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How do you handle people touching your tools.

I didnt mind letting someone else borrow my tools, but if they asked more than once then I say you obviously need one so buy one.

That's pretty much always been my rule. If it's something oddball, I need it right now and a friend has it, I'll borrow it. If I think I'm going to need it again, I buy it straight after I return my friend's tool.

There's a very limited number of people I'll lend tools to and mostly they're of the same mindset.

My Dad let me play in the shop as a little kid and let me use tools as I found reasons to and was up to the task of using them correctly. We have a little Taiwan wood bandsaw that has a pencil scribble on the bottom from when I was in diapers, and the on/off switch was right at my eye level and I would turn it on and run away, I think scared of the noise. When I was 5 or 6 though I wanted my dad to cut up some wood for a robot or something I was making and instead of cutting it, he pulled up a stool and taught me to use that saw. He always told me to count my fingers before and after I used the saw, and tell him if I came up with a different number. We still have that saw and there are times I've thought about upgrading the motor drive and making it a better machine, but I want preserve those pencil doodles. Me and that saw go way back.

There was only one time I got in serious trouble (thinking my Dad was going to "kill" me) when using his tools. He had taught me how to use his leather tools and let me make stuff with them, but I was making something on my own one day and used a hole punch over a steel block, which rolled over and split the cutting edge. I didn't realize the steel block and the plastic cutting block were so different but I got in a heap of trouble for that because it was a very old tool that a mentor had given him years ago. I got grounded from the leather shop for awhile, but I didn't get scared off of using tools. I recognized how serious using them was and how important they could be and that made me want to learn more.
One of my pet peeves is when people need something and there are rules or protocols involved (like this topic), and they make a big show out of following the rules.
I don't do the whole bit about saying "I asked nicely so..." but, I do absolutely point out when I return something. I know some guys that would loan you damn near anything if you asked. One of them texted me late one night, completely out of the blue and asked me if I had his motorcycle trailer. There are two problems here: I've never borrowed anything at all from him and I have multiple trailers of my own. For maybe half a day, he thought someone had gone in his backyard and stolen his trailer. It eventually turned up with a friend about 20 miles away and all was good with the world.

But I'm going to make sure that when I return something, it's cleaner or better condition than when I took it and I want them to know it's back in their hands. They know it's back if they need it and if it disappears, they should know it wasn't me.
MY dad loaned out his trailer and his cement mixer about when I was born. He had used them to build a concrete driveway and parking slab. haul aggregate etc.
The mixer was returned when I was in high a school. The bumper hitch hung on the wall in the basement. I am 64 and have yet to see the trailer.
I work with a bunch of Gen-Z engineering types.
I have the only complete set of tools in the building, and they are constantly using/borrowing them.
I usually tell them that they need to return it promptly when they finish using them.
If I find the tool laying about the next day, you're done using my tools.
If you break my tools, you buy me a new one. YOU buy me a new one, NOT the company buys me a new one.
When I let them know what the .0001 Interapid indicator they want to use cost to replace, they usually ask for another alternative.
They're mostly very good at taking care of the stuff they use, so it's all good.
But they aren't of the tooling mentality that most of us are around here. (I'm trying to teach them.)

I'll probably be buried with at least some of my tools.

If nothing else, my 0-1 mic will be in my right hand.
When a tool came up missing, the finger always got pointed at me. Of course, I was the oldest of three sons' mom and dad had, no girls. My middle brother never put tools back in their place, I always went behind him and picked them up, even in our adult lives. The youngest brother always got off with murder and he was usually the one that carried the tool off. He was also the one at two years old who got ahold of dad's set of 0-6 Brown & Sharpe mics and used two of the bigger ones to dig in the dirt with them! Mom got chewed out for that! Lucky me.
EDIT: When dad passed on, I made sure my little brother got that set of mics, too!
I did some work off-site on friday; pulling low voltage cable, stripping ends and securing in terminals etc. I suspected the place had no tools or supplies- assumption correct- though the electrical engineer there had his own tool bag; true to form, klein linesman pliers, and very helpful. After the first couple cuts I dug out the leatherman and thankfully brought a few screwdrivers so I didn't have to keep begging. Not a spare screw or rack cagenut in the place. Well at least I know theres nothing out there so can bring my own tools for next week's installment. I guess the other techs all bring their own stuff and only what their job needs and leave nothing behind. I guess I've gotten used to being a lab rat where the manager usually keeps a half-way reasonable selection of stuff handy if one gets on good terms with him/her... that remote site is a wasteland.
Hi All:
The OP wrote:
"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."

Does anyone still remember a poster on PM named "Boris"?
Boris had a universal solution for everything that pissed him off.
He called it "Mr Slammy"...I'm envisioning a big deadblow hammer, probably a lead one.
I wonder whatever happened to him?
I think Mr Slammy would be effective in this circumstance.


My Dad was a mechanic pretty much my whole childhood. He was very territorial about his tools as the shops he worked at would not provide him with much of anything but a roof. Even now in retirement his toolbox is at home and locked unless he is getting in it. Mom has a bad habit of misusing tools intentional or not, so he keeps them locked up.

With a very similar attitude towards tools as being my livelihood, I ended up working in a university with a shared lab and machinery. If this doesn't mess with your mind, nothing will. That environment is terrible for someone who cares about much of anything related to tools and equipment. You'd think it was a student problem, but honestly in the 11 years I worked there the staff, faculty and admin were the worst perpetrators of tool and equipment molestation. Some people just don't get it, plain and simple and the only way to deal with it sometimes is to leave. Trying to get someone to change their ways is insanity. The only way you can actually get someone to care in this type of situation is if you are their direct supervisor and have the authority to fire them. Usually this is not the case so you usually end up getting nowhere but mad while no one else cares.

To the OP, I suggest buying a different tool box that can be locked with a remote like Houdini proposed. If you don't do that, nothing will change and you will just be the guy that keeps complaining about something that no one else cares about. You are the odd man out and no one else cares about your plight.

The only other thing that you can do is leave. That is what happened to me. I hated the situation I was in, but it wasn't quite bad enough to leave on my own. I wasn't paid a huge salary, but the job was a gravy train with biscuit wheels, so I stayed there and then they closed up the program I worked in. That is how I ended up on my own. I'll be honest, it was scary and made me mad when it happened, but I am thankful for it now. I work by myself and I love it. It is all on me and while sometimes that is overwhelming, it is easier for me to process mentally and emotionally than being in a situation where people don't do their job but there aren't any consequences from it.
Does anyone still remember a poster on PM named "Boris"?
Boris had a universal solution for everything that pissed him off.
He called it "Mr Slammy"...I'm envisioning a big deadblow hammer, probably a lead one.
I wonder whatever happened to him?

Looks like he last dropped in May 2023. I hope he is well, and happy.

Thanks for the support and good advice.
The issue I have with locking the box is that I have a kennedy with the front plate locking mechanism. So sort of a pain to open and close it all day. Plus I like to have the box open to get what I need at a moments notice. Bio lock would be good for that but with kennedy style. Would always need to put front plate back on. I thought a large color print "Warning do not touch my tools". Staring at you on the inside top lid would give people the same idea as a lock.

Maybe I could rig something to shock someone if they touch the box. Then I could easily flip a switch to turn off shocker everything I need to get in it.

I did go to management with this problem and they did give some money to fill out that other cabinet that I mentioned for everyone to use. It is like they are just too lazy to take an extra 30 steps to go to the other box. But I will continue to escalate it with management. Issue with our management is there are way too many of them. So my boss will yell at his boss who may or may not care or who knows.

I guess my frustration is the fact that people would even ask. I guess I was raised different. In a professional setting. Where you need a tool. Either the company has the tool and you can use it. Or you need to bring the tool you need to use. I would never ask another employee. To me it is like asking a Co worker to buy me a tool. Why would anyone think they should do that.

It is like you said. I view my tools as an extension of my value. They view them as nothing.

Another thing they take is bench space. I am much less taritorial when it comes to work bench space. But the same point can be made. There is an entirely other room with work bench and toolbbox. Go in there and get out of my way. One man shop. My name is on the door. Barely enough room for me. But it is like they think I am there to help them.

It is like the old joke mechanic sign. It cost more if you try and help the mechanic.

My good customers stay out of my way and they wouldn't even think of touching my tools.
I'm the person on the other side of the tool box (engineer who sometimes used to ask to use a tool).

You have my sympathy when you know part of your evaluation comes from the people who are asking to use your tools. I agree with many of the responses about locking your toolbox. After a period of time the thoughtless/arrogant ones will not come behind your back looking for a tool - at least when you are not there because you have trained them that the box is locked when out of your sight. Then you can simply close the box without locking if you will be away for only a short while. Is there any reason the community tool box and your tool box can't be in close proximity?

I always made sure I was in the shop during any of my prototype builds and assisting with the build. That gave my coworkers a degree of confidence in my use of their tools. They also knew I had a lathe, mill and welders at home. Depending on a given employers shop space and how much time I was spending in the shop, I sometimes had a small space for my own tools. In one shop I had a 3 x 6 ft lockable cabinet that I brought in - that was sweet for me - a great place for me to store my work in process G-jobs. The biggest tool I ever "borrowed" was company owned - a 19 inch swing lathe to modify some wheel centers for my '61 Ford. At one job, a technician came up with a crude but novel application of getting a convertible top to fold inward to store in the well. I productionized the concept and that design was part of the Nissan 240 convertible top in the early/mid '90s. Employer decided it was worthy of patenting. VP of engineering was always primary on any patent. I listed the tech as 2nd and myself as third inventor. I guess no one had ever done this for the tech. Next time I wanted to borrow a tool (over night at that) he let me know where the key was and that I was welcome to access his tool box (but don't tell any one). I always left a post-it note telling what I had taken and when I expect to be back with it. BTW, by the time my employer decided to apply for the patent I was already working on the next program and spending weeks at a time in Sweden & Finland so I assigned an engineering student to follow up for me with the patent attorney - somehow the student egr, who did not know his ass from a hole in the ground, got himself assigned as 3rd inventor.
Maybe wear sweat pants to work one day and conspicuously stick the tool down your pants to scratch your balls?
I have exactly one friend I would lend any tool I own to, and if he didn't return it I wouldn't care. That's because I know he wouldn't not return it unless there was a damn good reason, and because I know he'd do the same for me.

Other than that....only people I think know how to use the tool can borrow it....I figure if they know how to use it - properly - they'll have the same brains it takes to return it. That's always worked well. It's the idiots you have to avoid.....people who can hardly use a hammer are the same ones who won't understand the importance of returning it.

When I was kid, my father had bought a new utility trailer, 18'. Almost instantly people started borrowing it and some people used it multiple times a year. One day, someone bent the axles from overloading it. When they came back a couple months to borrow it, my father told them, "You could, but it's still broken from the last time you used it...." I still remember the look on their face....as if they couldn't believe my father hadn't gotten the trailer fixed - after all he had a couple months to do it.
At my first job way back in time, the boss put me in the office to do his dirty work per say. Meantime they hired a machinist to take my place. Dude showed up for work that morning, had no tools. Shop manager came in and asked if I had a scale/rule he could use until he could get one. I had a 12" Starrett rule my family gave me for Christmas a few years back. That was tough letting him borrow it. Poor guy lasted two days and gave up and left. I had to go out and finish the job he was on. Wasn't one part he cut on savlageable. I found my rule all bent up like a prezel. Took it to the shop manager and told him to replace it! The replacement was not a Starrett.:( Never again!
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