Great adhesive tapes for shop and home
There’s a wide range of adhesive tape on offer for use in the workshop and around the home. Many are available in a variety of thicknesses, widths, lengths, tackiness (how quickly the tape grips a surface), tensile strength (the tape’s resistance to breaking) and adhesive holding power (how much force is needed to remove the tape). The adhesive on tape is usually rubber, which bonds very quickly, or acrylic, which can take several days to fully bond to a surface. Acrylic adhesive tends to have higher tensile strength, has better UV resistance so can be used outdoors, and generally holds up better over time. Most adhesive tapes use pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) so it’s a good idea to provide a bit of pressure when applying the tape if you want it to attain a full bond. In general, a thicker tape has less of a tendency to break once applied but can be more difficult to remove. Thinner tape can be more prone to break in use but is better at keeping paint or finish from seeping under the tape.
You’ll also see tapes labelled as “low adhesion” or “delicate surface.” These tapes are easier to remove, won’t tear surface fibres and won’t leave any residue. This makes them a good choice for use over thin veneer or pre-finished plywood. However, they often have a weak holding power.
Here are some of the most useful tapes to have on hand.
Gluing on Edging
A few different types of masking tape are available. Applying solid wood edging is just one job masking tape is great for. (Photo by Rob Brown)
Clear Waste Indicators
Duguay applies blue masking tape to the end of a board that will be dovetailed, then cuts away the portions of the tape to delineate the waste from the pins and tails.
Duct tape is very strong and sticks well to just about anything. The downside is that it may pull wood fibres apart and costs more than many other tapes. (Photo by Cantech)
You can purchase smaller rolls of packing tape that come with small disposable dispensers, or you can purchase a reloadable dispenser and a larger roll of packing tape. (Photo by Rob Brown)
Duguay uses 2" wide high-tack tape when he wants extreme strength from a double-sided tape, like with this lathe operation.
Clear as Can Be
Transparent tape comes in many types and sizes so be sure to have at least a couple of types on hand at all times. (Photo by Rob Brown)
Veneer tape is thin yet fairly strong, though its main property isn’t strength. It’s meant to temporarily join pieces of veneer until the veneer’s pressed onto a substrate. At that point the tape is removed either by wetting it or peeling it off, depending on the type.
Cover Up an Edge
If you work with sheet goods you’ve likely used iron-on tape to conceal the edges of the cut sheets. It’s available in many species and types that match pretty much any sheet good on the market. In small shops it’s usually applied with an iron and trimmed flush with a plane iron, file or small dedicated trimming tool.
Commonly used in the construction industry, sheathing tape has very high tack strength. In fact, it’s almost impossible to get off many surfaces without damaging them. (Photo by Cantech)
Aluminum Foil Tape
Often used in the HVAC industry, aluminum foil tape can handle high temperatures with ease. (Photo by Cantech)
Duguay made this tape dispenser so he could have all his tapes ready at his fingertips when needed. Notice the hack saw blade attached to the upper, front edge of the dispenser to aid in tearing pieces of tape to length.
Masking and painter’s tapes
These are likely the most widely used tapes in the workshop and around the home, primarily because they’re so versatile. Both are made with a crepe paper backing and come in different widths. Masking tape (sold in various colours but most often in beige) has a natural or synthetic rubber adhesive that’s stronger than painter’s tape but tends to leave a residue on wood when removed. I find that the longer you leave this tape on a surface, the more difficult it is to remove.
Painter’s tape uses an acrylic or acrylic-silicone based adhesive that’s moisture-resistant and designed to come off cleanly. These tapes have different adhesion levels. On rough surfaces use a high-adhesion tape; on smooth, delicate surfaces choose a low- or medium-adhesion tape. The two most common colours are green and blue. Green painter’s tape has a higher-tack strength so it holds better on rougher surfaces. Blue painter’s tape, a favourite with professional painters, is the one I use almost exclusively in my shop. I find that it comes off more easily that green tape and has just as much tensile strength. In my experience they work equally well to hold thin, narrow edge-banding in place. I use blue tape to make layout lines easier to follow on dovetails and mortises and to mask surfaces I don’t want covered with a finish. I also mask the inside corners of cabinets before assembly. After the glue has gummed up, peeling off the tape removes glue runout. It’s great for bundling small parts together for a project, and for labelling components on a complex project. You’ll discover lots of other uses for this versatile tape.
Anyone who has ever packed a box or moved from one residence to another likely used packing (a.k.a. cellophane, plastic or carton-sealing) tape. It most often comes in 2″ wide rolls and is typically used with a dispenser – otherwise trying to peel the tape off the roll can lead to heart palpitations. The economy brands don’t have much tensile strength, but are fine for sealing small, lightweight boxes. Premium brands like Gorilla Heavy Duty Packaging Tape Tough & Wide (gorillatough.com) are thicker, have greater split and tear resistance and are much stronger. What I like about Gorilla tape is that it’s 3″ wide and comes with a reusable dispenser. I’ve found that it doesn’t leave a residue on wood when removed but does tend to tear off wood fibres on corners. I use it on cauls to keep them from being glued to the wood.
Packing tape shouldn’t be confused with strapping tape (a.k.a. filament tape). While the former is essentially a thin strip of plastic with an adhesive backing, strapping tape is made from polyester or polypropylene film that has continuous fibreglass filaments embedded in it. Think of it as packing tape on steroids.
Which brings us to Red Green’s favourite tape: duct tape, the handyman’s secret weapon. (Not to be confused with “Duck Tape” which is a brand name.) Duct tape is strong, waterproof and holds just about anything in place. It has more flexibility and greater tensile strength than packing tape and can be used on just about any surface – wood, plastic, metal, tile, glass, cement, brick and cardboard. There are consumer-grade brands, often grey but also transparent and in a range of colours , as well as thicker pro or contractor grade tapes like Permanent Gorilla Tape All Weather (gorillatough.com). Gorilla tape is markedly stronger than grey duct tape, adheres better and doesn’t crack or peel off when left outdoors for months on end.
Also called “double-faced” and “mounting” tape, this is the one to use when you need to stick two surfaces together. In the home it would most often be used to hold carpets in place or to hang lightweight objects onto a wall. In the shop it’s ideal for template routing, stack cutting on the bandsaw, attaching thin stock to a carrier board so you can run it through a thickness planer, and attaching turning blanks to face plates. For face-plate turning and for template work I use 2″ wide high-tack Gorilla Double Sided Tape (gorillatough.com).
Clear / Transparent Tape
Similar to packing tape, clear tape typically has less strength, thickness and width, and used to help you temporarily position and secure paper templates, French curves, plastic circular and other shaped templates, veneer, or many other things in the shop. There are even low-stick versions of clear tape that will come off paper, veneer and other surfaces easily, as well as high-stick tapes with extra adhesive on them. Clear tape is also available in double-sided form.
Veneer tape is specifically manufactured for laying up veneers. As the tape dries it shrinks, drawing the veneer edges tightly together, something you can’t achieve with masking or painter’s tape. It’s available in different thicknesses and widths and either solid or perforated. For thick and buckled veneer, a thicker, solid tape is a better choice. Thinner, perforated tapes enable you to see the seam so you can adjust any gaps before the tape dries. You can get no-hole veneer tape from Lee Valley (#27K0765, leevalley.com) and two- and three-hole tape from vacupress.com.
Edge banding is used to cover the edges of plywood that will be exposed. Preglued (a.k.a. iron-on) edge banding typically consists of real wood veneer with a hot-melt adhesive (ethylene vinyl acetate) applied to one face. You simply iron the veneer onto the plywood. Rolls of edge banding tape are available in a wide variety of species and in various lengths and widths. Home improvement retail outlets usually carry a limited selection.
Conventional drywall tape isn’t an adhesive tape – it’s a paper strip applied over a layer of drywall joint compound. It’s not all that easy to use and takes a fair amount of practice to master. If you’ll be doing any drywall work, choose a self-adhesive fibreglass mesh tape that’s applied over the joints. Compound flows through the tape and fills the joint. In a bathroom or laundry room use a mould- and moisture-resistant mesh tape. Top brands include CGC Sheetrock (usg.com) and FibaTape (us.adfors.com).
Commonly referred to as “the red tape” because of its colour, sheathing tape is widely used in the construction industry to seal joints on sheathing material and foam insulation. Typically made of a polypropylene film coated with an acrylic adhesive, it’s super strong, has a high tack and adhesive holding power, and is water, moisture and UV resistant. It’s the tape to use to eliminate air infiltration when doing any kind of renovation work on your home. The most popular brand is Tuck Tape (cantech.com).
Aluminum foil tape
Also called HVAC tape, it has an aluminum backing and a rubber-based adhesive. It’s most often used to secure seams, connections and joints on galvanized or aluminum sheet metal used on home furnaces, air conditioners, duct work and the like. It also adheres to plastic, fibreglass, wood panels and foam insulation panels. Foil tape can withstand temperatures up to 350°F and it’s both malleable and flexible, and easy to use, especially on awkward assemblies.
This black-coloured vinyl tape coated with a rubber-based adhesive is used to insulate low-voltage electrical wires. It stops electrical current from accidentally jumping from wire to wire, or to you. Note that you shouldn’t just splice wires together with tape; most electrical codes require you to use a wire nut as well. There are different coloured tapes for higher voltages. Electrician’s tape is tacky, has a fair amount of tensile strength and stretches well, but typically sticks to nothing but itself.
Carl Duguay - [email protected]
Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.