Want to get a group of teenage boys engrossed in a crafting project? Insert duct tape.
"The boys loved the activity," says Jake Snider, a youth pastor in Decatur, Ind., who allowed teens to personalize inexpensive Bibles with various materials, including duct tape. "Some were trying different patterns, others were figuring out how to incorporate their interests into the design. It was pretty funny to watch."
Snider, 24, crafts wallets and messenger bags out of comic book pages and duct tape to sell at his Etsy online shop, Halftone Handicrafts. The comics are sealed with transparent packaging tape. His bags are lightweight but sturdy.
"For me, as a guy, I'm working with duct tape, and that's pretty manly," jokes Snider.
Troll the Internet with duct tape in mind and see its ingenious uses: jewelry, flowers, clothing. Furniture and home accessories are bedecked in the cloth-backed tape. Kids use it to make pony-tail holders and other bright accessories; pair it with cardboard to make swords, shields and other toys. Parents praise it because there's no mess to clean up.
"It truly is one medium that's almost as limitless as your imagination," says Scott Sommers, director of marketing for ShurTech Brands, maker of Duck Brand duct tape.
Elizabeth Blue-Norton, 13, of Westminster, Colo., has made an iPad holder, hats, wallets, and clothes for her stuffed animals. Her goal in a few years? To make a duct-tape dress for "Stuck at Prom," a Duck Brand contest in its 12th year.
The formalwear contest for high schoolers closes June 13. This year's winning couple will receive $5,000 each.
Utah sisters Michele Howarth, 23, of Orem, and Melissa Howarth, 18, of Provo, craft jewelry out of duct tape for their Etsy store, Quiet Mischief. They've sold hundreds of rings, as well as online tutorials that explain how to fashion various styles, from hearts to roses. It takes a beginner at least an hour to craft one, says Michele.
Rosalinda and Victor Salinas of Houston, Texas, make duct tape wallets and purses, many featuring iconic TV and consumer characters, such as Elmo and Hello Kitty. Rosalinda, a bartender, began making the wallets a few months ago by watching video tutorials online; Victor now runs their online shop, Duct Tape Couple, full-time.
"He's actually drumming up a lot of business," says Rosalinda. "I told him we can't afford for you to go to work now. We hope it grows into something we can continue doing for a long time."
Sommers, of ShurTech, says, "There's a whole small business movement out there. The product itself is an American icon. It's always been the backbone of a lot of invention."
According to his company and other sources, duct tape first became known as a fix-it-all for Second World War soldiers on the battlefield. At that time, it was green. Later, it became grey for sealing heating and other ducts, but it did that job badly. Duct tape is strong, but its adhesive is not that long-haul reliable. Today, there are better products on the market for sealing ducts.
Tips for crafters working with duct tape, from ShurTech:
Duct tape works best at room temperature.
It's easier to rip duct tape by hand than to cut it with scissors. If you try to cut duct tape, it will gum up and stick to itself, or stick to the scissors. Rubbing alcohol will remove adhesive from the blades.
Look for do-it-yourself project ideas at the Duck Brand website and two project clearinghouses: Craftster and About.com.