Duct Tales

updated 06/02/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/02/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

WHEN A POWER FAILURE DARKENED a Wisconsin Christmas reunion in 1993, Jim Berg, a 33-year-old kindergarten teacher from Sturgeon Bay, volunteered a solution. "If I knew where the circuit breaker was," said Jim, "I could fix it with duct tape." In fact, claimed his wife, Kelly, Jim could fix anything with duct tape. In the dark, everyone started tossing out uses for the incredibly sticky, incredibly versatile binder. There were serious ideas ("Patch old blue jeans") and silly ones ("Bind submarine sandwiches for intact transportation"). That's when a light went on—not in the house, but in the cranium of Berg's brother-in-law Tim Nyberg. Says Nyberg, 43, a writer from Roseville, Minn.: "I thought, 'There's a book in here somewhere.' "

And so an oeuvre was born. Berg and Nyberg, whose noms de duct are Jim and Tim, collected 162 tips for 1994's The Duct Tape Book. That was a hit, so the boys produced a sequel—cleverly titled Duct Tape Book 2—Real Stories—featuring actual uses culled from readers' letters. Together, Duct I and II sold a hefty 300,000 copies.

Despite all it had done for them, duct tape would soon have a rival for Jim and Tim's affections. One day, says Jim, he tried to open his toolbox and found it had rusted shut. Reaching for a can of WD-40 to loosen the hinges, he was struck by its versatility. "Well, hey," Jim thought. "This is another power tool!" Now, in WD-40, the third volume in their toolbox trilogy, the authors tout the aerosol lubricant's little-known uses, from untangling fishing lines to preventing "buildup of squished bugs" on cars.

Inevitably, success has fueled fantasies of a Hollywood deal. Still, Jim is keeping his day job, and Tim is maintaining a grip on reality as well. "We're just normal guys," he says. "Maybe a little goofy." But nothing a bit of duct tape couldn't fix.

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