Tools of the Trade: Apprentice Electrician

electrician apprentice toolsStarting a new career is always a challenge, especially if you’re starting work in a trade, like electrician, and you have to get a set of high quality tools to do the job. It can be overwhelming to make sure you’re getting all of the right tools and you don’t necessarily want to just buy just the generic preassembled “electrician toolkit” (although a set like the Wiha 32934 is a good starting point). It would be better to get some pointers from an electrician who’s been in the job for a while so you know the tools you’re getting are ones that you’re going to use. While you can ask an electrician and go find the stuff yourself, you can just as easily click the links and buy pretty much everything here from us as we carry pretty much all of the recommended tools or a close equivalent. The list comes from Dustin Stelzer at Electrician U, and if you’re a new electrician you should probably check out his YouTube channel as he has a TON of great content for electricians, like this video. In this specific video, he does recommend (and we link to) a lot of Klein Tools, however you can try to find similar tools in other brands including Ideal Tools. It should be noted that while we carry most of the stuff he recommended, there are a couple things we don’t have yet. But if you really want them, we can probably work with you to get them. While what follows is a bit long, but it will contain some links to grab the gear you’ll need as well as some explanation as to why you need it.  

klein tool belt pouchThe very first thing that’s recommended by ElectricianU is that you get a couple of ways to store and carry tools around. Specifically, it’s mentioned that you should be getting something to wear (like a tool belt) and something to carry (like a bag or other storage), for the bigger and heavier things. Within the carrying bag, you could also have a few smaller pouches like those mentioned in this blog for loose things like bits. The particulars of what you should get in the carrier you wear is a loop for a hammer and a chain to store your electrical tape. Some of our suggestions for the wearable pouch would be the Klein Tools 5166, and the 5178, as they contain the hammer loop and the chain, though you can get a couple bags that hold tape but without hammer loops like this CLC 1503, the Klein 5190, the 5167, and the 5125L. You can also get a Klein bag with a tape chain stocked with some of the tools mentioned later, but you may need to customize that set a bit.

As far as bags you carry, you have considerably more variety as you just need something that holds your big tools and small bags of accessories. You can browse our selection of bags or find a canvas bag like the 5105-20, 5139, 5140 or the 5141. The bag you choose depends a lot on your personal preference, but we carry a lot of varieties so there’s apt to be one you like. No bag will be perfect, but you should be able to find something that will work for you.  

klein tools 6 in 1Once you’ve decided on how you want to carry your tools, you’re ready to assemble the tools that you need. The list starts off with a couple of different screwdrivers that will see a lot of use. The Klein Tools 602-10 is a large slotted screwdriver with a keystone tip. According to the video, you’ll use it a lot for prying and other stuff relating to electrical work. The next tool is highly useful being that it’s six tools in one. The Klein 32560 contains 1/4-Inch (6 mm) slotted, #2 Phillips, 1/4-Inch (6 mm) and 5/16-Inch (8 mm) nut drivers, #1 and #2 square-recess, all of which are very common to come across as an electrician since panels tend to be square, flat or Phillips. This same tool comes in a stubby too for when you’re working in tight spaces. Even with those, it’s good to have an extra square drive just in case. Lastly, as far as drivers go, a good set of nut drivers like the Klein 631 which is a 7-piece set which will be used a lot with putting anchors into masonry.

Next on the list, you’ll want to get a strong jab saw for cutting into drywall to access electrical stuff. The Klein 725 will certainly do the job, but you can also get the Klein 31737 which is a foldable saw. The advantage of the jab saw is that you don’t have to carry a heavy tool around and it won’t create a lot of fine dust since it’s not a power tool. For other cutting jobs, you’ll want one or maybe even several basic utility knives. You can get a basic utility knife made by Klein, Hazet, or Ideal and Klein has a couple that are a little more than basic.

Klein Linesman pliersIf there was a signature tool for electricians, this might be it, because Linesman pliers have been used pretty much since the beginning of electricity, and even before it back in the days of the telegraph. They’re such a signature tool, and Klein’s reputation is so well-known that they’re often referred to merely as “Kleins.” Klein makes a lot of different kinds lineman pliers, the J213-9NE is mentioned in the video, but you can also get a type that is insulated. Knipex also makes some nice lineman pliers and if you don’t like the one in the video, we carry a lot of different brands and styles. The next tool, diagonal cutters, does have prescribed usages like cutting wires, however, it appears to be helpful with removing staples as well. You might want to consider getting an insulated one, because in the video, it’s said that it’s quite easy to cut a live wire by mistake, so to be safe, it might just be worth getting the insulation. We have other brands and styles of diagonal cutters, so check those out.

Speaking of cutting wires, sometimes as an electrician you’re going to need to strip wires as well and there are a couple of suggestions for those. The first being the basic model, Klein 11045. This model also has an insulated version. You can also get a little more for your money with the Klein Tools 1010 which is not only a stripper, it cuts, crimps, cuts bolts and has a threader. Another multi-tool option is the Klein J206-8C all-purpose pliers. It’s probably a good idea to get one of the multi-tools and a couple of the more basic ones to have around in a pinch for the sake of redundancy. A stripper is a basic tool, so adding a couple features on it really adds value.  

Klein Tools Multimeter MM400Since you probably want to make sure a wire is live before you cut or strip it, there are a few tools that can help you with identifying if a circuit is live and more. The most basic way to do this is the NCVT-1 which is a non-contact tester that tells you if a wire is hot or not. That’s pretty much all it does. It is recommended by ElectricianU to get a multi-meter eventually, although it’s not required by brand new electricians. Multi-meters are a great tool that helps to identify not only if a line is hot or not, but a bunch of other stuff as well. Klein’s ET60 and the MM400 are both good options that go up to 600V and feature some good diagnostic features. You should also grab a GFI/GFCI tester like the RT210 or the RT310 which help identify common wiring faults in GFCI outlets. These testers will not only help identify live circuits, but will help you diagnose other issues as well making them great to have on hand as you grow in your career as an electrician.

Knipex pliers wrenchThus far we’ve already seen a lot of tools that a new electrician will need, and believe it or not, there are still a few more. The first of these is obvious, basically a claw hammer and we have a couple of options, either in 16 ounce or 20 ounce. Next up, the video recommends getting a couple pairs of Channelock pliers – two pairs so you can use one to grip and the other to turn. At present, we don’t carry that brand, however we can recommend an equivalent made by Knipex or Klein. The first recommendation would be a couple of either one of Knipex 86 02 250 or the Knipex 86 03 300 which are both a pliers wrench and similar to what was suggested. If you’re not too worried about using tongue and groove pliers in this situation, you might also consider the Knipex 00 20 06 Cobra pliers 3-pack, the Klein D502-10 pump pliers or even the Klein 50210EINS which is an electrician’s insulated pump pliers. Any of these would do the job, so grab the ones that work best for you.

Other useful tools that you might not otherwise consider would be a good assortment of hex wrenches, and you can get those in a super convenient multi-tool like a Bondhus Gorilla Grip. You can get a two piece set or a three piece set and if you have a brand preference, you can grab a Klein equivalent with nine different keys. Another useful tool that could be overlooked is a good, solid tape measure. The Klein Tools 9225 is 25 feet in length which will give it a good 13 feet of standout before it will flop over and it has a magnetic end making it easy to latch onto something metal. If you don’t need the magnetic end, the Klein 9125 will also work. Klein has made some improvements to their tape measures, so if you’re interested you can check this blog out to see what they’ve changed.

As far as actual tools go, this about ends the list, but you should get a good drill, which we don’t carry at the moment, but we do have a good selection of drill bits. Regarding drill bits, we carry auger bits and boring drill bits, but specifically uni bits for drilling through metal are what you’ll need and we have the Klein 1 1/8” Stepped Uni-Bit that was shown in the video as well as 3/16 to 7/8 and 7/8 to 1 1/8 sizes.

Pelican FlashlightThat’s it for the recommended tools that we carry. You’ll also want some Sharpie markers and drill bit extenders, but those are a couple things we don’t carry yet. Beyond the preceding tools that you’ll need, it would be a good idea to grab some support pieces like a good headlamp and some good flashlights as well as some basic PPE like some (non-leather) fitted gloves. Kneepads were also something not mentioned in the video but called out by users in the comments section, and given that an electrician has to be able to crawl and move around, that’s a good idea. Some good options might be gel kneepads or riveted and normal kneepads.

Whew! That’s a long list of tools and we thank Dustin at ElectricianU for putting the video together. Give his video a like and subscribe, I’m sure you’ll learn a lot. If you’re starting as an electrician, the initial investment in tools can be steep, but if you make that investment in high quality tools, especially an affordable and reliable brand like Klein, you’re going to have tools you’ll be able to rely on for years down the road.

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