My love affair with tape started when I was six. One year for Christmas I was given a giant multi-pack of Sellotape and proceeded to construct entire cities out of cardboard boxes with it. I would build furniture for the houses in my cardboard cities – paper and tape-wrapped monstrosities that I was certain looked like furniture but probably looked more like small packages of internally smuggled heroin.
Sometimes, I would simply peel strips off just to hear the crisp sound of fresh tape unsticking itself from the roll. This is what happens when you grow up in a village located precisely in the middle of nowhere. As I got older, my tape habit became more refined and I discovered duct tape. It was then that my life was complete.
Duct versus Gaffer
A water resistant, cloth-backed self adhesive tape invented in 1942, duct tape was originally used to seal ammunition cases during the second world war. The military soon realised that duct tape could be used to repair aircraft, guns, vehicles and pretty much anything else that they could think of. The general public caught on to the wondertape shortly after.
Although most people think that duct tape and gaffer tape are the same thing, tape geeks know that there is a big difference. Duct tape has a natural adhesive and is meant to stay stuck; gaffer tape has a synthetic, powerful low residue adhesive and is built to be peeled cleanly away once it has served its purpose.
Gaffer tape is commonly used in the theatre, film and music industry to stick down cables, to build set components and to stick ballet dancers’ snapped bones back together between acts so they can make it to the end of the show. It’s also about four times more expensive than duct tape and, unlike duct tape, which is usually silver, black or white, comes in a huge variety of colours. Imagine my excitement when I found out that you can actually order gaffer tape in whichever pantone shade your heart desires. And, you can even get transparent gaffer tape, basically an uber-strong version of Sellotape! The possibilities for tape usage became endless from the moment I discovered these facts.
A bazillion uses
Duct tape has accompanied every US mission to space and has, on numerous occasions, been crucial to fixing broken equipment in outer space, once saving the lives of three astronauts who used it to patch up the carbon dioxide filters on Apollo 13. There are many online communities of people who make fashion and art with it, and an American duct tape manufacturer runs a yearly competition for students to create and wear a formal suit or ball gown made from duct tape, rewarding the most creative entry with a university scholarship. And, there are even people who swear that it has medicinal powers and can cure warts.
People have made big money authoring books and websites about the common and not-so-common ways to use duct tape, such as how to tape your children to the wall when they start to irritate you.
Unfortunately, since I generally use duct tape out of necessity to fix my own DIY mishaps and general clumsiness, I’ve not had much chance to try out any of these ideas.
Contains no ducks
There’s some debate about why it’s called duct tape because, confusingly, duct tape should never be used on heating and ventilation ducts. The most common theory in tape geek academia is that the name evolved from ‘duck tape’, which was originally manufactured with a ‘duck cloth’ backing’ – a linen canvas. The word originates from the Dutch word ‘doek’ (cloth). Oh the Cloggies. They have their fingers in every pie.