How to Make a TSA Compliant Multitool

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Introduction: How to Make a TSA Compliant Multitool

About: I'm a maker. I was the host and co-writer of the PBS series Make: Television. I demo projects at Maker Faires, and build and write about technology project for Make magazine, Adafruit, Boing Boing, and other...

Carrying small pliers and screwdrivers at all times is helpful and comforting. So, when I travel without checked baggage, I feel strange leaving small multitools behind. Being without tools is weird. So, I decided to buy a used Leatherman Squirt on eBay (possibly a TSA auction of a previously confiscated tool), and modify it to meet/exceed the government restrictions on carry-on tools.

Step 1: Acquire a High Quality, Low Cost Multitool to Modify

Since there's every likelihood that at some point your multitool will be confiscated, regardless of it's compliance with regulations, don't spend a lot of money on your tool. I like the Leatherman Squirt series. Brand new, they're around $30. Used ones go for around $10-$15 on eBay. I've bought three used ones over the years and they've all performed admirably.

Step 2: Remove Rivits and Disassemble (optional, Mostly Unnecessary, Yet Fun Step)

Mill or grind off the rivets with a Dremel or angle grinder to remove or swap out the offending parts. Originally, I'd planned to exchange other compliant parts from a second donor tool, but none were unique enough to warrant it. It was fun to open, and does make grinding the file, awl, and blade easier, but you really can skip this step if you like.

Step 3: Dull, Round, and Shorten Blades

You can use pliers to snap the file down to size, or simply grind it down to size and then round it. The same goes for the main knife blade. The awl is a bit pointy and threatening on this one, so you may want to defang it as well.

Step 4: Laser Etch "TSA Compliant" Into the Scale

Since you've gone to all this trouble to make your multitool compliant with the TSA rules, why not advertise that a bit? If you have access to a laser cutter/engraver, you can etch it yourself, or bring it to an engraving shop and have it done for you. Use the attached file for a Leatherman Squirt, or scale accordingly for your tool.

I managed to travel through about six airports before this one was confiscated. Not too bad for a ~$12 investment and two hours of my time. It was really helpful to have the tool with me when traveling light. I plan to make a replacement before my next trip. If you make one for yourself, I'd love to hear of your adventures with it!

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    user

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    62 Comments

    why not have a self addressed envolop ready for any thing they deem flight risk

    Forget knives.

    I'm tired of the TSA cutting off my TSA compliant locks every time. I always arrive at my destination and the locks are gone.

    Once they called me at the gate to tell them my combination because they didn't have a #4 key.

    If *I* were President TSA is the first agency *I* would get rid of.

    I carried a bottle of Compressed o2 on to an aircraft ( I've went thru three checkpoints and I don't have a lung issue) to see if any of the TSA dingbats would take it nope sailed thru with an easily improvised explosive no one batted an eye.

    2 replies

    A friend of mine was once, legitimately, hired by an airport security agency to "test" their machines and agents. The job was roughly "here's a bunch of suitcases, let's see the worst things you can get away with hiding in them". He is now on most no-fly lists because he successfully demonstrated how to hide a dozen pretty serious explosive devices that were NOT picked up by their various x-ray / sniffer / scanner machines. :-(

    And this proves conclusively that "authority" speaks with a forked tongue.
    Do not allow yourself to be "hired" to test security unless you already work for the government in that capacity. Even then, watch your six.

    When flying in Japan I once forgot and had my full size Swiss army knife on me. So I put it in the basket figuring they would confiscate it. Instead they put it in a manilla envelope and gave it to the flight crew. At the end of the flight the crew gave it back to me.

    3 replies
    user

    I saw that happen to someone at the naval base in Virginia (although it was peppers spray not a knife).

    That's good customer service. And someone using a little common sense.

    That's excellent! The most sane, thoughtful solution yet..

    The UK security doesn't allow any tools in hand luggage anymore, this includes spanners, screwdrivers or pliers. Lost a lovely small Bahco adjustable spanner at London City Airport last month. Loved that thing.

    They do offer envelopes for sending items home at a cost of around £7 which is a nice alternative to having it confiscated.

    1 reply

    I've had Allen keys confiscated. Yeah, you know, hex keys, had to imagine a more blunt and less threattening tool. I was incredulous. What's the risk? I might start slowly and meticulously taking the plane apart from the inside or something?
    Worst of all, when I got on the plane, my set-back table was loose and flapping around, and the guy in front of me had a broken reclining mechanism. If I had my Allen keys on me I just might have been able to tighten it up for them! AAAARGH!

    if they want to make some money why dont they make an official tsa compliant tool for people

    One time before all this security, I took a dive knife with a 15cm blade on a plane and hand luggage and it did not raise an issue. However since then I have had my bags searched because of a whole bunch of keys and also another time I had a large sandwich bag of coins that attracted attention

    6 replies

    back in the 70,s my grand mother took her 22 semi auto clear to Israel and back never a comment o'h how times have changed

    back in the 70,s my grand mother took her 22 semi auto clear to Israel and back never a comment o'h how times have changed

    back in the 70,s my grand mother took her 22 semi auto clear to Israel and back never a comment o'h how times have changed

    back in the 70,s my grand mother took her 22 semi auto clear to Israel and back never a comment o'h how times have changed

    back in the 70,s my grand mother took her 22 semi auto clear to Israel and back never a comment o'h how times have changed

    back in yhe 70,s my grand mother took her 22 semi auto clear to Israel and back never a comment o'h how times have changed

    I got turned away on an army/airforce base at an air show - I had a knife with a 1" blade on my keychain. Took it back to my car. When I got in, there were guys with M-16's all over the place. I guess I might have held them at bay with my keychain knife.

    Common sense was the first casualty after 9-11