This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Street Machine.
There are roles for rolls of cheap masking tape. However, using cheap rolls for roles better suited to expensive rolls won’t leave you rolling in it — money, that is.
Masking tape is not terribly expensive. A roll of good quality two-inch masking tape costs around $5. Buying a cheaper version in the same width will save you $2 up front but possibly cost hours of extra time in subsequent cleaning or polishing.
Well-known show and race car painter Trevor Davis says good quality tape has to both stick firmly yet release easily without leaving a residue — seemingly contradictory qualities.
Poor quality tape, he explains, is a particular problem with multi-colour paint jobs because “the last thing you want to be doing is peeling stubborn adhesive off soft basecoat with no clear on it”.
The longer masking tape stays in place, the more likely it is to leave a residue when removed. This is more of an issue for amateurs, as they’re likely to leave the tape on longer than a paint shop would.
Really good masking tape can be left on for weeks, yet still peel off without leaving any residue.
Trevor also says that people don’t look after their masking tape. Quality tape is packaged with plastic protector/separator rings that keep the edges of the roll clean and free of debris. The protector obviously comes off when the roll is used but the need to keep the edges clean remains. Putting the tape down on its side in dirt immediately ruins the edge and makes it useless for anything but secondary tasks that you’d use cheap tape for.
Carelessly tossing a roll of tape down may damage the edge and cause it to tear when you’re trying to apply it. Very frustrating.
Whether it’s a quick respray (above) or a Trevor Davis-style professional job, masking off is about preventing paint from landing where it isn’t wanted.
Trevor also points out that it’s a good idea to mask off areas that aren’t being painted (above) to prevent debris from being blown onto the painted surface; it only takes one speck of dirt to create a problem.
Engines are another common target for the gun or a spray can. The main thing here is to ensure the surfaces are completely clean. Masking tape won’t stick to oily surfaces very well, if at all. Pressing tape onto a metal surface that has a sharp edge using a hard edge will cut the tape to the shape of the part (above) quite neatly. Neat!