Milwaukee Fish Tape See in the Dark
The Milwaukee Fish Tape See in the Dark is a product that was developed by Milwaukee Electric Company in the early 1900’s. The product was originally designed to protect electric transformers from lightning strikes. Later it became popular among fishermen because they could use them to keep their hooks sharp while fishing at night. Today, Milwaukee Electric Company still manufactures and sells the product under various brand names including: Milwaukee Electric, Milwaukee Electrical & Manufacturing Co. and Milwaukee Electric Products.
In the 1970’s, the product was modified so that it would work better with fluorescent lighting. The product is now sold under several other brand names including: Greenlee, Greenlee Lighting, GLEE (Green Light Electronic), and many others. There are different types of Milwaukee Tape See in the Dark available today. Some are made of a plastic like the one pictured above; some are made of metal; and some are made of a rubberlike material.
What is Milwaukee Tape See in the Dark?
Milwaukee Tape See in the Dark (MTD) is a type of waterproof tape that can be used to repair or replace damaged parts on electronic equipment such as computers, televisions, radios, stereos and more. It can also be used to repair holes in walls or drywall. The tape is flexible, strong, and easy to use. It can stretch up to five times its original length without breaking. This tape is designed to withstand extreme temperatures – between -58°C and 204°C!
This underwater grade tape is designed so that you can see what you are doing when you are working on a project in the dark or at night. The tape is not intended to be used for lighting. While it is luminescent, the tape does not produce enough light to actually work on a project by itself.
While you can use this tape in the daylight, it is not generally recommended since it is designed to be used in the dark when your eyes have adjusted to the low level of lighting. If you try to use the tape in the day light your eyes will not have adjusted to the low lighting and it will be very difficult for you to see what you are doing.
How Does it Work?
This tape consists of a plastic (polyethylene) film with a coating that has a phosphorescent pigment on it. This means that it absorbs light (especially short wave ultraviolet light), then slowly releases it as visible light, thus causing it to glow in the dark. The pigments used in the tape are designed to be extremely slow to wear out, allowing it to maintain its glow for several hours. This means that it can provide a continuous low-level glow for days or even weeks if the area is not exposed to a lot of light (e.g. sunlight). The pigments are also designed to become “charged” even by a small ambient light source such as starlight, so if you are working in a lit area and need to make some adjustments in the dark, it will still glow dimly, although not as brightly as it would in the dark.
The phosphorescent pigment used in this tape is activated by an external light source. If you work in a totally dark room you won’t be able to see the tape. The purpose of the tape is so that you can see what you are doing when the lights are out. Once the light is back on, you won’t be able to see the markings (unless your eyes have adjusted to the darkness).
The tape can withstand extreme temperatures from -58°C to 204°C. The tape is flexible and strong. It can be used to repair or temporarily “patch up” a variety of objects.
Tips for Using Milwaukee Tape
When using the tape in a lit area, (such as your home or office) don’t leave the lights on at full brightness when you turn them off at night. This is because it takes a while for the phosphorescent pigment to “charge” and reach its maximum brightness after being exposed to light. This is sometimes referred to as “bleeding”. If you leave a light on all night then the pigment has time to charge and you will be able to see it much better when the lights are turned off.
Choose a location that is dark when working on a project or repairing something. You can turn down the lights in a room so they aren’t too bright, but they shouldn’t be completely dark either. If you are working on a repair or project that requires you to see well into the night, make sure you wait until the sun goes down before beginning and make sure you turn off all lights.
To get the best results from this tape, it is best to set the lighting conditions up before beginning your project. Make sure that you are working in a completely darkened room. If there are windows in the room, it is best to cover them so that no light from outside interferes with the tape. Turn off all lights in the room and close the door. This will give you total darkness.
This type of tape also works best when you do not move once it is applied. Once the tape is in place and charged with light it will glow very brightly for several hours. Once the light source is removed, the tape will continue to glow for up to a few hours depending on the amount of light that was used to charge it initially.
This tape is not designed to be charged by a flashlight or any other temporary light source. Its phosphorescent pigment requires a light source that will last for several hours in order to get the brightest glow (i.e. the sun).
At night, the tape will be the brightest when it is first charged. Once the light source is removed, the tape will begin to loose its brightness slowly over a period of time. How quickly this happens depends on the length of time that the tape was exposed to the initial light source. The longer the exposure, the brighter it will glow after the light source is gone.
Even during the day, the tape will still “glow” faintly. This is due to its phosphorescent pigment and is not an indication of how bright it will glow at night. During the day, this faint glow can be augmented by using a bright light source such as the sun or a spotlight. Again, it is only a faint glow during the daytime and will not give you any idea of how bright it will actually glow at night.
The tape consists of two layers. One layer has the phosphorescent pigment and glows in the dark. The other layer helps to seal and protect the first layer. The second layer can be seen if you look at the edge of a strip against the light.
It is best to use this tape in temperatures between 40°F (4°C) and 90°F (32°C). The tape adhesive loses some of its stickiness when in extreme cold or extreme heat. If you do happen to use it in high or low temperatures, just adjust the LED flashlight power setting to a lower or higher setting than normal.
The best place to buy this tape is at general hardware stores. They normally stock it in different sizes and colors. The most common size is the 1″ tape, which can be used for many things like making repairs, bundling wires, etc.
The other place to buy this tape is at automotive stores. They normally stock it in red, blue or yellow. The red and blue tapes are used for marking things around the house. The yellow tape is used for marking hazards in construction zones.
Here are some suggestions on what you can use this tape for.
Make lamplight by taping it around a small bulb
Making bracelets, belts for action figures, etc
Marking cable or wire connections
Holding posters to walls
Making bows for toy or real arrows
Healing cuts and scrapes (but not really Band-Aids)
Whatever you do, don’t tape over the serial number on your personal computer!
Remember that this tape costs money so be sure to use it wisely.
Also, be careful when taping it around an incandescent bulb because the heating of the filament will cause it to give off more heat and shorten its life.
If you have any other uses for this tape, send them in and I’ll add them to this list!
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This page was last updated August 12, 2014.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Fish Stick Assembly (AM Williams, CC Adams – US Patent App. 16/195,253, 2019 – Google Patents)
- Folklore at a Milwaukee Wedding (RM Dorson – Hoosier Folklore, 1947 – JSTOR)
- Andean archaeological featherwork at the Milwaukee Public Museum: a case study in researching potential context for limited-provenience artifacts (DK Newbury – 2014 – dc.uwm.edu)