Introduction: Duct Tape Wallet

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Don't buy a wallet. Keep your a wallet you make! This is also an excellent introductory project for working with duct tape from which you can spin off and start creating more complex projects.

This is one of the 48 projects for our Instructables: Made In Your Mind (IMIYM) exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Houston showing from May 26, 2012 - November 4, 2012. Produced in partnership with Instructables, IMIYM is an exhibit where families work together to build different fun, toy-like projects that help construct knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while instilling a “do-it-yourself” attitude in kids so they feel empowered to explore, tinker, and try to make things themselves. To learn more, check out the article here.

While this particular set of instructions in an original created by our staff, there are a LOT of other examples of duct tape wallets on Instructables like the Quality Duct Tape Wallet by dan (among many, many others). Often, the materials and process for building our projects are designed for use with a large number of visitors (we see over 800,000 annually) and the need to ensure safety in a mostly non-facilitated environment. So, yes, many of these projects have room for improvement in both materials and methodology, which is PRECISELY what we want to encourage the kids to do. So please do share your ideas for improvement and modifications!

Step 1: What You Need:

We are selective in our materials for cost, ease of use, and safety due to our high traffic (800,000 visitors annually). So, for our purposes, this design worked best. But you may have other ideas - please share!

1 - Roll of duct tape (We purchased ours in bulk from, but they only sell them in solid colors. You can get all sorts of great patterns at Target, Walmart, K-mart, etc. as well as craft stores and hardware stores.)
Scissors (optional if you are good at tearing - fair warning - you will likely need to clean them if you use them to cut a lot of duct tape)
Ruler (optional but recommended at least to start)

Step 2: The Video

We offer optional video segments of each step for this project in the actual exhibit. Here is a compilation of all the steps.

Step 3: Step 1

Measure and cut an 8 inch long piece of duct tape. This will be your standard, so make sure to cut it at 8" or a little longer.

Step 4: Step 2

Cut a second 8 inch piece of tape using the first piece as a guide. A little bigger is fine, but avoid going any smaller. Place them sticky side to sticky side so you end up with one double-sided strip of duct tape. It doesn't have to be perfect, but try to get them to overlap as much as possible with as few wrinkles as possible. NOTE: Once two sticky sides are stuck together, the tape becomes nearly impossible to separate without damage.

Step 5: Step 3

Cut another 8 inch piece of tape using the first two as a guide (remember - longer is better than shorter). Overlap the third piece of tape on the first by about ½ an inch, so they stick to each other. Note that a non-sticky side to sticky-side separation is much easier to fix.

Step 6: Step 4

Repeat Step 2 to cover the sticky side of the third piece of tape.

Step 7: Step 5

Repeat Steps 2-4 until you have four layers/strips stuck together.  Trim the sides to make them clean and straight. You want it to be at least 7.5" x 6." This is your completed piece of duct tape fabric. From this, we will create the wallet by using more duct tape to create seams. However, this is also the basis for creating any number of projects.

Step 8: Step 6

Fold the sheet in half, vertically (hot dog fold). Measure the height of the wallet and cut two strips of duct tape about ½ inch longer than the height. Use the strips to tape each end shut. Trim any excess.

Step 9: To Use

Insert your money and cards, fold the wallet in half horizontally, and put it in your pocket (I hope that wasn't actually necessary to explain :-)

This is usually the point that we encourage the kids to add their own engineering/design thoughts to the mix - how would you add in pockets or ID pouches? Where would they go? What would be most useful? Now that you know how to make duct tape fabric and create seams, what else can you make?

So why duct tape? Well, duct tape is very useful due to its properties from its ingredients. First, it has a cotton mesh that gives it strength while letting be easily torn in different directions. Second, the cotton mesh is coated in polyethylene, a substance that makes the mesh more durable and waterproof. Finally, its adhesive, or glue, is rubber based and pretty strong, allowing it to stick very well to many different things (especially itself) while forming a tight seal. And, of course, there is the whole "fun" factor!

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