Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Stick It.

Back when we were last in Palm Coast I got fed up with the coil of LED strip lights that were sitting on the settee table. They were, after all, supposed to be providing the cockpit lighting for the new hardtop.  I figured the adhesive backing that came with the strip would likely not stay put in a marine environment so I tried to come up with various ways to mount the strip on the hardtop so it would stay put.  I looked for options to create some sort of holder, but didn't find anything that would work (the biggest obstacle was the turn radius around the 90 degree corner).  In the end, I gave up and decided to just give the adhesive a try and see what would happen.

The LED's set to blue light the cockpit well.

Well, a number of weeks later, my expectation came to pass and the adhesive failed and the strip fell down. It started with the free end curling up a bit, then a few other spots started coming undone.  I would periodically press them back in place, but the failing areas continued to slowly grow. So I ended up taking it down, coiled it back up and set it aside for later.

Fast forward to last week.  A couple slips down from us here in Baltimore a trawler pulls in and we start talking.  They are here to sell their boat.  One evening I notice they have LED strip lights on the boat so I ask how they affixed them.  As it turns out, he tried a couple different approaches (including using the supplied adhesive...that didn't work) and ended up gluing them up with LifeCaulk (a marine adhesive caulk) and holding it in place with tape until the caulking cured. It seems to work, but sounded like a a real pain in the butt.

But it got me thinking.  So, while my wife works on her plan for the ideal trip south, I figured I might as well see if I can find a better solution. After quite a bit of thought, I stumbled upon a possible solution.  The adhesive tape that came on the back of the strip was essentially double-sided scotch tape, but there are other double sided tapes that are stronger and some are weatherproof. In fact, a couple companies make an adhesive tape designed to attach molding onto cars.  If that stuff can put up with rain, snow, salted roads, car wash brushes, and all the other abuses, it should be able to hold an LED strip on the underside of the hardtop.

3M's molding tape.

I check a few auto parts stores and find the tape.  Unfortunately, the commonly stocked width of the tape is 1/2 inch and the LED strip is not quite that wide (I think it is metric and about a centimeter no English width will likely fit). The adhesive is applied to a thin foam to make the tape so it should better conform to uneven surfaces. Unfortunately, the foam is gray in color, so might be slightly noticeable, but still better than no cockpit lighting.  I peeled the original tape off of the LED strip and then adhered the new tape to it. I then took a razor knife and trimmed it down to be the same width as the LED strip. I was a little worried about this step, but it worked fine.  I then re-adhered the strip to the top (after cleaning the mounting surface, of course).

The tape seems far more promising. It appears to be adhering far better than the original tape did, I have high hopes this is a permanent solution.  So, if you are looking for a way to adhere one of these strips, you might want to give this stuff a try.


  1. Hi Mike,
    We use double sided tape a lot at work for temporary fixing items. When something needs to be permanent, we use the 3M grey tape, it works really well.
    I used it to hold a PoE transformer to the inside surface on our buses 3 years ago, and it hasn't failed. Only have tried the 3/4" (20mm) tape, but at work it is called "that permanent tape".

    1. Hi Alan,
      This is probably the same tape with different packaging...or very similar anyway. I think the foam is closed cell (so it doesn't absorb moisture, and the adhesive seems pretty good. The package I got was gray, but others looked black (newer year perhaps...who knows).

      In any case, it seems like a promising solution...if not a bit of a pain. :)

  2. Hi Mike,
    It's great you are still being inventive in the repairs and projects. The hardtop in the photo looks impressive. I do hope your last trip south is pleasant, non-stressful with good weather and warm temps. The "The End" blog was a surprise as I thought you and your wife planned and prepared so carefully and would enjoy several years of Bahamas and Caribbean sailing. Wish you best of luck in your new adventure, what ever it may be.
    Doug in VT
    PS the Pyro Putty worked just fine in the engine repair- amazing stuff.

    1. I'm an engineer at heart, so it is pretty much how I'm wired. Yep, the hardtop looks great in the dark. ;-) Actually, I think the hard top turned out really well and makes a significant improvement for the boat. Trust me that it was a surprise to me as well...but there are some things you simply can't plan on. I think we will still be sailing, it just won't be full time. Still trying to figure out what the new adventure will be but thanks!