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Man Who Invented Gaffers' Tape Won’t Be Down for Breakfast

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An Oscar winner too. 

The man who invented Gaffer Tape dies at 92

27 February 2019
 

Ross Lowell - The man who invented gaffer tape

There’s not many people who can say they changed the TV & Film industry, but Ross Lowell has left an everlasting mark as creator of one of the most versatile pieces of equipment on any set.

Whether it’s wrapping cables together, holding something down or simply leaving a visual cue for actors to hit their marks, Gaffer Tape is the Swiss army knife of any set. The Hollywood Reporterhas marked the sad passing of Lowell who also created clamps for lighting systems and shot documentaries for directors John Boorman and Robert Aldrich.

 

Lowell died aged 92 on Jan. 10 at his home in Pound Ridge, New York. 

 

As THR explains;

In 1979, he received a Technical Achievement Oscar for "the development of compact lighting equipment for motion picture technology." His idea for lighting clamps came while shooting in the former home of Charles Lindbergh that had become a juvenile rehabilitation centre. Lowell wanted to install lighting units that could remain in the rooms for several months without interfering with the day-to-day operation of the centre.

Lowell also needed tape that was strong and heat-resistant and wouldn't leave a residue. He came across Johnson & Johnson's Permacel tape, used for ducts and heating coils, and transferred its adhesive surface onto tough silver fabric backing. That became gaffer tape.

He had a remarkable mind and the industry will forever be grateful for that roll of tape that solves just about every problem.

 

ross_lowell_headshot_hires-h_2019.jpg

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Ive pulled 1000 miles of that stuff off of rolls, Ive thrown away 500 tape balls the size of large globes.

 

I have, with god as my witness, made it into "rope" and suspended 50 pound loudspeakers over people's heads with no reservation whatsoever!  

 

 

3M GT3.  There is NO substitute.  40 bucks a roll (50 yards).  Show up with Permacell tape and I know right out of the gate you are a half assed company.

 

RIP and thanks, you helped put my kids through college.

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1 hour ago, Little said:

Ive pulled 1000 miles of that stuff off of rolls, Ive thrown away 500 tape balls the size of large globes.

 

I have, with god as my witness, made it into "rope" and suspended 50 pound loudspeakers over people's heads with no reservation whatsoever!  

 

 

3M GT3.  There is NO substitute.  40 bucks a roll (50 yards).  Show up with Permacell tape and I know right out of the gate you are a half assed company.

 

RIP and thanks, you helped put my kids through college.

Little, 

 

Serious question since I don’t think I have ever handled actual gaffers' tape. What is the difference between it and duct, 100mph or Gorilla tape?  

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It’s strong like Gorilla tape but doesn’t “melt” to the surface and leave adhesive residue. Hence, it  can be removed easily two weeks later or 5 minutes after it’s been put down. 

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8 hours ago, tomkaz said:

Little, 

 

Serious question since I don’t think I have ever handled actual gaffers' tape. What is the difference between it and duct, 100mph or Gorilla tape?  

Duct tape adhesive is "goopy".  And the tape is some kind of plastic.

Gaff is a cloth tape.  And the adhesive is less "sticky"  

 

It actually doesnt stick as well as duck tape, but well enough.

 

If you use gaff on a cardboard box in place of other tape-as in sending a package-it wont stay tight.  Fedex office will see it and make you pull it off.  Bit the point is that it actually comes off without leaving goop all over the cable.

 

And its not really a quality thing, Duck tape has its use.  If you are actually repairing a duct, duct tape will kind of melt together and make a seal.

 

I didnt know the Lowell guy invented it.

 

Everyone in production has seen or used a "Lowell Kit".  A couple small lights and two lightweight tripods in a light carry case.

9 hours ago, jolly mon said:

Sometimes a little is a lot , RIP 

If you cant tie a knot, tie a lot.

 

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45 mins ago, Little said:

Everyone in production has seen or used a "Lowell Kit".  A couple small lights and two lightweight tripods in a light carry case.

 

It's a kit that looses small parts while just sitting on a shelf.

 

My finance guy once asked if we were taking the gaffers tape home, he was convinced that there was a cheaper alternative.

 

When production guys get their hands on a new roll, they tend to claim it as theirs, never to be seen again.

 

 

 

 

Edited by woowoo2

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Used the gaff gun?  I have heard it is a giant let down, doesnt work as advertised.  But I know everyone saw it and was like OMG were saved!!

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9 mins ago, woowoo2 said:

It's a kit that looses small parts while just sitting on a shelf.

 

 

 

 

 

Lowell lights were kind of cheesy werent they?

 

 

Thanks you made me laugh this morning.

Edited by Little

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52 mins ago, Little said:

Lowell lights were kind of cheesy weren't they?

 

Yep.....

 

So,

Years ago one of my producers took a kit home to "paint a bedroom" he claimed he needed an extra light.

The problem was, he never brought it back, kept forgetting.

 

A couple months go by, and we are on vacation in Florida, the wife invited a couple of friends to stay a few days with us, they were also on vacation.

 

Through the day, the conversation turned to photography, the wife stated that she was paying a guy to teach her to light objects.

Class was over, she paid the guy.

But...

She then remarked that she could never get him to come over and pick up his lights. Wondered if the lights were worth anything.

 

Yep, it was my producer.

And our lighting kit.

It made for an interesting conversation when I got back to town.

 

Edited by woowoo2

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1 hour ago, Little said:

Duct tape adhesive is "goopy".  And the tape is some kind of plastic.

Gaff is a cloth tape.  And the adhesive is less "sticky"  

 

It actually doesnt stick as well as duck tape, but well enough.

 

If you use gaff on a cardboard box in place of other tape-as in sending a package-it wont stay tight.  Fedex office will see it and make you pull it off.  Bit the point is that it actually comes off without leaving goop all over the cable.

 

And its not really a quality thing, Duck tape has its use.  If you are actually repairing a duct, duct tape will kind of melt together and make a seal.

 

I didnt know the Lowell guy invented it.

 

Everyone in production has seen or used a "Lowell Kit".  A couple small lights and two lightweight tripods in a light carry case.

If you cant tie a knot, tie a lot.

 

He won a technical Oscar for his lighting device. 

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