Roll the Tape

Cruising World - - Contents - Monthly Main­te­nance by Steve D’an­to­nio

Choose the right mask­ing tape for the job.

When it comes to some­thing as ubiq­ui­tous as good old mask­ing tape, not all types are cre­ated equal. here mask­ing tape is con­cerned, the first mat­ter to ad­dress is whether you wish to leave the tape in place, ex­posed to the el­e­ments (in­clud­ing dew), for more than 24 hours. If not, you (and your wal­let) are in luck. Ex­cept when used with twopart coat­ings, good old khaki-col­ored mask­ing tape, the type that’s been around for decades, is fine. While you wouldn’t want to use it to pull a fine line, such as a boot or sheer stripe, it will work well for an­tifoul­ing paint and many other less-than­precise ap­pli­ca­tions.

At just 4 or 5 dol­lars a roll, this tape is in­ex­pen­sive, and you won’t feel too bad if a roll is left out in the rain, which will al­most cer­tainly ren­der it un­us­able (one of my pet peeves when I ran a boat­yard). If


you re­quire greater def­i­ni­tion to an edge and a finer line — as well as re­sis­tance to sol­vents and two-part paints — a high­per­for­mance ver­sion of this tape (3M 218 Fine Line mask­ing tape) is avail­able for about $17 a roll, de­pend­ing on the width. This tape can be stretched to make smooth curves, but it also can be torn with­out us­ing a knife as you com­plete a run.

Again, be­ware: Th­ese types of mask­ing tape are, for the most part, not weath­er­re­sis­tant. Even stor­ing them in a damp en­vi­ron­ment can de­stroy them. It’s hard to watch a boat owner la­bo­ri­ously mask off bright­work, ap­ply a coat of var­nish and then not re­turn straight­away be­cause the weather turns poor for a week or two. When it comes time to re­move this tape, it will stub­bornly re­sist. Much of it will be left be­hind as strips are pulled up and torn, of­ten re­quir­ing the use of a ra­zor scraper and ad­he­sive re­mover. Upon ex­po­sure to mois­ture — it takes noth­ing more than dew to wreck it — this tape will sep­a­rate from its ad­he­sive, leav­ing a for­mi­da­ble cleanup task for the un­wary user.

Th­ese days there’s a wide range of mask­ing-tape op­tions be­yond the stan­dard va­ri­ety, too many to list all of them here. How­ever, a cou­ple are es­pe­cially use­ful and note­wor­thy. For any mask­ing job that may be ex­posed to rain and sun for up to seven days (or 14 days in­doors), you must move up to the next level of tape so­phis­ti­ca­tion. In that case, 3M’s blue medium-ad­he­sion mask­ing tape fits the bill. Medium ad­he­sion means it’s un­likely to pull paint and var­nish off with it as it’s re­moved. (There are other tape man­u­fac­tur­ers be­sides 3M, but my ex­pe­ri­ence is with this de­pend­able brand; the com­pany in­vented mask­ing tape in 1925.) If your project will last longer than this, and you don’t wish to re­move and re­place tape ev­ery seven days, then sil­ver mask­ing tape is the right choice, as it can be used out­doors for more than 30 days. In fact, I’ve used it for twice this du­ra­tion, but plan on a min­i­mum of a month. This tape is also use­ful for tem­po­rary on-deck

re­pairs, such as a leaky hatch.

All mask­ing tapes are not very strong, nor are they meant to be. But if you sim­ply need a mois­ture bar­rier, the sil­ver va­ri­ety works well. Avoid the temp­ta­tion to use duct tape for any tem­po­rary on-deck re­pair. Once it’s wet, its back­ing sep­a­rates from its tena­cious glue, which is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to re­move.

In short, de­ter­mine what you will need in the way of weather re­sis­tance, chem­i­cal com­pat­i­bil­ity and the fine­ness of the line be­fore reach­ing for a roll of mask­ing tape. 3M and other tape man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­vide de­tailed sales in­for­ma­tion for all of their prod­ucts, mak­ing the se­lec­tion process rel­a­tively easy.

Lastly, here’s a tip: The nat­u­ral ten­dency when re­mov­ing tape is to pull it at 90 de­grees to the sur­face. That’s fine if the sur­face is gel­coat, but if, for in­stance, it’s an old var­nished sole or re­cently ap­plied enamel paint, there’s a risk of pulling the coat­ing with it. To avoid that, pull the tape back closer to 180 de­grees. By do­ing so, you’ll cre­ate less stress on the coat­ing’s bond.

Steve D’an­to­nio of­fers ser­vices for boat own­ers and buy­ers through Steve D’an­to­nio Marine Con­sult­ing (steved­marinecon­sult­

Many sailors now pre­fer blue mask­ing tape (above left). Its re­sis­tance to mois­ture and sun­light makes it a safe bet when re­moval isn’t guar­an­teed the same day. When tap­ing off an an­tifoul­ing job, ap­ply wax af­ter mask­ing jobs are com­plete, as freshly waxed sur­faces will test the tape’s ad­he­sive abil­i­ties (top right). Mask­ing tape can also be use­ful for large caulk­ing jobs (above right).

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