Easily identify metric and SAE tools with red electrical tape

Red Electrical TapeI was in a friend’s garage recently helping him with a home-improvement project when I noticed that many of the wrenches and sockets in his tool cabinet were wrapped in red electrical tape. On closer inspection, I noticed that the colored tape was only wrapped around his metric-sized tools.

By having an easy way to differentiate his metric tools from their SAE counterparts, he found he was more likely to put both types back in their correct places when he was done using them.

Do you have any tricks for labeling things to keep them grouped with similar items? Please share them in the comments.

27 Comments for “Easily identify metric and SAE tools with red electrical tape”

  1. posted by Adventure-Some Matthew on

    Sheer, simple, genius. I love it!

    (Runs off to do the same thing to the mess of tools in toolbox.)

  2. posted by Jonathan on

    I would also like to mention the trick (borrowed from photographers) of wrapping a length of same-color tape around all your equipment. That way, when you go to a photo shoot or similar event, where there is a bunch of similar equipment (tripods, light meters, whatever) lying around, you can easily spot what’s yours because it has your color tape on it.

  3. posted by Lynn on

    All my silk sewing thread for hand-sewing is grouped together. Ditto the polyester thread for my sewing machine. Ditto the cotton thread for quilting. (All thankfully wound by the manufacturer onto different-colored spools to make this even easier.) Ditto the Kreinik metallic threads for cross-stitch and needlepoint, which are on identical plastic spools but with different-colored labels to differentiate the type or diameter. Small oases of organization in the ongoing dream of having a logically-organized, fully-functional studio. (Direction is more important than speed…)

  4. posted by Heather on

    Great idea! It’s often getting dark by the time I finish a project and start putting tools away, and it can be hard to read the engraved numbers on sockets in dim light or with a flashlight.

    This could also help when “borrowing” tools from several tool boxes (does this screwdriver belong in the kitchen drawer or the workbench or the truck?).

    I’ve been trying to find ways to use up a stash of old nail polish (other than painting my toes a different color every week), and this might work.

  5. posted by Lose That Girl on

    Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?

  6. posted by Ruth Hansell on

    Wonderful idea! I had a contractor friend who spray painted all the handles of his tools day-orange, it made it soooo easy to find his tools at the end of a day or even the end of a job.

    I use tape guns frequently in my work, and I’ve put a sticker with my name/phone # on each handle, wrapped in clear packing tape. If I do leave one behind, the client has my number right there to let me know.

    As far as putting things back, there’s always the outlining of the tool on the pegboard method.


  7. posted by Louise on

    Color coding is great. One caveat: Electrical tape tends to slide around a bit over time, leaving its sticky residue behind.

    Nail polish is a better alternative. You can also buy a can of “tool dip,” which is a rubbery goo specifically meant to coat the handles of tools. While you wouldn’t want to dip wrenches in such a way that their function is compromised, the dip can be painted on the center of the handles.

  8. posted by margaret on

    I should do this with the kids’ hockey equipment.

    My mom told me that she was in a school shop room one time, and tools were stored on a pegboard. The entire pegboard, tools and all, was painted one colour. When someone took the tool off, the unpainted outline remained. Plus since the tools had been painted, students were less likely to wak away with them. There was more than one pegboard with more than one set of each tools, so each pegboard was a different colour.

  9. posted by Another Deb on

    When I travel with school groups we use the same bright color of duct tape to identify every piece of luggage that belongs to the members of the group.

    When unloading baggage from airport carousels or tour busses, anyone in the group can retrieve a marked bag to put on our pile. This would work for family travel as well.

    I also learned a neat trick for organizing large groups of kids on these trips for check-ins. Each is assigned a number that stays with them the entire trip. At check-in points, each students calls out their number in the correct order. This is so much faster than “calling roll” or hunting names on lists lists to check off. The chaperones all have master lists with the corresponding names in case a number does not get called out.

  10. posted by Kristin @ Simplify Your Life on

    Great idea! I love how simple things can make life so much easier.

  11. posted by Fern on

    That’s a good idea.

    Mine is for rechargeable batteries. Store them in pairs held with rubber bands. If the two positive and two negative ends are together (ie. the batteries are the same way round), they’re charged. When they need to be recharged, put them ‘crossed’ (so each end of the pair has a positive and a negative end; the batteries are the opposite way round).

  12. posted by jon on

    It’s not metric. It’s Decimal metric. Metric simply means measurement, so it’s all metric, Imperial metric, Decimal metric. The point of saying decimal metric is that it’s a decimal system, and so easy to do sums with. Imperial metrics are hard to do sums with.

    Yes it bugs me, because it does matter. You use decimal coinage, you use decimal arithmetic. Start saying decimal metric because the important part is that it is decimal not metric.

  13. posted by Ann on

    Jon, mellow man, mellow! colloquial usage has made the term decimal metric obsolete!! Just like the correct spelling of nuclear is nuclear, but enough people said nucular that it is now accepted….. By the by…. love the tape/nailpolish ideas above!

  14. posted by jame on

    perhaps off topic, but when we eat out we take a bag with necessities, spoon, glass, plate, etc. I do not want to lose it so I label the bag and plate with our phone number, so if we forget it at a restaurant all they have to do is call the number and I will run right over to collect it.

  15. posted by James (ordinary) Hennessy on

    You might find this article, by the much missed Sheldon Brown, interesting.

  16. posted by JustGail on

    Like Lynn, I also separate sewing and needlework threads by type. And put the screwdrivers in the toolbox with flat facing one way, philips the other, and torx in another area of the drawer.

  17. posted by Imogene on

    Great idea! But what does SAE mean?

  18. posted by cammy on

    I have a set of tools for the office, just basic hammer and screwdriver and such, but they come in handy fairly often. It’s my second set, as the first set “disappeared,” i.e. got borrowed and never returned.

    The new set is bright pink. Oddly, none of the guys who borrow the tools want to keep them at their desk.

  19. posted by CatServant on

    I put a band of duct tape around the handle of any cleaning object that has been “demoted” to ickier jobs: old toothbrushes now used to scrub the bathroom, old dish brushes now used for scrubbing out plant containers, etc.

  20. posted by WeAreTheWhirled on

    Red on the metric, green on standard (SAE), and an extra piece on the one that fits the retaining nut for the lawnmower blade.

    I feel vindicated. My father-in-law thought I was insane when he saw my color coded wrenches.

  21. posted by Emily on

    Being a Boy Scout leader and also female, I blaze all of my “stuff” with pink duct tape. Cup handles, flashlights, stuff sacks, sleeping pads, tent bags, tarps, etc. (especially anything I may loan out).

  22. posted by Isarian on

    Some of the tools I’ve purchased recently actually have colored dots on them out of the box using this system, using red for metric.

  23. posted by Lee on

    When I was growing up, the teenager next door used to borrow my father’s tools and lawn equipment and then claim they were his. Daddy sprayed orange paint on all of his handles – problem solved.

    I used old nail polish to paint the first initial of each of my boys on the bottoms of their Matchbox cars. I may do this on items that belong in specific rooms of the house and cars.

    Great ideas!

  24. posted by Alison on

    I agree that the term decimal metric is obsolete. Here in Canada where we actually use the metric system no-one uses that term.

    But I can’t agree that nuclear is now OK to pronounce as NUKE-U-LAR. That’s just not right.

    (And now you can tell me I’m logically inconsistent 😉

    Love all the tips here, though…especially the rechargeable battery one. I’ve been so reluctant to use them because I can never tell if they’re charged or not, etc. So this will help with that!

  25. posted by hkw on

    @Lee, thanks for the great idea on the toy cars! My son and his friends have just started lending Hot Wheels to each other. They seem to know which belong to whom, but I can’t keep them straight. Think I’ll get out the blue nail polish tonight!

  26. posted by Elisabeth on

    The ‘one-stitch’ marking method was something I thought of for when I had baby twins and no time for name tapes or marking things others had lent me. One simple overstitch on a clothing label in a specific colour (keep sewing needles loaded somewhere handy) could identify who had lent me something, which was our ‘stuff’ when going home from parties etc., and these days (now they’re 15) identifies whose tights are whose. Nail varnish dots beneath toys is great too.

  27. posted by Jamesgirl on

    All my how-to books are covered in matching pattern sticky shelf liner paper and organized in one spot

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