Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Taking this show on the road...

Regular readers of this blog may remember that in September, I drove to Washington state for a week-long metal retreat which I co-hosted with the very awesome and talented Melissa Muir. It was my first time making a long trip to do work elsewhere, and I was very challenged by the process of trying to figure out what I should take with me.

I think I took more than I really needed.


Don't judge. And in my defense, my best friend Kimmy brought a few things.

But even the packing was a good learning experience. I thought I'd share with you my favorite travel accessory and my least-favorite, to give you some idea of what worked and what didn't work.


This AWP tool tote is one of my favorite non-tool purchases of the last year. It is extremely sturdy with a thick woven canvas stitched around a metal frame. The bottom and lower part of the sides is fitted with a rubberized coating that protects it from moisture, so you don't have to worry so much about where you set it down - just wipe it off! And as you can see, the price is right and it holds a TON of stuff.


That plastic organizer is included, and it fits snugly in the bottom of the tote.


I used it for small items and sharp items. There was plenty of room in the large open compartment for my punches and cutters, and I used the narrower areas on the left for my needle files, chasing tools, center punches and a pin vise.

Also included are two zippered bags that clip to the tote with a long lanyard.


I used one for all my saw blades and the other for my burnishers, ring clamp, and stone setting tools.

There are two tiers of pockets around the outside of the tote. The lower tier is gusseted, so they open a little wider than the upper tier, which are stitched closer to the sidewall of the tote. The pockets held literally all of my pliers, my favorite stubby hammer, Sharpies and more... with room left over.


In the main section, I was able to fit a bench block, all my sanding and finishing materials, some work towels and last minute odds and ends. Since I got back, with my studio packed up for the move, I've rearranged it and the center section now holds a bench block, a sand bag, sanding materials, a saw frame, a bench pin/anvil combo, my magnifiers, and an assortment of hammers wrapped up for travel. I took this with me to the Richard Salley class I took recently, and it had literally everything I needed to do the projects. I am an enthusiastic fan of this tote, especially given its $25 price tag.

Now, here's something that worked a little less well:


Kobalt has a steller reputation for high quality products, and in general I'm a fan. I got this tool box because I wanted something sturdy that could transport my metal bench items, and it certainly had plenty of room.



Here's the problem, though. All that metal bench stuff? It's really (REALLY) heavy. Really heavy. Once I loaded this up (and packed a bunch of shop towels in the drawers to keep things from moving around) it was too heavy for me to lift - and I was really nervous that the plastic handle on the top of the lid would just snap off. I managed to get it on a dolly and muscle it down the stairs and into the car, but it was not in the least bit convenient. I will say that having it next to my worktable created some good organizational space, but overall it wasn't a good fit for travel. To be clear, the problem was that I was loading the toolbox up with more stuff than it was designed to carry, so the problem isn't with Kobalt. That said, I would recommend they consider making this toolbox with a sturdy metal handle (perhaps with a rubberized grip) instead of the plastic.

So while I'll probably repurpose the toolbox for our household tools, I am an enthusiastic fan of the AWP tote. Since I can't afford to own two sets of my most-used tools, I'll be using it a LOT to transport things to and from the new studio when I need to work at home. And, of course, there's always NEXT year's metal retreat!

How about you? Do you have a favorite travel accessory for tools and materials?

Until next time!


  1. Great post Francesca. I love that first piece and you're not kidding the price is right. I got a rolling bag that is sort of kind of similar but I don't think quite as good. The only plus to the one I got is it is like a piece of luggage with a handle and wheels, I love that about it. But the price certainly was not right. Even with a substantial coupon it was way way way more expensive. But It worked ok, I might get one of the AWP bags/ Thank you, can't wait for next year!

    1. Now I see AWP has a rolling tool bag, still cheaper than the one I got. Might be on my Christmas list!!! :)

    2. Wow - I'll have to check that out. I really am a fan of this tote - wish I'd found it earlier! It's become indispensable in a very short time. :-)

  2. Thanks for the post. I had gotten a rolling bag with an extendable handle from Harbor Freight, but it doesn't want to stay upright when loaded or unloaded. So not as happy with it as I thought I'd be. I may check out your first tool bag. Love it and all the pockets/room.

  3. Added this to my wish list--and a rolling one would be even better. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I'm so glad you posted this Francesca. I use those 'bead bags' - the zippered ones that come w/5 bead bins at JoAnn's, Michael's, Walmart, etc. each time I pack up my studio and head to the mountains in the summer, but this tote you have looks like it would be a much better choice. Not only could I carry all the beads, supplies I need, but the tools and accessories too - all in one thing instead of my bead bag and another bag for tools, etc. So, this might just be going on the Christmas wish list for the hubby. And yes, a rolling one would be rather nice, eh?!


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