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Gaffed Up – Protecting with Gaffer’s Tape

I trash my items quite often and I think the new year is a good time to start a new resolution of giving the cosmetics of my gears a little bit more care and protect it from my rough handling.

A gaffer’s tape is a cloth-based tape that is frequently used in theaters, tv production studios, and movie sets for various purposes such as marking stage positions for actors, holding cables down on the floor, taping things together, etc.

Gaffer tape leaves no sticky residue when removed and can be teared cleanly by hand, unlike duct tape. In addition, gaffer tape doesn’t damage the surface you’re removing it from, which makes it ideal when dealing with expensive equipment.

For photography, gaffer tape is often used to act as a sacrificial layer that protects the cosmetic surfaces of cameras and lenses. Some wildlife photographers use camoflage-pattern gaffer tape on their lenses to protect the lens against the constant contact from the outdoor elements.

Anyway, let’s get started. As always, I have to put in some disclaimers; 1) I’m a LOUSY arts & crafts guy, I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, and I totally can’t cut straight. 2) Results would be much better with a cutting mat and razor/Xacto blade. 3) If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have bothered with stenciling the tape and just stick pieces of rectangular tape.

Here’s one of my lens hood, it’s barely half a year old and I’ve scratched it quite a bit from frequently placing the camera on the ground.

In case you’re wondering, this is how a roll of gaffer tape looks like. The 77mm cap is included for size reference for a typical roll.

1) We start off with tracing the shape of the lens hood. Naturally, it’ll be a lot easier with a round hood than a petal hood.

2) Trace the hood’s edge, by rolling it slowly across the paper and tracing the hood along the way.

3) Once you’re done, mark the base on various part of the stencil.

4) Now connect the line/dots to form your base.

5) Cut your guide lines. I ran out of paper for the other “short” side, but that’s alright.

6) Mount the paper onto your lens hood and check for size. As you can see, I can’t cut to save my life, so I’m sure you’ll do a better job.

7) Once you’ve perfected the paper stencil, it’s time to cut the tape itself. In hindsight, I should’ve just mounted the tape onto my cutting mat instead of trying to draw around a round surface (duh!).

It’s so much harder when you use a pair of utility scissors instead of a precision cutting tool. Anyway, here’s the final product. Note how lousy my edges are, but that’s fine with me as I have low standards when it comes to these things.

Now the lens hood is ready to face the cement floor, window rails, and all other surfaces it meets when I’m shooting.

I’ve always snickered when I see ads in local forums offering gaffering services for lenses and other equipment. I thought “how hard could it be?”, but frankly it’s hard to do properly especially when a lot of folks like to gaffer every exposed, non-moving surface in their equipment.

How does it look? Quite frankly, not as bad as using those preposterous plastic armor but still quite ugly. Think of it as putting a black vinyl hood bra on a Bugatti, not appealing, but if you expose your gear to the elements, gaffer tapes are a cheap and effective way to protect your gears.

eBay has a lot of them, but shipping to Asia would cost a whallop.

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