Episode 42 – APPRENTICE TOOLS – 13 Tools Apprentice Electricians Need To Have

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Since my first tool video I did a few years back, I’ve had so many people ask me for a more condensed list of tools that I would consider as the essentials for an apprentice to buy. This list is ONLY hand tools – not power tools like drills and saws. Here’s my top 13 list.

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#1 – LINEMAN’S PLIERS

Every electrician, no-matter where they’re at in their career, must have a set of lineman’s pliers. There are several brands and styles out there to use, and I think I’ve got at least one of all of them. The one’s I have the easiest access to, that have been reliable my whole career, have been Klein’s. I’ve tried several different models of Klein lineman’s pliers, and there are definitely a few I like more than others. The high-leverage set are great for having torque and power behind the tool. The smaller multi-tool lineman’s offer a little more versatility since they have strippers, bolt cutters, and the front is shaped like a standard lineman’s pliers – but they don’t offer the same power with the shorter handles. Either way you go, you need a set of lineman’s pliers if you’re getting into the electrical trade.

#2 – NEEDLE-NOSE PLIERS

The needle-nose pliers is our next “must-have” as an electrician. We use these in so many ways, and for so many reasons so having one near-by is always a good idea. There are times we need to get in to really tight spaces to grab things, or we need to bend the ends of conductors to fit into a termination. Some needle-nose pliers come with a stripping hole, or some yet come with an entire set of different gauged-holes for stripping various sizes of wires. Either way you go, you need one of these beasts and will probably use it on a daily basis.

#3 – DIAGONAL-CUTTING PLIERS

Having a good set of diagonal-cutting pliers in your pouch is a no-brainer as an electrician. We cut things, a lot, and having a tool specifically being able to cut at the tip of the tool, or use it to pry is an extremely handy thing to be able to do. A lot of times we need to cut things in tight spaces, or we just need to grab something and pry on it it. These do both. Many electricians have holes in theirs from cutting live wires and not paying attention to the fact the tool is grounded out. This is an expensive mistake to make, but we’ve all done it. Just try not to, but definitely get a set of these.

#4 – WIRE-STRIPPERS

Another obvious tool electricians use all day, every day, is the wire-stripper. There are MANY different types, brands, and models of wire-stripping tools on the market and while some of them are trash, many of them are great – and cheap. I like having a couple of different pairs on me at all times, because some of them have features that the others don’t. For example one of my pairs has longer handles, bolt cutters, stripping holes, and several different crimping jaws. I don’t use this as a stripper, but all of the other functions on it I do use on a regular basis. I tend to keep a smaller, more compact version on me as well – this one just for stripping and cutting. Either way you go, get a set – and in the US I recommend getting one that will strip 10 guage down to 16 guage wire. If you could find one that would go from 6 to 24 guage that would be amazing, but I have yet to find one that does this. It would be impractical, I feel, but who knows…maybe some day somebody will make one.

#5 – CHANNEL-LOCKS

I have several sets of channel-locks, and several sizes as well. I’m a firm believer that you need to have 2 sets of whatever you buy. Most of the time we use these to clamp onto something, while twisting something else on or off – such as couplings, connectors, and lock-rings. I debated throwing a pipe wrench (or monkey wrench) into this list as well, for the same reason, but that’s really more of an “extra” tool to have if you want to have an ace up your sleeve. For most of our work, a couple sets of channel locks will do just fine. I suggest getting 2 pairs of 11-inch, and 2 pairs of 14-inch channels. This gets you through most of the conduit sizes we deal with from day to day.

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Comments

Zachary Ramsey says:

Man you may already have one or two or three by now. And someone may have told you the same thing, but led Lenser makes some of the best head lights or hand held, I have 2 and my dad has 3 they are great lights but just a fun fact just in case you didn’t have one, check them out! Appreciate the video!

mason jean says:

You forgot the most important use for linemans pliers: a hammer.

Tyler Kane says:

Excellent video, very informative. Thank you!

Bob Beanner says:

Can not stand those damn multi pliers. Pain in the ass.

Mike Wong says:

#14 Klein electrician scissors

Zach White says:

I have so many of the same tools as this guy !

Andy Fletcher says:

Not much I can disagree with on your list. Klein 11-n-1 comes with two sizes of square tip. For your slip-joint pliers(channel locks) on the smaller size I HIGHLY recommend the Knipex 88-250. They are lighter, they don't seize up over time, they have the round jaws and grip better than the flat jaws, the teeth stay sharp, mine are over 20 years old and grip just like when they were new. They are narrower so fit in tighter spaces. I spent my last 7 years doing airfield lighting which is almost exclusively 2" PVC and they worked great putting 2" fittings(MIP-FIP adapters) into the hubs. A lot of folks don't like the Klein tape measures, but in my 50 years in various trades, they have been the best for me. On hammers, while I love the Estwings and had a 16 ounce I used for finish carpentry for years, as electricians we should be using fiberglass or wood handled hammers. When I was framing ages ago, I had a bad day doing a tin roof with lead head nails on a 6/12 pitch roof, using a 32 ounce hammer. Ate my fingers up. I switched to a 20oz Vaughn and within a week I was about a half a stroke more on a 20P sinker. The main thing I will say on a hammer, comfort equals confidence, and confidence equals less blood spilled. Another thing important as an electrician is that you want a straight claw. You WILL be using that hammer as a "precision instrument of digimetation" if you work in the dirt at all.

I would add to the list a set of pass through style nut drivers, 1/4" through 9/16". You'll probably only carry the 5/16", 3/8", and 7/16" in your belt, but it's good to have the rest in your bag. They are more versatile and quicker to use than flopping through your multi-driver. It would also be good, if you can find one, to have an 11/32" as well. You will run into 11/32" nuts in a lot of control modules and light fixtures.

A 10"(minimum) adjustable wrench(crescent wrench)

A set of combination wrenches(box end + open end) to 3/4". Again, you're not likely to be carrying them in your pouch most of the time, but they are great to have in your bag.

A frame hack saw with several each 24teeth/inch and 28teeth/inch blades. For one reason or another, you are not always going to have the reciprocating saw or band saw, and it WILL cut your EMT or PVC almost as quickly. It's like a gun, better to have and never need than need and not have.

syi tiger907 says:

I like the staleto 14 oz titanium hammer

JrpMechanics says:

Honestly my Milwaukee (I worked in construction as an electrician) tape measure broke when it fell off my belt from around 6 ft up. Now that is high just still, I had it maybe a week haha. Was using a lift to get up to a ceiling in a warehouse and 6ft up it decided to yeet off. I do have a craftsman and Klein one and both haven’t broken yet!. The actual tape itself unwound and shot out of the tape measure haha.

SNAXTV says:

If you break Klein tools go to Home Depot they replace for free

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