Metalsmithing: Traveling with Our Tools and Materials

Be careful whatcha carry in your carry on — especially when it comes to your metalsmithing tools and materials. Otherwise you’ll wind up spread eagle in the standing position behind a flimsy privacy curtain as a burley TSA agent pats you everywhere. And what causes TSA agents to profile me as a potential threat at a small county airport?


They find it when they search my luggage packed for a class I am teaching in Boston. They scan it with testing machines. Swab me for chemicals. Cordon off the area with flashing lights. Contact my mother to see if I was a problem as a child.

They do not know what Fabuluster is. I do not tell them, because I figure they won’t believe me. Besides, it’s right there on the label: “For a high luster finish. Compound for final buffing of silver, gold, platinum….”
After a second search, I somehow get the all clear. Told the TSA agent that I do custom silversmithing and give her my card. Climb on the plane. Fly to Detroit.

And what do I discover?

My Boston flight is cancelled. I’ll have to go through this again tomorrow. Noooooo!

Test yourself with these simple test questions.

Hint: “Whatever” is not an acceptable answer.

  • Will I be able to get my wicked sharp Kate Wolf wax carving tools through TSA when I fly to Portland, Maine to take her class?
  • Should I mail stuff in advance that looks remotely dangerous, such as a pair of mismatched socks?
  • Is this post written in a humorous, but respectful way?
  • Do you have your own stories to share? Please comment or see my email below.

Update: You definitely had stories to share! See what happened next…

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. This spring, she has taught at Metalwerx, the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts, and the Florida Society of Goldsmiths. Contact her at