32 Uses for Masking Tapes
Keep this shop staple close at hand for dozens of tasks.
The masked painter
So what's the difference between masking tape and painter's tape? Regular crepe-colored masking tape costs less and has a stronger adhesive that can lift delicate wood fibers and leave a residue after removing the tape, especially if left it in place longer than a few hours.
Painter's tape—blue, purple, green, and yellow—has less adhesive tack. It removes cleanly from fully dried paint and finish, and can stay in place for 14 days (even longer with some varieties) without concern. The different colors distinguish between brands and how well the edges seal to prevent seeping behind the tape. Those subtle distinctions won't make much difference for most of the applications listed here.
The obvious use, with some less-than-obvious applications.
1. Protect surfaces from glue squeeze-out
Masking inside corners of this cabinet before assembly makes removing squeeze-out as easy as peeling off the tape. Use the same idea when assembling a box, or around a bowtie mortise when patching cracks in a slab.
2. Maintain clean glue surfaces
Some projects benefit from applying stain and topcoat before assembly. Covering these half-laps, for example, keeps bare wood ready for glue.
3. Create a sanding shield
If you need to sand bare wood next to veneer, plastic laminate, or finished surfaces, protect the adjacent edges. Trim the tape flush with a razor knife before sanding.
4. Confine filler
Before applying filler, cover the area around the repair with tape. Fill the divot, then peel away the tape for a minimized patch. Use a similar strategy before driving and countersinking a finish nail or brad: Drive the nail through a strip of tape, fill the countersink, and remove the tape for a near-invisible patch.
5. Remove patterns quickly and cleanly
Cover the workpiece with tape before spraying on adhesive and applying the pattern. After machining, peel it all off together.
6. Improve layout-line visibility, and distinguish "keep" from waste
When making a handcut dovetail joint, for example, apply tape over the end of the board, lay out the pins, score the lines with a knife, and remove the tape from the waste areas.
7. Protect fragile edges
Wrap masking tape over freshly machined edges to prevent splinters and cuts. Additional layers protect crisp edges from dings and light bumps.
8. Keep clamps and glue-ups clean.
Apply tape to the top of clamp bars or pipes to catch glue drips, and prevent stains on the wood caused by wet glue reacting with iron in the pipes and tannins in the wood.
9. Prevent scorch marks when cutting parts with a laser
Mask the workpiece before the cut to leave faces that don't need sanding or cleaning to remove burns.
10. Create a stencil.
Mask a clear-coated workpiece and score the tape, but not the wood, with the laser. Peel off the tape in areas you want to paint.
For adjusting things just a smidge, get the skinny on the shim(my).
11. Provide room to slide
A fence-straddling jig must slide smoothly without play. Get a perfect fit by placing a strip of tape on the fence face before assembling the jig over it. Remove the tape before using the jig.
12. Tweak a miter angle a tiny amount
Place one or more layers of tape on the miter-gauge auxiliary fence behind the workpiece—as shown to trim material from the toe, or at the opposite end to shave the heel.
13. Adjust your dado blade
Use tape as an easy-to-apply-and-remove shim in a stacked dado blade.
14. Rout burn-free profiles
Mask your router-table fence before routing burn-prone woods, such as cherry or maple. Remove the tape for a clean last pass.
15. Shave j-u-s-t a whisker off a board's width
Apply one or more layers of tape to the rip fence as needed to nudge the workpiece closer to the blade. Use the same strategy to expand a dado or rabbet by a hair.
How to know what's what and where it goes.
16. Label parts cut to rough size
Write final dimensions, additional milling steps, or other notes on the tape.
17. Identify part orientation
Label workpieces with arrows pointing to critical surfaces, such as the top, outside face, or mating parts of joints.
18. Create a temporary marking surface
Mark cutlines or joinery locations on tape rather than on a finished or prepped surface.
19. Find your tools on a job site
Before taking tools on-site, write your initials on a piece of tape. Put the tape in an out-of-the-way location on the tool so it doesn't rub off during use. At the end of the day, it's easy for anyone to see which items belong to you.
20. Identify unmarked accessories
Label items that lack branding, such as edge guides and collet wrenches, so you can quickly identify them in a drawer with similar tools of other brands.
21. Give your tape measure a memory
Was that opening 7- 5⁄8" or 5 -7⁄8"? Place a piece of masking tape on your tape measure and write down dimensions as soon as you determine them. When the tape fills up, peel it off and replace it.
22. Establish limits
Mark start and stop positions for plunge or stopped cuts by applying a strip of tape to your router-table fence or tablesaw rip fence or table.
We had to stick these somewhere.
23. Get the gang together
Hold together multiple parts for organization, marking, and machining.
24. Protect a surface from a router-bit bearing
A strip of tape shields delicate veneers or burn-prone woods from the friction of a bit with no bearing, or one that may not turn freely.
25. Make tight veneer joints
Blue painter's tape works for closing the joint between veneer sheets (Opening photo). This works best on regular veneer; paper-backed veneer may show impressions of the tape after the panel is pressed.
26. Prevent tear-out
Support fibers where a bit or cutter exits a workpiece. Use care when removing the tape, pulling it toward the cut to avoid lifting off the fibers you were protecting.
27. Make an instant insert
For a few quick cuts, apply tape around a tablesaw or bandsaw blade to add zero-clearance support.
28. Drill holes to a precise depth
Wrap a tape "flag" around a drill bit to indicate how deep you should drill.
29. Clamp small or awkward parts
Wrap tape around a mitered assembly to draw each joint closed. This works for securing inlays and edging during glue-ups, too.
30. Capture small parts.
Place small screws or other hardware on the sticky side to prevent them from rolling away or getting lost.
31. Add a temporary pull
Before fitting inset drawers or doors, add a tape tab to grab for pulling the door or drawer open until you install the pull.
32. Fix a too-loose hose connection.
Wrap an under-sized dust hose to better fit a dust-collection port.