Atlantic Illumination Entertainment Lighting

An AIEL Instructional

(Image: Briefcase)

Tech Tips


As a lighting designer/director or crew member, one should
have certain things at live performances or for rehearsals.
Presented here are discussions of kits and their inventory
lists that one might wish to assemble and take along.



Initial Considerations     Creating Your Kits

Suggested Kits




Over my career I have devised various kits with a wide selection
of contents to assist me at rehearsals and events. Trial and error
has seen me change cases and contents continually as I became
more experienced. Since I love to share information, here is the
benefit of my longevity in this business regarding suggestions as
to what one might wish to take to gigs, and their organisation.

I hope this will remove frustration and disappointment for less
experienced newbies. See this as a shortcut to professionalism.
Even for long-timers, I believe this article may be of help. Feel
free to implement any or all that you read here. It really does help.
Organisation is key!


Initial Considerations

Number of Kits    Consolidation    Duplication

Inappropriate Items

Overkill    Case Types    Other Styles

A Caution


  Number of Kits

    Many techs will want to have an all-in-one kit, or perhaps a few kits that combine purposes. However, I prefer separates so that I may pick and choose what to take with me depending on the gig type and the duties I expect to perform. For myself an all-in-one kit is too cluttered, and if comprehensive, will be excessively large and heavy, as well.



    Regardless, you may be one of those that wish to consolidate at least some of the separate kits discussed on this webpage into fewer ones, so feel free to combine and/or mix & match as desired. Your criterion should be how big and heavy you will permit one kit to become. At the minimum though, one should have distinct front-of-house and on-stage kits to save running back & forth between the two locations.

    To preserve organisation when using fewer kits, make separate compartments or employ individual internal containers for grouping similar items. As will be seen, the separate compartments/containers idea is a good strategy anyway, even when having a distinct kit for each category.

    In a few of these articles, I have become over indulgent and included much detail; I will understand if the casual lighting tech chooses to gloss over some of this. However, for those really into the subject, I believe the detail is welcome. Read or skip as you please.  (-:

A categorised and organised kit is a pleasure with which to
work, and its implementation may reap precious seconds during
the crunch of time just before a show or during an intermission.



    You will find that some individual items in the list of kits presented later on will show up repeatedly. These typically are notepads, pens, markers, paper, adhesive tapes, batteries, and flashlights, but do encompass other things. In particular, place a pad and a pen into each of your main kits so you can note items while at an event. This is where the need is most evident regarding low stock, and when additions are thought of while at a gig. After a series of shows when your kits are eventually straightened and inventoried, the notes are more likely to be acted upon because they are right with their related items.

    These and other inventory discussed below might seem redundant until one needs to bring only a few kits to a smaller show. A duplication of some internal items means that you will not have to temporarily pull things from one case into another, or be forced to bring along a kit that will have fewer of its contents used at one of these smaller shows. If you find either of these scenarios happening, consider duplicating the required items in each appropriate kit. An alternative is to make up a kit specifically with these duplicate items and bring it to every event.

    For larger shows and tours where most or all of the kits are taken, duplication becomes a bonus whenever additional spares become necessary. Plus, one may not need to go to another kit to find a desired item. Just be sure you replace things back from exactly where they came so as to keep the integrity of inventory of each case.

    In relation to this duplication, those of you following this webpage's updates may notice that the lists here will get amended from time to time as new or duplicated things are discovered and added to a particular kit. Be aware though, that I don't necessarily carry every item shown on this webpage in my kits, but that I have included them on the lists as suggestions in case one or more might be suitable for your purposes.

    Thinking of the preceding, it seems logical to simply incorporate an additional item or three as opposed to bringing an entire extra kit along just to have available a few things. Such duplicated items, along with others, have been included on the lists below for those that have limited the number of kits because they decided to take things from one kit's list and place them into a comprehensive kit.

    Be aware that consolidation means some kits will be mostly inappropriate for some jobs, some of the time. The advantage though, is that one need bring fewer cases along, plus one need not rethink the list of kits to bring each time. Thus, the few times when unnecessary items are brought is more than made up by those times when one or more of those items become needed. Be Prepared! is a good motto by which to work.


  Inappropriate Items

    Some things may seem unsuitable for a given kit. However, they are included because from time to time I or staff have had a need for one or more of them when I had a particular kit at an event. Having them at the ready saves time which keeps costs lower. Plus the lessening of frustration for all is always a bonus.

    In addition, as a service to my clients, I like to have small items available should requests arise. These are not usually typical tech items, but are simple, inexpensive things that may mean a lot to a person at a particular moment. They might encompass safety pins, batteries, pens, paper clips, felt-tip markers, looseleaf paper, band-aids, cable ties, and so on. The cost is little to me but goes a long way toward pleasing a client. This can be returned as repeat business, but at the minimum, it is a good-will gesture that clients or their staff seldom forget. If you always seem to have what they need, they will more often come to you.

    What better business model can one have than being ready to serve a client? Always be prepared to do so! All-encompassing kits go a long way at an event toward doing just that. I can't tell you how many times the smiles and relief of clients have cemented my reputation when I can provide even seemingly inconsequential items in even the smallest of ways. It really does pay.



    Reading through the lists and accompanying narratives, one may come to conclude that the shear volume of items is overkill. I actually tend to agree. However, it has been my experience that having some of the infrequently used items available at hand is a luxury that pays for itself the one or two times a season that they are needed. Some have actually contributed to my calmness at an event when I realise that I or a gopher won't have to go out to locate an item, or to take a possibly long trip back to the AIEL Shop. On those occasions, I have been happy that we chose to bring along that extra case, and as mentioned, it's also a plus for client relations when I have just what they need when they need it.


  Case Types

    One could buy new cases for all of this, but I like to peruse second-hand, surplus, thrift, pawn and antique stores, or to frequent yard sales and flea markets to search for unique boxes and cases for my purposes. These could be suitcases, tool kits, briefcases, map cylinders and mailing tubes, shipping/storage containers for some long-ago product, or boxes designed to hold some piece of industrial or military equipment.

    When the price is right, I often buy cases just to have them on hand even if I have no immediate purpose for them. Eventually, I actually have ended up using many. It's great to have a case, box or tube "in stock" when I decide to incorporate a new kit into my inventory, or to add an item to one of my existing ones. Possessing this variety means it is more likely that one of these cases will suit my intended purpose. Plus, it has spawned interesting conversations with clients when they see a unique or rare case. Personalising with him or her is a positive business step and a good relation builder. Clients like to see an organised company with confident personnel doing the work for them. Client confidence is personified when one is prepared for any situation. Complete and organised kits are one way to do that.


  Other Case Styles

    Alternate case styles that I suggest are makeup or utility ones, fishing tackle boxes, and professional still or video camera bags. The former typically have fold-out or pull-out trays, while the latter usually have multiple pockets. The number, size and types of things you intend to include will determine how appropriate a given case style might be. Regardless, collect all types so as to be prepared for future purposes.

    Multiple cases and boxes within boxes keep things individualised and at the ready for any task. This method removes the bother to rummage through a plethora of contents to locate a necessary item. Yes, they take up more space, and it requires extra time to get to an item buried several containers deep, but the organisation they provide more than makes up for that. Plus, the ease of inventorying each case is a breeze. The idea here is to have groupings of like items, but separation from other groups. Multiple internal cases achieve this. Farther on, you will read about dividing these cases themselves through the usage of commercial containers.


  A Caution

    In recent decades, a number of inexpensive, metal-clad cases have come on the market for poker chips, barbeque sets, lawn games and so on. They look good but are usually poorly constructed and employ poor quality materials -- especially the hardware, which is often weak and rusts quickly. Some of it isn't even metal; it is just shiny plastic!

    Because these cases often damage easily, you may see them at yard sales or flea markets. If you are willing to do some work, and then to be cautious with them afterward, you can acquire some inexpensive protection. Be aware though, that these types should not be used where they might encounter rough handling or have much weight placed on top of them. As such, they are better suited for being transported inside other cases than as carry-alones. Realise though, that even these cheap, flimsy cases can provide protection if they are employed for uses that don't stress them.

    Along the same lines, look for damaged flight/road cases used by production companies. These were likely expensive when new and so could provide the best protection if they were to be restored. Most times, the cases have broken or missing hardware and/or damaged or absent edging. Some may have perforated sides. Simply remove the broken or missing items and replace them by purchasing from the nearest case company. Or, make one good case out of two damaged ones. Clean all tape and writing off, and then repair and repaint as necessary for a robust case that will be useful once again.

Having these kits at the ready and they being internally
classified is a plus for any lighting tech. They make it
easier for your pick-up crew to quickly locate things.
As well, a qualified appearance is presented to your
clients when you show up organised and ready to work.

Professional techs are prepared for any situation;
striving for organisation brings one closer to that goal,
and reaching it will impress your clients and workers.


Creating Your Kits

Before making up your first kits,
think about the type required and
what might be needed internally
to suit your chosen contents.


Case Selection and Internal Divisions

Internal Containers    Your Collection

Labels and Inventory Lists


  Case Selection and Internal Divisions

    When the need for a kit or internal container arises, peruse your inventory. Logically, the style to choose should be based upon its suitability for the usage required. Be sure it is large enough to allow for expansion as you come to think of more things to include. For every main case, allow space not for the items themselves, but for the internal containers that will hold those selected items.

    Throwing things any where into a case might be fine when there are only three objects, but as a given kit grows, it becomes disarranged and a time waster when one has to search through items not required at that moment. Being able to place one's hands directly on to a desired item is a great convenience when time is short.

    Beginning right away with partitions and internal classification makes for an attractive, professional case. It also means that missing or out-of-place items are more likely to be noticed when each division within a larger case holds fewer things.

    In the future, you will be happy that you had started to compartmentalise at the beginning because as your kits expand, they will have already been prepared in advance to accept new items. With expansion room, one rarely has to change to a larger main case when new items come to be added. Being forced to make such a change means having to endure the squandered time required to move into a new case what till then had already been organised inside a smaller case. One's comfort level also diminishes while one becomes comfortable with the new case layout. Advance planning should eliminate most case switching. This all means a more competent presentation to clients and, as already mentioned, the fast location of an item when time is of the essence.

    If you must change to a larger case, consider placing the old one inside a newer case. That preserves the original layout and case feel, but it still allows room for new items -- and it keeps like items together.


  Internal Containers

    To further facilitate the design and classification of any kit, decide what is to be incorporated, and into which compartment each item, or groups of items, will go. Then choose containers to house individual or like things within a given compartment -- or even allow the containers to be the compartments. These will not only help with organisation, but will provide protection during transit. Internal containers might be:

    I buy or collect the snap-lid container types used to hold food products. I like to use these to store batteries because they protect against contamination in the event of leakage. Be wary of cheap variations; the lids can be ill fitting and/or have weak snap closures that pop open with even a slight flexing of the container's sides. Others have thin hinges that break after a few uses. Test, if possible, before you buy. Some of the better food ones are used to hold berries. Beware of those with vent holes should leakage of your chosen contents become a problem.

    Other types applicable for use as internal organisers are boxes for hand wipes, diapers or for mop-wipe replacements. These are usually made from durable plastic with removable, but reusable, covers -- some with wide, snap-closing tops. Try for robust, transparent covers so that contents are visible. Robustness is important because if the contents are heavy, weak covers will cave in under pressure when boxes are stacked.

    As discussed previously, consider Product Cases, especially transparent ones. These might be ones made for Watches, Personal Music Players, Cell Phones, or Audio/Video/Data Cassettes. Hardshell Eyeglass Cases are great for little items such as flashdrives or small tools. Save the boxes in which bulk hardware comes. The best ones use see-through plastic with snap lids. Remove the labels by soaking in hot water, or if you can be careful not to melt the material, use a heat gun. For holding the smallest items that you might want to take with you, consider multi-compartment boxes meant for spools of thread, assortments of hardware, or needles and pins.

    Search the travel accessories section in drugstores for toiletry containers that might be appropriate. Some stationery outlets have transparent boxes holding paperclips and push pins. Use them as is with the supplied contents, or empty them and use the containers for other purposes. Realise though, that too often the cheap versions of these types of boxes can have weak closures, so bind these with an elastic band to secure for transit. When unwrapping, place the band into the case so it won't be lost or forgotten. Never lay it down outside the case. Carry extra elastics inside the cases that use them -- organised in their own little box, of course!  (-: In addition, look at dental floss boxes. Remove the inserts and use these snap-lidded boxes to hold small stationery items or a coil of solder.

    Look at containers used by professionals for products they employ. Hair dressers use squeeze bottles for colouring that are suitable for dispensing drops of oil. This gives one more control than typical spray-can lubricants and is more frugal because there is less wastage due to overspray. Lost the cap? Use an end cap from a pegboard hardware piece. These little plastic ends slip perfectly over the conical tips of hair colouring bottles.

    Finally, tins for chocolates, nuts, cookies, or tobacco might be used. Select square or rectangular box/can types over the round style. They pack with less wasted space than round ones. Use bulk tobacco canisters to hold items that are affected by atmospheric moisture. These cans are airtight. Regardless of types of containers chosen, tops should always be resealable and secure. Air them well before usage if odours of the original contents are an issue.


  Your Collection

    Begin now to gather all these case and container types; you will soon find that a purpose will arise where they can be employed. Whenever you have time to kill, peruse the aisles of fabric, drug, grocery, stationery and craft stores. Turn a blind eye toward the labels and products within; instead, look at the containers. Note those that might be useful to you. Even if you don't buy the merchandise on the spot, you might want to do so in the future.

    Become aware of the products used by friends and coworkers; ask for their empty containers. This saves buying products that are possibly of no use to you or not worth the price, given your intended usage. Once procured, remove their labels, clean the containers and place them into storage. Nest containers inside one another to reduce the required shelf space. Possessing a ready inventory means you can immediately grab an appropriate container to fulfil a need and quickly complete a case's internal arrangement. Review your container inventory from time to time to keep styles and sizes fresh in your mind.


  Labels and Inventory Lists

    Always identify each case and its internal containers with labels so that those unfamiliar with your kits won't have to look into unnecessary ones while trying to find something -- or to locate the case/container needed to replace that same something. If contents never or rarely vary, attach an inventory list to the inner lid, or at least keep one inside a plastic report cover within. This is most helpful at the end of a gig in keeping track of items that are prone to getting lost or left behind. Plus it may deter a dishonest pick-up crew member from considering theft of something that will be tallied at the end of an event.


Suggested Kits

Not everything below may be acceptable by you
for your required tasks. Choose from these
lists, removing or adding items to suit.

Kits to Ponder

Battery     Blacks     Cable/Adaptor     Chain     Colour     Cordage

Designer     Eyescrew     Floorbase     Hardware     Lock Keys     Lamp

Marker     Pattern     Power Distro     Soldering     Solvents/Cleaners     Supplies

Tape     Textiles     Toiletries     Tool     Wood Shim     Worklight

Think about e-mailing your suggestions
to be considered for inclusion here.

  1.   (Image: Selection of Batteries)
    Battery Kit:
        If you use a lot of batteries on the road, spares will be required. Most times, road crews simply carry their spares in the sames cases as the pieces of equipment that require them. However, for those that use a wide variety of types and/ or a large number, a separate kit is called for.

        So, inventory the types of cells (batteries) being used and buy spares to cover the typical number consumed for a given road trip or full tour. You will also require a battery tester because when a device begins to show the symptoms of low battery power, it's often only one or two of the cells that are actually weak. Get a tester with a large meter and a range switch that has positions to match each cell type you use. Such a meter will load each one in a manner that simulates the typical current drawn when in use. The tester will easily pay for itself with the cells that you don't throw out.

        Some additional items to carry are emery paper to clean contacts on the cells themselves, but also to keep your tester's prods and on-tester contacts conducting properly. Liquid contact cleaner containing lubricant/protector is a must as well. Get the non-spray type that instead has an applicator; this is because spray cans often waste the cleaner by applying too much, and spray tends to splatter onto unwanted surfaces.

        Include a strong, plastic container with a screw-on lid to hold spent cells and batteries. For large batteries, a strong, lockable bag is suggested. Both are to contain leakage of electrolyte. After disposal at a Hazardous Materials Facility, clean your containers before using them again. Water and baking soda should suffice. You may also want to carry a package of sanitary wipes if you frequently get electrolyte on yourself from leaking cells.

        As batteries are a theft target, a lockable box is recommended. Keeping each type in plastic boxes or bags is a good idea in case of leakage. Arrange to prevent contacts from shorting out. Transport the box inside another case that can be accessed easily when the truck is packed should batteries be needed while traveling. To achieve longer storage life, try to keep the case in as cool a location as possible, but not where it can drop below freezing.

    Battery Kit Inventory:
    • Button Cells
    • AA and AAA Cells
    • C and D Cells
    • 9-Volt Cells
    • Lantern (6-Volt) Battery
    • Power Tool Batteries
    • Charger
    • Power Bar and Extension Cord
    • Emery Cloth
    • Contact Cleaner
    • Plastic Containers and Bags
    • Sanitary Wipes

  2.   (Image: Blue Light on Rippled Black Fabric)
    Blacks Kit:
        This is simply a case with assorted sizes of cloth. They can be used to hide otherwise visible equipment or to dress up a case or box upon which some piece of gear has been placed. The typical fabric colour used will be black (hence the name of the kit), but other colours can and are used. Test like colours under different colours of light. Ones that appear to be the same shade may not -- even black. Some "black" dyes are a very dark blue purple; some even have a bit of red in them.

        Most will want to combine this kit with the Textiles Kit.

    Blacks Kit Inventory:
    • Black Cloths and Small Drops
    • Clothespins or Bulldog/Binder Clips
    • Theatrical Spring Clamps
    • Stage Tape
    • Staple Gun and Spare Staples
    • Staple Remover
    • Thumb Tacks
    • Pad and Pen

  3.   (Image: Cable with U-Ground Connector)
    Cable/Adaptor Kit:
        This is not for main cables, but for short jumpers (extension cords), two-fers, twistlock-to-whatever adaptors, and so on. (Two-fers are cables with one male and two female connectors.)

    Cable/Adaptor Kit Inventory:
    • 1, 2, 3, and 5-Metre Jumpers
    • Two- and Three-Fers
    • Breakout Adaptors
    • Twist/Stage-Pin/U-Ground Adaptors
    • Cube and Other Electrical Taps
    • Ground Lifters
    • Switched and Non-Switched
      Power Bars
    • Circuit Tester
    • Pad and Pen

  4.   (Image: Chain Links)
    Chain Kit:
        Chains are handy for hanging or wrapping items, and when combined with pipes fitted with eyebolts, one can use the combination to span spaces so as to obtain hang points for lights in smaller venues. Chains can be used as heavier-duty safety cables as necessary. Use one snap (spring) hook at each end that is rated for more than the load, and be sure the chain is welded link. Twisted links are just not safe enough. We use "Proof Coil" chain which is strong, welded and plated to resist rust. As for size, 1-metre lengths are preferred by us.

    Chain Kit Inventory:
    • Welded-Link Chain Lengths
      with Snap Hooks
    • Extra Snap Hooks and Quick Links
    • Extra Chain Lengths
    • Eye Screws
    • Bolt (Chain) Cutters

  5.   (Image: Graduated Colour Pyramid)

    Colour Kit:
        My Colour Kit has been set up to allow me to go into a venue with little to no advance planning and be able to choose gel to fit the occasion. This means having a wide selection of colours. In addition, for smaller shows where gel does not travel in the cases containing the lights, I keep the latter's frames and gel in here.

        This kit is in an aluminum-edged unit about the size of a suit case; it has a single carrying handle and secures with snap catches. Inside, accordion files hold cut sheets of gel for the sizes of the typical fixtures I encounter. These are typically 19-centimetre square sizes for 150mm fresnels, ellipsoidals and PAR 56s, and 25-centimetre square sizes for PAR 64s and 200mm ellipsoidals and fresnels. These cut sheets are categorised by colour & number. Envelopes could be used if your stock is smaller, or they could be used in addition to the accordion files to hold smaller numbers of odd sizes. Extra gel frames are kept in here in case a fixture without a frame is encountered or I want to change colours during a show without having to re-frame. It's easier to exchange frames pre-loaded with colour than to switch the gel for each change.

        A gel cutter, scissors or knife is used to cut new gel, or to reduce large, cut sizes down to smaller ones while on the road. A white gel pen marks the catalog number on newly-cut gel but is also used to re-mark old gel when the designations get rubbed off. A black felt-tip pen is used to designate lighter colours where a white gel pen's marks might be hard to discern.

        The clips can hold loose gel to fixtures or to barndoors when a frame holder is unsuitable or unavailable. I find that large, wooden clothespins work well because they hold properly and don't transmit heat. Swatch books are needed as references for my colours and number designations. One may also use the book as a design aid during free time, and to show a sample to interested parties. The soft cloth and polish are needed to clean up dirty or scratched gel. (See "Rejuvenation" under Colour Media Maintenance.)

        Uncut sheets of gel that have been rolled up are secured in the lid via elastic straps. I store few gel rolls here due to the space they consume. However, I do carry about half a dozen of the most frequent colours that I use. I could pre-cut those rolls, but I prefer to leave them as is in case I need odd sizes of common colours.

        In addition, the kit includes a few spring clamps, a can of flat black spray paint, plus some markers and catalogue items.

        I also prefer to transport my case for lighting patterns and their accessories within the Colour Kit enclosure as opposed to transporting separately. (See Pattern Kit for a description.)

    Colour Kit Inventory:
    • Sheets/Rolls and Cut-to-Size Gel
    • Accordion Files for Cut Gel
    • Gel Frames to fit the Lights
      in your Show
    • Extra Gel Frames
    • Gel Swatch Books (Ordered by
      Number, Colour and Percent)
    • Gel Cutters
    • Retractable Razor Knife
    • Scissors
    • Straight Edge or Ruler
    • Cutting Board
    • Gel Marker or Pencil
    • Fine-Point, Felt-Tip Markers
    • Polish and Soft Cloth
    • Clips (Wooden Clothespins)
    • Theatrical Spring Clamps
    • Flat Black Spray Paint
    • Clip Board/Binder with a
      Low-Profile Clip
    • Spare Paper
    • Pad and Pen
    • Ruler
    • Pattern Kit

  6.   (Image: Knotted Rope)
    Cordage Kit:
        I always seem to need to tie or clamp things: Curtains, cables, or doors when loading or unloading vehicles, and so on. I also use rope to cordon areas from time to time. In addition, all electrical cables (except short one- two- and three-metre jumpers) have leather ties attached near the female ends, while feeder cables sport sash cord. This is to provide binding means when they are coiled for storage, but also when they are being used, the tie secures the cable to a handy pipe or railing. I keep a selection of cordage and ties in a kit for these purposes, plus as replacements for ones that break or get lost at a gig. A heavy rope with a noose is also kept here. It is used to haul lights up to dead-hang locations.

        Most of the items are cut to one-metre lengths because we have found this to be handy length for most purposes. However, coils or spools of some items such as string or twine are also here so we can choose lengths at a setup or installation.

        Since most cordage will eventually be cut, be sure to buy a closed-weave product such as ganglion or sash cord so as to prevent unravelling. A selection of spring clamps might kept in this kit, as well.

    Cordage Kit Inventory:
    • Rope
    • Sash Cord
    • Ganglion Cord
    • Nylon Cord
    • Leather Ties
    • Twine
    • String
    • Shoe Laces
    • Cable Ties
    • Retractable Knife
    • Theatrical Spring Clamps
    • Assorted-Length Cords with
      Hooks or Loops
    • Bungee Cords or Rubber Straps
      with Hooks
    • Butt Splice Connectors
    • Crimp Tool
    • Pad and Pen
    • Propane Torch and Wood Block.
      (To Cauterise Cut Nylon Rope)
    See our Cordage Guide

  7.   (Image: Designer Kit Case)
    Designer Kit:
    Topics in
    this Section

      The Need:
        I like to start my lighting design process by going to early or middle rehearsals after the main elements of a show or an act have been decided upon. I do this so as to get into the spirit of a show or act, and to think about the lighting while a production gets moulded toward a completed presentation. Of course I need some way to remember my initial and subsequent ideas. Plus, I must be able to compile requests and suggestions from the producer, director, choreographer, and even from individual actors, musicians, singers and dancers. (  I am always open to comments from anyone -- it all helps to finalise my design. In particular, performers are often surprised when I solicit their opinions. )
    For more on my design style, see the essay: RB: On Stage Lighting Design

        In addition, note taking is required for technical information regarding the venue and its stage, electrical distribution, support facilities, and also for the contact information of the personnel and for those with whom I might be working. Even if I already have this in my computer, one or more of the particulars may have changed, and so must be recorded. ...and of course, I also need to record my first impressions regarding the lighting design. (After all, that is why I am there!)

      Kit Genesis:
    I didn't always have the organised and comprehensive
    Designer Kit I use today. Here is that series of events:

    ( Skip Story )

        Beginning initially with only a clipboard & pen, I quickly decided that I should take along a gel swatch (sample) book. At first, I placed these items into a plastic bag, but then after adding extra pens and a ruler, I switched to a more durable canvas-style shopping bag. As it collected more items, the bag's contents became not easily organisable; I was always pushing things aside to try to locate what I wanted; it was dark in there, as well.

        Plus, because of the open top and non-rigid design, it was prone to having an item fall out, and a potential complete spilling of its contents. Even on a level surface, the bag would usually want to fall on to its side. I also struggled with trying to find and align the two handles when I only had one hand free, and it did not work at all when three or four hands were required to hold the bag wide open and to insert a larger object at the same time.

        Its death knell sounded when I discovered that these shopping bags had become so common that they were easily mistaken for similar bags I or others might have. A moment of inattention could result in taking the wrong bag. I needed a better method.

        I considered a small, transparent plastic tote with a snap lid, but this would require two hands to hold, and the lid could come off unintentionally if the sides of the box were to be flexed enough. As well, the contents would still be piled inside with no real organisation, and thus the "pushing aside" of items to choose the one I want would not be bettered by such a container.

      An Initial Improvement:
        So I graduated to the first of three pebble-grained, aluminum-clad briefcases containing separate pockets and adjustable compartment dividers. Not only did this kind of case have more capacity than a canvas shopping bag, it maintained separation of each of the items I would be carrying so as to facilitate easier location and selection. Because I gained space, I placed additional useful items in there. I even included things not used very often for almost no other reason than it was nice to have them; and I then added typical, small items a client or his/her staff might request such as adhesive tape, thumb tacks, pens, cable ties, and so on.

        During this initial learning process, my new kit evolved a secondary purpose; along with being a support case for rehearsals (and eventually performances), it became a compact, on-the-road office. So it began to accompany me to the shows themselves because it had come to house my lighting plots and dimmer patch lists in a convenient, enclosed clipboard/binder. I also added basic light focusing tools and other, small items that I found to be useful at gigs.

        My work then became easier; I got more efficient and productive because not only was I ready to record details of initial meetings, I had things at the ready to assist me in the designing process when I attended rehearsals. Then later it was useful at the show itself due to the extra items able to be brought along in this larger case versus the smaller bag that had once accompanied me. At that point, I could never have returned to a shopping bag! In addition, the aluminum cladding suited the entertainment industry, and because it was a briefcase style, it said "business!" to those that noticed it.

        Before the days when I brought a kit with me for those initial design stages, I had to wait until I returned to my office or home to further develop ideas as I strove toward a working light plot. After I began to use my case at rehearsals and take it to the shows themselves, the Designer Kit evolved further; every time I discovered an item to be lacking, I added it. Eventually, I arrived at the inventory list seen after this narrative. In addition, I have placed some extras on the list that may be useful in this kit for some of you readers, but which I actually carry elsewhere.

      Case Style:
        The first case I chose had previously been used as an electronic technician's repair kit. It had a removable pallet (back-board) stowed in the lid of the case to which were attached two rows of separated pockets originally meant for tools. In the case's new role, these pockets became ideal for holding many of the small items I use, while at the same time keeping them from getting mixed up, and also making them immediately accessible. These items included small tools, a flashlight, markers and pens, and personal items such as hand sanitizer and hand lotion.

        Behind the tool board was stored a six-pocket, letter-size accordion file used to hold notepads, pattern and gel catalogues, and looseleaf and grid paper. Along with those was a selection of various sized envelopes. In there as well, I carry spare "Lighting Director" and "Crew" stage passes on lanyards. I even have a necktie should I need to dress up a bit! The lower section of that case was sponge cushioned and had built-in, re-configurable dividers to further arrange what I carried. Smallest items stowed there were placed into separate little boxes or into film cans or medicine bottles.

        Because of this style of case design's versatility, all main items were on display for effortless choosing. It really sped things compared to my previous routine of digging into a dark bag to push aside unwanted articles in order to get what I actually wanted. I embraced the relaxed, easy selection of items! The case also had a shoulder strap so it could accompany me while allowing my hands to be free.

        Since that time, I have gone through two more of these cases. One reason was because they were not designed to handle road abuse, so I have had a handle become broken, corners detach, feet be pushed inside the bottom, and edging actually split or release itself from the case itself. These lighter cases are also too flexible, so internal dividers would sometimes pop out of their slots while being transported.

      Latest Improvement:
        Regardless of those cases' fragility, I also found that the inside height was never quite enough, especially as the contents grew in numbers. Due to all these drawbacks, I have now upgraded to a fourth version: a more robust style of the technician's toolkit which takes the form of an aluminum-edged road case typically employed by touring bands and motion picture companies. It has a wooden substrate covered in coloured PVC board. This type is often referred to as a "flight case", although it is not an actual one.(*) The catches and handle are more substantial, as are the feet, corners and edging. Best of all (as already discussed in the Preliminary subsection of Case Types pertaining to the purchase of cases for future purposes), I already had the perfect one in stock!

    (*) A true flight case is air tight and has a pressure-relief
    valve. This allows one to compensate for atmospheric pressure
    changes when there is an altitude difference between those of the
    departure versus the arrival locations.
    (See the AIEL Glossary)

        My road case is much smaller than its big brothers, of course, but dimensionally compared to my old cases, it's a little deeper back to front and is higher internally (of which I must remind you of my need). Although not as wide as the typical brief/technician's kit, there is more cubic volume inside, so overall, it is a size larger. It's also several levels more rugged than the lighter versions I had been using.

        Being a used case, it had once been employed for a purpose other than my intended one. Also, at some point the internal foam liner material had been removed from both the bottom and back of the lower section and from the inside of the top, exposing the wood. In addition, there was no backboard, nor were there anchor plates and rings for a shoulder strap. Given these points, some work would be required.

      The Modifications:
        First, rubberised tool-box liner was cut to fit both the bottom floor of the case and inside the lid. I chose a pebble-grained material of black sponge that would cushion the contents and look professional. The cut pieces were secured in place with spray adhesive. The lower section already had a soft-foam lining on three of the sides, so these were left as found. For the fourth, I simply painted its bare wood flat black because it would be mostly hidden by the bins I planned to employ. As well, I wanted near the maximum front-to-back distance, so installing new foam there was not an option.

    (Image Right: Plated Snap Hook)     To be able to retain the internal tool backboard taken from my previous case, two small angle brackets were bolted inside the case's lid at the bottom of where the backboard edge rests so as to prevent it from sliding out of the lid's enclosed sides. A short nylon strap was looped through a swivel snap hook's ring and attached to the top centre of the backboard with a nut, bolt and flat washers via predrilled holes in the strap. In operation, the snap hook clips to a small, plastic cable restrainer loop that was bolted near the inside top edge of the lid. All this secures the backboard within the lid (whether closed or open) until I need to access the six-pocket accordion file that I would be placing in behind.

        Because this new case had no internal dividers, nor contained slots to add any, I placed into the bottom section a rectangular, plastic bin with low sides. It takes up about two thirds of the available floor space. Inside this bin along its right side went a narrow bin that holds an 8-metre retractable measuring tape, and one roll each of masking and stage tape (stood vertically). A roll of electrical tape fits inside each spool of the larger tapes. The remainder of space to the left of this internal bin is reserved for many of the medium-sized items described in the list shown farther on.

        In the remaining third of the lower portion of the case, on the left went a long, three-compartment organiser tray originally meant to serve inside a desk drawer. It has places for safety pins, paper clips, push pins, and so on. I originally put each item type into its own film canister and placed the canisters into the three-compartment unit, but now all small items are inside a parts box with dividers. (Discussed later.) I filled the rest of the drawer organiser spaces with swatch books, a spare replacement lamp for my lighting board worklights, flashlight `AA' cells, etc.

        The edges of all three inserted containers come up almost to the top lip of the lower section of the case. Additional items fill the remaining space so that when the lid is closed, all will remain secure regardless of case orientation. Finally, anchor plates and D-rings were mounted, one pair on each side of the case, so as to allow me to attach the shoulder strap from the previous case. If necessary, this strap could be removed at any time via its newly-replaced, spring-loaded snap hooks. (The strap hardware was also replaced; this was because the original was not strong enough to cope with the weight of the new case and its contents, and had begun to come apart.)

        This repurposed case has more room and can manage road abuse much better than my three earlier, thin-walled, aluminum cases ever could. It is heavier in weight, but this is justified by the quality and robustness of this current Designer Kit, shown with some items removed to reveal the bottom trays and their contents. (The photo was taken before the parts box was added -- see a description and photo link for this at the end of "Dividers".)

      Alternate Case Styles:
        If a brief or road case of either type just described is unavailable, too expensive, or not to your taste, go to a second-hand store to buy an attache case, business portfolio, or a small, hard-shell suitcase. Look for one at the minimum that has a compartment or stretch-fabric hammock in the lid. Some attache cases have an accordion file built into that location, plus have partitions in the bottom section. Perfect!

        If your chosen case has no internal compartments and you don't want to use baskets or trays, modify the bottom of the case to include additional cubicles by installing one or more dividers. These can be made from thin wood or wallboard. Sheet metal may be used, but make sure to pad the edges to protect your hands from sharp edges. Dividers should be tall enough to reach the case top or internal backboard when the case is closed so as to contain each compartment's contents during transit. Paint the dividers for a more professional, finished look.

        Fortunately, my first technician's tool kits already had various-length, adjustable, front/back and side divider panels with them. Each divider was removable and had multiple slots spaced 1.5 centimetres apart in which to insert the edge of another divider. As such, almost any internally-sized cubicle could be had.

    (Image Right: Drawer Bin)     As mentioned, an alternative to dividers is to use rectangular, plastic bins such as those meant for kitchen drawer organisers or for shop storage -- if you can find any with acceptable dimensions. Try to get ones that will touch the inside top of the case when it is closed so that contents will not be spilled when the case is oriented to any position from upright. If necessary, buy bins that are too tall and then shave them to size. Always smooth any cut edges with emery cloth or sand paper to protect your hands during usage. For some reason, rental companies don't like blood on their lighting boards.   (-:

    (Image Right: Parts Box)     Finally, look at parts boxes found at most hardware and automotive stores. These are flat and rectangular, and they are sold in various sizes usually with adjustable internal compartments. They can store small items such as sticky notes, paper clips, batteries, pens and so on. The tops will lock securely, so they are perfect for traveling.

        I recently added a small one to this kit to take the place of separate film canisters. Its home is in the case's lid because there was room above the accordion file. Adhering hook & loop strips to its bottom and the inside of the lid keeps it in place until I need to remove it. Since these will tend to pull away from the toolbox liner when the parts box is removed, each strip has a small screw at its top to secure it to the wood substrate.

        The photo in the next link shows the open lid with the backboard lowered and the parts box held in place above the accordion file. There is actually room for a second box should the need arise. I now have extra room below in the three-compartment drawer organiser for even more things. Whoo Hoo!

        Below are items to consider for inclusion into a Designer Kit. Some may appear to be excessive or unnecessary, or to belong in another kit, but seeing them listed here might inspire you to fit them into your particular requirements and/or style of on-the-road designing or gig work.

        I have added a laptop/netbook/tablet to this list although I actually have a dedicated case for mine. This is because I rarely take my laptop to preliminary meetings and rehearsals. I once used a personal organiser, but got away from it some years ago. Lately though, I have been reconsidering that decision because an organiser incorporates some of the separate items below such as a calendar, calculator, timer/clock, etc. This would mean fewer items in the case.

    Designer Kit Inventory:
    • Clipboard or Binder with a
      Low-Profile Clip
    • 3-Hole Blank and Ruled Paper
    • 3-Hole Graph (Grid) Paper
    • Cue Sheet Blanks (See Cue Tips)
    • 4- to 6-Pocket Accordion File Folder
    • Fine/Chisel-Point Felt-Tip Markers
    • Pens
    • Pencils
    • Eraser
    • Pencil Sharpener
    • Ruler
    • Calculator
    • Small Timer/Clock
    • Laser Pointer (for Indicating
      Distant Objects)
    • Transparent Tape and Dispenser
    • Gel Swatch Books (In Colour,
      Numerical and Percentage Order)
    • Pocket-Sized Gel Catalogue
    • Razor-Blade Gel Cutters
    • Retractable Knife
    • Lighting Patterns Catalogue
    • Flashlight and/or Clip-On Booklight
      (for Use in a Dark House)
    • Belt Clip for Flashlight
    • Spare Batteries (In a Sealable Bag
      to Contain Leakage)
    • Sealable Bags for Spent Batteries
    • Spare Flashlight and/or
      Replacement Lamp
    • 5 - 8 Metre Measuring Tape
    • Notepad
    • Sticky Notes
    • Coloured Sticky Tabs
    • Small, Zippered, 3-Ring Organiser
      with Pockets and Tabbed Sections
    • Spare Organiser Paper
    • Envelope Selection
    • Ruled-One-Side Index Cards
    • Elastic Bands
    • Safety Pins
    • Paper Clips
    • Thumbtacks and Push Pins
    • Cable Tie Selection
    • Binder Clips
    • Mini Stapler
    • Spare Staples
    • Magnifying Glass
    • Laptop, Netbook, Tablet,
      or Personal Organiser
    • Cell Phone (may include a
      Personal Organiser)
    • Calendar (likely included in a
      Personal Organiser)
    • Lighting-Instrument Template.
      (Useful if a Laptop is not Taken)
    • Back-Up Flashdrive or Memory Card
    • Flashdrive or Memory Card Case
    • Lighting Instrument Multitool
    • Small Adjustable Wrench
    • Small Scissors
    • Lighting Board Marking Tape
    • Additional Adhesive Tapes
    • Business Cards (Always be Ready
      to Promote Yourself!)
    • Business Card Holder
      (Prevents Dog-Eared Cards)
    • Ear Plugs (for Loud Bands
      in Small Spaces)
    • Hand Lotion (for Dry Venues)
    • Eye Drops (for Dry Venues)
    • Hand Sanitizer
    • Sun or Eye Glass Case
    • Small Multimeter and Test Leads
    • String Tags (for Designating
      Equipment Needing Repair)
    • Band-Aids
    • Clip-On Tie -- For when You Need
      to Look Dressier  (-:

  8.   (Image: Plated Eyescrew)
    Eyescrew Kit:

        We often need to have tie points for cables in some venues, and we have found it convenient to install and leave eyescrews in various locations. The expense of them is recovered in lower labour costs for subsequent gigs at those venues.

        Some of you may wish to combine this with the Cordage or Hardware kits, but we find a separate kit to be more to our liking. Be sure to buy plated eyescrews as they are corrosion resistant. We use 8mm diameter with a lag-style thread length of 50mm, but you may find another size more suitable. Certainly, thicker ones would be needed if you are tying off heavy cables or other objects. We prefer lag threading because the aggressiveness of the thread holds better in wood, and we prefer the closed-eye type as we use cordage and/or snaphooks with the eyescrews and don't want them to be able to release by slipping out. However, you may decide to include some open-eye (hook) types.

        When mounting, always be sure that the material being screwed into does not split, and that it can handle the required weight without pulling out.

    Eyescrew Kit Inventory:
    • Selection of Plated Eyescrews
    • Selection of Plated Hookscrews
    • Portable Drill and Bits
    • Chuck Key
    • Extension Cord
    • Large Screwdriver or Pliers
      (to Assist Turning)
    • Selection of Cordage

  9.   (Image: Floorbase)
    Floorbase Kit:
        If your designs or work often call for placing lighting fixtures on the floor, a table, speaker cabinets, etc., a Floorbase Kit may be useful. Decide upon the number of bases you typically use and then select a case that can handle that number plus two spares.

        Floorbases come in various styles, shapes and sizes. We make our own flat-bottomed style in one size only using robust stair tread with bottom-recessed, off-set hardware studs. This makes for a much lower profile, and the area size of the base can be smaller without it tipping over when a light is mounted with its nose parallel to the floor -- even with a barndoor attached!. The box chosen to house them is a small suitcase-style road case that can accommodate two bases side by side for a dozen in total. We also have smaller cases that allow six of these floor bases to stand vertically.

    Floorbase Kit Inventory:
    • Four to Twelve Floorbases
    • Selection of Spare, Plated Hardware
    • Two Wrenches to Fit the Hardware
    • Flat Black Spray Paint (for Touchups)
    • Newspapers (useful when Painting)

  10.   (Image: Tackle Box)
    Hardware Kit:
        At the very least, one should have a compartmentalised box with nuts, bolts, washers, screws and other spare hardware for items in your show, and to fit the accessories and tools accompanying it. One of those plastic tool boxes with various sections works well, but I prefer a fishing tackle box because it has even more compartments, and on several levels. In addition, one can purchase smaller, snap-lid, compartmentalised boxes to bolster what the tackle box provides. Select boxes that will fit in the bottom of the tackle box, if possible. An alternative is a makeup caddy; it also has compartments on several levels that fold up when the case is closed.

        Smaller boxes can be bought with hardware assortments already stocked in them. This is a good way to start a hardware kit. As certain popular sizes get used, they can be replaced as necessary by buying in bulk. The remaining sizes not used will still always be ready for the few times they get called upon. As they grow in number, one can buy a larger hardware case in which to place these boxes. Thus one can build up a kit slowly and only to the size actually needed.

        Always purchase plated hardware to prevent rust and the seizure of threaded sections. (See Hardware Organisation.)

    Hardware Kit Inventory:
    • Selection of Plated Hardware
    • Two Adjustable Wrenches
    • Nails and a Small Claw Hammer
    • Can of Spray Lubricant
    • Rags
    • Pad and Pen

  11.   (Image: AIEL Lock Key)
    Lock Keys Kit:
        When on the road, or even running about town on a regular basis, one stands a greater chance of forgetting, losing, or locking inside one's keys. There is also the possibility of theft. Having spare keys for critical locks is a must. This does not mean having spare keys with you for everything; only needed are those keys that get you inside a vehicle, building, or case that in turn contains all the associated keys.

        Employ an eyeglasses or credit card case to hold these spare keys, and ring together related keys. Mark each key with permanent ink, or use a different coloured, rubber key indicator that slips onto the butt of each key so you'll know what it opens. Alternatively, keep them in small, resealable bags that are labeled. Store these in something that you wear often such as a vest or coat that never gets locked inside of anything. If you wear a waist wallet, all the better. A credit card case will easily fit inside one of the compartments.

        If these locations are not feasible, you'll have to choose a secure place, and always be sure its key is with you -- say inside of a wallet or zippered pants pocket. For gig keys, these could be locked inside an accessible road case as long as you carry that case's key with you, along with its spare.

        An advantage to having two sets of keys is that when you give out the main set to a crew member to say, go to the vehicle, if he or she gets waylaid returning the key, you can still access the vehicle with your spare.

        One caution: If your vehicle uses an electronic ignition key, check in the manual or with the dealer to see that a non-electronic key will not disable the vehicle if a start is attempted. Fortunately, most vehicle key mishaps involve keys that are locked inside, so usually all that is needed is a door key.

    Keys Kit Inventory:
    • Shop
    • Venue
    • Gig
    • Vehicle Door Lock
    • Vehicle Ignition
    • Truck Box
    • House

  12.   (Image: PAR Lamps)
    Lamp Kit:
        Of course, one should have spare lamps. Carry at least one of each type & wattage for fixtures in your show, plus ones for work and non-LED flashlights. If no other case has flashlights or their accessories, spare batteries and a charger might be placed into this kit. You may wish to make up two Lamp Kits if you have one setup for a specific of fixtures versus another using different fixture types.

        Use the electrical tape and marker to date tag the fixture when a lamp is replaced. This will give you an idea if one fixture seems to be short-lifing lamps. It also may tell you if one manufacturer has better life for its lamps than another.

        The alcohol and tissues are for cleaning lamps; quartz bulb surfaces cannot be touched without the result of shortening lamp life due to contamination from skin oils. Alcohol removes the oil and any dirt transferred to the bulb surface should it get touched. I suggest a small, 100 ml spritzer (spray) bottle that can be securely sealed.

    Lamps Kit Inventory:
    • Spare Lamps for your Fixtures
      in Your Show
    • Spare Lamps for Flashlights
      and Worklights
    • Alcohol (Methanol is Preferred)
    • Soft Tissues
    • White Electrical Tape
    • Fine Point, Felt Tip Marker
    • Pad and Pen
    • Flashlights, Charger

  13.   (Image: Marker, Pencil and Eraser)
    Marker Kit:
        I like to mark my lighting board in a colourful, detailed way. This kit contains the items necessary to do so.

    Marker Kit Inventory:
    • White Masking or Wide
      Electrical Tape
    • Colour-Coding Tape
    • White Pinstripe Tape
      (Used to Group Board Channels)
    • Glow Tape
    • Fine Point, Felt-Tip Markers
      in Various Colours
    • Ruler
    • Pencils
    • Eraser
    • Gel Marker
    • Sticky Notes
    • Clipboard or Clip Binder
    • Scissors
    • Pad and Pen

  14.   (Image: Ellipsoidal Pattern -- Cityscape)
    Pattern Kit:
        If pattern (gobo) projection is part of your design or show, this kit will fit your requirements. One should stock in here an inventory of typical stainless-steel patterns in the event of requests. Have them organised by category with each type in its own box or envelope.

    Storage:    For internal storage boxes, I recommend floppy disc or CD/DVD containers. The better ones are those that snap securely shut and are transparent, or at least, lightly-translucent. A number of the smaller type meant to hold two 1.44 MB floppy discs will each organise and house half a dozen or more `B' size patterns, depending on whether they are new or used. (Used patterns will warp and bulge somewhat from heat, taking up a thicker space.) Being able to see through the case means easier selection even though each will be labeled.

        In addition, or as an alternative, one might have numbers of lockable, plastic bags of a size suitable to hold the patterns being stored. Use a heavy gauge plastic so that sharp pattern edges won't cut into the bag. Label these bags as to the pattern type within. Typical categories might be:

    • Breakups
    • Doors
    • Foliage
    • Snowflakes
    • Stars
    • Water
    • Windows

        Write each designator at the top of the bag so that one can quickly leaf through to find the category required.

        Your selection of individual containers or bags can be kept in one or more of those larger storage boxes once used in offices for floppy, CD, or DVD archiving. They have hinged tops and internal dividers with tabs on which one can place label categories. It is suggested that your categories be arranged in alphabetical order for further ease of choice. Select a box with a secure lid so it won't unexpectedly flip open and spill its contents. Some even had key locks.

        Since these boxes are usually made from brittle plastic, they should be kept within a larger case for protection during transit. For my first Pattern Kit, I chose a small, plastic jewellery box. It is described in more detail farther on, along with its successor.

    More Alternatives:    If the number of patterns taken with you is small, an option to any of the above is to employ a small recipe or card-file box instead. Either will comfortably hold a dozen or so used, thicker patterns. They often come with tabbed dividers which can be used to designate categories. Some type of dividers are recommended because used patterns tend to snag onto one another and can be damaged during selection if one is careless.

        You may prefer individual pattern storage. If so, use a three-ring binder with transparent page inserts meant for photos or floppy discs. Each pattern will be displayed in its own pocket. Binders come in a wide range of sizes so they can hold a small or large number of patterns in one convenient book. Stiff, tabbed inserts can be used to categorise the collection.

        A disadvantage of this storage method is that patterns can slip out of their pockets during flipping of the pages, and even when just carrying the book. To reduce the latter happenstance, choose a binder with a locking flap that holds tightly closed. Store and transport the binder in an upright position.

    Combining with Another Kit:    Since a Pattern Kit is usually small, you may think about combining it with another kit, as I have done. Mine fits in a bottom corner of my Colour Kit where it is protected during transit. Protection was required because I began using a light-duty plastic jewellery box with thin aluminum edging and a transparent, hinged top as my Pattern Kit. Inside in the bottom section there was enough room to place two rows of translucent floppy-disc boxes which fit `B' size patterns. In between the rows was enough room for a pad and pen, and a small pair of scissors used to trim excess steel. The case also had two swing-out drawers that took more boxes, and a secure snap catch when all was closed.

        A total of sixteen or so boxes were in the kit. An individual box contained one type of pattern, generally with at least two examples. The duplication meant spares, but two or more could be used at the same time to fill a larger backdrop or stage, or used in tandem to present a layered pattern effect, either opposing or pleasingly combined. This all represented an inventory of around 50 patterns, so I had a good selection while on the road.

        I liked the box's compact size and its transparent sides and top, but there were two negatives: In transit the handle was on the side and was blocked by other Colour Kit items, and because I had such a large number of patterns, there was no room for holders. So, these were rubber-banded in groups of five or six and stored next to the Pattern Kit within the Colour Kit.

    A Replacement:    Unfortunately, the jewellery case was not meant to travel, so after a couple of years, it began to fall apart. Despite several fixes, the case had too much play and became too frustrating to use. Thus, I went to a better quality model. It is a roadcase-style box that is more solidly built, has a pebble-grained covering, and robust aluminum edging. It is bigger than the jewellery unit with enough room to store all the boxes already described, plus pen, paper, a larger pair of scissors, and 10 or 12 pattern holders.

        It is still kept in the Colour Kit, although this meant a shuffle of that kit's contents in order to fit the dimensions of the new case. A bonus is that the new Pattern Kit sits on its back so the handle is now oriented upward for easier removal at a gig.

    Patterns Kit Inventory:
    • Selection of Typical Patterns
    • Pattern Holders to Fit Your Fixtures
    • Floppy Disc or CD/DVD Boxes
    • Lockable, Plastic Bags for
      Extra Patterns
    • Fine Point, Felt-Tip Marker
    • Surgical Scissors
      (Able to Cut Stainless Steel)
    • Patterns Catalogue
    • Ruler
    • Pad and Pen

  15.   (Image: Plug and Outlet)
    Power Distro Kit:
        This is not to provide power distribution for a whole show; it is one that contains 15 or 20 amp common cables and electrical boxes with outlets suitable for worklights, front-of-house or stage backline power provision.

        The main original idea for this kit was to supply power for worklights at front-of-house (FOH) judges' tables for competitive programs. As discussed in the Worklight Kit section, I didn't used to provide worklights for this purpose. However, I eventually had to exercise control over light spilling from that position when others showed up with unsuitable fixtures.

        Supplying acceptable worklights meant running appropriate cabling to them. Because of such requests, this evolved into also making power available for laptops, phone chargers, and so on at that FOH position. I now provide all of this which not only is a desired service by my clients, but also gives me the control I need over unwanted spill light.

    Power Distro Kit Inventory:
    • Dual-Outlet Boxes with 2-Metre Cords and Daisy Chain Connectors
    • Three-Way Power Taps (Cubes)
    • Short Extension Cords
    • Non-Switched Power Bars
    • Outlet Tester
    • Ground Lifters

  16.   (Image: Soldering Iron and Stand)
    Soldering Kit:
        If you do any soldering on the road, obtain some or all of the items below. In particular, I recommend haemostats. Because they lock, they can hold items hands free, and they can be used as a heatsink. Good quality ones are well chromed and so solder does not stick. For a good buy, seek out hobby stores that sell surplus medical versions. These are the utmost quality and strength, but are sold at a fraction of their new price.

    Soldering Kit Inventory:
    • Soldering Iron
    • Soldering Iron Case
    • Soldering Iron Holder
    • Electronics Solder
    • Haemostats (or Small, Locking Pliers)
    • Heat Sinks
    • Small Vice with a Clamp Base
    • Heat Shrink
    • Heat Gun
    • Extension Cord for the Gun, Iron,
      Heat Gun
    • Electrical Tape

  17.   (Image: Spray Bottle of Cleaner)
    Solvents/Cleaners Kit:
        I don't actually include this kit on the road as a regular item, but I do take it places where I need to clean or restore a particular item or surface. Solvents are stored in small, capped bottles. They remove grease, tar, glue and other unwanted materials from the surface before being cleaned.

        Cleaner products and polishes are in after-market spray dispensers. Since large quantities are not likely to be needed, these after-market bottles can be small -- say, 250ml, so they will take up less room. Be sure that the sprayers have `Off', `Spray', and `Stream' positions.

        These items could be carried in an enclosed case, but I actually like to use a plastic caddy that is divided by a middle handle into two large compartments. Each of these is subdivided into smaller compartments. The compartment walls keep liquid containers upright during transit. Having the bottles visible means less chance of them being turned other than to the vertical, as opposed to being carried in an enclosed case.

        CAUTION! Solvents must be kept off skin and away from eyes. Use in a ventilated area. Use cotton cloths and non-plastic brushes with solvents. (Some artificial materials can be melted by solvents.) Kitchen `eraser' pads should be handled with rubber gloves due to the chemicals in the pad. Employ bottles that can be tightly capped for transport. Those with trigger sprayers should have an `off' position. Bring a sealable metal or glass container to hold used cloths and towels. Dispose of these items via a Hazardous Materials recycler.

    Solvents/Cleaners Kit Inventory:
    • Lacquer Thinner
    • Methyl Alcohol (Methanol)
    • Mineral Spirits
    • Methyl Ethyl Keytone
    • Hog's Hair Brush for Above
    • Spray Nine
    • Separate Rags for all the Above
    • Paper Towels
    • ArmorAll
    • Polish Cloths for the Above
    • Kitchen `Eraser' Pads
    • Sealable Metal or Glass Container
    • Scrub Brush and Scrub Pad
    • Steel Wool and Plastic Soap Pads
    • Rubber or Latex Gloves
    • Toothbrush
    • Sponge
    • Small, Rinse-Water Bucket
    • Cloth for the Above
        Packing Tips: Remember to tightly close/cap all liquids and to orient their containers in an upright position to transport. For bottles with pump sprayers, turn the nozzles to the `Off' position. Also for this type of dispenser, do not fill to capacity. This is so when the liquid's volume expands under hot conditions, the content will not be forced out the nozzle.

  18.   (Image: Supplies Cabinet)
    Supplies Kit:
        This is a case that I take to larger shows. At about 60 centimetres cube, it is the largest of the kits listed here. The front removes completely to reveal four drawers of varying heights. These are subdivided by internal boxes I have added, but the top drawer also has its own built-in, longitudinal dividers.

        Much of this case's contents may be found in other ones listed here, but it serves the purpose of a somewhat all-in-one kit, and it has items that are too large for other kits.

    Supplies Kit Inventory:
    • Soldering Kit and Stand
    • Automotive Trouble Light
    • Staple Gun and Staples
    • Rivet Gun and Rivets
    • Crimp Connector Selection
    • Crimp Tool
    • Larger Diameter, Longer Rope
    • Padlocks and Keys, with Chain
    • Larger Flashlights (D-Cell)
    • Spare Batteries
    • Spare Flashlight Lamps
    • Sealable Bags for Spent Batteries
    • Spare Electrical Connectors
    • Ground Lifters
    • Selection of Electrical Panel Fuses
    • Small, Vacuum-Base Vice
    • Work Gloves
    • Stage Tape
    • Electrical Tape
    • Colour-Coding Tape
    • Flat Black Spray Paint
    • Cardboard Painting Masks
    • Can of Spray Lubricant
    • Can of Spray Silicone
    • Portable Drill and Bits
    • Chuck Key
    • Current Meter (Amp Clamp)
    • Other Electrical Testers
    • Larger Hardware: Eyebolts/Screws,
      Clevises, Snap Hooks, S-Hooks, etc.
    • Clock
    • Cable Ties
    • Set Wire
    • Perforated Strapping
    • Pad and Pen

  19.   (Image: Green Light on Rippled Black Fabric)
    Textiles Kit:
        If you light a lot of displays or trade-show booths, this kit is a must. Many will want to combine this with the Blacks Kit, but I have found that a separate kit suits my purposes better. The "Table Edge Dressing" listed here typically consists of a pleated skirt that is attached to a table via hook & loop material (Velcro), staples or clips. The "Plexiglass Display Stands" are those curved or folded, transparent, plastic pedestals or brochure holders.

        To add contrast to a table display, one can use the "Squares of Cloth" on which to place items. These are usually made of velveteen or felt and are about 25 centimetres square. Choosing a colour that contrasts with the table cloth allows an item to stand out more readily. One can use them to visually organise a crowded table or display by using the same colours for like items. Orienting some with one point out will present a diamond pattern to the viewer as opposed to laying all cloths out as squares.

        To apply punch to the look, use a few small mirror squares or circles, 15 or 20 cm in size. Use only a few for the items you most want to highlight. Spend a bit more to buy the ones with bevelled edges; they look classier. Be sure to pick glass, not plastic. Glass gives a brighter reflection, and it will last longer without becoming scratched. Make up a case with padded slots for each square. This will save the time to unwrap and wrap each square for every show.

    Textiles Kit Inventory:
    • Various Colour Table Cloths
    • Table Edge Dressing
    • Various-Colour Felt Squares
    • Mirror Squares and Circles
    • Plexiglass Display Stands
    • Clothespins or Bulldog/Binder Clips
    • Stage Tape
    • Staple Gun
    • Spare Staples
    • Staple Remover
    • Thumb Tacks
    • Glass Cleaner
    • Paper Towels
    • Soft Polish Cloths

  20.   (Image: Roll of Stage Tape)
    Tape Kit:
        Although various adhesive tapes will likely be contained within other kits, you may wish to carry one case dedicated solely to tape and accessories. Look through our Adhesive Tape Guide to choose the types most suitable for your work.

        Even though Colour-Coding tape is listed separately, with the availability of coloured duct, masking and electrical tapes, one can choose any of those for the purpose of coding items by colour.

        If you have a lot of tape, separate rolls using wax paper so as to prevent them from sticking together after a period of time in transit. This is very important during hot weather.

    Tape Kit Inventory:
    • Stage Tape
    • Duct Tape
    • Masking Tape
    • Glow Tape
    • Spike Tape
    • Clear Packing Tape
    • Gaffer Tape
    • Cable Tape
    • Threshold Tape
    • Electrical Tape
    • Colour-Coding Tape
    • Microphone Tape
    • Scissors
    • Retractable Razor Knife
    • Felt-Tip Markers
    • Heat Gun to Remove Old Tape
    • Mineral Spirits to Remove Glue
    • Industrial Paper Towels
      or Cloths for Above
    • Pad and Pen

  21.   (Image: Dirty Hand)
    Toiletries Kit:
        In how many venues have you been where washroom supplies are at a minimum or non existent? The solution is a small Toiletries Kit to personally tidy one's self and become refreshed after a setup or long rehearsal when one cannot go home or to the hotel.

    Toiletries Kit Inventory:
    • Bar Soap in a Travel Box
    • Liquid Soap in a Sealable Dispenser
    • Nail Scrub Brush
    • Paper Towels
    • Nail Clipper
    • Nail File
    • Toilet Paper
    • Moist Towelettes
    • Hand Lotion
    • Hand Sanitizer
    • Sunblock
    • Comb and/or Brush
    • Deodorant/Antiperspirant
    • Tooth Brush
    • Tooth Paste/Powder
    • Dental Floss
    • Band-Aids
    • Electric Razor
    • Pharma Kit -- Daily Medications,
      Pain and Cold Relief, Vitamins...
    • Condoms (One never knows...)

  22.   (Image: Open Tool Box)
        Of course, one needs tools for any job. Always buy plated tools because moisture will be an issue on the road. Plated tools won't rust. Even so, a light coating of oil on each is still recommended. Place them into a toolbox large enough to accommodate new tools as you buy them. I like the "hip roof" type that opens into several levels, each with a number of compartments. In the large bottom section, I have smaller boxes for a socket set, crimp set, and hardware selections, plus trays for scissors, pliers and so on.

        The lamp tester listed below consists of a U-ground, duplex outlet in an 1110 electrical box. The latter is a smooth, surface-mount box with electrical knockouts, mounting holes, and tabs for attaching a cover plate. Inside is a 9-volt battery connector which is in series with the outlet and an LED (Light-Emitting Diode). This LED is mounted through one of the small holes in the box so that it is visible from the outside. In addition is a momentary, push-button switch that shorts the outlet to test the LED/battery combination. There is purposely no resistor in series so that I may use spent batteries that are down to around 3 or 4 volts -- perfect for an LED. I can plug in any light to the outlet and the LED will light if there is continuity through the fixture, the lamp, the battery and LED.

        Substitute an outlet suitable for use with your country's electrical connectors. You may also wish to substitute a four-pack, AA cell holder if you wish to use spent double-A cells. Either the AA-pack or 9-volt battery may be attached to the 1110 box with cable ties through the box's small, mounting holes. This makes for a quick and simple lamp/fixture tester.

    Toolkit Inventory:
    • Tools to fit every Nut, Bolt and
      Screw Socket in your Show
    • Multitool in Holster
    • Socket Set
    • Rivet Gun and Rivets
    • Crimp Connector Selection
    • Crimp Tool
    • Hardware Assortments
    • Parts Containers with Small Hardware
      and Odds & Ends
    • Electrical Tester or Meter
    • Outlet Tester
    • Lamp Tester
    • Cable Ties
    • 3-Way Power Tap
    • Flashlights
    • Spare Batteries
    • Spare Flashlight Lamps
    • Sealable Bag for
      Spent Batteries
    • Battery Tester
    • Battery Charger
    • Charger Extension Cord
    • Ground Lifters
    • Work Gloves
    • Measuring Tape
    • Staple Gun
    • Spare Staples
    • Stage Tape
    • Electrical Tape
    • Colour-Coding Tape
    • Flat Black Spray Paint
    • Cardboard Painting Masks
    • Spray Oil
    • Stage Quality Silicone Spray
    • Contact Cleaner
    • Cloths
    • Pad and Pen

  23.   (Image: Wood Shim Case)
    Wood Shim Kit:
        It seems that I often need wood blocks to allow pipe clamps to attach to thin girders, pipes or beams. Blocks should be hardwood to prevent splitting from the force of a tightened clamp. Be sure to place the wood between the clamp top and surface, not between the bolt and surface. A bolt digging directly into the wood is more likely to split it.

        Wood shims can be handy for other purposes from holding doors open to using as a work surface on which to solder, pound, or cauterise rope.

    Wood Shim Kit Inventory:
    • Wood Blocks
    • Wood Lengths
    • Tapered Wood Shims
    • Small Wood Saw

  24.   (Image: Photographic Clamp Light)
    Worklight Kit:

    The Problem:     At almost every middle to major show I do, one or more persons seem to need general light backstage or at front-of-house positions. Others might require direct light on a script or music score, as well. Now, it should not be my job to provide non stage lights, but I have made it mine because invariably if I leave it up to the needy person(s), some high-wattage fluorescent fixture or living-room light gets used. Of course, these vomit light everywhere and dilute my on-stage looks.

        Light can also spill into the audience or on to something off stage that I don't want, or it becomes visible to audience members whenever a door is opened or a curtain parted. Front-of-house locations, such as judges' tables, are even worse because the light shines back directly into the eyes of the audience.

        An alternative to household lights, they think, is to use a flashlight. Invariably though, it gets shone into people's eyes, the roving beam is a distraction to an audience, and when it gets laid down it is often left on to beam somewhere else it is unwanted. Then if the batteries weaken and die, who gets called?... )-:   The worst is when an LED flashlight with no shielding is used. These units are a bright point source, and with no shielding they too vomit light everywhere.

    The Answer:     A worklight kit will solve this problem. My chosen fixtures are photographic-style clamp-ons with aluminum reflectors that are narrow and deep and have been painted inside and out in a flat-black colour. These provide good shading and control of the light source so as to emit a more focused circle of illumination. Line cords are two metres in length to reduce the requirement for extension cords. Models with wider reflectors may be used if you want a larger area covered, but be aware that shading will not be as good.

        In addition, I have four weighted-base lights with long goosenecks that are more suitable for table lighting because they can be angled right down on to the surface. These too, have the reflectors painted flat black and so provide a well-defined pool of light with a sharp cutoff.

        Vent holes in the reflectors have been taped over to prevent light escaping. This does not cause a problem because the lamps employed have low wattage filaments that generate little heat; thus, blocked air dissipation is not a factor. These alterations, plus the black reflectors, mean spill and bounced light is completely controlled.

    Light Sources:     Lamps used are typically 11-watt sign ones with clear bulbs. (A non-frosted bulb generates less spill.) Eleven watts is high enough for dark-adapted eyes, but low enough to not be seen from more distant house positions as long as audience members cannot view filaments directly.

        Although low in colour temperature, these lamps maintain good colour rendition because they are a white, albeit warm, light source. (I abhor blue worklights! -- See Backstage Blues.) Good colour rendition helps in seeing written or typed pages when ink colours are other than black, and for when colour-coding sticky tabs and/or spike tape need to be accurately discerned. These lamps have life in the thousands of hours and can be left on for days at a time if need be, yet still last years.

    More Light?:     Some locations such as a prop table or tech areas may require higher light levels. If fixtures are well shielded from the audience's view or are farther from the stage, 40-watt appliance lamps can be substituted for the 11-watt ones as necessary. These too, have a clear bulb. We carry an inventory of both types protected in corrugated, cardboard sleeves. When in transit, to further protect the spares they are placed into a labeled, transparent, snap-lid container, with one side each for the 11- and 40-watt lamps. This container is in turn stored in the Worklight Kit.

    Outlet Tester:     You will notice in the list below that there is an outlet tester. It saves questioning if your worklight lamp or switch is burnt out or not, versus a non-powered outlet.

        I use a simple, hand-held checker consisting of hot & neutral blades and a grounding pin, plus three neon lamps. The neons indicate both power and proper polarity by lighting in a predetermined configuration depending on the outlet's wiring. (Outlet polarity is not a factor with the type of worklights discussed here, but could be under other circumstances.) For protection during transit, my checker is stored inside a small snap-lid container within the Worklight Kit and/or Tool Kit and/or Power Distro Kit.

        Now, any light source that plugs into a standard outlet could suffice, but the smallness of this tester is an advantage. It fits within the palm of the hand and has no line cord to encumber. It can be carried in a pocket more readily than one with a cord, and thus is effortlessly ready whenever needed.

    Worklight Kit Inventory:
    • Clamp-On Fixtures with
      Flat-Blacked Reflectors
    • 11-Watt and 40-Watt Spare
      Lamps with Clear Bulbs
    • Short-Jumper Extension Cords
    • Two-Fers or Electrical Taps
    • Hand-Held Outlet Tester

       See our Worklight Maintenance article.

When one is far away from home and shop,
Well-thought-out and well-stocked kits
Make event requirements go very smoothly.

Be Prepared!

This Article is Available in
Plain Text for Your Archives

The Kits, Text Format

Some of you may be interested in our
Technician's Guides

Return to the
Tech Tips
Table of Contents

Return to the
AIEL Instructionals
Table of Contents

AIEL Main Page