.

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Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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