Duct tape is a material with legendary status among nerds, and has been used to build or repair countless things. Recently, I discovered that all the admirable qualities of duct tape, along with a few extras, can be found in matte black gaffer tape. The principle advantages of gaffer tape are that the adhesive won’t get deposited on materials where it is used, leaving them sticky once the tape is removed, and the more closely-spaced fibres. Like duct tape, gaffer tape can be ripped into neat strips and used without other tools. The more closely-spaced fibres allow for more control over the shape of the pieces, and neater strips overall. It can also be unstuck and re-stuck more cleanly and easily than duct tape can.
So far, I have used the new tape to repair the fraying bits on my bike handlebars, repair and reinforce the leather folder where I carry issues of The Economist, tape down the switch on the power bar beneath my desk that I sometimes hit accidentally, and strengthen the bindings on some used hardcover books. I plan to use it to make some flash accessories.
One disadvantage of gaffer tape, aside from the somewhat higher cost ($0.26 per yard rather than about $0.20), is that it is much harder to find. Since I first learned about it in a photography textbook, I thought it might be available in photo stores. After having no luck there, I ordered some online from National Hardware Sales. For those looking for something bolder than matte black, they also have the stuff in neon colours.