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What do you use to mark your tools?

What do you use to mark your tools?

Tool theft is a popular way for thieves to make a quick bit of cash. But it also ruins the lives of innocent tradespeople up and down the country. Whatever disappears from your van/garage will most probably be making its way towards a car boot sale to be sold at a fraction of the price it cost you to buy.

Police forces constantly recover hauls of tools and look to reunite them with their rightful owners. But one surefire way to make sure you never see your tools again is to not bother marking them. Those who do mark their kit have a much greater chance of being reunited with their trusty tools, especially if they use long-lasting and unique markings. At the very least, marking your tools will decrease their resale value. If they aren’t worth much this will reduce the size of the potential market for stolen tools.

Even if your tools are locked away safely every night where criminals cannot reach, there’s still the chance that they might go missing from your toolbox during the day when working on site. Tools have a habit of growing legs and going for a walk. It’s important to make sure yours are easily recognisable with a distinctive mark.

Electrical Tape

Some people elect to use electrical tape to mark their tools. This is a simple solution, but not very useful. Electrical tape can easily be peeled off by light-fingered work mates and career criminals alike. Over time the tape can move around and leave sticky residue on handles. This is by far the least effective method to use.

Sharpie/Permanent Marker Pen

The trusty permanent marker pen is a decent way to mark your tools, but not very unique. If all your workmates were to write their initials on their tools with a black marker pen, you wouldn’t be able to instantly spot your tools in someone else’s hands from across the yard. If you do use a marker pen, make sure you write on a recessed area. This ensures the pen will not easily rub off with use.

Spray Paint

It’s much more fun to give your tools an easily identifiable individual look. Why not try spray-painting them with a unique colour combination? The best time to paint your tools is when they’re brand new. This is so you don’t have to clean dirt off them to get the paint to stick. Make sure the spray paint you’re using is the right type for the tool’s surface. Also ensure you don’t paint over any serial numbers, identifying marks (e.g. measurements), working surfaces (like the teeth of a saw), moving parts, hinges etc.

Nail Polish

We’ve heard stories of a tradesman using his girlfriend’s nail polish to place a unique mark on his tools. If the nail polish is pink and glittery there are not many workmates who would quickly run off with your tools ‘accidentally’. Make sure you mark your tools in an obvious place, as well as a more inconspicuous place like under a battery cover.


A lot of people opt to use a metal stamp to brandish their tools with their initials or company name. This is a long-lasting method, but may be difficult to spot without close inspection of the tools. This is useful if your tools are stolen by thieves to resell, but less useful if you’re trying to spot your spanner in your workmate’s hands.


One of the most permanent solutions for tool marking is to engrave a unique number. Consider using your initials along with a couple of digits from the end of your postcode. Whatever you use make sure it’s unique and related to you so that in the event they are recovered by the police, there can be no doubt about who they belong to. Although we’re not quite sure how you’d go about engraving your engraver…

Our advice would be to use more than one method of marking your tools, such as engraving and spray painting. That way, you can ensure your tools are easily spotted when they get ‘borrowed’ on site, and can be easily identified as your tools by the police if they are stolen. Also, make sure you mark somewhere obvious as well as somewhere hidden and hard to get to in case the thief files off the more obvious markings.

And our final piece of advice would be to make sure your tools don’t get stolen in the first place! Invest in upgraded locks, a decent alarm and a security box for your van if you need to keep tools in it during the day and overnight. For more information about the vehicle security options we offer, visit our ‘Security’ page!

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