Friday, March 11, 2011

Metal specimen tags

Persian mint
One of the reasons I like "vintage" and antique things is because they are often of much higher quality than contemporary items. Things made of metal, wood and leather tend to last and things made of glass can last essentially "forever" if they are broken. To that I'm often looking for ways to make things from those same lasting materials and especially when I can recycle or upcycle things that would end up in a land fill or even a recycle bin. I don't have nearly as much faith in recycling A. as I used to and B. in giving away resources I can use. Not to mention that here in the city businesses have pay to have things recycled.

One item I use from time to time, in both research collections and in home gardening, is specimen tags. Paper or card stock tags are usually adequate but even in protected museum environments, ink fades and tags get wet. Years ago I saw metal tags on some museum specimens and decided I could easily make my own using soda cans or other embossing friendly scrap metal. It's possible to make very nice tags that look as good or better than you can buy or even just cut up a few soda cans for ease and utility. Aluminum will corrode if exposed to certain chemicals but for the most part you can use the same tags indefinitely from season to season or for long term storage.

Ready to use
As far as availability of materials is concerned coat hangers and cans are about as "available" as it gets and if nothing else it beats using a piece of the paper envelope most seeds come in. Long after the seed packet has blown away and become compost your metal tags will remind you of what you planted.

The cans are easily cut with common craft or kitchen scissors and one hanger will make three or four "posts" to hang them from. The last can I cut up yielded about ten tags.

I need to make another batch soon and will post a how-to soon as I get a chance.

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