Tool identification & theft prevention


Active Member
What are you doing to mark your tools and ensure that they stay in your possession out on job sites???

So far all I've lost are a couple hand tools and it seems like every Sharpie that I leave laying someplace for more than 5mins! I don't think any of these have been really lost to intentional theft, I just think that one of the many people at the job site grabbed them out of convienence and they weren't returned (probably because they didn't know who it belonged to?).

I did some research last week and found this company that makes a plastic branding device that you can have custom made with your name or company name/logo.

Looks like a neat device adn for $250 it would pay for itself if it saved even one power tool. I sent off for a sample that arrived quickly and looked good but when
I called them, the guy said that it wouldn't work well on the types of plastics used in power tools (even though it mentions this use on the web site). Apparently it works great on computer gear like laptops, monitors, etc. but the fiber reinforced plastic in most tools needs a higer temp that the unit can't produce.

Back to the drawing board...

Since I don't think you can actually stop someone from taking something that they really want to steal, I've focused now on the following:

-Marked all my hand tools with blue heat shrink tubing and wrote my name on all the power tools & cases with a permanent marker. No I know that you can easily cut of the heat shrink or sand off the permanent marker, but I figure this will keep the honest guys honest which I expect will go a long way (now if I see a Sharpie in someone's pocket with a blue band, I can ask for it back).

-Create a list of all my tools including the model number and serial number on tools that have them. If I do loose my tools this will allow me to quickly provide a lists to police so they can attempt to recover them, and also for use with insurance if I need to make a claim. I know a guy that had a bunch of tools stolen from his garage a couple years ago... the police found the guy and all my friends stolen tools (along with a bunch of others) in a storage facility. Since he had a list including serial numbers, he just drove over to the storage facility and the cops gave him his tools back... easy as that. If he didn't have the list, they would have all been confiscated and maybe or maybe not returned later?

-Lastely, I keep thinking that I should limit my exposure by taking fewer tools with me to the job site. I've tried this a number of times, but everytime I decide to "travel light" I end up wishing I had something that was left behind!

Marking and taking inventory of my tools only took about 2-3hrs and I think was time well spend... heck, my tool bags are even better organized now after I dumped everything out.

Here are a couple pics to show how I used the heat shrink and to give you some idea of how many tools I usually carry. Most of what's in the picture is taken along to the job site... add a couple ladders, some test gear if I'm terminating, and my laptop and I've got more $$$ in the truck than I care to add up.

What are you doing to protect your tools???



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the company I work for marks their power tools with an electric engraver (like this). . . not so neat, but does the job . . . also, staying organized on the job goes a long way . . . check out these 'bucket aprons' and just bring onto the job what you need from the truck (/trunk). . .

Pete C
TonyNo said:
Wow. You need to put some blue tubing on that white tool on the left in the second pic! :D
That tool is used mostly on days off and rarely makes it out to jobsites!

I was planning to take your advice just to be meticulous, but I couldn't find any of the heat shrink in a large enough diameter!
pete said:
the company I work for marks their power tools with an electric engraver (like this). . . not so neat, but does the job . . . also, staying organized on the job goes a long way . . . check out these 'bucket aprons' and just bring onto the job what you need from the truck (/trunk). . .

Pete C
I tried using one of those engravers a few years ago and couldn't write anything that was legible... especially on curved surfaces. I expect more of an issue with me and my poor handwriting than a problem with the engraver!

I've got a number of different tool bags to keep the tools organized... One has basic hand tools that I use frequently, another has some of the heavier duty hand tools, and a third carries most of my termination and testing stuff.

Staying organized is important. I usually try to keep all my tools and cases in a single spot on the jobsite and return them to that area when finished with them. What I'm not using stays locked up in the truck.

Would be interested in any other adivice and also to hear if any of you other pro's have had a theft problem and if so, what you are doing differently now to deter another?


I did NO research on this but isn't there some kind of liquid "dip" that can place some type of protective "griping" layer on your tools? Maybe you could get it in flourescent orange or hot pink :D ).

I've seen that stuff... I think you can use it to re-insulate hand tools where the rubber/plastic handle has been damaged or removed? One of the benefits with the heat shrink is that I use it to put a band on drill bits and things where dipping an entire end wouldn't be suitable.

The blue heat shrink does seem to be helping! It's really easy to ID my stuff now and I've even had a drywall guy return a screwdriver that I left on a wall stud he was about to cover up.

The bands on the power cables and extension cables has also been helpful when I go to unplug my stuff... no more guessing which cord is mine in the big tangled mess .

It wouldn't hurt to put you initials on the blue heat shrink, just in case some else starts marking their tools with heatsshrink tubing. One more layer of protection.