If the DIY community had a universal symbol, it most certainly would be a roll of duct tape. Inexpensive, abundant, strong, and ready to stick to nearly anything, this versatile DIY companion is a must in your DIY toolkit.
Photo by Ben Seidelman.
In honour of DIY Week at Lifehacker and the prominent role duct tape has played in many a DIY projects over the last 60-odd years, we’ve rounded up some of the most popular duct tape-related stories we’ve featured here at Lifehacker and brought a few new ones into the mix. But first, a little duct tape history.
Duct Tape: Every Soldier’s Friend
Duct tape became a staple of American DIY projects and repairs after World War II. During the war duck tape — as it was initially known — was distributed to soldier’s to use in sealing ammo cans. Industrious soldiers quickly started using it for all manner of repairs thanks to its strong adhesive and sturdy construction. When millions of soldiers returned home from the war, they brought their respect for duct tape with them, rapidly introducing the now ubiquitous tape into popular culture. If you want to read more about the history of duct tape you can check out the Wikipedia entry here. Photo by Jason Gulledge.
How popular has duct tape become? When Forbes magazine put together a list of the top 20 tools in all of history including such items like the knife and compass, they forgot to include duct tape. They received enough reader questions on their exclusion of duct tape to prompt them to write an entirely separate article singing its praises. Not a bad place to hold in public opinion after less than a century on the scene.
Duct tape is manufactured by a variety of companies and available in everything from generic Two-Dollar-Shop rolls to premium nuclear regulatory agency-approved rolls. The 3M company even introduced clear duct tape for those times when you really want to repair something with duct tape but the DIY-vibe of good ol' silver tape just doesn't fit.
Duct Tape for the Sake of Duct Tape
Proof positive of the popularity of duct tape is the vast number of things people make out of duct tape. Not content to simply repair something that is broken with duct tape, many DIYers use duct tape as the building blocks of their projects. Duct tape wallets are a popular project, the one featured in the photo above is the swankiest one we've featured.
This iPod case is made with clear duct tape for practical purposes, but you could easily mix in some traditional duct tape to make a statement.
Why limit your duct-tape antics to things only you can enjoy? Clever duct tape lovers have made duct tape roses, hand bags and neck ties. Some duct tape creations might not seem extremely practical and can cruise dangerously close to being extremely tacky, but they do showcase the devotion people have to the sturdy little tape.
Love for the quirky things people make with duct tape aside it was born as a practical tool and it remains a practical tool. When assessing the usefulness of duct tape the proper question is not "What can duct tape fix?" but "What can duct tape not fix?". Sure there are many a situation where duct tape isn't the perfect solution, but the very fact that it's a plausible if perhaps temporary solution is a testament to the versatility of duct tape. Case in point:
Ten years ago I was on a road trip. My friend Dave and I had stopped to get the oil in his car changed — much to Dave's grumbling because he preferred to change his oil himself, but we were short on time. The guy who changed the oil at the service station neglected to put the cap back on the oil tank and somehow we managed to drive over 100km before the oil light came on and alerted us to the situation. In an empty gravel lot next to a McDonald's we assessed the situation. It was a Sunday, we were in the middle of relatively no where, and we needed to solve the problem. Our solution? Dump a quart of oil from Dave's trunk into the oil reservoir, take a nice round stone about the size of the oil cap into the McDonald's bathroom and wash all the dirt and crud off, wrap the stone in several layers of duct tape, and duct tape that lucky stone right down to the engine block. It worked so well we never ended up buying a replacement cap.
So if duct tape wallets aren't your thing, what can you do with duct tape? Plugging holes in engines aside you can use it to clear out a clogged drain and even get rid of warts on the cheap. If you're a bit of a masochist you can even use it to improve your posture.
The important thing about duct tape is to always keep it handy because you're more likely to be limited by a lack of duct tape than by what you can't use duct tape for. To that end you'll definitely want to check out this DIY pocket duct tape dispenser. Photo by madmolecule.
We could never exhaustively cover the awesomeness that is duct tape and its many uses, so we leave it to you to share your favourite duct tape uses and creations in the comments below.