Sunday, April 19, 2015

Blue tape and a piece of paper. What else do you need?

I love 3M blue painter's tape. Period. I always have it in my tool bag, and a few more rolls rattling around in Old Red. Old Red is my 1995 GMC pickup truck. It's still reasonably reliable but it's always slowly oozing colorful vital fluids from engine orifices. Let's just leave it with no one asks me if I have any Grey Poupon mustard while I'm driving around town in it. Overhead is my bitter enemy so I'm reluctant to send it to hospice until I have to.

Lets get back to the blue tape stuff. I rarely use it for it's intended purpose and instead apply it to a myriad other uses and needs.

This isn't an ad for the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company but I have tried the low budget alternatives. They all look sort of the same but sadly most aren't as good. So I pay the wee fiscal premium and use the name brand product exclusively. I can't afford tape failure during critical installation procedures. Blue tape stat cabin boy.

My most common use is keeping things from closing. It's a open wide and say aah thing. Blue tape holds open most cabinet and center console doors and T-top electronic's box hatches. You know these. The're the ones with the gas springs that no longer have any gas in them.

That heavy deck hatch that just barely just stays open is an issue. The slightest zephyr, or movement of the boat it can cause it to hurtling down causing the stainless latch of death to impale me. Blue tape helps with that.

On occasion I have to install those U shaped cabinet pulls and blue tape is perfect for templating the bolt hole locations. Stick it across the pull, use a pen to mark the holes, and then transfer the marked tape to the door. Easy peasy, fast and accurate.

Yes I know I can use a Sharpie to mark starboard, but I have a firm rule. I never ever carry one of these implements onto a boat. The ink in them is way too permanent.

One inadvertent slip or drop of a Sharpie onto the new white pleather couch can create a devastating fiscal impact. For me at any rate. The better alternative is to put blue tape on the starboard area you want to mark for a hole. This is where the 3M product works better than the budget brands. Hardly anything sticks to starboard and this stuff sticks well enough.

Blue tape is also a handy instant straight edge, especially on a boat where few things are truly straight. This barrel bolt is a good example. The blue tape is run across the cabinet door and frame.

I used a piece of 8.5"paper as a square and taped it on the door where I wanted the barrel bolt to go. The top line was then extended with blue tape across the door to the frame. this made it easy to put the catch plate in both the correct and eye pleasing position.

But wait there is more, add a folded paper towel and you get an instant bandage with a designer blue cover. Use it to protect areas from jigsaws and other cutting implements.

It's durable and waterproof enough to cover holes for short periods of time. Because it doesn't leave any residue behind it's perfect for sealing the ends of hydraulic hoses before you drag them through the nether regions of the boat. When I refer to nether regions on a boat I'm not using the Urban Dictionary definition. This is just so you don't get the wrong idea and then can't unsee it.

Now behold the common MFP (Multi-Function Paper) 8.5" x 11" daylight viewable version. It's a really handy thing to use on a boat. I don't carry a ream of the stuff with me, but I always have some floating around. My dad used to say paper is cheap, and he was right. 

You're going to get a small dose of very basic 4th grade math here, so for those who are suffering from an ARI (Alcohol Related Incident) or have the attention span of a shrimp you can stop now or all you're going to hear is blah, blah, blah.

As inexpensive as paper is, it's made to very exacting tolerances. Out of the box the 90 degree corners are as accurate as any square you can buy. With one quick fold you can get a 45 degree angle. That quick 45 degree angle fold does another interesting thing. You now have a square that is 8.5" on a side. The diagonal is almost exactly 12" (12.02). This give you the basis to make a fairly accurate ruler. We have some numbers available to work with. 12" and 6 inches. Fold the 6" in half and we now have 3". We also have 11" you can subtract from 12" to get 1". Take the 3" and subtract 2.5" and you now have .5" and you can easily get to a .25 measurement and so on.

Okay this doesn't beat a tape measure by any means for speed, but if you don't have one with you.... you can get a good idea quickly for a panel that's going to cover where a MFD lived its life or the ilk. It's an in situ MacGyver sort of thing.

Finding the center of a circle is easy to do with some blue tape and a piece of paper to use as a square. Put two pieces of tape at about 90 degree from each other as shown.

Use a pencil to mark the spots where the edge of the tape meets the circle. Now carefully pull off the tape and fold in half lining up where the two marks meet. I don't have to remind you you not fold it so the sticky sides meet do I?

Mark the center crease and using the marks put the tape back in place. Now use a piece of paper as a square and draw a line past the center of the circle. Repeat and where the lines meet is the center.

This is the last of the simple tricks and that is using geometry to find the center of a console. Simply use the tape to make two diagonal lines, and where the twain meet is the center.

There are more tricks you can do with the basic geometry you learned in elementary school and then promptly filed away in your mental shredder.

As a last personal note I'm acutely aware that my posting rate has precipitously plummeted and I'm trying to correct this. A combination of deadlines for others, an unprecedented increase in my day job installation work, and Signal K activities have made tending my favorite writing project difficult. I will strive to do better in the future.

Late next week with be the first part of a series about installing a Signal K system. I'm doing two prototype systems. One on a Raymarine equipped 40' Tartan, and the other on a Garmin based 39' Searay MY. This will be fun and very eye opening.


  1. This is great stuff, Bill. I'm sharing it. Of course, I was shown the "use a piece of letter paper as a protractor, etc." years ago, but it disappeared in the mental bin about the time the hormones kicked in.

  2. Thanks Rhys, although I used nearly a years worth of math geekness up in one piece. You can also fold a square piece of paper to make a protractor with 120, 90, 75, 60, 45, 30, 15 and more degrees by halving some of the others.