Gaff Tape 101
It’s called gaff, gaffer tape, gaff tape, gaffa tape and even mistakenly referred to as (shriek) duct tape. Gaff tape is used on stage at concerts and plays, on-set during film and TV production, in the racing industry and numerous others. Although it’s also widely used in other industries, we’ll just concern ourselves with the Entertainment industry, and specifically with touring.
Gaff tape should never be mistaken for duct tape. Although they have some similar properties, gaff tape has a cotton, cloth exterior and is much easier to tear than duct tape. One the most important characteristics about gaff tape is that it doesn’t leave a gooey residue when you peel it up. Hint: it won’t stick to cables.
On tour, gaff tape has slightly less than 1 million uses. The more common uses are to tape down cables on stage, hang up set lists & day sheets, line the stage (fluorescent gaff tape of course), and to create large arrows (again, usually with fluorescent colors) to point the way from the stage to dressing rooms, catering, production office, and so on.
Gaff tape comes in many sizes and colors, typically ranging from 1/4” to 4” thick with about 25 different colors available. The skinny gaff is also known as spike tape. Spike tape is commonly used to mark the position of various backline (amps, drums, keyboards) on stages, drum risers, etc. This makes for easy re-positioning of equipment that may have to be removed from the stage and re-positioned immediately before the show.
Some examples of the uses for gaff tape abound on the internet. Gaff tape has Facebook groups dedicated to it and many fans who “like” it. Google will give you 42,000 or so results on the search for “Gaff Tape”. There are people proudly displaying their gaff balls – no, not like that!! – go to YouTube and you'll find more than you want to watch. Who knew so much gaff tape was sold to transexuals?
And then there are your more common household uses of gaffers tape, like when you get stuck watching the kids.
See what I mean? It also makes a great soccer ball or torture device (though not endorsed or condoned by Tour Supply, Inc., all rights reserved, etc. etc.), lint remover, pick holder, or boom stand holder-upper. It’s especially useful for the guy who asks the guitar tech “Does he really play all of those guitars every night?”…who happens to be the same guy who asks the sound engineer “Do you know what each of those knobs does?
Of course gaff tape is readily available at your favorite Tour Supply (insert shameless self promotion here) but it can also be found at theatrical supply companies around the US. It’s most commonly sold in the 2” variety which can cost as much as $20 per roll but usually hovers in the $15 range to the end user.