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:
- Cutting uniform strips of out of the side of a soda can was not easy.
- At 0.003″, soda can metal is much thinner than plastic embossing tape (0.011″), and does not advance reliably through the mechanism.
- 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.
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.