Colored electrical tape to mark small tools


I was trying to decide how to mark/ identify/ differentiate (the profile of) my chasing tools (and needle and escapement files) (as they are stored in denim rolls, tip side in the pocket) …

stamping?..engraving?..paint/ nail polish/ permanent marker?..(which seem to chip/ wear off eventually)

…then I thought…whenever I see tools with colored stripes to identify them, I always think “what a great idea, I need to do that!”

so, I googled colored tape, and found this! excited! wanted to share! I will let you know how it holds up…9 colors, (better colors than some of the other assortment packs, IMHO)

I will cut the strips thinner…use one stripe for embossers, two stripes for planishers…

for the files, I can do 1 to 4 stripes to represent the cuts (many of my escapement (and needle) files are cut 2, 4, 6, and/or 8…can you tell they are my favorite files!)


Hi Julie @wldlzrd1,

A word of caution about the electrical tape. The glue tends to bleed and the tape tends to move a bit over time, and it gets to be a sticky mess. Maybe 3M tape isn’t like that but the tapes that I have tried are. I find masking tape to work a lot better. If you shop around you will find a variety of colors.

I tape many of my small tools because otherwise I simply can’t see them. I know that sounds strange, but I tend to not see a grey steel center punch on my bench, ditto other grey, black, or silver tools. However, if my center punch has some violet tape around it, even if I can’t tell you what color tape is on that tool, the instant my eye sees that color I know I have spotted the center punch. Quirky, idiosyncratic, whatever, that is how my eyesight works.

Anyway, I suggest you try masking tapes and metal paints, such as Rustoleum. Paint may chip, but enough will remain so you will spot the tool you want in an instant, and you can always repaint. Sticky tape glue is a drag.

eccentric Neil A


I use those paints in the little glass jars…I think they are called model paint.

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Hi Neil,

hmmm…yeeessss, I know of what you speak…ok, I will cross my fingers and hope this tape doesn’t become a mess!


Hi Gena,

ah! good point! if the tape is a bust, I will try model paint next…many colors! (I probably need about 10 colors…


Hi Neil,

I call it “Tool Blindness.” You look, and the tool you were just using is gone, simply gone. You search, but it’s still not there. You turn around, and suddenly it’s back, right where you left it.




In my experience with using nail polish on steel:

  • Before using it, it’s impossible to determine which ones will physically fail.
  • When nail polish is in the bottle, it is impossible to determine translucency.
  • Any degree of translucency makes the color invisible, even against an opaque color.
  • All glittery colors have some degree of translucency, and were visually worthless to me.
  • I could see black, burgundy, red, and a light/medium color of neon green.
  • I could not see any other shade of green, nor yellow, pink, blue or orange.

With only 4 visible colors, used in combination as alternative stripes, I had enough colors to create an identification system.

I preffer heat shrinking tube.
It’s available in many colors and so easy to use and much practical the n
tape to my opinion.

I use the colors to separate all my burs aswell.
Stone setting burs are red, round burs are blue etc…
After a day of working it’s easier to sort them out.
It’s just comes in handy.



I prefer the colored wrap-tapes that veterinarians use. They also improve the grip. And they leave no residue.


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What I use are 7 bur pads, large round burs, small round & small bud-burs, 156c (under-cutting) small & large sizes… then one pad for the 77b cup-burs… I also have wooden boxes for the HSS 90 angle under-cutting burs. I’ll send some photos to show how organized setters & jewellers must be!! If not, you’d be spending a whole day looking for one single bur!

Gerry! from my mobile-phone!


When you put the heat shrink tube on burs, is it applied only on the visible part of the shank when the bur is in use? Or does it extend the entire length of the shank?


Do you use the wrap on files handles? If so, are you using just the bare metal handle or an added handle?

I’m visualizing a lot of hand movement in combination with a metal handle might allow the wrap to move.

Right now, I don’t colorize the handles out my tools, but it’s a great idea. My bench and work stations eat things, only to burp them up later. I wonder as I look around, "where did I take you to? "
I previously spent a decade at Disneyland as a decorator. I used the most fluorescent floral spray I could find to identify hand tools. Have 15 co-workers and virtually identical wirecutters, small Swiss army knives, specialty pliers and it’s difficult to keep your tools in a pouch or on your desk. Glowing hot orangey pink handles helped slot. No guy would dare walk of with them. If it wore off, you just give it another shot of spray. It dries almost instantly and isn’t sticky. I guess I need to do that again for some of my tools, but now I’m the culprit who moves things around. Michael’s Crafts carries the paint.

I don’t color code my small tools because I have no need. But I recall from my years as a commercial boat builder a steel marking ink that was available for working on steel plate. It came in a small plastic bottle with a ball point pen like applicator. We only used yellow but I recall it was available in other colors. It stayed on the plate and was fairly flame resistant. We got it from the welding suppliers we used.

Perhaps it is still available.

Don Meixner

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On my numerous Pillar & Triangular files, I only mark the grit-cut, nothing
else…too confusing to write everything! Such as 1 & 2 or a 4. Keep your
file I.D. as simple as possible! I use a black-marking pen on the steel,
“coloured paint” might wear off during the days of continual use!!

Gerry Lewy

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Hello Betty2

I cut a small part of 4 or 5mm, strip it over the shank of the bur untill it almost meets the cutting edge of the bur.
In other words, just behind the cutting edge if you look from the front of the bur.
I heat up the bur with a hair dryer and done.
It just takes a view seconds realy to mark your burs this way.

I don’t use shrinking tube along the complete lenght of the bur.
You’ll damage the shrinking tube.
I use it just enough to see the color of the tube.

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,[quote=“Alec, post:6, topic:54418”]
I call it “Tool Blindness.” You look, and the tool you were just using is gone, simply gone. You search, but it’s still not there. You turn around, and suddenly it’s back, right where you left it.

No truer words have ever been spoken.

It is a comfort to know it doesn’t happen only to me. :slight_smile:

Neil A

Hi Gerry,

using a sharpie to make stripes on my little files to identify cut is a great idea! I don’t really need to color code them for profile, as I can clearly see that on the files…it is just the tiny cut number that is hard to find/ see.

I guess for 2,4,6,8 cut, I can just use 1,2,3,4 stripes


I tried the electrical tape solution to mark the cut of my small files. I cut a 1/8" piece that wrapped around the diameter of each handle end a couple of times. In a few days, even without use, the tape began to unravel. With use, the heat from my hands added to the problem… hence the “sticky mess.”

I like the model paint idea… Plan to use that next as I have a 5-6 jars around here somewhere :O)

Also, I think Sharpie marker will rub off with regular use from the oils in your hands.

Sharon B.

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The thing that I’ve used on tools, for years, is automotive touch up
paint. It comes in small, nail polish sized bottles, a wide variety of
colors, and lasts nearly forever, especially if you heat set it with a
hair dryer or heat gun.

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