Genius: Make a Gaffer's Tape Key Fob

Like most photographers—especially lighting photographers—I love me some gaffer's tape.

Today, a great way to carry enough gaff on your physical person at all times to fix a light mod, tack a piece of fabric to a wall for a headshot backdrop, hog-tie a captured smuggler or whatever.

Get your MacGuyver on, below.

So we are gonna make a gaffer's tape keychain fob, out of the ingredients pictured at top. That right there is 40" of gaff, effortlessly carried by default, at all times.

I totally stole this idea from one of my favorite blogs, The Art of Manliness, but they had it as being for duct tape.

No, no, no. While duct tape may in fact be more manly, gaff is what duct tape wishes it could be. And it is what photographers use because of its holding power and ease of clean removal. Don't ever mistake the two.

Be that as it may, if you are a guy—and especially if you are a dad with a son—then Art of Manliness should be a regular read. They are consistently great, and worth back-reading and/or RSS'ing.

Let's Make Our Gaffer's Tape Key Fob

Mine's a little different than AoM's version, with a stronger center and a completely encased wire. So, using the items at top, measure your pencil to the width of the gaff (slightly longer is better than exactly even, I found out) and cut it:

I used the wirecutter part of needle nosed pliers and "nibbled" an indentation around the edge of the pencil until the center cleanly snapped. Then I "sanded" it smooth on the driveway. Cause I'm a guy, obviously.

Now, we'll snip and bend the paper clip (I used a robust one) to make the connector for the keyring as shown:

Next, we'll roll it up. I went through one side of the wire, then around the pencil, then around the other side of the wire to have the tape pass through both loops for strength. Then continue to roll it as shown.

I let the gaff tape hang as I rolled it onto the pencil and the tape stayed pretty straight. But you'll still have to guide and/or adjust it. I stopped at three feet and change. Much more and it would start to feel clunky:

So there you are. Several feet of gaff at the ready. I guarantee you I'll end up needing this within a month. It's awesome.

And duct tape? Pffffft. That stuff's for amateurs.


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Blogger Andy D said...

Fantastic idea I will never carry a whole roll of Gaffer around on my wrist again.
I totally agree with your comparison between Gaffer and Duct tape.
Gaffer tape isn't called Gaffer for nothing.

March 05, 2013 6:44 AM  
Blogger Matthew R said...

I used to work at a commercial studio and we used to do a similar thing with winding gaffer's tape around a medium format spool. Keeps the sides of the tape cleaner and we'd throw them in every bag we had. Saved my butt on more than one occasion.

March 05, 2013 7:28 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great idea. I will most certainly doing this. And thank for the blog reference. I will certainly give it a read.

March 05, 2013 8:12 AM  
Blogger Paul S said...

Simply brilliant.... the only problem is I can't find my keys :(...

March 05, 2013 9:04 AM  
Blogger Jon Bloom said...

Hmmm.... I wind mine around a 35-mm film can (remember those?), but this would be less bulky. Then again, the film can is no-assembly-required. Yeah, I know, not so manly.

March 05, 2013 9:05 AM  
Blogger MikeScottPhoto said...

Kinda ghetto, but a nice way to collect pocket lint (on the sticky ends).

I keep a couple of feet of gaff wrapped around a Sharpie marker in each of my camera bags.. I’ve always got enough tape to attach a gel or spike an X on the floor for my subject to stand on.. and I always have a Sharpie handy too.

March 05, 2013 9:13 AM  
Blogger Eugene Simonalle said...

Best job I ever had was one where we used gaffers tape like it was candy. We literally bought it by the pallet. When we finished with a job, we'd roll the tape up and have these giant balls, bigger than basket balls, that made great weapons.

best stuff on Earth--wayy better than Snapple.

March 05, 2013 9:43 AM  
Blogger Carmon Rinehart said...

The fob is cool, the sharpie method is cool too. I also use the film can, capped and loaded with quarters for parking meters, or vending machines :-]. May have gotten that here from one of the Davids: Hobby or Tejada.

March 05, 2013 10:02 AM  
Blogger Carmon Rinehart said...

The fob is cool, the sharpie method is cool too. I also use the film can, capped and loaded with quarters for parking meters, or vending machines :-]. May have gotten that here from one of the Davids: Hobby or Tejada.

March 05, 2013 10:05 AM  
Blogger Cliff Etzel said...

AoM totally RULZ! - And again David, you have shown we are PhotoJ brothers on opposite sides of the country. Nice piece.

March 05, 2013 10:35 AM  
Blogger bobfoto said...

Great idea David!

You could also make several of these and use a split keyring to attach them to the strap attach D rings on your camera bags too.

In the past I have used the marker technique mentioned above. It has come in handy on numerous occasions.

March 05, 2013 11:27 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Back in the day when I worked on film sets, as a camera assistant, we would use the empty cores from 35mm film for this. We used the 1" version of gaff tape, and would have a whole string of various colors dangling off our belt for instant access.
Keep up the good work, David.

March 05, 2013 11:31 AM  
Blogger RexGRP said...

Is that gaffer tape in your pocket or are you just glad to see me....My ring of keys is big enough without adding to it.
It's a clever idea, but instead I keep pieces of tape on my, monopod, tripod, and a couple lens shades.

March 05, 2013 12:20 PM  
Blogger Chris Parker said...

I recently found in an office supply store that they sell tape in sheet form. An 8x10 sheet is easy to carry in your camera bag or computer satchel. Just cut out the exact size and shape you need. It takes up no more space than a sheet of paper.

March 05, 2013 12:58 PM  
Blogger David R Martinson said...

Effing Brilliant!

March 05, 2013 1:12 PM  
Blogger Tango Juliet said...

1I'd like to see the lighting diagrams for the two initial images please. ;)

March 05, 2013 1:14 PM  
Blogger jim "shu" carroll said...

how about leaving the pencil 1/4" too long and having an eraser on your keychain, too? cool hack!

March 05, 2013 1:29 PM  
Blogger Juan said...

Since you can't have too many ways to carry your gaffer tape, I'll add one more to the mix. My friend and mentor showed me the trick of using an old credit card to wrap the gaffer tape around. It's the perfect size for a 2" wide roll and you can get several feet on it and not take up much more room than the card itself. I always carry one in my pocket at weddings.

March 05, 2013 2:25 PM  
Blogger joe said...

I keep lengths of it wrapped around most things that have legs: light stands, my tripod, a monopod that my second photographer uses to hold a strobe and umbrella when we're moving and don't want to mess with a stand.

March 05, 2013 3:53 PM  
Blogger Nicky Heppenstall said...

But you can keep parking change in it.

March 05, 2013 7:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Talk about great timing. I found out my 50mm f1.4 lens hood is a bit loose and realized that I need to start putting a little tape on it or lose it. I have a big roll and was trying to figure out on Sunday how I could just take part of it. Well now I know. Thanks so much for such a useful tip.

March 05, 2013 8:51 PM  
Blogger JimDonahue said...

Duck tape is for ducks

March 05, 2013 10:32 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

The best gaffer's tape you can buy comes from theatre supply stores. Find your local professional lighting or sound company and buy from them. Sure, it may cost $30+ per roll for the good stuff, but it blows the home-renovation-store gaffer's tape out of the water.

March 06, 2013 8:40 AM  
Blogger David Stembridge said...

Just made one for my Domke bag! Thanks, Great tip!!!

March 07, 2013 10:46 AM  
Blogger Martin Hobby said...

I wrap it around an old 120 film spool.

March 07, 2013 5:03 PM  
Blogger Crystal Madsen said...

I love this idea. Its simple and cheap. I was actually wondering if they sold the tape in smaller rolls. Being a wedding photographer I always need this tape for something at a wedding. Thanks for sharing

March 08, 2013 11:55 AM  
Blogger Ian Ivey said...

What's a "pencil?"

March 09, 2013 2:26 AM  
OpenID rhombus said...

Gaffer's tape - it fixes kids too!

Yesterday I went hiking with my 4 years old. Right on the park entry path, she scraped her palm. Very minor, but enough to ruin the day given all the rock climbing ahead of us, and no band-aid would survive the abuse.

Luckily, Dad was carrying his pack of "are you sure you need all that heavy fragile expensive stuff on your back?" camera gear, so gaffer's tape to the rescue! A few strips around the little hand, and we were good to go for the rest of the day. Plus she got bragging rights for "look how strong my hand is!".

BTW, I carry my gaff in flat rolls, 8" long. Just make a flat core by folding over a 8" run of tape (sticky-side-to-sticky-side), then roll a few feet around this core. Then cram this somewhere (say, flat against your SoftBox III) and wait until it saves the day.

March 10, 2013 3:57 AM  
Blogger Jill Evans said...

How about gaff wrapped around a Maglite Solitare? Then you have a flashlight attached as a key chain and you can see what you're taping.

March 10, 2013 1:31 PM  
Blogger Jonny Milstein said...

Am I the only one with way too many unwanted key fobs?!? Send me your address and I'll save you some precious precious gaffer's tape and safety pins!

March 10, 2013 10:24 PM  
Blogger Jason G. McClain said...

If I may recommend, cut little slots into the side of the pencil so that the paper clip does not throw the wrap off as you add more and more tape. This way you don't end up with a Chinese finger trap of gaffer tape.

March 12, 2013 9:23 PM  
Blogger sirmilesdavis said...

great idea. my solution (until now) was to have strips of tape on everything. travel cases tripod and stand legs....even the base of my camera. that way, at any point I can hog tie a felon!

March 16, 2013 1:19 PM  
Blogger Jan Fredrik Leversund said...

Really? Nano rolls are too big to carry around?

March 27, 2013 9:40 PM  
Blogger Matt Gholston said...

I did something similar on one of those stainless pill fobs from CVS that you put emergency medicine in. Already has the split ring on it. Great idea.

April 09, 2013 12:12 AM  

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