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Toolbox for travel?


Jeremy Osner
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I'll soon be traveling for my first bench test... Excited! I've never checked my tools on an airplane before and I'm wondering what toolboxes are best for this. Searching with Google most of the recommendations I see are for Pelican cases, which look appealing. My wife thinks a brand-new Pelican case would be a target for theft and that I should just roll my tools up in canvas and put them in the suitcase with my clothing. Any thoughts? What do you use? 

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How many tools are you taking? People that travel to workshops often ship their tools ahead. If you have them in luggage, be prepared for the potential of hassles from the TSA. They sometimes x-ray or inspect checked baggage, and sharp tools can be a concern. I don't have personal experience with tools in luggage, but I have had bags searched.

 

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The first couple times for my summer workshop I packed everything in a cheap plastic shell rolling suitcase, the carryon size (checked, of course). I wrapped everything in towels to keep the tools safe and avoid punching holes in the suitcase, and it worked well. To keep it from exploding I bought a couple of nylon luggage straps to belt the outside. For subsequent years I bought an army surplus metal case the size of a small trunk and UPSed everything.

I also travel a bit to do work on the road, and for that I wrap what I need in a towel or two and pack clothing around it. I've never had my bag opened by the TSA (I check it all, of course) but I always tape a business card on the outside, and that may get their minds bent around what they might be seeing in the bag xray.

The only time I ever had anything go missing was once when I checked an empty garbage/shipper violin case, which never showed up at the other end. No big deal.

At the destination I lay my tools out neatly on one towel folded long, and use a couple of the others for under instruments while I work. That way I can, for instance, work on the top of a grand piano without scratching anything and it looks tidy.

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2 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

I wrap what I need in a towel or two and pack clothing around it. I've never had my bag opened by the TSA (I check it all, of course) but I always tape a business card on the outside, and that may get their minds bent around what they might be seeing in the bag xray.

 

Huh, sounds like I should listen to my wife then.

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Yeah. When I was a photog we called cases like that "StealMe" cases. Get one of those aluminum Halliburton cases and kiss your tools good bye!

Mine is the kind with a zipper all around it that has a fabric expansion gusset, sort of softshell hardshell, not a traditional suitcase. Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.

 

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I travelled with tools from different places in different directions on the globe and so far had never any problems as long as I checked my sharp tools in. ‘Funniest’ thing I made was taking a grinder with me. I thought Airfrance in Lyon would confiscate it as a bomb but it didn’t happen.
 

For any concerns it is always good to call the flight company ahead of your travel to make sure everything goes smooth. 
 

I built a drawer box for the transport of my tools. It’s some work but you will never regret it. For transport I screw a lid over the drawers and I am done. To fix the tools I just push a towel above where needed. 

 

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