Tips For Shadowing Your Aviation Tool Box

Are you tired of constantly looking for a specific tool in your toolbox and wish you could organize it better? We get it and have seen some great toolboxes organized by foam shadowing. 

There are different ways to shadow your toolbox, and we will cover a few of them, but before we get to that let’s review the benefits of organizing your toolbox this way and what it can mean for your job.   

Reasons To Shadow Your Tool Box:

  1. Accountability - as an aviation mechanic, you can’t leave your tools in the aircraft. It’s totally different than just leaving your tool accidentally in a car shop or in your garage. It’s a safety hazard in an aircraft. 

  1. They are too expensive to lose - so having a spot for each tool keeps you accountable for keeping track of your tools. It’s really easy to see when something is not put away properly.

  2. Motivation to return borrowed tools - when someone borrows one of your tools and you see how easy it is to know which tool is missing, it helps you remember to get that tool back. Same goes for people who forget to return borrowed tools - or those that want to borrow it on a permanent basis. When you have a reputation of staying on top of your tools, others are more likely to return them and respect your toolbox.

  3. Employers love organized mechanics. When you arrive at a job site with your toolbox organized and you get to work quickly, this shows that you value your job and respect the work that you do for them. This helps your reputation with your managers and you will reap the benefits of that reputation by getting better jobs.

Shadowing your toolbox may seem like it’s time consuming and expensive to create, but here are some tips to conquer the project and save a little money at the same time. 

If you are constantly changing out the contents of your toolbox, it probably doesn’t make sense to create the shadow.

Aviation mechanics have a relatively small, stable toolbox, so it makes sense in this industry to give it a try. If you have a lot of tools, you can shadow only the tools that you are worried about losing and leave the rest in a standard toolbox. 

Tips For Shadowing Your Toolbox

It is very expensive to have your toolbox shadowed by a professional. However, you can do it yourself with a little bit of time and some inexpensive materials. Some materials I have seen that work are:

  • Foam (lots of different varieties)

  • Foam board (foam between two layers of poster board)

  • Grippy Mat or Non-slip rolls contact paper or (like you see in kitchen drawers)

We have seen toolboxes organized with all kinds of materials, from colorful foam puzzles to square foam gym mats, to soft foam that you can squeeze with your hands. It really doesn’t matter what kind of foam that you use, however, there is a size component that makes a difference. 

Choose your foam based on the size of your toolbox and your tools. If you are organizing your pliers, you will want a thin layer of foam. Also think about how easy it is to cut the foam when you are selecting your materials.

We have seen some toolboxes with a gripping mat inside the drawer that helps the tools stay in place when you open and close the drawer. Some mechanics have drawn outlines of their tools so they know exactly where they go when it’s time to clean up. This is fine for a toolbox that doesn’t move around, but if you are frequently moving your toolbox from one location to another, this isn’t going to help you very much. 

To create your shadows, put the foam in your toolbox and lay out your tools the way you want them. Remember to leave space for your fingers to grip your tools in between each tool. 

Once you are happy with the layout, use a marker to draw an outline around each tool. This will show you exactly where to cut when you take your tools off the foam.

Cut out the foam along your marker lines but only cut part way through the foam. When your tools are set into the foam only part way, it’s easier to grip them when you want to take them out. You don’t want to sacrifice the convenience of a quick-grab for the sake of shadowing. You can also cut half circles on the edge of each tool to make room for your finger to get a grip on your tool. Pro-tip: make the half circle the same size as your middle finger. 

Some mechanics like to lay out their tools on top of the foam for a few days at work to make sure they are organized in a way that makes sense. It’s an extra step, but worth it because if you change the way your tools are organized, you have to recut your foam. 

Are you thinking about a job where having an organized toolbox is an advantage? Talk to your recruiter and let them know that organization is important to you. It’s a skill that is frequently requested in great jobs offered at Strom Aviation.