OK, I can accept Bostick were the first to develop a re-usable adhesive. The Wikipedia page about Blu-Tack suggests that, as with 3M and Post-Its, Blu-Tack was invented by accident:
The substance was invented by Austin Carpenter in 1971 in England during development of an industrial adhesive by Bostik, he was prompted by his wife for a glue that could easily stick posters to walls and be removed again without leaving marks.
Laboratory Researcher Alan Holloway, working for sealant manufacturer Ralli Bondite of Waterlooville Hampshire, had in 1970 inadvertently produced a product that was useless as a sealant, but pliable and semi-elastic. This novelty product was demonstrated by Ralli Ralli Bondite management to visiting executives from another sealant and adhesive manufacturer, as a means of wall mounting notices. There was no need for secrecy about the formula, as it was of no use for a gun-grade mastic, the main product of Ralli Bondite. In the beginning the potential of this material was not fully recognized, until later when Bostik commenced research into the development of what they were eventually to launch as Blu-Tack. In its conceptual stage the product was white, but was colored blue in response to concerns received from marketing research regarding the possibility of children mistaking it for edible confectionery.
It’s clean, and the clever addition of blue colouring makes it safer for children looking for a snack. Unlike other, cheaper, adhesive putties, it is quite good at not drying out. I can accept all of that. But I struggle to believe there are thousands of uses for Blu-Tack. I can think of maybe four. Sticking pictures to the wall; preventing an ornament from sliding off a shelf; forming a sort of protective cushion for when you make a hole in a piece of cardboard with the point of a pencil; sculpture.
The back of the pack gives a short list of potential uses:
Clean, safe and easy to use, Blu-Tack provides an ideal alternative to drawing pins and sticky tapes with hundreds of uses around the home, office or school environment.
Blu-Tack holds up: Posters, cards, paintings, decorations, maps, messages and much more
Blu-Tack holds down: Ornaments, telephones, photographs in albums, screws to screwdrivers, model parts during construction or painting
Blu-Tack: Cleans fluff from fabric and dirt from keyboards.
At first I was worried that the switch from “thousands” to “hundreds” on the back of the pack was a sign that Bostik had realised their original claim was foolhardy and unrealistic. Although I don’t believe this to be the case any more. All it means is that in each of the three environments mentioned (home, school and office), there are hundreds of uses, but the total number of uses is still at least two thousand. It also implies that the upper limit of uses is somewhere around three thousand (although this would only be the case if the number of uses was evenly distributed between the three environments. I don’t believe this is realistic. I imagine the distribution would be weighted more towards the home. We can at least say that no individual environment has fewer than two hundred potential uses for Blu-Tack).
Another question this brief blurb raises is how exactly do you define an individual use? Bostik seem to be under the impression that “holding up posters” counts as one use, “holding up cards” as another and “holding up paintings” as a third. As I see it, however, these are all different examples of the same use. In fact, all the examples given in the “Blu-Tack holds up” list are all just variations of the same thing (with the one exception of holding up decorations). So far, Bostik have given two examples of potential uses, one of which I had already thought of.
Their “holds down” list is slightly better. Ornaments I had already mentioned, but the others are all new (although I would question whether Blu-Tack really is suitable for use in a photo album). Again however, holding down model parts during construction and during painting really only counts as one use. Using Blu-Tack to remove fluff and clean keyboards are also new ideas.
Total number of uses (including my original list): 11
Number of uses still required to validate Bostik’s claim: 1,989 (minimum)
The wrapper protecting the slab inside the pack also lists some possible uses:
Hold down pots (illustration is of a sort of desk tidy thing, I suppose that counts as a new possible use); fix signs to windows and doors (already mentioned, location of signs is irrelevant); hold keys secure (OK, fair enough); make models (mentioned already); stick cards up with it (mentioned already); clean the keys on your keyboard (again, mentioned already); remove lint from clothes (mentioned already); stick up decorations (also already mentioned). From this list, there are two new uses.
Total number of uses (including my original list): 13
Number of uses still required to validate Bostik’s claim: 1,987 (minimum)
Use it like a sensible person or roll it into a ball and stick it on the ceiling: there are as many uses for Blu-Tack as there are fish in a big place with fish in it – or sea, as some call it. Be practical, creative or bizarre and Blu-Tack is there at your side; the faithful friend, handy handyman or caring therapist.
Rather worryingly, they seem to be asking visitors to the website to send in suggestions, which makes me wonder if perhaps Bostik haven’t yet produced a comprehensive list of their own. They’ve broken down the list of uses into different categories (practical, creative and bizarre), apparently now having abandoned the environment (home, office and school) system they mention on their packaging. Also, some of the inclusions on the list aren’t suggested uses at all, they seem to also include general queries or comments about the product.
There are thirty six suggested uses included on the website. However, some of these need to be discounted as they have already been included on the list (preventing ornaments from slipping, holding model parts during construction and painting, holding up cards, sculpture, cleaning the keys on a keyboard, sticking up notes) and two uses are included in the list twice (securing a sat-nav to a dashboard and fixing a picture which won’t hang straight).
The other uses are:
– Car claying
– Removing bits of Blu-Tack from a wall [a slightly circular logic at work here but I’ll let it pass]
– Recharging an Aspergic seven-year old
– Fixing a loose hinge on a drawer
– Drawing clouds
– Picking up spilled beads
– Fixing the bridge part of a pair of glasses
– Targets for an indoor shooting range
– Immobilising insect legs
– Replacing lost lids on tubes of paint
– Holding down hats for bald people
– Stopping a door from banging loudly
– Preventing the vibration buzz of a speaker stand
– Removing sticky labels
– Marking positions on maps
– Rubbing out pencil marks
– Opening black bags
– Holding the pages of a desk calendar
– Sealing low pressure water leaks
– Dampening a drum
– Making jewellery
– Holding a candle in place on a candlestick
– Nose guard
Total number of uses (including my original list): 39
Number of uses still required to validate Bostik’s claim: 1,961 (minimum)
I shall email Bostik and request a list of at least 1,961 additional uses for Blu-Tack. If I don’t hear back from them, god knows there’ll be trouble.