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

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 My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.