Jan 282012

You have probably heard of wallets made of duct tape. They certainly work well, but there are a few disadvantages. One is that many brands of duct tape are cheap, and deteriorate in short order. The silver facing wears away leaving reinforcing fibers that fray. The adhesive is sometimes not very tenacious and leaves a thick, sticky surface if the tape is pulled away.

I made my own duct tape wallets starting in the summer of 1992. In about 2003 I started making wallets out of a kind of tape that I believe is superior. It goes by several names, but one common name is “house wrap tape.” It’s often sold in conjunction with Tyvek house wrap. The tape is made of polypropylene, and is very strong for its weight. Unlike duct tape it’s isotropic, meaning that it’s the same in all directions, and won’t tear or fray. The adhesive is a very aggressive acrylic, which is needed to stick to the slick surfaces of Tyvek house wrap.

DuPont’s Tyvek house wrap tape is by far the most common brand of this kind of tape. The only downside is esthetic; it has “Tyvek” printed in large letters all along the tape. It’s possible to buy plain colored house wrap tape; I bought the roll I’m using in this essay online. I once had several rolls of Owens Corning house wrap tape which came in pink and had no text. Additional information about these tapes can be found here.

To create a house wrap wallet, we need to know how fancy we want to go. My wallets are simply the main currency pouch plus two smaller card pouches. These instructions are for this style.

To start off we will create the two smaller card pouches. Unroll a 7” or 8” length of tape and place it sticky side up on your table. Unroll a similar length and overlap it about half way lengthwise. Cover the remaining section of sticky-side-up tape with another fresh piece. The fresh piece does not need to overlap the first. Turn the three pieces over and overlap the sticky side up section lengthwise. Repeat this process until you have a panel of tape about 7” wide by about 5” tall.

A typical plastic card like a driver’s license or credit card is about 2 & 1/8” tall by 3 & 3/8” wide. Our card envelopes will be about 2” tall to allow the tops of the cards to peak out and be easily grabbed. Mark the long edge of your panel with a straight line and cut it straight. A Sharpie permanent marker works well for drawing on polypropylene. To minimize edges that can come apart or expose adhesive, overlap a fresh piece of tape on this straight edge and roll it over on the other side to secure it.

You may notice the acrylic adhesive binding to the blades of the scissors you are using. One way to remove this is with WD-40, which also lubricates the revolute joint. Be careful when wiping scissors blades, as they can be quite sharp.

Fold the panel with the cards you intend to carry inside. Allow the tops of the cards to peek over the top. My card envelope dimensions are just about 4” or perhaps 4 & 1/8”.

If you look carefully, you might be able to see that the edges of this panel are squared and cut, and the edges covered with an overlapping length of tape.

Each card pouch panel is about 3 & 3/8” wide. Fold one panel in half and tape one edge together. Place your cards inside the pouch and tape the other side edge.

Once the proper height is determined, cut the panel into two sections.

Don’t worry if you are taping over a gap, as we will correct this in a latter step. Make sure to align the tops of the two envelope sides as you create this seal. Since the adhesive is on the inside, it creates an unfortunate situation, since the adhesive will tend to stick to the cards. We remedy this by everting the card pouches. Remove the cards and turn the pouches inside out. To fully evert the corners, use a single plastic card to push the envelope from the inside out. Eventually it should fully evert. Reinforce the sides with extra tape.

Now the two card pouches are joined side by side. Notice there is a gap of about ¼” between the two pouches. This is to allow them to fold together without binding along the crease.

A new panel is created for the main currency envelope. An American bill is about 2 & 5/8” by 6 & 1/8”. The width and height of the currency envelope will need to be greater than these dimensions. The width should match the width of the joined card pouches.

In this case the currency envelope is 7 & 5/16” wide. As with the card envelopes, cut the panel to the correct width then fold down the middle to create the crease. The height in this case is 3” so the panel height before folding would be 6”. Tape the edges, evert the envelope, and seal with additional tape.

Join the currency envelope to the card pouches along the sides and bottom. You will see a gap at the top of the card pouches that should be taped down. Slip a section of tape inside each card pouch and adhere it to the card pouch and the envelope pouch. Add additional reinforcement along the sides and bottom of the wallet.

There you go! My previous polypropylene wallet lasted about 5 years, and was much more elegant than a duct tape or gaffer tape wallet. I call this model the “Big Red One.” Good luck!

 Posted by on 01/28/2012 Art

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