Tech Talk: Tooling Around

Posted on February 3, 2012

Mike Graham looking pensive in front of MVP panels.

Written by Mike Graham, product manager for CHAUVET Professional

A universal theme among us in this industry is that we have to travel to do our jobs. Planes, trains, and automobiles, that’s us. I have to say; sometimes I really envy people who only go on planes for vacations. Since the unfortunate events of September 2001, airplane travel has become a bit of a challenge. I had a fit the first time I had to check my tools.  (Sorry, but a $5,000 Fluke Meter is not something I wanted to have in my checked baggage.) If my tools don’t show up, I might as well not show up either.

As a work around, here is my suggestion: I check the probes for my meter in my baggage and I pack the meter itself in my computer bag, which I carry on. There is no way I am losing it. I have my tool bag that travels separately from my luggage, but I put a few backup tools (screwdrivers, C wrench, side cutters) in my luggage. I figure that this ensures a better chance of at least one bag showing up at my destination. If you are taking any kind of butane or battery operated soldering irons, make sure the fluid chamber is empty and that the batteries are taken out.

When it comes to carry-on luggage, I have a backpack and tow-behind travel case that can be zipped together to become one unit—or a wheeled backpack. I put my laptop in the backpack and my meters, books, and a change of clothes into the tow-behind. This works great because if I am on a flight where the gate people are telling me there is only one carry-on and your laptop bag counts, then I zip them together. It still fits in the overhead. If I am in Europe and they are weighing my carry-on, I keep them separate. (Shameless Plug Alert: CHAUVET also has a line of VIP Gear Bags to consider, see below for more information.)

This is the backpack / tow-behind combo that I use.

This also comes in handy for taking tools and parts to and from shows. If I am going to a show, most of the time, I have already packed a road case full of whatever I need so I am not really traveling with tools anyway. The only tools I fly with are ones I will need before my case shows up. For example, I know for trade shows, I will need a good tape measure with at least 25’ of tape on it, a sharp knife, and chalk before anything else shows up. I make sure the chalk and tape measure are in my carry-on, and the knife is in my luggage. For international shows, I have no road case, so I have to pack tools. However, I don’t bring the kitchen sink when I travel internationally. I only take what I need so I do not have to pay an over-weight-limit luggage fee.  All I really need are:

  • 2x Phillips head screwdrivers ( a # 1 and #2 size is good)
  • 2x Flat-head screwdrivers (one big, one small)
  • 1x Complete set of Allen keys—this can be the style that folds down or a t-handle kit
  • 2x Crescent wrenches (8” and 6”)
  • 1x Medium-sized vice-grip
  • 1x Soldering iron*
  • 1x Solder
  • 2x Small cutters
  • 1x Set nut drivers (metric or imperial, depending on your need)
  • 1x True RMS multi-meter

* Here is the catch: If you are going international, soldering irons are not auto-ranging, auto-sensing, or auto-anything in terms of power. You have to know what voltage you are going to need to make sure you have the right iron. Or, you can get a battery-powered one, which is what I choose. Chances are good you won’t have to do a lot of soldering. If you do, buy one on site.

I also like to take a few parts kits for the lights I have on my show as well so in the case something breaks, I am ready to go.

Keep in mind your friendly TSA gate agent is not going to be too happy with you if the above tools are in your carry-on. Make sure that if you are using your carry-on for a tool case while at your show, you take them back out and put them in your luggage or traveling tool kit bag. Here is a link for an up-to-date list of what you can and can’t bring on a flight.

Oddly enough, according to this site, cattle prods and gel shoe inserts have to be checked in your luggage and not carried on the plane. I can see the gel shoe inserts, but I will need that cattle prod to get through the inspection lines.

CHAUVET created a series of soft-sided gear bags for some of the more lightweight fixtures (that don’t require a road case) found in both the CHAUVET Professional line and CHAUVET DJ line.

These would also be great for tools and cables as there are built-in, movable interior dividers and side pockets to keep everything in their place. There are four sizes to choose from and worth checking out.