| “One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop.” Although that quote could have been said by many duct tape fanatics it was, in truth, said by G. Weilacher. As some duct tape fans know, duct tape is no longer just used for patching heating ducts or as an essential part of battle. Duct tape's uses range from clothes to inspiration for songs and a sermon to stylish gift bags and unique roses. This little three layered tapes meager beginnings have sprung up an almost cult following. But the real question is, why? What causes this type of tape to be stronger than its competitors? Does this tape even have a so-called Achilles heel? To explore these questions and more an experiment will be conducted after the writing of this paper to see how strong different brands of duct tape really are. First the answer to the question posed by one of the self-proclaimed “duct tape guys”, Tim Nyberg: “What do you mean, fix it with duct tape?” What indeed.
To find the answers to a person’s questions a person must have a little background information. Without this knowledge, a person cannot possibly hope to understand why duct tape was created the way it was, and for what purposes. Duct tape’s first predecessor was not actually a tape in the way a person normally thinks about it, but in fact was medical tape. Another similar tape is masking tape, which was created by Richard Drew of Minnesota, Mining and Manufacturing, more commonly known as 3M in 1942. The real reason duct tape came into existence was World War II. The army needed a tape that would be tough enough to hold up and also be able to keep things dry. Duct tape had to be created so that it was strong and easily ripped in a short amount of time with a person’s hand. The tape also had to be waterproof because it would be used to keep ammunition cases sealed and dry (Wilson par 1). Therefore, Johnson and Johnson Permacel Division went to work creating a tape that would meet the needed standards. Since its original uses were for the army the original color of duct tape was the standard army green. The tape was nicknamed “duck tape” because of its ability to have water drip off of it like rain of a duck’s feathers (Nymberg par 4).
After duct tape’s original army use, the tape went through little change. The color was changed to silver to match that of the heating ducts it was frequently used on. Of course, it is used for many other things such as prom dresses to win scholarships. No longer is duct tape just silver or green. New colors include camouflage, hot pink and fluorescent orange. Although it should be mentioned, however, that the variety of colors have not been shown to have any effect on the duct tape’s strength. This brief history of duct tape should give everyone a little insight into why duct tape was created to be so strong (Nymberg par 7).
All duct tape brands have one thing in common: they have three layers. The top layer is a strong plastic, or polyethylene film (Invention par 7). Polyethylene is a polymer of ethylene, a chemical compound that has many structural parts that are put together with bonds. Polyethlene has a molecular weight that is very high. A polymer makes synthetic rubber, fibers and plastics after being synthesized out of nature. Polyethylene has a structure made from which ethylene is H2C=Ch2 (Polymer). This polymer of ethylene creates the formula for polyethylene which is (-ch2-ch2-)a. Polyethylene is first made into film or sheet when it is being made for use in products. The polyethlene film or sheets are created at a high pressure. The polyethylene film is used in duct tape because it allows duct tape to be not affected by water, acids, alkalis and solvents. Polyethylene is also used in such products as packaging, shower curtains, unbreakable bottles, pipes, pails, drinking glasses and insulation for wires (Polyethylene 1). Now everyone should have a little bit of understanding on why duct tape can withstand great heat and water.
Now that everyone knows about the first layer of duct tape, this section of the paper will stick on the topic of the other two layers. The second layer of duct tape is the fabric mesh. In this respect duct tape is somewhat similar to its predecessor, medical tape (Invention par 2). Duct tape is also similar to medical tape’s predecessor -cotton duck cloth- which is used by hikers (Backpackers par 40). The third layer of duct tape is the adhesive or glue layer of duct tape. This layer is what allows the duct tape to stick to different surfaces (Nymberg par 2). So there are the three layers of duct tape: polyethylene, a fabric mesh, and the adhesive glues.
(indent} After a person knows what makes up duct tape let’s get into what factors affect the duct tape's ability to work. Cloth count, overall thickness and adhesive coating weight are the factors that overall effect duct tape’s performance. But the two factors, which mainly affect the performance, are the tape’s thickness and the number of threads in the cloth count. Thread count is the amount of threads that can be found in a one-inch wide strip of duct tape. Duct tape is stronger and easier to rip off the roll when it has a higher number of threads in its strip. Which is good because a quality roll of duct tape should require no scissors for its use. Different brands of duct tape have also shown drastically different abilities when it comes to the ability to work in strong weather from heat and the sun (Silver par 38). Another variable in the strength of duct tape is the price of the tape. In most findings and examples, the cheaper the roll of duct tape the worse the quality will be. If you look at the tape, a quality roll will have a tight weave (Nymberg par 9). Now to make the tape stronger manufacturers can make duct tape in one step not in three different layers. The best quality rolls of cut tape can even pull a two thousand pound car (Invention par 6). Besides the sheer strength of duct tape, there is also the matter of how well it sticks. Most duct tape should stick to itself. Some poor quality and electrician’s duct tape does not stick to itself and can be easily pulled off of itself. If duct tape does get stuck to itself it’s best to just throw it away and start over. No matter how strong the brand of duct tape is, it will not stick well to wet surfaces. The surface you are using would do well to be clean and dry. If a sticky residue from the duct tape is left on the surface it is best to use a product such as WD-40 to get the sticky residue off (Nymberg par 10,14). Apparently, as said earlier, Weilacher was right about WD-40 and duct tape.
By now most people should have seen how useful this tape could be. With brands such as Duck, Nashua, 3M, Anchor, Tessa and Tuck on the market everyone should be able to find some use for duct tape. “In Finland they refer to duct tape as ’Jesus Tape’. One can only assume it is because it is the savior of all things broken.” Reverend Mark A. Simone said that which pretty well sums up how many people feel about duct tape (Simone par 2). Duct tape's use has been found important to many college students who have won scholarships creating dresses and tuxedos out of duct tape. It has been found to be an effective remover of warts. Also, one zoo used duct tape to prevent a Joey from accidentally falling out of its mother pouch. Space shuttles from the United States of America do not take off without a roll of duct tape (Silver par 40). The true wonder of duct tape, it seems, is what each person makes of it.
Overall it’s easy to see what a gift this little spherical metallic tube of tape is. It has helped our nation out in times of battle and our scholars get money for school. It has fixed many things from the perils of destruction and made it possible to fix just about anything. The three important layers dubbed such names as polyethylene film, the fabric mesh, and adhesive or glue are absolutely nothing alone, but put together they amount to one of the most important inventions ever created. Duct tape’s impressive ability to hold on to most surfaces and stay there for years on end astounds many. It has an impeccable ability to pull massive weight, even that of a car. A tape whose only limits are that which is created by its own amount of cloth or thread count, which if woven tight enough, can be what holds everything together. No one person can put a price on that type of strength. Ok, well they can, and the higher the amount they set, the better the duct tape usually is. This duct, no, Jesus tape, cannot fix everything, but it can and will come very close to healing all that is broken. For it is the one, the only, duct tape.
Invention of Duct Tape. June 2004. November 29, 2004 <http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/ducttape.htm>
Nymber, Tim. Duct Tape 101. November 29, 2004 <http://www.octanecreative.com/ducttape/DT101/index.html>
“Polyethlene.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclpedia. 6th Edition. 2004.
“Polymer.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclpedia. 6th Edition. 2004
“The Silver Wonder.” Backpacker. October 2000:54. EBSCOhost.