Duct tape, as we know it, was created during the Second World War. The military needed a tape that would be 1) waterproof and 2) could be easily torn.

Duct tape was born. A rubber-based adhesive was apply to mesh cloth with the rubberized waterproof coating. It was originally army green.

Though commonly believed to be the same thing, 90 miles an hour tape is different from duct tape. I was lucky enough to come in contact with quite a bit of this stuff through a crazy "I only shop at Army/Navy" type. Its usually beige, thinner than duct tape, and unlike duct tape, it can withstand speeds of up to 90 miles an hour.

A few things to note about duct tape: If you want it to stay on cloth (duct tape patches are fun), run a hair dryer on high over the duct tape, first straight on from the front, and then from the back of the cloth, which will melt the adhesive and therefore make it stay more permanently on the cloth. (It does withstand the wash cycle, I can tell you that much)

If chewed for a long time, it gains the consistency of ABC gum. (No suggestions on that however, since that tip comes from a friend)

And last but not least, permanent marker (Sharpie) is not permanent on standard duct tape, and will rub off quite easily. I'm told that paint pens are more hardy when it comes to duct tape decoration.

Another interesting fact is that during the Second World War, The Air Force (nope can't remember what one, guessing the British) used duct tape to cover the gun holes on bombers. This was due to the fact that they were carrying so much weight that they needed to get that little bit of air resistance to a minimum so they could take off.

Duct tape....

"is a vinyl tape with imbedded cotton threads to give it added strength. designed to be torn to length without tools, it is very strong and durable"
"has a very aggressive adhesive and is waterproof. It's great for repairs, holding cables to the floor and color coding."

but it can be dangerous when placed in the wrong hands...

This story starts with some gentleman called Tom Ridge who runs something called the Department of Homeland Security. I know this sounds like a name for the secret police for some tin pot African dictatorship but is in fact a real and genuine part of the federal government of the good old USA pledged to defend the nation from terrorist assault.

This Mr Ridge advised his fellow Americans to stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting in case of some kind of terrorist attack. Quite why Americans are so obsessed with what seems to be just extra-strong sellotape is quite beyond me, but duct tape does seem to be regarded with some sort of special reverence.

Taking heed of this advice was one Steven J. Bosell, of the town of Corona in California who dutifully trotted down to his local Costco and purchased a hundred dollars worth of duct tape and some plastic sheeting, in order to 'protect' his home from 'radiation'. (I get the impression that Mr Bosell doesn't quite appreciate the intricacies of nuclear physics.)

As Mr Bosell himself later explained;

"As soon as I got home, I taped up the doors and windows, but then I did some thinking. I realised that if survivors like myself are going to reproduce and repopulate the earth after a biological attack, then we have to protect our private parts as well."

Oh my! You can just see what's coming next can't you? That's right, Mr Bosell is about to demonstrate that thinking is not something he does well.

"I used my last roll of duct tape to wrap up my privates, leaving just a little hole at the end for toilet functions."

(I think it's safe to assume that Mr Boswell didn't have a girlfriend at the time.)

Some days later the Department of Homeland Security announced the 'all clear' and Mr Bosell concluded it was time to remove the duct tape. (Feel free to wince now.) After some loss of skin and body hair, a certain degree of blood loss and a good deal of pain Mr Bosell concluded this was a job for professionals and phoned for an ambulance.

The tape was duly removed from Mr Bosell's nether regions by the combined efforts of various medical professionals although not without further damage; both physical and psychological, as the various doctors and nurses concerned seemed to regard the whole situtation as somewhat amusing. As Mr Bosell was later to complain;

"They went out their way to make me look like a fool. Once I saw the doctor's scalpel go toward my privates, I totally lost it and blacked out"

Of course being an American that is not the end of it. Naturally enough Mr Bosell blames the government. In particularly Tom Ridge for giving "bad advice" and George W. Bush for hiring Tom Ridge in the first place whose combined efforts, complained Mr Bosell, "make me look like a fool". (Although Mr Bosell seems to have demonstrated that he was quite capable of doing so on his own without anyone's assistance.)

Mr Bosell has therefore followed American tradition and filed a a lawsuit against Tom Ridge, the Department of Homeland Security and the President of the United States claiming compensation for "emotional distress, personal injury, and sexual dysfunction".

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Definition of Duct Tape from http://www34.pair.com/harrison/thetapeworks.com/duct.htm

Mr Bosell's ordeal from
The Corona Times 13 Feb 2003 quoted in Private Eye no 1076 and at http://www.giannimartini.com

Duct tape (or "Duck Tape", I'll get to that part later) is considered to be almost magical in its applications.

"Duct tape is like the Force: it has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together." -Unknown

"There are only two things you need in life:  duct tape and WD-40.  If it moves and it shouldn't, use the duct tape.  If it doesn't move and it should, use the WD-40." -Unknown

"Duck tape" was invented around WWII - soldiers needed a strong adhesive, and "duck" tape had another useful property - water rolled off the surface, akin to a duck's feathers.  After WWII, it became widespread in ducting (AC/heating applications), and gained its classic gray color that we all know and love.

Duct tape has been used for just about everything - books have been published on the subject.  There is even a scholarship that offers college money to couples who dress entirely in duct tape for their senior proms.  Duct tape purses were a brief fashion trend a few years ago (this being written in 2008), and some still hold that fashion to this day.  I once knew a man who built the chassis of his car from steel rods and duct tape. 

Duct tape is the "emergency fix" for just about everything.  Even when electrical, gaffers, or another type of tape would work just as well, we default to the mystical duct tape.  It has been used to hold aquariums together, plug holes in boats, serve as temporary door hinges, and even as a way to protect a house from radiation (although this didn't work out so well in the end).  Basically, if it moves and it shouldn't, use duct tape.

I guess the maxim "you can fix anything with duct tape" holds somewhat true - its wide range of uses and versatility make it preferred over other adhesives, even when the other adhesives may do a better job.  I suppose that keeping a roll of duct tape is better (to some people) than keeping five other rolls around for different uses.

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