Easy heat-shrink wire labeling with a Brother P-Touch label-maker

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of Panbo.com, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, 100-ton USCG master.

24 Responses

  1. Fred Murphy says:

    Great idea. Have always struggled with labeling

  2. Seems not very long ago I asked about this and now you have found the way! great stuff.

  3. Denham Ward says:

    Great idea for new wiring. What is needed is a way to label existing wires without having to disconnect and that may not work if the wire is terminated in a ring or spade connector. Appreciate all the great info that you provide.

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      The best option I know about is a tape flag, or for larger diameter cables the label wrap works well. I’ve only had trouble with the tape delaminating on smaller cables where the bend radius is very tight.

      I have also had good luck with going up a couple of sizes in the tape to slip over a smaller termination, like a spade or small ring terminal but that wont’ work for large connectors like MFD power, waterproof Ethernet, etc.

      I did experiment with cutting the tube open and trying to then shrink wrap it once I’d slipped it on the wire. Suffice it to say that didn’t work. They just fell off.

      If anyone has a better solution for existing wires or those with large connectors on them I’d love to hear about it.

      -Ben S.

      • We will often print on the heatshrink tube, then slip this over a cable tie and cable tie this to the cable – it might take a second or two longer to identify the cable in a years time, but it’s a damn site faster than having to re trace a cable. This works for larger connectors such as DVI and also allows you to use thinner print on heatshrink, as you know the price goes up exponentially with the larger sizes.

  4. Fancy that, good to know.

    I have one of these, labels last a long time even with rough abuse:

    https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/all-3m-products/~/3M-ScotchCode-Write-On-Dispensers-and-Rolls/?N=5002385+3294248035&preselect=8710679+8712823&rt=rud

    The trick is that the dispensed label is quite long, with a long clear acrylic tail. So once you’ve wrapped it round the wire the clear tape protects your writing.

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      This would work well for many, but since I can’t read my handwriting on a good day I look for solutions where it’s printed by machine. It’s the downside of having the handwriting of a spastic second grader.

      -Ben S.

      • If I have the time and inclination, I do the following: print a label with my label writer, stick it on the white bit of a Scotchcode label, then wrap Scotchcode label on wire.

  5. Greg Kelso says:

    Of course, another requirement is to remember slipping the heat shrink tube over the wire before crimping on the lug. Another great article! I had no idea clear heat shrink tubing was even available and I certainly know of any that would be compatible with a Brother label maker.

  6. My 2 cents. After trying many label systems, seeing others in use or coming back labels years later and seeing how they age, we have settled on Ptouch using the PTE500 machine https://www.brother-usa.com/products/pte500.

    The 500 has a built in cable wrap mode and on 1″ wide tape, it uses only 1 linear inch. Of course, it also burns an inch in the pre-feed.
    After wrapping the label, we then cover with water clear heatshrink. It will last as long as the boat. The text is crisp and won’t wear over time.

    Other materials and techniques we have seen have liabilities. Cable flags come undone, the glue lets go from itself. It may take years, but it will happen. Heatshink labels are not as crisp and fade over time or rub off. I have been on 20 year old boats and if you touch the label, the text just smears. The 3M label stock is the next best alternative. The drawback is needing to apply it exactly perpendicular to the wire and get the first wrap absolutely tight. Easy to do on the bench, sometimes nearly impossible in some hole you are wiring in.

    These days, the PTE label stock is cheap.

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/UZbjhK19P9m7jpT7A
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/6mPMScfrzTSQrajr8

  7. Donald Joyce says:

    Eric,

    Clearly you have years of experience and a lot of us cruisers rely on the HF modems you distribute in the US. I like the professional capability of the label printer you refer to. What is news to me is the failure of heat shrink labels over time. Gives me pause.

  8. Dick says:

    It is less expensive an easier to make a label on your label maker in the usual way, and then use clear shrink tubing to hold the traditional label in place. The label is then double protected and special cassetts are not needed.

  9. james landry says:

    In my first project, I used DYMO heat shrink labels to keep my client’s wiring organized. It’s been ten years since then, but I was surprised to see the original tags still there, almost good as new when I revisited the site.

  10. james landry says:

    One thing I noticed is that even if it had a library of over 150 symbols and terms, it doesn’t have an apostrophe, comma, and other commonly used marks on the QWERTY keyboard. Nevertheless, if you don’t need these symbols frequently, the DYMO heat shrink label maker is an excellent and long-lasting labeling tool.

  11. Vishal says:

    I like the professional capability of the label printer you refer to. What is news to me is the failure of heat shrink labels over time. Gives me pause.

  12. Pat says:

    I bought a Brother PT-E500 label printer and it cuts (2) labels. One with print and one blank. How do I get it to only print (1) label?

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      I’m not sure if this is what you’re describing, but… many of the Brother printers will print about a 5/8-inch leader if you set the margins smaller than the labeler can cut.

      -Ben S.

      • Pat says:

        Ok, so I have .047″ Tape. I set it to cut a 2″ label with a .3″ margin and it cuts and spits out a 1.5″ printed label and 1/2″ blank.

        I’m using and printing from the design software P-touch Editor.

  13. Pat says:

    On the unit I just printed out a label 1.8″ long (.047″) wide and it spit out a 1.8″ printed label and a 1″ blank. I’ve got to be doing something wrong.

  14. I was just thinking about this thread as I was working on a Hinkley with a 2’x3′ wall of connections, all with faded and illegible heat shrink labels!

    I don’t think you are doing anything wrong, all Brother printers spit out a leader in my experience. With generic label tape so inexpensive I have overlooked this. BTW, if you print multiple “copies” of the same label, it only does the leader once.

  15. Emmanuel says:

    I like the professional capability of the label printer you refer to. What is news to me is the failure of heat shrink labels over time. Gives me pause.

  16. It is possible the heat shrink label tech has changed, but I can say for sure 10 to 20 year old labels printed directly on heat shrink stock fade and flake off. This is what drove us to a more permanent solution.

  17. David Darwin says:

    I prefer the Brother that makes labels that are permanent. They have the highest quality setting on their thermal printing system. They perform an excellent job, especially with the features of their system that let you select various customization options and pre-designed templates.

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