Has anyone had experience with creating their own permanent metal plant labels/tags?

My grandfather has an old Graphotype machine that he uses to label his metal plant tags, but they're rather expensive and his is very manual in operation.

I'm looking for a machine and/or technique that will quickly create metal labels for my plants without setting me back too severely in the process (<$200).


3 Answers 3


Not necessarily quick, but a cheap alternative would be to get a small punch and a stencil. Write the words onto the metal using the stencil and a (temporary) magic marker. Punch the words into the metal with the punch and a hammer using the marker as a guide.

A hand operated stamp can run around US$300, and the metal isn't cheap either. Unfortunately "inexpensive" and "automatic" stamping are mutually exclusive.

I cut strips of discarded vinyl siding and write on the smooth back side with pencil. The pencil doesn't come off unless you rub it while it's wet, the siding will last forever (or at least as long as you do), it's free, and it reclaims a resource.

  • 1
    I like the idea of crafting the words through a machine since my handwriting isn't the neatest, but the speed of simply writing them by hand. I've also heard of using aluminum cans or metal roof flashing, which could both be repurposed. You may be right in that "inexpensive" and "automatic" are mutually exclusive.
    – Tim Clymer
    Jun 27, 2011 at 12:49
  • Tin punching immediately came to mind when I saw this question. My mother in law used to make x-mas ornaments and other home decorations using the method.
    – wax eagle
    Jun 27, 2011 at 13:41

Usually, cheap and quick don't go together. However, with a minimal effort, you can create really nice looking tags for your plants.

First, you'll need to get a letter and number stamp punch set. These punches are made of hardened chrome vanadium steel and are quite strong and can also be used to punch metals. You'll also need a hammer, but I'll leave that out as it's something that you most likely have at home.

Next, get a set of blank dog tags like those used by the military. Here's 50 of them for $20. That's pretty much all you need. Get punchin!

I'd say for a 1 time investment of $20 (punch set) and $20 (possibly recurring) for the dog tags, you've got yourself a really nice plant name tags that cost less than $1 each (less than 50¢ each for additional tags).

If you don't like these and/or if you want to make it even cheaper, you can cut up beer cans into little rectangular pieces and use the punch on them. In this case, make sure that you have a firm wooden backing for the pieces when you use the punch, as the thin aluminium pieces need something to resist the blow, yet yield a little so that an impression is made.

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    +1 nice find, and will give a better result than my hack job of an idea!
    – bstpierre
    Jun 29, 2011 at 2:00

If you are not very serious on crafting the words by machine, maybe you can try using a correction pen on the metal pieces. That's really cheap plus you can reuse the metal.

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