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How do you handle people touching your tools.


Sep 28, 2023
When I was hired, I was given a list of tools I should purchase. In the shop it was clear to never touch another man's tool box. Now I am in a different department. I am a small one man machine shop in an R&D Lab. No one I work with has any shop or mechanic experience. I mostly fabricate proto types or things for testing rigs. Sometimes I assist engineers with tearing down and testing some of the more mechanic units / products.

Some of these engineers keep asking to borrow my tools. I have showed them a tool box in a different room that has company bought tools to be used by everyone. But they still ask me for tools. Then when I left my shop for a min and came back I saw one of them using my screw driver. He didn't even ask. I have a sign on my tool box that says do not touch. Then I caught another one pulling a drawer on my box open and putting a wrench back.

Then I explained that where I used to work some one might get knocked out for touching another man's tool box. To which the engineer replied. "That is crazy, where I use to work I borrowed the techs tools all the time". Then I told him. I pay for my tools. I don't pay for other people to use them.

A few months go by. The same guy ask for a socket wrench. Then again. catch him in my tool box looking for an Allen wrench.

I was speech less. There is a sign on my tool box that says don't touch. The tool he was looking for was avalible in the next room.

Here is my delema. In my situation. I am suppose to be of service to these people. They think my sole purpose is to help them with thier project. Every year they submit a survey to my boss that influences if and how much of a yearly raise I can get. So I can't exactly scare the crapnout of these people.

I honestly think they are autistic or something. You know the type. Egg heads that think they know everything but have no common sense.

So long vent / Rant over.

Question is how would you handle it.
IMO, machinist chests have locks for a reason. They don't detur theft so much as your exact situation. Start locking it up when you step away.

I'd make management aware of the situation, from the perspective of their actions are hindering your usefulness. You didn't bring your own tools because you're a snob, but because they are an extension of YOUR skills and you need your tools to be where you need them in the condition you need them. They (your peers) see your tools as just tools, and by extension that's how they see you.
i got a job once and walked off after a couple days because i refused to loan my tools. it was that or chop a hand off.
you should not have to lock your box.
i worked for a cannery and when some of my tools where stolen i told them i wanted them replaced and they did but said it would be a one time deal so i resigned and loaded up and left. i ended up working in a shipyard in alaska and i never had any issues there.
i simply will not loan my tools anymore evertime i do i regret it.
i even made a sheet once if some barrowed a tool i would put the name the tool and the date then when i would go and hey i want my tool back it was i didnt barrow that or i gave it back already. so i am done.

if you cant affor the tool yourself then how can you afford the tool yourself and the one you broke or lost you need to buy to replace, mine.
I would put a lock on it for sure. And I would seriously investigate a biometric facial recognition lock (there are some) so I did not have to fiddle with a key. The lock could default to lock when lid closed. I would be leery of a fingerprint lock (there are many) as my hands are too grimy much of the time to be recognized by print recognition.

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When I quit ,the new owners thought they owned all my tools ..........they found out different ,and then they bought the new mechanic flea market crap tools ............I had a real good laugh out of that.
Besides locking your tool box, you really need to escalate the problem to management. Best to put it in writing, and it doesn't have to be fancy. 1) You don't lend out your personal tools. 2) People are taking your personal tools, despite knowing you don't lend them out. 3) There is a set of general shop tools for people to use. 4) Management needs to make it clear that people without tools use the general shop tools and do not use employee personal tools without explicit, each-and-every-time permission. 5) Failure of management to make this clear is encouraging theft and abuse of employee personal property.
In car audio we had guys add car alarm systems and add a door lock actuator to the locking mechanism.
So you could arm and disarm with a key fob. haha
I had the same problem, my own tools were in work, it’s sort of how it works, stuff used to go missing, I’d find my Allen keys in another lab, multimeter in another building,
Got sick of it and went locked at all times, much to the irritation of everyone, the boss even asked me to leave a key, at which I said you give me a key to your house and see if you like me dropping in and making a sandwich .
The problem never really resolved itself, I retired and lo and behold when carting my tools to my van I was asked what the hell was I doing!, that didn’t go well btw.
My mrs had a kettle to make her tea in work, she was asked to borrow it by someone, shortly after same person just took it without asking, suddenly the kettle she bought was “ common property” and those using it got upset when she went and got it back!, they returned it when the element burnt out as it ran dry.
A window on human nature.
Heavy locks and a fuck off it came out of my paycheque not yours, go buy your own see if you like it.
In a previous position I kept a lab with reasonably good tools and there was exactly one guy I trusted to take what he needed because nothing disappeared and he hooked me up with bits and pieces and interesting jobs to do; everybody else had to use the tools right there in the room. Still pissed at whoever walked out with my lab cart... it had the room number on it and everything. When I closed that lab I gave the pick of the good stuff to a really hard lab manager, so only the mediocre tools vanished.

Different job these days, I keep an office toolbox stocked with home depot junk so at least there are <usually> screwdrivers around for the odd job- IT guys sometimes steal them and leave them in the vault etc. If the job changed to entail having real tools again I'd have a lock on the box 1st day and no easy way to move the box either.

Up in the cleanroom with the real techs all the boxes outside in the building common area are locked. If you establish a relationship with them some may let you know where their key is- I was fortunate enough to achieve that once. There would be h3ll to pay if you walked up as a nobody and started messing around in a tech's box.
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When I was hired, I was given a list of tools I should purchase.
Some of these engineers keep asking to borrow my tools.
If you wanted to have a bit of fun, find and buy a junky tool box, and equip it with garage sale tools. Bring it in, and that same day, without any explanation, start locking up your box. From that point on when anyone asks to borrow, point at the clunker. The 'good' one stays locked, no exceptions.
It's definitive. "Those" are my tools that I let folks borrow....."These" are my personal tools, and only I use them, and no one else.