Studio Notes: Traveling with Jewelry-Making Tools and Supplies Follow Up

My post, Metalsmithing: Traveling with Our Tools and Materials, was about being searched twice by a local TSA agent thanks to some jewelry-making tools. The post got tons of views and responses. (The culprit this particular trip was Fabulustre polishing compound in my carry on.)

Lessons Learned:

  • Include specific pages from jewelry making catalogs that identify your jewelry-making tools or materials you have in your luggage. It may help.
  • Consider shipping your tools

Here are some of your comments about jewelry-making tools and travel (edited for length):


I do chain maille and have not had trouble with anything, even my pliers, flying domestically. Coming back from Argentina was a very different story. I checked my bag on the lower level of the airport and proceeded to security on the upper level. My pliers could not come with me. My checked bag was in the bowels of the airport. I lost both pair. We traveled to South Africa last year. Same story


Brought a crucible holder. Got through security, had a layover, got through security AGAIN. Sitting putting on my shoes, didn’t notice the handle came off. Underneath, the metal tapers to a point. Basically looked like I had a small sword sticking out of my backpack. TSA agent noticed around the same time that I did, and walked over to me. They ended up confiscating it, and for $12 I really didn’t care to fight at all. Used BBQ tongs when I got home and it worked out fine.


I’ve often thought someone should set up some sort of shipping business right by the TSA inspection area. Then people could ship the confiscated stuff home rather than losing to the land fill.


I was traveling through either Pittsburgh or Cleveland and left a favorite pair of pliers in my carry on. There was a little shipping store TSA was kind enough to direct me to. They might have even had a sign near security. I was glad not to toss my little pliers!


You should see the amount of weird metal shapes that end up in my checked baggage whenever I fly to shows. So I’ve started taking one of our Knew Concepts PR postcards (with the saws on it) and writing a big note in marker that says “TSA–I’m on my way to a show. We sell saws. That’s why all the weird metal.” More than once, I’ve gotten it back with a “thank you” scribbled on it.

Esta Jo:

When I go thru security, I always have my metal (gold and silver) with me and take it out into its own tray. The person says “oh, you don’t need to do that” and I say “trust me, you will want to see it”. It is always opened and 1/2 the time I tell the person I am a jeweler and they wave me thru. Sometimes I have to explain a little more. I wave the gold and then they get it.

Have a story of your own to share? Please leave a comment.

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. Her story on Colorado diamonds appears in the September-October issue and she will be writing about her experience in Kate Wolf’s class in 2018 along with her grant writing adventures as a silversmith. You can reach her at [email protected]


  1. Meredith A at 8:25 am August 28, 2017

    I always pack my check thru bags with clear plastic boxes so TSA can see what’s inside without making a mess of things. I also include an inventory sheet on top of each bag. This has prevented TSA from digging about for years. In fact, I just returned from a trip where I didn’t have time to print my inventory sheets and it’s the first time TSA has gone into my bag in over 5 years. I think normally they see the inventory sheet, scan it, and see what it is they were wondering about in the list so they close the bag back up.
    I also mark each inventory sheet “copy 1 of 3” so they understand that if stuff goes missing I will be putting in a claim over it. I lost all of my vendor table display props and table cloth one year and didn’t know it until I unpacked for the show! I learned from this to never pack a bag completely full. Leave head space and fill it with bubble wrap.

  2. Susan W at 7:22 pm August 28, 2017

    I used to take out my metal(silver and gold) until a TSA agent said to ask for a more private space to open the jewelry cases. I was coming from Indianapolis to Atlanta and the area was not too crowded. He said to remember that you might also be showing fellow travelers what you were carrying and make yourself a target.

  3. Linda C at 10:30 pm August 28, 2017

    I appreciate all of the good advice. I have had tools confiscated by TSA at the airport and even had my whole tool packet taken by security when boarding a ship for a cruise. I was told that the captain would keep it until the cruise was over.

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