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To be or not to be, copper tape question

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  • To be or not to be, copper tape question

    My routed road course, Shelby-Hendrix Speedway, was built in 2013 and has provided me with many hours of pleasure. As soon as all the sections were put together I copper taped the outer lane and powered it up. That was about 10:30 pm on a work night but I couldn't resist running a bunch of laps with some Trans Am cars. I didn't go to bed till a car crashed to the floor because there were no guard rails or walls in place. I fixed that but as a solo racer never even got around to powering up the inside lane.

    Recently I noticed the outer wall on the back straight had separated from its support posts so I got out the hot glue gun and reattached it. That's when I got a good look at the ripples in the copper tape and a short section where it had raised up. I think the haste with which it was originally applied finally caught up with me. The track is still in working order but would be improved by a major re-taping project. I could even finally get the inside lane working and perhaps route them together as one long, twice around, lane.

    The question is, if the copper tape was to be replaced, is this a time to consider switching to braid? I've been very happy with the copper tape all these years, but am not looking forward to pulling up and replacing it. I'm also not as spry as I was in 2013 so reaching inner parts of the track will be challenging whether re-taping or installing braid.

    This is a consistent conversation on HRW and I know there are many advocates of both copper tape and braid here. I'm seeking suggestions on a good source for quality copper tape if I go that route and for feedback on what switching to braid would entail and cost for a 2 lane track with 58 foot long lanes. To do this I'd need everything from a trim router and SCC router bit to enough braid to do the job with a little to spare. All comments are welcome.

  • #2
    240 ft of braid + bit + router.

    240 ft of tape will be cheaper. And burnishing it down tight is required but not difficult. Temperature fluctuations cause lift, but my basement track hasn't lifted yet (4 years?). You could just replace the lifted tape, and burnish it well.
    Come Race at The Trace!
    Timberline Trace International Raceway - SW of Mpls, MN
    https://cults3d.com/en/users/chappyman662/creations

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    • #3
      The only time I ever saw copper tape lift was on my first track that wasn't painted very well. Since I went to multiple coats of paint, removing any tape is a major effort. If you chose to go with braid, your track must be flat to route the reliefs or they won't be a consistent depth.

      Anyway, figure $250 for braid, relief routing bit and braid roller tool.
      Last edited by Bal r 14; February 27, 2022, 12:31 PM.

      Comment


      • slothead
        slothead commented
        Editing a comment
        As noted in my initial post, I was in a hurry when I built the track and only applied 1 coat of paint. The copper tape has been very reliable but I do think it was stretched when applied which has caused the ripples over the years I had to burnish.

        The track has elevations and one turn is slanted (I often say it's banked but that's not technically correct).

    • #4

      The tape worked great for all these year and it's just a 1 day job to re-tape it. Even if you want to do some cleanup and painting, it's still a pretty easy and quick fix. I don't see any reason to switch to braid in this case.
      Matt B
      So. In
      Crashers

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      • #5
        Slot Car Corner sells a 250' roll of pre-taped braid for $159.99. A router bit to cut the recesses $44.99. You can use a small block of wood to apply pressure on the braid for good contact. Just make sure to paint the recesses real good. I highly recommend pre-taped braid.
        Butch Dunaway
        Oxford, Ohio

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        • #6
          Thanks to everyone for feedback. Since I keep buying cars I should do something to keep the track in good shape.

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          • #7
            I haven't worked with tape, just braid on commercial tracks. I would think a heat gun might be helpful removing old sections of tape or the entire tape. You would be left with some adhesive to remove before retaping. but you might also want to remove that glue before routing for braid. Any future braid-to-braid changes is going to warrant glue removal too. Since this track doesn't seem to have a high volume of use & has had a long life with tape, I'd use tape once again. No question that braid is more durable than tape, but are you needing increased durability?

            Comment


            • slothead
              slothead commented
              Editing a comment
              No increase in use expected though I do run a lot of laps on it myself. To simulate a 10 car 100 lap race I record 1000 lap times, not counting prep and qualification laps.

          • #8
            We used tape for years with no problems at all....
            Rusty
            Humboldt ,out in the country in west Tn...

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            • #9
              I would switch to braid if I built a track I expect to keep for a long time. But, I get tired of the same track in about 6 months and I'm 78 so I don't have a long time.

              Comment


              • slothead
                slothead commented
                Editing a comment
                No allowance for negativity here my good man. Though it has not yet been proven I theorize every minute spent slotting actually extends a persons life by several hours or days, depending on the type of track and level of enjoyment. Plus, I hope you saw the 1985 movie 'Cocoon' (which I suspect was based on a true story), in which some senior citizens were rejuvenated by swimming in a pool where friendly aliens were storing pods, then were invited to travel to the visitors' home planet where there is no illness. We just need to stay positive and slot car youthified long enough to get into such a pool then take the journey.

            • #10
              Slothead, you might be able to route right through the copper tape with the recess router bit. The cutting teeth on the router bit are a lot harder than the tape and shouldn't hurt them. But if the tape is wider outside to outside than the router bit you'll want to remove the tape first.
              Butch Dunaway
              Oxford, Ohio

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              • #11
                I bought my tape from a stained glass supplier. It was much heavier than the stuff I bought online and much easier to work with.

                Comment


                • Bal r 14
                  Bal r 14 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Me too. But, I also have some tape with conductive adhesive for patching and breaks.

              • #12
                I've built tracks with both tape and braid. Let me provide some insights.

                Tape is a perfectly good solution, and many great tracks have been built with it. But when you shop for tape pay attention to the thickness. You want tape that is as thick as you can get. It will still be very, very thin.

                As for tape with 'conductive glue'. What makes the glue conductive is small particles of copper embedded in it. The copper particles are just big enough to bridge the glue line and make contact. The glue itself provides no conductivity. I don't think you should rely on 'conductive glue' to make your connections. Pass the tape through holes to the underside of the track and make connections there. Stick it, staple it and solder it for the best connections. If you have to make repairs, again, make connections under the track. You'll need to pull up some tape, drill some holes, and install enough new tape to bridge the gap. More work, yes, but a much better patch.

                Tape does not wrinkle because it is pulled too tight. It wrinkles because it isn't laid tight enough. You also get wrinkling in corners if the tape is too wide for the radius of the curve. Laying tape well is not easy. It takes practice and you'll waste some tape learning how to do it right. Be prepared to pull up a lot of tape because halfway through the job you messed up.

                Installing braid is another skill that you have to learn. I always recommend folks who are routing tracks for the first time to build a small track just for practice -- to get your feet wet and learn how it is done before you try anything ambitious. Consider it tuition.

                The virtues and shortcomings of tape and braid have been covered very well elsewhere. I won't get into that. Your call.
                Last edited by HO RacePro; February 27, 2022, 08:57 PM.
                Ed Bianchi
                York Pennsylvania USA

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                • #13
                  I never had a problem repairing tape with solder. Bear in mind that OP's track has been built for 9 years. He's got good mileage from his tape and evidently did a pretty good job on the original install. He obviously knows what he is doing.
                  Matt B
                  So. In
                  Crashers

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                  • #14
                    I have raced a lot on both taped and braided tracks. Before you decide which to use you might consider how much use the track will get. If you will usually be the only one that will use the track tape is a good choice, for heavy club use I would lean towards braid. Even in a club situation tape will usually last a long time. The tape should not wear out or come unstuck, but especially on a very technical track the places where the cars crash a lot will be a problem. The car's guide flags will gouge the tape and sections will eventually need to be repaired. If the track is subject to considerable variations in temperature the tape may crack, especially where there are joints in the MDF. Tape that was laid under tension is more prone to cracking.
                    I found that laying tape is a tedious business, laying braid is much easier in part because the reliefs serve as a guide. The old method of using contact cement to stick down braid made that option less attractive, the modern method of using 3M double sided tape is much easier and Slot Car Corner sells braid with the tape already applied.

                    Comment


                    • Bal r 14
                      Bal r 14 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      With respect to the tape getting damaged by the guide blade, I ran into this problem on my first track. However, I discovered the trick to dealing with that is to lay the tape about 1/32" from the edge of the slot. It has never been an issue since.

                  • #15
                    Originally posted by HomeRacingWorld
                    Especially those on tighter budgets and ones who are just not sure if the track they have is the one they want to keep for the long haul.
                    You can re-use a lot of the braid if you want to scrap your track and build another. Can't do that with copper. Just soak it in lacquer thinner and the glue comes right off.

                    Butch Dunaway
                    Oxford, Ohio

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