They say necessity is the mother of invention, and never was that statement more true than with the story of the amazingly handy instant clamping elastic called the Quick Clamp Wrap. Although the product is only about six months old, its story really starts back in 1982 when Joe Miller and his wife Sharon started a plastic molding company called Mocap.
“I graduated from college with an MBA in business,” Joe told me, “got a job in the plastics industry, and in 1982 started my own company, Mocap, which currently has about 250 employees, makes things like tool grips, plastic caps for the ends of furniture, plastic glides and custom-molded furniture pieces. We also supply things like high-temperature masking materials for powder coating to keep coating off threads and such, and we do plastic extrusion for packaging.
“Years ago, we formulated a silicone tape for the aerospace industry with an unusual combination of characteristics. It tolerates extreme temperatures from minus -60 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit without losing its flexibility, and is an outstanding electrical insulator. It also has great tensile strength, about 700 pounds per square inch, and will stretch up to 300 percent. Fittingly, we called it X-Treme Tape™.
“Another big issue in aerospace is that no adhesive be required. This tape sticks to itself immediately and fuses permanently in 24 hours. It also grips to almost anything, and since it is inert and has no adhesive on it, will not damage the surface it hugs. It is so tough that it is widely used to repair splits in radiator hoses. The tape has so many applications as an insulation and repair tape that it eventually branched off from aerospace to the automotive market, and then to the home market.
“Meanwhile, we had set up Vypar as the trade name and retail arm of Mocap for selling vinyl key fobs, flashlights, and other promotional items. Last year, with the continuing success and expansion of X-Treme Tape™, we dropped everything else, and Vypar became a one-product company. Through it, we sell hundreds of thousands of rolls of this tape throughout the world, and all of it is made right here in Missouri.”
All very interesting, but I promised you a story of necessity and invention. Well, here it is. Our tale begins earlier this year.
“About six months ago,” Joe recounted, “my wife approached me with her Duncan Phyfe style quilt holder. One of the curved legs came off the center post, and I was faced with trying to figure out how to reglue and clamp it without damaging the finish. Now, I’m not a woodworker, just an average Joe who sometimes has to glue stuff. Even I could see that it’s hard enough just to find a way to clamp such an odd configuration even without worrying about the finish. The top is too curved for rubber bands to work; tape does not keep the needed tight, elastic hold as the glue dries, and clamps were sure to damage the finish and maybe crush the wood. I knew if I harmed that piece, I would be in big trouble.
“It suddenly popped into my mind that the X-Treme Tape would grab wherever I wrapped it, would stick to itself and, once stretched, would provide enough constant pressure to adequately clamp the glue joint. Silicone is inert, so it will not react with the finish, and it is very soft, reducing the chance of finish damage or leaving a clamp impression. It has no adhesive, so I did not have to worry about removing adhesive from the finish. The 300 percent stretch would keep the needed tight hold as the glue dried, and since it only bonds to itself, I could easily cut it free when the glue was dry. Being a non-woodworker, that realization was my salvation, especially since I don’t have all the clamps that woodworkers have.
“I applied glue and put the two dowels into their holes, then stretched the tape around one of the legs so that the tape came back onto itself. The stretch kept the tape in position, even on the curve. Then, I stretched it around the body of the table post and back onto the leg. The next day, I simply cut the tape and, like a rubber band, the stretch hold snapped free. The bottom line is that it worked and I had one happy wife. In fact, it worked so well that I decided to see if it would be of any help to other woodworkers.
“I spoke to some people in the office who were hobby woodworkers, and they suggested I talk to the folks at my local Rockler store. I took some down there; the manager looked at it, decided it was a clever tool, and put me in touch with the main office in Minnesota. The next thing I knew, they put in an order and started to buy the tape. We packaged it for them in 10-foot rolls under the descriptive name Quick Clamp Wrap.
“Silicone, which is what the tape is made of, is an inert material that grips to almost anything, but as far as we know, will not damage any finish or leave residue on raw wood. By wrapping it back onto itself, it sticks fast. The only drawback is that, left overnight, it will fuse to itself permanently. To remove it, you simply cut it off, but that makes it a one-time use item as a clamp. Rockler sells a 10-foot roll for about seven dollars, and the good news is that ten feet, even used just once, is enough to do several clamping jobs. To be honest, at the time I would have gladly paid 10 dollars to solve the one problem of fixing my wife’s quilt rack.”
There it is, everything I promised: necessity, invention and the birth of a wonderful new way to solve those really troublesome clamping challenges.