Canadian Woodworking
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Great adhesive tapes for shop and home

Author: Carl Duguay
Photos: Carl Duguay
Published: June July 2023
adhesive tapes
adhesive tapes

Eleven tapes to keep on hand.

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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)

adhesive tapes

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.

adhesive tapes

Strong Tape
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)

adhesive tapes

Packing Tape
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)

adhesive tapes

Double-Sided Tape
Duguay uses 2" wide high-tack tape when he wants extreme strength from a double-sided tape, like with this lathe operation.

adhesive tapes

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)

adhesive tapes

Veneer Tape
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.

adhesive tapes

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.

adhesive tapes

Sheathing Tape
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)

adhesive tapes

Aluminum Foil Tape
Often used in the HVAC industry, aluminum foil tape can handle high temperatures with ease. (Photo by Cantech)

adhesive tapes

Tape Dispenser
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.

tape dispenser

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.

Packing 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.

Duct tape

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.

Double-sided tape

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 tape

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.

Drywall tape

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).

Sheathing tape

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.

Electrician’s tape

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.

8 Comments

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  2. I know many folks suggest blue tape to catch glue squeeze out, but I strongly encourage using standard beige masking tape. If the blue tape gets squeezed into the joint, you are left with a thin blue line (good news: no police are involved) along the joint. If you had used standard beige masking tape, the thin beige line is only visible if you look for it. [Don’t ask me how I know.] As far as leaving a gummy residue, if you remove the tape as soon as the glue is sufficiently gelled, there is no residue issue. If you leave the tape on for weeks, you probably have other issues to deal with.

  3. One thing that should be mentioned is the shelf life of tapes. Some seem to last forever, others dry out and become useless, particularly the masking tapes.

    1. I have heard that some do ‘decay’ rather prematurely Chris, but I go through my tape rather quickly so haven’t come across that. Tape exposed to UV light tends to dry up quickly as well.

  4. One tape I have used in a variety of situations is high friction tape. It seems to only come in red from Lee Valley Tools. Also useful in the household, for example on the long handle of the oven door so that tea/dish towels won’t slide off.

  5. One tape I feel should be added to this list with an honourable mention is Alien Tape. As gimmicky as it appears, it is a mainstay in my shop & I use it very often for work holding on my cnc. I use it sandwiched between painter’s tape for easy removal, without the painters tape, it is very difficult to remove.

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