DIY Gaff Tape lanyard

Gaff tape is an indispensable tool on any film set. If you don’t know what gaffer’s tape is, it’s a lot like duct tape, except it won’t leave a sticky adhesive residue, and it comes in many colors (black, however, is standard.) I usually keep two rolls of 2″ wide tape, as well as 1″ wide camera tape and 1/2″ wide spike tape with me. Camera tape has lower adhesion and is designed to tape the seams of camera magazines so that the film doesn’t get exposed accidently. Spike tape is thin gaff tape used for marking (or spiking) locations for set pieces or actors. But how to carry all of this gaff tape around?FilmTools.com sells a gaff tape lanyard for $10. I figured I could build one myself pretty easily. I ended up doing it for free since I had all the parts. First thing you need: rope.

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I used some cotton cord I found in my basement. Black (as always) is standard, but I only had white, no big deal. The “professional” lanyard has loops swaged into it. I don’t have a swaging tool, so I used a knot. Specifically a bowstring knot, which is used to tie the ends of bow strings into an eye to attach to the bow. It’s a solid knot that won’t come undone once tightened.

Step 1: Make an overhand loop.

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Step 2: Make a bight.

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Step 3: Insert bight into loop. You now have a regular overhand knot with a loop sticking out.

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Step 4: Take the loose end and pass it over the fixed end and through the indicated hole.

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Step 5: Tighten and you’re done.

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Expect the bowstring knot to take about 5 inches of rope to tie. The “real” lanyard is 16 inches long, so cut a piece of rope 26 inches long. Of course you can always experiment with the length, depending on how much tape you carry.

Tie the bowstring knot in both ends, and get yourself the only other piece you need, a carabiner. It doesn’t have to be a fancy one, a keychain “not for climbing” biner will work just fine. I had three laying around from various camping accessories.

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You’re done. Hook your gaff tape lanyard to your belt and you’ll be ready for the film set.

If you want to be really fancy and professional like the Film Tools guys, you can get some heat shrink tubing and shrinky-dink over your knots. It’s not required since the knot won’t come undone, but it will look nicer. Also, a good source for gaff tape is The Tape Works in North Carolina. They have the best prices I’ve ever found, and they have fast shipping. They also have all the fun Pro Gaff colors like hot pink, electric blue, and of course, standard black.

About Edward Carlson

Film and television Director of Photography working in Los Angeles, CA.
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