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Flying with tools

Hello All-

I will be traveling by plane to a metalworking class and need to
pack up hammers, files, bench pin, etc. Do any of you have guidance
or recent experiences that would be helpful regarding packing and
checking my tools? I’m concerned about theft or loss. thanks very
much, you all are wonderful!



Probably not the sort of thing they want you to bring along in
carry-on luggage, I imagine. It might help to have all the tools
packed in plastic bags, so they can see them without touching them –
individually, or in sufficiently small groups that simply lifting it
and turning it over verifies that nothing else is in the bag. If they
don’t have to rummage through to see things, they won’t be as likely
to mess them up.

Another thing that might help is to produce a written inventory, and
place a copy of it right on top of everything, so that anyone who
opens it knows that losses will be noticed immediately.

Someone told me, a while back, that he had a starting pistol
(totally innocuous, legal, just a noisemaker) in his luggage and
declared it on check in. They verified its presence and sealed his
bag, which got special treatment. Tracking logs, signatures, the
works. When he got to his destination, he was directed to where they
were holding his bag, and signed for it.


Hi there

I just returned to Australia after being in NYC for six months and I
managed to (unknowingly) fly all the way pack with a set of polishing
drill bits in my handbag. In my last local flight in Australia, the
security guy was not impressed! “Do you have a pack of nails in
there?” (Jetlagged and exhausted I just said, “huh?”). However I
managed to get through every other security screen.

You can get through with silver sheet, and stones, bench pin okay.
Files would be a big ‘no way’ as would drill bits, gravers, snips.
These would all have to be checked through. They might also get
thingy about wire. I bought some in Sydney one time when I was there
(to save on shipping costs and because I bought a bunch of other
things) and they thought I might be able to use it to bind someone
(as if - that just cost me a fortune, I was thinking).

Get some of those orange plastic suitcase ‘locks’ and check all that
stuff through.

Have fun at the workshop!



Get ready for some interesting airport experiences with your tools.
Flying out of Chicago I had a new acrylic vacuum-hold table for my
little mill in my checked luggage. The sniffer they use for
explosives recognized the bonding solvents used in assembling it, so
red lights and a horn went off. I was corralled in a corner while 400
delayed and angry passengers in the security line glared at me,
hissing, pointing and making lynch-mob comments, while security
ignored my attempts to explain/assist. Twenty minutes later, security
and I were friends, my vac table was passed as OK, but I still had to
wait in the same gate lounge with the ugly crowd.

No problem! Put all my stuff in my hand-luggage after the next stop.
Taking it through gate security at Jakarta, Indonesia everything
went fine, until a final X-ray of hand-luggage at the boarding gate.
The X-ray inspector picked up on my neat 12 x 4 array of hex-drive
sockets. I was almost first in line so hundreds of passengers gasped
at the accusations, passing the story back down the line! That’s when
I learned that “peluru” is Bahasa Indonesia for “bullets”.

Doesn’t matter WHAT tools you put WHERE in WHICH luggage, they are
going to embarrass you in public. Be ready!

Mark Bingham

Hi Pam.

Just had this very thing happen last summer when one of my students
flew in from Maine to take my class at Ghost Ranch (went in and out
of the Albuquerque,NM airport). She packed everything in a small,
sturdy cooler which would hold what she needed. Taped the heck out
of it - so I don’t know if they opened it or not in security. She did
check it through. As far as I know it shipped OK.


I just flew Delta air around mothers day with a lot of tools, metal
and stones.

I called the airline before leaving to advise them of the fact I was
a goldsmith and wante to know regulations for this type of thing.( i
also needed golf cart and wheel chair assistance in Atlanta)…They
told me to keep the stones and metals with me in my carry-on.I said
I have a locked case I travel with for that purpose adn got them to
waive the 2 bag rule…God so far…then I asked about the
tools…“Check them in your luggage, locked luggage if possible and
wrap well”.I have photographic bags that resist x-ray that I put some
smaller deadlier looking items in,put hammers in jeans legs, and the
rest - wrapped all in a down throw or in bubble wrap 1st then the
throw…When I got to the airport, wheel chair was at the curbside
check -in w/a security escort -the airline had arranged due to
stones and metals,relatively painless check in - had to remove
shoes and got the pat down but otherwise easier than without
tools…rolled up to the boarding area, they boarded me first and the
staff all knew i was a jeweler…they bumped me into first class,asked
if i had anything they wanted me to stow with the crew! I kept
everything with me …after we were in the air the drinks were
distributed the snacks given out, two flight attendants asked if I
had anything with me made up so I happened to have thought it out
beforehand and had some gold and silver pieces in the 300-500 range
made up and some pieces with dichroic glass that i wanted to unload
fast ( i think its a dying trend,if not dead already) in the 200-1500
range…I kept the pieces in riker mount style trays that fit nicely
at the bottom of one carry-on,so i pulled them out and told them to
their kitchen area…every piece of dichro was gone when they returned
the trays…some had cash( they were alerted that a jeweler was going
to be carring stones and jewelry, some i accepted a cheque from- one
I have yet to see the promised cheque,a note, anything…

All-in-all, check your tools in your baggage lock it if possible,
Call ahead and ask you carrier what their special considerations are
for jewelers carrying valuable items, if any…if not satisfied ask
for a manager or the airport manager’s number, often they have more
regulatory info pertinent to your concerns and"… homeland security
regs" Keep your really valuables on you or in your lockable carry-on

  • I didn’t know this but some MD, and Boeings and almost all Virgin
    Atlantics have on board safes…so you can put your stuff in there if
    desired, and available…

And since they know your coming perhaps have a tray ready for
"on-the-fly" sales…I was amazed at the spending frenzy…, and truly
didn’t realize that calling Delta would have gotten me so many

I flew with mine to and from Hawaii. I told the person before i
checked my bags what was in them. I packed my tools in a tool box
and then wrapped them with close in a military duffel bag. On the
flight out they looked through the bag right in front of me so i was
able to put a lock on it. On the flight back they didn’t check it
until later so when i picked up my bag the lock had been cut and put
inside. Aside from that i had no problems and the tools all arrived
in one piece.

Hope this helps.

Hi Pam,

What I do is pack all my tools in a clear plastic box. I tape a list
of the tools (either the list for a workshop or my own list)to the
inside of the box. The list is clearly visible to the TSA folks. I
write a note (in red ink) on the list telling TSA that I’m going to a
workshop and this is my tool list. I’ve even included my cell # so
they can call me! The tool list is an obvious copy. I keep another
copy in my purse in case there are any questions. Either tape the
case shut or use a big rubber band.

Knock on wood, I’ve never had anything stolen (not even silver
sheet)! The last workshop, however, the TSA folks must have dropped
the box b/c it was a bit split on a corner. Easier to replace the box
than the tools!

Good luck!
Patricia Tschetter

After a long flight home, I was stopped by airport security on my
way leaving the airport. Apparently the guy sitting one person over
from me insisted that they check my bag because it had been buzzing
for the past two hours! So the police ask me what’s in my bag… I
couldn’t remember evrything but it was basically two days worth of
clothes, deodorant, etc. One of the cops heard the buzzing, the other
didn’t. Neither did I. When we got to the bottom of it, it turned out
to be my electric toothbrush. lol



Personal opinion only… The best way to fly with tools is to stop
at Fed-ex or UPS on the way to the airport and ship them for 9am
delivery at your destination. Anything else is painful, in your hand
luggage they may think you are going to take apart the aircraft. If
you put it in checked luggage… well the theft rate is quite a
problem, plus some solvents are not liked by the sniffer machines…


Hi all,

This is a subject of much discussion amongst folks who have to
travel with very expensive and delicate photo gear.

you will find a discussion on this “starter pistol” idea. I am
certainly no expert on any of this, just passing along an
interesting bit of reading.


Hi Pam,

Check out the thread below. I asked the same question a couple of
years ago and received some really helpful I chose to
ship mine via UPS. It was well worth the cost for the peace of mind.

Tamra M. Gentry

Well, I 'm off to Revere Academy!! A big thanks to all who advised
on tool-packing and your associated stories. I enjoyed them all.
I’ve put everything in a soft-sided tool bag, inside a hard-sided
suitcase, with inventory checklist and explanatory note with contact
info. Will report on anything negative using this strategy, but hope
I will have nothing to say about it!! Oh and I will try and get to
the Velevet Davinci if I have enough energy after 9-6 in the studio.

Take care,

I have flown several times with tools. I use rubbermaid containers
9x12 or 8x11 inches and put my tools in them. I include a list of
tools enclosed taped to the lid. I haven’t had any problems yet. I
check this bag through. I carry all metals and stones in my carry on.

Good luck,
Jennifer Friedman

I did have a few 6 in squares of silver removed from my bag in
Austin. I had a lot of tools in the bag and it was totally inspected
at the gate ( watched that one). They examined every tool very slowly
and carefully.

Later out of my sight the bag was opened again and the silver
removed – It was a non stop flight so it pretty much had to be done
in Austin. I noticed a chalk mark on the bag which I hadn’t seen
anyone put on it. There was no opened for inspection note in the
bag-- Tools were all there. Generally even prior to 9/11 that the
smaller airports were a much greater problem than the large ones. I
UPS (usually more) stuff home mow but outgoing is hard to do that


The last workshop, however, the TSA folks must have dropped the
box b/c it was a bit split on a corner. 

It probably wasn’t TSA, but rather the baggage handlers. When I flew
to teach in Miami recently, a plastic can of TSP (for anodizing) was
smashed and got all over my other stuff. It was taped shut! Also, my
anodizer was busted-- it was wrapped in my clothes in my luggage.

I once sat on a plane watching luggage being loaded. The guy could
have slid the bags from the trolley straight onto the conveyer that
carried them up into the plane, but instead, he literally threw each
one 2-3 feet in the air, to come smacking down onto the conveyer.

Not exactly gentle treatment.


Just a few thoughts on the topic “Flying with tools.” One of my
hobbies is Amateur radio, I am a ham radio operator. I do help during
severe weather in the local area. I have not yet had opportunity to
travel outside of the country with radios or travel to any specific
radio event. The only time I did travel with a radio, it was in my
carry-on bag and went through the x-ray machine without problem.

Some other hams do travel to other countries for different reasons.
Some of the reasons include work or recreation (read vacation).
Another favorite travel reason (excuse) is what ham operators call
"DXpeditions." This is a trip, usually at least partially sponsored,
to some very distant island or country for the purpose of operating a
radio from that location for a few days. Many times the ham operator
provided his/her own radio equipment on these trips.

One operator told how he packed the equipment taken on one such
trip. After he carefully put the radio and any other “stuff” (wire
for antennas, rope for guy lines, tools for repairs, etc.) he wanted
to take and use in the suitcase, he typed a letter to the airport
screeners and the TSA. The letter told why he was traveling with the
radio and included an inventory of everything in that bag or
suitcase. He also included copies of his US Amateur Radio license,
the foreign country license (if any), and his passport. All of this
was placed on top of the radio equipment in the suitcase so the
letter would be the first thing seen when the suitcase was opened. He
would allow TSA, or the local airport security, to open and inspect
the suitcase in his presence and said that there was never any

Again, this is just thoughts on this reflector based on similar
topics on other reflectors.

Thank you,
James Good

Later out of my sight the bag was opened again and the silver
removed -- It was a non stop flight so it pretty much had to be
done in Austin. I noticed a chalk mark on the bag which I hadn't
seen anyone put on it. 

hoping you submitted a claim to the airline to replace your stolen
articles…it was all filmed at the inspection point!

Oh and I will try and get to Velevet Davinci if I have enough
energy after 9-6 in the studio. 

When I went to Revere to take fusing with Marne Ryan, she took the
class on a field trip to Velvet Da Vinci. Well worth seeing-- but
then she took the whole class to some boutiques to shoe shop, which
I was less happy to do on (expensive) class time…


I purchased a heavy duty Pelican suitcase that is meant for
protecting photography equipment. I pack all tools for workshops
inside. Some things are in cardboard boxes, some in plastic. It does
not seem to matter, really, but I do try to make it easy for the TSA
to take a look and put everything back in.

I put a big note on top explaining that I am going to a workshop. If
possible, I put in a copy of the flyer for the workshop, and/or
postcards of my work, etc., to give the TSA a sense of what the tools
are for.

I like Tricia Tschetter’s idea of including her cell phone #, in
case they want to ask a question!

I fly to teach workshops at least 4 times per year. No significant
problems so far. Of course, there is usually a note from them that
they’ve looked inside. Like Andy Cooperman, I prefer to fly with my
tools, so that I can use them until I leave.

I try to check in two hours ahead of the flight, so that the TSA has
time to look at the tools, and still get them on the plane, so that
they arrive with my luggage.

Cynthia Eid