Gaff Tape - Taping Down Cables

(Video transcript) I did a video recently where I introduced you to gaff tape. Gaff tape is great but some people said I didn't tell you how to use it. Well how to use gaff tape is a pretty important thing when you are working in the world of AV. I'm going to show you a little bit about how to use gaff tape.

As an AV Technician one of the things we work a lot with is cables. A lot of times we have to run the cables along the floor. A lot of the hotels and conference centres and meeting locations they don't want cables left running loose because it's dangerous. There's a liability of somebody tripping.

When you are working as an AV Technician it's also important to have the wires taped down. Sometimes we even use a cable mat. Today I'm going to show you how to use gaff tape.

For example, when you're trying to lay down cables the classic example of a lot of things you're going to be laying down. You're going to have an AC power cable, this is my delightful orange one which everybody laughs at me about. You're probably going to have a fatter cable, like a VGA cable, such as this one. VGA is often the cable that is used to run to a projector. Then you're going to have microphone cable. This one here is a nice green cable, and you have a microphone cable that needs to be laid.

It's important that you get these wires laid down in order on the floor, nice and flat. Sometimes in the hotels where you work they like to see perpendicular lines. They don't like to see them running diagonally. If you do run them diagonally they like them running in a straight line. A lot of time it's all about the aesthetics in hotels and conference centres.

When you're doing it you're going to run the cable along the wall Then bringing it out, taking it to, say a projector table or to a podium. You need to get the cables to lay flat. Then you need to proceed to do the taping.

So one of the tips I can give you right now is, let's say that all you need to run is a single microphone line. This is a very simple XLR microphone cable. I need to run it from the wall out to a podium, for example. As you're working you have to plan out the length of cable you need. A good tip is, generally speaking, if this is the end that's going on to your podium. You like to leave a coil at the podium in case somebody decided to move the podium or the microphone so leave a little slack on that end. Next you lay it down in the right spots, and this is where, the first part of is if it's only a mic cable, and you're working with, say, a 2" gaff tape you only need to run one piece of gaff tape down it, to tack it down onto the carpet. When you're working with more than one cable, and I usually basically say that if it's one XLR cable you only need one strip of tape. As soon as you move to two cables, even if they're two microphones, I still say you should go with a couple of tapes, I'll show you what I mean by double and single in a moment here.

So let's pretend we're putting this cable down. What that means is the first thing we do back here at the wall we're going put a little piece of tape over top of that first. Gaff tape is very easy to tear. So you strip off about a 1 foot length, tear it off. And tape it down. You tack it down. And you be sure that it's laid down so the tape is covered (the cable) What that does is it holds the cable because sometimes you may run this 50 to 60 feet and you need to be able to pull on this to keep it straight. We put a piece of tape at this end. Some people use just a short piece. I tend to go for 10 to 12 inches.

Then head on up that way. We want to keep this line, as you see, we want to keep this line perpendicular to the wall. We're going come down to the last point, this would usually be at the edge of a table or a podium. We're going to pull off another strip of tape. Some technicians don't pull off the second one. They try to do the taping right from this point onwards. I tend to like to have both ends tacked (down).

So I tape this, pull it straight and just put down a piece of tape. This time I just did 6 inches. I did a little longer on that end because I needed to be sure that was going to hold when I pulled it. I'm not pulling tight, just pulling enough to be sure it's straight. Then I'm going to start from this end and head that way. That's mostly because I'm right handed.  I find I can only go from my right hand headed left.

Basically then, pull off a strip and do a gentle overlay on a little bit of your strip Place your hand down and then you just pull. Let this thing roll, get to a point where you can reach, tack it down, move your hand roll it some more, until you reach the other tacked point. Then you just tear it off. Now you then have the tape down but you notice its not been pushed down. This is something that's important because if you don't push (tack) it down it's going to fall off. It's going to pull up easily. So what you do, in this case, because it's a single wire you just run your fingers along the cable, and hopefully you've got that in a fairly straight line. If you're working on a carpeted floor what the next thing you would is stand up and do what I call "walking the line". Take your feet and walk on top of the cable. Tapping on top of the tape as you walk and press it down into the carpet. When you're on a wooden floor or a tiled floor usually it's just enough that you run your fingers. But if you're on a carpeted floor (walk the line). You'll notice that this is a nice straight line. Because it's (just) a microphone cable, you see that it does not need more than a just a single tape line.

Here is a case we have three wires that need to be taped down. We have a gaff tape that is about 2" wide you might think I could probably just tack that whole thing down with just one piece of tape. I have seen people do it and I can tell you right now that this will not last. Yes, I can put that down AND it is taped down. But the first person who walks across the tape, even if I ran the tape the whole way, the first person who walks across the tape is going to do that. So you don't want to be taping it down with just a single piece of tape. What you'll end up doing this time, you'll end up doing this time is running two rows of tapes that overlap in the middle and gives it strength and stability.

So we start off the same way as we have before. For this short piece we only need to tack it down. We only need a single piece, 10 to 12 inches in length. We get the wires as close together as we can, tight as possible. Lay the tape across and tack it down. When you're working on a hardwood floor the tacking down works a whole lot better. On a carpeted floor you might find occasionally that this is not strong enough. If that's the case then what you do instead instead of doing it that way you'd actually cross the tape at a bit of a diagonal. This way you're getting a little more floor surface, it's holding better. If you have a lot of wires you might have to have more up here. But in the case of just three wires it's just fine.

We're going down to the other end now and put another tack at the end. As we're working our way down, we're all the time keeping our lines straight. We always want to be sure to maintain the sequence. In this case here it's the orange power cord, the green mic cable and the black VGA. We want to be sure it always stays in that sequence. That way they lay flat.

As we get up to the end where we need to go, we need to put a piece on here to tack it down. In this case because it is so many wires I tend to still go with the same thing, about a 10 to 12 inch piece of tape. You want to pull things a tight as you can, but don't pull too tight because the other tack might let go. Pull a little bit and tack it down. Do a cross tack, like this. That sticks down well. If you are really good you can go straight across and just tack the edges. Or some people will take a piece and cut right across this way. The idea, again, is that this is holding it down, and the other end down that way, is holding it down, so you can pull -- not too much and keep it all tight together.

Now we've got the cables tacked down and now we need to run the tape. What we are going to do is we're going to run one strip of tape that goes half-way over the top of the cabling. Only covers 1/2 of it and comes out across. Ultimately going to put two strips of tape on this because it better holds the cables down. You start off, pull off a bit tape, lay it down so that it's basically about half way. Put your hand down tight and pull across pull as far as your arms will stand, slide downwards. Notice as I'm doing this that I'm actually putting a little pressure on the tape itself on the cables so that's actually starting to grab. Then I go down and pull it to the rest, down to the end. Tear it off, and there. I do a light press.

One of the things to watch out for is you may have noticed that the cables are starting escape. This is quite common because the cables are not always straight, especially the thicker ones, they tend to fight you. You need be prepared as we move back up. In my case I move back up here. What I usually do I would turn my body and come back the other way, but for the camera today I'm doing this.

Again, we are going to run a second strip, as we're pushing this strip down we're going to push the cables in so they stay together. So we run a second strip. It should cross over the first strip so that there's a bit of a 1/2" overlay tack it down. Pull it as far as you can. Lay it down carefully so that it covers half way. Slide it down to the end then tear it off. Then we push it down. What we are doing, you'll notice that the cable under the tape are not exactly straight but the tape it looks, got a straight line across. That's what the eyeball sees when people are looking. The hotels and the conference centres like to see nice clean lines. Push it down. What you would usually do at this point is you would stand up and the walk on the cable (walk to line), pressing it down into the carpet. Here I'm on a hard floor it's not as necessary. But you still want to be sure that the tape is pushed down. This is very important because in a liability situation and also in a lot of the hotels they have big carts and wagons that they roll over. This two-tape scenario the cables don't move. You have a big cart go over that they just don't move.

There you see this is the way to do cabling, taping down over cables, when you have multiple cables. Even if it's two cables you still want to do it.

When you have the tape down and it's time at the end of the event and need to pull it up. What you do now is start with the little piece of tack, pull it up if you do it gently you end up grabbing both pieces of tape and you just do it You put your foot on the cable and keep pulling keep pulling, your foot on the cable helps separate the tape from the cable without pulling the cabling up. If you took your foot off it might pull the cable with the tape and this would end up causing the tape to ball up and cause you trouble. Get down to the end, it'll not get the tack. There you go. Grab the tack piece....

Here you are the end of the event and you've packed up all your gear and you've packed up the things and you have a big ball of tape. As a courtesy to the facility that you are working in don't leave your balls of tape all over the ballroom. Pick it up and take it to the nearest garbage can and put it in the garbage can. Its a courtesy that we do in almost every hotel that we work in. That's your little bonus tip for today.

So there you have it. Learning about gaff tape. We have shown you about gaff tape, and today we showed you how to use gaff tape when you want to tape down cabling in the world of AV. This is a very important thing to do and it's always very nice to know that you can do this job efficiently. It is a very good sign to your company and the hotels and conference centres when you do a nice tape line that is a straight line and your cables. They don't get picked up or tripped on by machines and carts and humans.

We didn't show you anything about this tape. Quite frankly, I hope you don't use this. If you do use duct tape or cloth tape it works exactly the same as gaff tape but this is more difficult to work with when it comes to taking it up. It also sometimes leaves residue on the floor.

I want to thank you for watching today's video about gaff tape. This is Paul Donovan.

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Contact Information:

Audio Visual Technician
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Victoria, BC V9B 2V6

Tel: 604-837-7953