Protecting Your Tool Investments

February 08, 2018

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© Lincoln’s Tool Chest


Even if you are not a seasoned mechanic, chances are you already have some tools lying around. If you are anything like me, you will most likely never get rid of the tools you purchase, and your collection will only grow as you become older and more experienced. Jewelry, in my opinion, is the only thing that may hold more sentimental value than tools. Both are often given as gifts and some can be handed down through generations. Tools can also have significant value over their monetary cost as the sense of accomplishment you have from building something with your hands becomes tied to the tools that particular project called for. With all that’s stated above, it stands to reason that you want to do what you can to prevent them from being unknowingly borrowed, or worse, stolen.

Keep things secured: First, if you don’t keep them in a garage or shed instead of your house, make sure you have a decent door and lock. Everything listed below won’t make much difference if people can enter or exit at their leisure. Eliminate or keep your windows secured as well. It’s also a good idea to have lights outside in the vicinity of any entrance or egress locations. Motion lights are cheap and are a great way to call attention to someone prowling around your property.

Keep your stuff on the down low: Let’s face it guys and gals, we are all proud of the tools we own and the accomplishments those tools have allowed us to make. What better ice breaker for a conversation than starting out talking about that project you just finished and the tools you bought  in the process. This usually makes for good discussion, just be careful about advertising the things you own.  You never know who may be on the lookout for something they can help themselves to.

It’s all in the arrangement: If someone walked or drove by your house, what would they see? If you have tool chest(s), are they on the opposite end of the garage door so they can be easily viewed from the street? Is that where you have your work bench and if so, do you have many tools hanging above it? Tools hanging in plain view can be easily grabbed and taken in a minute or two. What is the lighting like in your garage? Do you have bright fixtures that shine down on all that is precious to you like a showcase when it’s dark out and the garage door is open? With random people passing by your house on a regular basis, the opportunity is there to survey all you have to give with each passerby. The following is what I have done to minimize exposure to unwelcome eyes:

  • Back Wall (Opposite of the Garage Door): On this wall I have cupboards/cabinets that have doors to conceal what is hidden inside. I have a workbench that remains empty (Except for what is being worked on) and some tools on the wall above the workbench that are of low value and easily replaceable. I have (2) 2’ x 18” ¾” plywood sections on ball bearing glides that are mounted about ½” under the workbench for storing more expensive flat items that I want at this location, but away from prying eyes. These pieces of wood are almost unnoticeable when slid under the countertop of the work bench.
  • Side Walls: Here is where I keep my tool chest and power tools. This makes the cross section of the chest many times smaller because it is a side profile. I have a cabinet with doors and drawers on the side wall as well. The chest and cabinet stick out some, which serves to hide important items in the back corner of the garage from view.
  • Attic: You can’t see or get to my attic easily. This is where I keep valuable, but seldom used tools. If you don’t have an attic, attaching items to the ceiling is also a good place to stash items away from onlookers.
  • Lighting: I have a very well lit garage. It makes it very easy to work and see what I’m doing. It also illuminates everything inside when it is dark out and I have the door open. To combat this, I have two modes of garage illumination.
    1. Day Time/Garage Door Closed: All fixtures are turned on. (12) 4’ fixtures comprised of (3) 4’ fluorescent fixtures at the back of the garage and (9) LED fixtures from the middle of the garage up towards the front near the garage door.
    2. Night Time with Garage Door Open: Only the bank of (3) fluorescent fixtures at the back of the garage is powered on. This allows me to see everything I need to, while not calling attention to myself. This lighting also creates a lot of shadows to hide things from view.

Video Surveillance: Cameras have become very affordable and increasingly popular to the average homeowner. Available in both wired and wireless options, they can function as both a deterrent and means of identifying a perpetrator who helped himself to your property:

Just in case my cautions efforts fail one day, I have high resolution infrared cameras installed in my garage. These cameras alert and start recording everything immediately upon detecting any sort of motion.

Document, document, document: 
Documentation can include engraving your tools, taking pictures of your tools, keeping a record of what you have as well as recording each tool’s serial numbers (if present). Worst case scenario, if something does happen, you’re going to want to have at least some documentation. There are several reasons for this:

  • First and most important, maintaining records of what you own will save time and headache when dealing with your insurance company. Having proof of what you had will make the process much easier and will also serve to maximize reimbursement.
  • If someone tries to sell any of your belongings after stealing them, having them marked or recording the serial numbers may aid in catching the person, as well as proving your ownership.
  • Having an inventory of your tools can also serve as a reminder of what you do and don’t own. This may prevent you from inadvertently purchasing a tool you think you need, only to realize you purchased one years ago and forgot what you had. I have never done this!!!
  • What I have used, and is something I think works really well for documenting is Microsoft Excel. I created a spreadsheet for both hand tools and power tools. You can break the tools down into specific categories, with (1) row for each tool. You can include a cell for a name, a cell for a description or part number, a cell for the location that tool is stored, a cell for a serial number and also insert pictures into a specific cell that is viewable when the cursor is moved over that particular spot. It was took a while to do, but the end result was is a very organized and detailed inventory that would be almost impossible to dispute.

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on what you can do to minimize the chances of becoming a victim. Most people out there are honest, hard working individuals who believe in doing the right thing and it would be an amazing place if we all had that philosophy. The dishonest are always looking for the easiest targets. Being proactive by taking a few small steps to safeguard your belongings can help to ensure you tools stay where you want them, in your possession.