Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tech Tip Tuesday

As you may have guessed from my previous post regarding staples, I have been surprised to discover that I have become a "connoisseur" of certain items. One of them is actually tape.

We use different kinds of tape for different purposes when building a canoe. Some of the reasons might surprise you.

Masking tape

Masking tape can be used to mask lines when you are painting. It can be used to stick things together. It can also be used to wrap bundles of strips. Ironically, in the boat-building process, one of the most important uses for tape is to prevent things from sticking together. It is applied adhesive side down on the edges of your forms so that your strips will not be glued to the forms. This is critical when you are building the canoe. If you cannot get the hull off the forms because it's glued to the forms, you will not be a happy camper. You usually discover this fact only once you've finished about 70% of the building process.

This is not to say that all masking tape is the same. First, it should be "fresh". The edges shouldn't be damaged because the tape will tear as you unroll it. There is the typical tan-colored stuff. Generally, it's not great stuff. Then, there is the blue "painter's tape". Generally this is better stuff for the use. There are also more expensive blue, yellow and green tapes. For most of our purposes in canoe building, these are overkill.

Packing Tape

The 3" wide clear or tan plastic tape used in shipping departments is great stuff. First, it's thin. It's reasonably tough stuff. It's best use is for coating forms that you're going to be doing glue-ups on. I have some boards (they're just that, boards) with a strip screwed to the top. I use them like type-setting boards for building feature strips. The surfaces that the strips sit on get covered with packing tape so they will not stick to the board. The benefit of the packing tape over masking tape for this application is that the glue comes off more easily and when done, it's a piece of cake to pull the tape off the wood.

Fiberglass Reinforced Packing Tape

Great stuff. Works like a charm on the edges of the forms. It's not easily torn by handling, strips or staples during the building process. Damaged masking tape allows a bit of glue to stick to the forms, sometimes requiring a sharp rap to release the hull. With the fiberglass reinforced stuff, this almost never happens. The downside is that it wrinkles as it wraps around the curves of the form. You also need a knife or scissors to cut the stuff.

I've also heard of this tape being used for staple-less construction to hold strips together.

Duct Tape

Like masking tape, duct tape is not created equally. There is the general purpose stuff which is OK for most things, there is the 3-M branded stuff which is quite good and then there is 100 MPH tape. 100 MPH tape is basically mil-spec duct tape that is incredibly tough and sticky stuff. It's waterproof and nearly indestructible. It's been used to repair bullet holes on jet aircraft. I'm sure with enough of the stuff you could make your own bulletproof vest. For boat building, I've not found a use for duct tape. Still, in the field, it is great stuff for temporary repairs on a damaged canoe until you can do a permanent fix. Recently, I heard duct tape referred to as "Adirondack Chrome" for it's field use!

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