By Andrew Liszewski
Let’s be frank, half the fun of buying a new gadget and staying on the ‘bleeding edge’ is the ability to turn heads when you pull out your new toy. But, you don’t always have to spend half a grand if you want to stand out in a crowd. In fact I bet you’d have just as many inquisitive eyes staring at you if you were to pull out a wallet made from duct tape as you would a new phone or MP3 player.
Now the duct tape wallet is far from a new idea but db clay is the first company I’ve seen to provide a kit with all the materials you’ll need to make your own including an easy to follow instruction manual. But for those might find a wallet made from duct tape a bit too geeky the company also makes a higher-end ‘designer’ version using Gaffer’s tape instead.
I had a chance to take a look at the myDuctbills Kit and the Stampage Gaffer’s tape wallet and you can find my complete review including photos after the jump.
First a bit of backstory on the company. db clay was started about 8 years ago by Garett Croft Stenson and a few friends as a small home business. Since that day they’ve made and sold over 30,000 duct tape billfolds (hence the name Ductbills) and have expanded their products to include a line of premium Gaffer’s tape wallets as well.
Over the years they’ve refined their designs and as a result their wallets have gone from simple duct tape creations to some truly impressive pieces as you’ll see when I take a look at the Stampage. And for those who want the satisfaction of making their own duct tape wallet but need a little bit of extra help the company now offers this do-it-yourself kit.
myDuctbills Wallet Kit
Now even though the concept of the duct tape wallet is supposed to be very ‘homebrew’ and ‘crude’ it’s nice to see the packaging for the kit is well done. The graph paper background and assorted images on the box do a great job at conveying the DIY feel but at the same time it all looks very professional.
In fact you immediately get a feel for the company’s attention to detail when you notice the flaps on the box are held shut with none other than a piece of duct tape on each side. Clever.
When you open the box and dump out its contents everything is neatly packaged and organized. The first thing you’ll find is three sealed plastic bags that contain the various pieces of duct tape needed to construct the wallet. Now all the pieces come pre-cut and are stuck to wax paper which ensures that when the kit arrives you’re not left with a single mass of tape that’s impossible to pull apart. In addition the pieces are all clearly labeled with a letter of the alphabet both on the wax paper they’re stuck to and in some cases on the plastic bag as you can see in the image above.
You’ll also find the manual which uses detailed step-by-step images and instructions on how the wallet gets assembled. It’s only 12 pages long but includes about 70 full color photos showing what the wallet should look like at each stage. And since the pieces of tape are all referenced according to their letter of the alphabet it’s pretty much impossible to use the wrong one as long as you’re paying attention. The manual also includes handy tips on how to properly crease certain folds or how to safely cut the duct tape to avoid wrinkles and such.
Here’s a sample of what the manual looks like as the wallet nears completion. As you read through it and follow their tips it becomes pretty apparent the company has built up quite an expertise when it comes to making wallets out of duct tape.
The only thing I might suggest here is for the company to include a detailed parts list that also indicates the measurements of every piece. At the beginning of the manual there is a list of all the pieces included so you can make sure everything is accounted for but there are no measurements. Now that I’ve assembled a duct tape wallet and am more familiar with the process I would love to give it another go. However this time I would probably opt for doing everything from scratch including cutting out all the necessary pieces myself.
I mean I can understand why the company didn’t include measurements since it would encourage someone to just buy another kit but I think it would add more value to the product. Of course there’s nothing stopping someone from measuring all the pieces before they started assembly but this hadn’t occurred to me at the time.
Now with this review I don’t intend to give away the company’s secrets on how their duct tape wallet is designed so I’m not going to include a step-by-step look at the assembly process. Just enjoy this montage I’ve put together of the wallet mid-assembly and if you think you can reverse-engineer their design based on these photos then more power to you.
I’ll admit that even though I consider myself to be somewhat craft-capable I was a little daunted when I first browsed through the instruction book. But when you’re following along assembling your own wallet it’s actually pretty easy. While I probably wouldn’t recommend this as a weekend activity for younger kids (they don’t need to carry a wallet anyways) I think anyone from junior high and up would have no problem with it.
In fact the company actually sent me two kits in order to get a couple of different opinions on the process. I had my brother give it a go as well and he pretty much agreed with most of what I had to say. There were a couple of times where he found himself a bit confused but after looking ahead a few steps and comparing his wallet with the pictures in the manual he was able to figure things out pretty quickly.
In fact when he finished he gave me his duct tape wallet in order to be photographed for this review and to be honest I can’t tell which one is which any more. In my opinion you have to be trying pretty hard or have absolutely no ability to follow directions to screw things up. Speaking of finished wallets here’s what they look like when they’re about 99% complete.
Not surprisingly it looks exactly like a wallet made out of duct tape, there’s really no other way to describe it. Inside you have 4 pockets for holding credit, debit or even business cards and on top is the opening for the large pouch that holds cash, receipts, photos or whatever else you feel the need to carry around. Now while the duct tape wallet doesn’t have as many pockets as a traditional one it actually kind of works to its advantage since the wallet is on the thinner side when empty. I typically prefer a thinner wallet since it will gain enough size on its own over time.
Another concern I had before I started to assemble the wallet was whether or not it would end up leaving a sticky residue on my cash or cards. Well those concerns were quickly alleviated since the design of the wallet ensures that any exposed sticky areas get covered up in the assembly process. Now that it’s done I can’t find a single place where a card might get mucked up by the glue.
Of course like I mentioned the wallets at this stage tend to all look the same but this is why I said they were only about 99% complete. In order to really make your creation ‘your own’ the kit includes 5 pieces of colored duct tape that can be used to decorate them. The kits I was sent included black, yellow, red, blue and green pieces and the company encourages you to be as creative as you want for this step. After thinking long and hard I figured a retro design would work nicely.
I’ll be the first to admit that duct tape isn’t exactly the easiest medium to work with and I can understand why Picasso and Michaelangelo avoided it. But I’m pretty happy with the way these turned out and I’ve already had a few friends try and shiv me in an attempt to steal them.
I think my only complaint here would be the color selections that are included with the kit. They’re all very bold, primary colors which actually put the kibosh on a few other designs I had created since my Photoshop mock-ups didn’t end up looking that great. But on the other hand that’s just the graphic designer side of me complaining. I understand we’re dealing with duct tape here whose primary uses do not usually include art or graphic design so the color selections are probably pretty limited to begin with.
Why Would Someone Buy A Kit To Make A Duct Tape Wallet?
This question came up in the comments of my original post about the myDuctbills kit and I felt it was important to address. When all you really need is a roll of duct tape and instructions that are readily available online why would someone choose to buy a more expensive kit instead? Well I kept that question in mind while working on the wallet and here are some of the reasons I thought of.
- The myDuctbills instruction manual is very detailed and includes more than enough photos for comparing your results to what the wallet should look like at every step. There are also many useful tips that have no doubt come from the company’s years of experience working with duct tape. For those worried they might screw things up on their own the manual db clay has put together is probably a worthwhile investment in and of itself.
- The included pieces of tape have surprisingly clean edges that are cut perfectly straight. In fact I know I could not attain similar results using only a pair of scissors and a roll of duct tape. This of course translates into a final product that looks neat and professional. I’ll also point out that some of the larger pieces that are included must come from very wide rolls of tape that I wouldn’t even know where to find. Making these on your own from a standard roll would result in extra seams that would take away from the look of the end product.
- Finally it’s just easier. I realize that some may feel a kit isn’t in the real spirit of the duct tape wallet but the fact that all the pieces are already prepared makes the whole process of assembling it more enjoyable in my opinion. And for those of you that are just plain lazy let me assure you, this is the way to go.
I’m actually quite surprised how much I enjoyed the myDuctbills kit. If you’re a fan of DIY projects or love seeing the ‘some assembly required’ warning on boxes then I guarantee you’ll have a good time with this. I’ll also note that duct tape is a lot more forgiving than I thought it would be. There were a couple of times where I laid down a piece of tape that ended up being crooked and it was quite easy to just pull it up and start over again.
db clay has obviously put a lot of work into this kit to ensure that almost anyone with a bit of patience and time can easily make a duct tape wallet they’d be proud of.
+ Includes an easy to follow manual with more pictures than you’ll ever need.
+ End result actually looks surprisingly professional.
+ Great alternative to those not keen on leather wallets.
+ Duct tape is a surprisingly forgiving medium to work with.
+ Great conversation piece.
- The colors of the included decoration pieces might not appeal to some people.
- It would have been nice to have the dimensions of all the included pieces for making additional wallets.
- The design includes less pockets than a traditional wallet so people who use their wallet as a filing cabinet might be disappointed.
In addition to their traditional duct tape wallets (or ductbills as they refer to them) db clay also produces a line of higher end wallets made from Gaffer’s tape. It’s different to duct tape in that it’s made from a vinyl canvas that feels like cloth and it has a matte finish. It’s also porous which has allowed db clay to invent a method for printing detailed designs directly onto the material. If you’ve never seen Gaffer’s tape just drop by a local film shoot and look at the stuff they’re using to tape down all their cables. Odds are that’s it.
So to get a taste of their higher-end offerings the company also sent me their black on black Stampage design.
The wallet comes in a small grey gift box with the db clay logo on the bottom and a sample swatch of the wallet’s material stuck to the lid. Nice and simple.
Inside the box you’ll find the wallet and I have to admit when I first opened and looked at the Stampage for some reason I didn’t realize it was made of Gaffer’s tape. It wasn’t until I caught a whiff of it and had a flashback to my days of being on set that I noticed what it was actually made of. Unless you’re specifically told or closely examine this wallet you won’t be able to tell it’s made of tape.
Inside you’ll find everything you’d expect to find in a wallet including 4 card slots, 2 pockets under those slots and of course the large ‘pouch’ for holding your cash. And like in a ‘real’ wallet all the pockets are lined with a smooth waterproof nylon. There’s no chance you’re going to find any part of this wallet with the sticky side of the tape exposed.
There’s also a small patch with the db clay logo stitched on the inside and I think it’s the liberal use of stitching that helps hide the wallet’s true nature. Not only does it contrast the black tape very well but it also helps to keep the various seams tight.
Finally I want to make mention of the pattern found on the outside of the wallet. I really have no idea how the company’s printing process works but the design is really the icing on the cake. It gives the wallet kind of an antique look and the black on black color scheme is really subtle. db clay also sells these wallets as plain versions without any designs but I highly recommend going with something a bit more interesting. I mean if you’re gonna carry a wallet made out of tape why not make it stand out?
If you like the idea of a duct tape wallet either as an alternative to leather or just to stand out from the crowd but are not a fan of the shiny silver finish then I highly recommend taking a look at db clay’s Gaffer’s tape alternatives.
The Stampage is actually one of the more simpler designs the company sells and I really can’t find too many negative things to say about it. Of course some people might think $55 is a bit much for a wallet made out of tape but in my opinion you have to look at these more as pieces of art. The wallets aren’t coming from some faceless corporation but from a group of people who are really passionate about what they’re creating.
+ Does not look like a wallet made from tape.
+ The stitching and overall finish looks very professional.
+ Great alternative to those not keen on leather wallets.
- Some might think the $55 price tag is a bit high for a wallet made from tape.
If you have any further questions or concerns about the db clay myDuctbills Kit or Stampage Wallet you’d like answered please feel free to leave them in the comments section and I will try to respond to them as best I can.