Find all your DIY electronics in the MakerShed. 3D Printing, Kits, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Books & more!

MZ_Toolbox2010.gif

This is a bit of an unusual review, for two reasons: First, I can’t tell you exactly what model the tool in question happens to be, and second, regardless of exactly which model it is, it hasn’t been manufactured, as such, for many decades. Dymo still makes a 1/2″ metal-embossing labelmaker under its Rhino brand, but it is quite expensive, listed at $250 on the Dymo website as of this writing. I haven’t used that model, but I can’t imagine that for my limited home and hobby purposes it would be worth the cost.

But the $25 I spent to snag this old, used model of what is essentially the same tool was definitely money well spent. And if you want one of your own, an eBay search on “tapewriter”  turns up a half-dozen analogous models priced less than $30, as of this writing.


If you’ve ever used one of Dymo’s small 1/4″ or 3/8″ plastic-embossing labelmakers (and who hasn’t?) you already understand how this tool works, and how to operate it. But in terms of construction quality and durability, the Tapewriter is as far removed from those cheap plastic embossers as a Mercedes is from a Kia. It’s 10″ long, weighs almost two pounds, and is made almost entirely from cast aluminum, with steel fittings here and there, and all held together with machine screws. The only polymer in the thing, as far as I can tell, is a rubber friction coating on the internal tape drive wheels.

When it arrived in the mail, I took it out of the box in the condition you see here. I loaded it with a new roll of 1/2″ aluminum embossing tape (which is still manufactured, with and without adhesive, and costs about $5 a roll) and found it worked perfectly.

Embossed aluminum is pretty much the ultimate labeling material. Without wanting to be morbid, there is a reason why military services around the world choose it for personnel identification tags. Secured with mechanical fasteners, instead of adhesives, an embossed aluminum label will stand up for years against water, extremes of heat and cold, prolonged direct sunlight, and any organic solvent you care to throw at it. This is a true “industrial-grade” labeling tool, and if you can snag a used one for a reasonable price, you can expect a lifetime of use from it.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


Related

Comments

  1. Darn you Sean Michael Ragan. Now I’m obsessed with getting one of these, when instead I’m supposed to be purging stuff outta my life in the new year.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      John Edgar Park
      Sean Michael Ragan
      Collin Greystoke Cunningham

      You guys with the regal three-word names. (OK, I made up Collin Greystoke Cunningham — but wouldn’t that be cool?)

      1. John T says:

        I thought Colins middle name was Fancysuit. I am shocked and slightly disappointed

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have bought a same Dymo Mite machine (except a tape cutter is different on mine) from eBay.  I recall it was around 25-30 and even came with a box that smells like old books.  It’s a very solid piece unlike anything that’s around today.

    I use to place ‘MADE IN USA’ stickers on my embedded electronics projects and to create my own magic 8 ball dice.  One day I’ll use it to apply labels on a time machine I create (ala Flux capacitor / Uncle Rico’s).

  3. Tom Lynham says:

    Okay, so I pulled the trigger on a similar-looking (but not the same) model called the M-22.  In the description of this one the seller only talks about the familiar plastic tape.  The version you have is already over $80 – nice for you, not nice for us imitators.  So I’m wondering if the M-22 might accept aluminum tape?

    The similar tags I’ve seen on old shop cabinets and what-not are actually easier to bend than that Dymo plastic I remember from the 80′s.

    Thanks in any event — I hate my stupid $30 Brother label maker — I’ll load up my new M-22 with multi-colored plastic tape and go to town, never worrying again that the little plastic handle on the 80′s Dymos will break off.

    1. AJ Lewis says:

      According to this (http://www.flickr.com/photos/43749390@N07/5892484835/) the M-22 will take metal tape.  I ordered one off of ebay as well – and some metal tape off of amazon.  Hopefully it will work together!

      1. huck bales says:

        AJ, I noticed that in one of the photos there was a second print wheel that was indicated as metal. I wonder if you need this metal print wheel to emboss the metal tapes?

        1. Anonymous says:

          Plastic is softer than aluminum, so yes.

          1. AJ Lewis says:

            I guess I’ll find out, but the current Dymo 1011-05 appears to have a plastic wheel, and it’s made for metal tape…It’s not like this thing is punching letters into a block of aluminum.

    2. huck bales says:

      Hi Tom, I have the same question. What models support the metal tape?

  4. Angus Hines says:

    Damn it JIM Now you have made me buy something else from eBay !!! 

  5. Anonymous says:

    The ones on ebay appear to not be analogous…. Your model has a metal wheel, presumably strong enough to emboss aluminum. All the ones I see on ebay have a plastic wheel for embossing plastic. I think you just got a lucky find.

    It’s a shame there’s no model number. Usually it is M-something, e.g. M-11 M-22 etc

  6. Mike D says:

    I happened to already have one of these exact models from some estate sale acquisition, along with some old aluminum tape. I had no idea how to fasten or use the tape afterwards though, so thank you for including the pic of the riveted tag! By the way, my favorite part was always the shear at the tip. Slicing through metal is always fun.

  7. I am consulting for a company in Philadelphia selling vintage chrome Dymo tapewriters. Thanks to these posts, we sold 80 in one day. We don’t have many left but you can contact me at martin_id@verizon.net. We have Dymo 1550 kits and deluxe kits as well and some aluminum and stainless steel tape and more. We have LOTS of old Dymo stuff so ask away!

    Jessica Martin
    martin_id@verizon.net

  8. caution says:

    Looking at the last picture of the tape on the circuit breaker box.

    I have to wonder if someone will try riveting labels on their still live box, and if there might be any adverse affects, even with the breakers in the off position.

    I am not an electrician but I’m pretty sure you should make sure power is off to the main input before attempting something like that.

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      Yeah, I dunno. This article is not about how to do that and should not be construed as advising anyone to do that.

  9. Rick Hyde says:

    I ordered the M-22 off eBay. It just arrived. I can confirm that it embosses aluminium just fine.

  10. Rick Hyde says:

    Actually, the aluminum is so ductile that I bet any Dymo machine can emboss it.

  11. nicanor says:

    I just bought the newer Dymo model, they have additional features that may make it worthy for some people. It cuts the tape in a curved edge instead of a straight cut (looks more finished), and also has 2 punches to attach your label; a straight hole punch for riveting and a lopped punch for strapping. See pict at link for those examples:
    http://content.etilize.com/Large/11962450.jpg

    They often pop up on eBay for $100 range.

  12. Adrienne says:

    I am so glad I happened upon this web page. I recently bought one of these for $2 at a yard sale in Corsica, PA from a guy who was a flea-marketer and who was getting rid of old ‘junk’ that didn’t sell. It needed a little tweaking but now works like a dream. It had plastic tape inside already but I had no idea it was made for metal embossing. Now I can’t wait to find some thin metal tape! Oh, the things I can label now. Thanks very much!

  13. boomster says:

    Haven’t received this tape yet but, I scored a similar vintage dymo-mite labeler. It did not come with anything so I’m hoping the product at the following link will fit the bill. I’ll try to come back here to report on how well it works. I’m posting it here so this great article can be a resource for getting the needed supplies, as well.

    Thanks for

    1. boomster says:

      Tape came. Works perfectly with my Dymo-Mite.

  14. Wonder wheel says:

    Amazing tool! How much is this by the way? I’d like to buy one for my family.

  15. Andy says:

    They are all over ebay. Sadly I missed one on Etsy (usually Etsy ones are overpriced because they are being sold as “vintage” and there are fewer of them there) that had three metal wheels and was in mint condition. It even had aluminum tape that had a yellow stripe down the middle where the lettering gets embossed. Assuming that made it easier to read. I don’t think you can find that tape anymore, just the plain metal tape with or without adhesive. I got a great model on eBay for $30.

  16. Deb says:

    THANK YOU for this review. I was about to spend $170 plus at Major Prime Seller for a new one, got a DymoMite Tapewriter off Ebay for $50 (it looked and now that it’s sitting here, it’s literally brand new but no manual) and totally metal. I had my choice of several from $20-50 and a few were a little tired or missing something important (like the cut off on the end!)

    I searched and found a PDF of an M-11 manual and it seemed to match this well, AND I found out it will punch holes. Yay! So 30 rolls of aluminum non adhesive and my new gently preowned tapewriter shall do many years of duty making labels for my water lilies.

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      Thanks, Deb, for taking the time to let me know. This remains one of my all-time favorite tools and all-time favorite reviews. Glad it’s tickling others, too.

In the Maker Shed