Duct Tape is widely known to skiers as a must have tool for any backcountry adventure but where did it come from, what is it made out of, and how does it work? To answer these questions and more we bring you How Duct Tape Fixed the World via gizmodo.com.
Duct tape solves just about any problem (for a little while, at least). Busted truck bumpers, cracked trash cans, an endless list of other household fractures—if two things are better off stuck together, duct tape is the answer. But how did we come up with this miracle on a spool? And what makes one product so good at so much home improvement?
Duct Tape’s War Story
Richard Drew, a 3M engineer working in St. Paul MN, is credited with inventing adhesive tape. While testing 3M’s new “Wetordry” brand sandpaper at a local auto body shop in 1923, Drew noticed that workers there were having a hell of a time achieving sharp, clean lines on their two-tone paint jobs. His solution—Scotch Brand Cellulose Tape, the world’s first adhesive-backed masking tape—debuted five years later and made 3M a household name.
Fast forward to the 1940s, with America fighting in WWII. As part of the domestic war effort, Johnson and Johnson’s Permacell division devised and perfected a military-grade adhesive tape to seal ammo boxes against moisture during transport. Permacell researchers found a way to insert fine-mesh duck cloth between the Scotch tape’s polyethelene backing and rubber-based adhesive. This created a strong, durable tape that repelled water like a duck’s feathers—with that ability, and the duck cloth construction, it had to be called “Duck Tape.”
Servicemen quickly found uses for this versatile material beyond just keeping ammo dry. They slapped duck tape on everything from tents to Jeeps as a quick, temporary fix. Air Force flight crews even covered their aircraft’s gun ports with the stuff to cut down on drag during takeoff.
At the end of the war, manufacturers replaced the Army Green backing with the now-familiar silver, and marketed it as a fix-all solution for repairing leaks in a home’s forced-air heating system. Thus, duck tape became duct tape.
What It’s Made Of
Duct tape is still made much in the same way it was in the Permacell labs. A cotton mesh constitutes the tape’s core, giving it strength as it’s stretched, along with an ability to be torn along its length or width. Keep Reading…