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SECURITY : If You're a Lender, Leave a Mark, Etch or Stamp on Tools

November 04, 1995|From Associated Press

Putting personal identification on your tools serves as a reminder and encourages friends and neighbors to return a tool they've borrowed.

Likewise, putting your mark on valuables--although possibly not a serious deterrent to theft--can hasten the return of any such items that may be recovered by law enforcement agencies. It can also make an important contribution to convicting the thief.

Hand tools, portable power tools and similar household items such as rakes and stepladders should all be marked with simple identification. Bands of colored tape around the handles make it easy to sort out tools after working on a neighborhood project.

Scratching, stamping, burnishing or even painting your initials or name makes for positive identification. Make sure that your personal mark does not look like part of the tool manufacturer's design.

With wooden tool handles, you can simply dip them into a can of paint to give one end of the tool a distinctive mark. Wooden objects can also be branded with a soldering iron or burnishing pencil.

Marking metal is more difficult because it is harder, smoother and less porous. Also, many metal objects are used in ways that tend to rub off or remove markings. Also, some are valuable, and you don't want to disfigure them.

For making durable, weatherproof identification marks on ladders and similar metal items, you can use ball-cap pens. These work like oversize ballpoint pens loaded with paint instead of ink. They make a line about a quarter-inch wide.

For more permanent marks on metal, you can scribe, etch or stamp your marks. A scribe is simply a scratch awl with a super-hard point. You can write with it as you would a pen to leave a faint mark. To make more definite marks easily, use an electrically powered engraving pen. These sell in hardware stores for about $20.

Metal-stamping sets consist of steel letters and numbers on individual hardened steel bars. They are reverse images like metal type. They incise the letter or number into the metal when you hit the stamp with a hammer. Use a copper-headed hammer to avoid the danger of metal splinters.

Metal-etching pens use acid to mark metals permanently.

When you want to use one of these marking techniques to identify more valuable possessions, first consider whether the mark will deface or otherwise somewhat devalue the item.

You should also consider what to mark it with. Your name or initials may not be positive identification. Addresses change. Your Social Security number is hard to trace. Police suggest using your driver license number with the initials of the state. Your name and address can be quickly found by the police by checking this number, and identification is positive.

In most cases you can find an inconspicuous place where the mark will not show. However, make sure you pick a place that is on the main frame or body of the object.

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