Why You Should Be Using Gaffer Tape Instead of Duct Tape

Gaffer tape or duct tape? Line up a few rolls of each and you won’t be able to tell the difference but as soon as you get them in your hands, you’ll immediately know which is which. This isn’t much of a surprise since they are in fact completely different things. So, while duct tape is known for being able to fix any of the world’s problems, why is it that lighting and sound technicians turn to gaffer tape instead? We explain all in this little slip of a blog!

No Bits of Glue

Gaffer tape is named after the unsung heros of the theatre, stage, or studio: the lighting and electrical technicians. One of the most obvious advantages of using gaffer tape to fix a problem is that it leaves no sticky little bits of glue behind. Since tape is (usually) used as a temporary fix, it’s going to be removed at the end of the show or session, so you don’t want any gear or cables to be covered with sticky residue before being packed. Gaffer tape gracefully removes this worry since any residue is peeled away along with the tape. But if you’re using duct tape, it can be a very different, and very sticky story.

Easy to Tear

Gaffer tape is made of a vinyl coated light-weaved cloth and is therefore deliberately easy to tear. But it’s the same deal with duct tape, isn’t it? To an extent, yes, but only if you tear it straight across. Since you can easily tear a piece of gaffer tape down the middle into straight strips, you can pretty much tear it to size, while, due to the structure of duct tape, you’d have to call on the service of a pair of scissors to achieve the same level of tape-based precision.

It’s Not Shiny

In a theatre, studio, or on the stage, you don’t want the focus to be on how the cables have been installed rather than on the action. So, you don’t want to be using shiny tape that’s in danger of reflecting any light and stealing the show. This could never happen with a bit of gaffer tape, while it’s totally possible with a bit of shiny duct tape.

So Why Does Duct Tape Even Exist, Then?

So are there any situations where duct tape can save the day? Of course! It’s the perfect stuff if you need to quickly fix something around the house, but as soon as you put it anywhere near lighting or audio gear, it’s rendered obsolete so you’re better off just leaving it at home!

Balletfloor Tape

We couldn’t call this a blog about specialised tape if we didn’t at least mention balletfloor tape. Also known as PVC or AT-7 tape, this stuff is used for marking … you guessed it … a ballet floor, or in fact, any dance or performance floor. The special skill of this very special tape is that it’s flexible enough to move with the floor – since ballet floors are usually constructed so that they have some give and can absorb the impact of jumping and landing performers. But, since balletfloor tape isn’t actually that sticky, it doesn’t really lend itself well to any other situation.

So, what do you use gaffer tape for? Let us know in the comments.

1 response
  1. Gary says:

    Good article:

    Duct tape for wiring jobs but I prefer heat shrink. Cheap gaffer tape can be very sticky too so buy good stuff. Real gaffer tape should be in every mountaineers rucksack for taping split soles, fingers when climbing and mending tents!!


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