Gaffer’s Tape to the rescue


I know many folks think of duct tape at the king of tapes, but when doing things photographic, I always carry some quantity of gaffer’s tape.  If you aren’t familiar with its properties, think of the painter’s tape, with its low residue leaving properties, but on a whole other level of stickiness, and with the cloth like durability of duct tape.  I’m not sure where or how long ago I read the tip, but I highly recommend taking a small amount of the gaffer’s tape off the big roll and wrapping it around an empty pill bottle so you can toss it in your bag without having an entire sort of heavy,  roll with you.

Pill bottle with gaffer's tape and Gitzo center column

Having this with me saved me on a recent vacation.  I took my Gitzo 1257 tripod and Really Right Stuff BH-40 ballhead with me.  Before leaving, I removed the ballhead so I could carry it on the plane and packed the legs, not ideal, but it was the only option at the time.  Upon arrival at my destination, the mounting stud in the center column worked its way out of the plate and nut, but not enough that it fell out, but enough that I couldn’t grab onto it.  I contemplated having a new center column shipped overnight.  I searched for methods to retrieve it, but couldn’t find anything that didn’t require more tools than I had with me.

Gaffer's Tape Rolled into the Gitzo center column

Then it hit me – I took a little piece of gaffer’s tape rolled it slightly and stuck it to the exposed part of the stud and spun it out slowly.

Thinking about it more, a pencil eraser would have probably worked, but I didn’t have that with me either, and hotel only had the typical ball point cheapy marketing pen in it.  Anyway, I retrieved the mounting stud and I was able to use the tripod and head for the trip.

Going forward, I have learned a few things.

  • Add a simple wooden pencil in my bag along with the space pen I already carry.  Having a point on it doesn’t matter as I can always use the knife on the Leatherman tool to create one.
  • If you remove the head from the tripod, ensure that the stud it mounts to doesn’t disappear.  I used a piece of gaffer’s tape on the stud, plate and nut for the return trip.
  • Change the stock nut on that stud to one with a nylon insert which is a lot less messy than using thread locker “blue” and would have most likely prevented this from happening at all

I hope this helps should you ever find yourself in the same predicament.