As an electrician in the industry for the past 25 years, I often get asked by parents and trainees, what are the best tools for apprentice electricians?
Depending on the type of apprenticeship they have will determine the type of tools they will require. Domestic, Refrigeration or Industrial electricians require a few different tools to complete each task.
So let’s check out some of the more common electrical tools for each job role and then tie in some more specialty gear.
Electrical Tools Names and Pictures
To get each apprentice the correct tool for starting out they need the best from the beginning. Every-time you need a tool, think if it needs to be insulated. Often it will need to be.
This is a must for every electrician which is why it as at the top of the list. Be sure to get tools that are rated for at least 1000v. It is good practice to always isolate the appliance or cable, but sometimes this can not be done. A quality insulated screwdriver in various sizes is a must for every electrician.
If the screwdriver tool sheath gets nicked or damaged in any way then throw it out as the insulation properties has been compromised.
Apprentice Fluke Multi-meter
This is the standard tool for electricians. Fluke are the world leaders in these voltage measuring devices. With a whole range of different multi-meters available you can find one to fit your budget.
If you are a domestic electrician you won’t have need of the more expensive industrial fluke multimeters. Stick with one that is value for money such as the Fluke 115. This will cover 99% of every test you may do as a domestic electrical apprentice. Such as Voltage AC/DC, Current, Ohms, and Diode Test.
I like the backlight feature for when you are working in dark areas and make sure you get a soft case for it as they will get thrown around a lot in a tool bag.
Once you pick a field to specialize in such as an instrumentation electrician you can then invest in a more advanced multi-meter like the Fluke 789 process-meter.
Having a quality set of insulated pliers and side cutters is the third most used tools in my toolkit. They are used to strip wires, cut cables and twist over bare copper strands. Make sure they are easy to use and are sharp. They will last you a lifetime. Needle nose pliers are also handy to reach into small places.
Side cutting pliers can also be useful but I tend to do all my cable cutting with insulated pliers. If you find your pliers are starting to get hard to open and close a dab of oil in the hinge point will do wonders.
Now a retractable knife with snap off blades is great for cutting anything and everything. I tend to use them for stripping cables. I’m not a fan of the mechanical cable strippers especially for any cable over 1.5mm.
As each blade gets dull you can just turn them around or replace them. Replaceable blades are available very cheap.
As a domestic electricain, you will use a hammer on a daily basis to hammer in cable clips. These clips will secure the cables to the framework of a house. They are also handy to punch holes into sheetrock.
You can also use the hammer to attach power points and light switch brackets to the house frame rather than using screws. At the end of the day, it will be a personal preference if you use a hammer or a cordless drill for securing wall brackets. I prefer an 18v drill driver.
Get one that is not too heavy and is easy to swing. A nice soft rubber outer handle sheath is a must.
Wire Crimping Tool
A crimping tool is used for attaching various crimp ends to a cable.
This hand crimper has efficient ratcheting mechanism and professional grade crimping dies so that you can crimp insulated connectors in Red, Blue, and Yellow colors.
Stick with a ratchet crimper like the Jensen shown above as the ratchet will help to get more pressure onto the crimp.
The above ratchet crimping pliers has a set of removable jaws to change out to various sized crimps. This way you have 5 tools in one. It is handy if you have to crimp down metal lugs onto copper wire.
18v Battery Drill Combo Kit
Cordless battery tools are a must for every domestic apprentice electrician. I use at least one of these tools every day either wiring up a house or working at the factory. They are super handy.
Stick with brand names such as Makita, Bosch, and Dewalt. They are made tough and can take a beating. Now that’s not to say brands like Ryobi are bad but they are more suited for the home handyman who may use it one a week.
The better deal is to buy a complete set which may include a circular saw, cutoff saw, light, grinder, blower, drill driver, and spare batteries. Check out some great 18v battery tools options from Makita.
Bosch Electric Torque Screwdriver
I also invested in the Bosch small electric screwdriver for those smaller jobs that require small screws to be removed fast. This makes installing light switches/power points and taking off kitchen appliance panels really fast.
This small torque screwdriver can be a replacement for an 18v electric drill for screw jobs. So you can hang it off your tool belt and not be weighted down.
It can be recharged from any micro USB port so aslong as you have access to a phone charger this tool can stay charged up. It is actually quite powerful for it’s size. I wish I had one years ago.
Tape Measure or Laser Range Finder
Having a tape measure on hand is important for measuring out lengths of conduit or small cable runs. Lately, I have been converted over to the Bosch Laser tape measure for quick and easy measurements which we just completed a review on.
As you can see I like Bosch tools. They are built tough for the tradesman in mind. German engineering at its best.
Now an insulation tester is a tool that checks the insulation of motors and other electrical items. What it does is check for a break down on insulation to ground or earth. Usually, this is due to an ingress of water or failure of the motor windings.
Usually, there are a few options like 100v – 250v – 1000v so you can select the correct voltage to test.
Be careful when using an insulation tester as it can act just like a taser if you come in contact with the probes. It can give you a nice tingle. I have seen an apprentice get an electric shock from a 147kw slip ring motor because he didn’t discharge the windings after he had megger tested it.
Nowadays some multi-meters have insulation resistance, voltage, and continuity testing inbuilt. Just like this Fluke 1507.
Conduit Bending Spring and Heat Gun
To save money on projects many electricians like to bend their PVC conduit using a conduit spring and a heat gun. This saves them from having to buy elbows and bends. These springs are designed to be inserted into different sizes of the conduit so you can bend them by hand and still keep the round shape. I find that if I use my Dewalt heat gun to warm up the PVC conduit, the pipe will be easy to bend.
Once you have performed the bend you can pull out the spring. Don’t do more than 2 bends with a spring inserted otherwise the spring may get jammed.
PVC pipe joining cement is also good to have in your tool kit for when you need to join lengths of conduit or bends. If you are doing a lot of conduit cutting then it is best to invest in a PVC pipe cutter.
The heat gun also comes in handy when you need to use heat shrink for cable insulation.
No tool kit is complete without various colors of electrical tape. For starting out you will need Red, Black and Green tape. If working with 3 phase power you can add in white and blue tape colors to your collection.
I like the Scotch #35 vinyl electrical tape as it stands up to the weather, and is easy to remove without getting sticky residue over your fingers like some cheaper brands. Always carry some with you.
Apprentice Electricians Tool Kit Bag
The bigger the bag the more tools you can fit in it. But there is a trade-off it will get very heavy fast. Some of the guys at my work use a hand cart sack truck to move their tool bag around the factory. For me, I just prefer a smaller shoulder bag with a few selected tools.
Domestic electricians can usually get away with a belt tool holder. You can always walk back to your van or tool locker to grab some extra gear if needed.
I do like the Dewalt technicians tool bag as its light for some basic tools. Most of the time I just carry some pliers and a screwdriver in my pocket. The last thing I want is to struggle up to a job caring all my tools in an oversized bag.
Insulated Step Ladder
As an electrician having a good quality 6 or 7 foot insulated step ladder will get you up to most jobs. Usually, they are made out of fiberglass and will be slightly heavier than an aluminum ladder but they are much safer.
Extension ladders and also handy if you need a higher reach but they are mostly being replaced by boom lifts nowadays on construction sites for safety reasons.
Be aware that they still have Aluminium step rails so they won’t be 100% fiberglass.
Industrial Electrician Tool Kit
Along with the electrical maintenance tool list mentioned above the following tools are usually required as an industrial electrician.
Advanced Process Multi-meter
These can provide more features such as 4-20ma input and outputs. This is one of the most used features to drive a control valve open or closed from out in the field.
- An LCD display with bright backlight.
- Accurate current measurement range: 0 to 30 mA DC.
- 24V DC loop power supply.
- 25-Percent manual step plus auto step and auto ramp functions on mA output.
- Inbuilt, selectable 250-Ohm resistor for Heart Instrumentation bench communication.
Some special multi-meters also have attachments for clamp current meters and vibration sensing for motors and other electrical items. Stick with Fluke as I have a muli-meter that is over 30 years old and still going strong.
You can check out more reviews from the Fluke 789 process multimeter over at Amazon.
Metal Pipe Bending tools.
You would think that an electrician would need a pipe bender but we do. This is a more specialized area when as an industrial electrician you may be required to bend stainless steel tube pipe for flow, and pressure transmitters. The 3 common sizes are 1/4″ 5/16″ and 3/8″ inch.
I like that this tool has all the different sizes built into one die. I had to purchase each tool separately in the old days.
It will take a little bit of practice to get the correct measurements of say an inside or outside diameter bends. But practice makes perfect.
Now, most domestic electricians can get away with a ring spanner set. Bust as an industrial electrician or a factory sparky you will need a 3/8 or larger socket wrench set.
This will be for large electric motor disconnects/reconnects, switchboard repairs, transmitter repairs, and removal of nuts and bolts from old equipment.
Stick with brand name socket wrench sets like Sidchrome, Dewalt, Snap-on, Milwaukee, and Neiko. These will last longer and come with a quality heavy duty wrench. The cheaper brands are ok for basic DIY stuff but once you start using them every day they will quickly fall apart and the internal locking gears will fail.
I tend to tap my wrench with a hammer from time to time to loosen rusted bolts and it is still holding up fine. I don’t recommend doing this as it could damage the internal gears. Especially with the smaller 1/4 inch socket sets.
Impact sockets are usually black in color and perfect for an 18v impact driver. Even those I have some impact sockets they don’t get used very much.
Isolator Pad Locks
Most all heavy industry now days require the use of isolator locks for tagging out pieces of equipment to be worked on. I have a set of padlocks that has my name engraved on it. This way it is easy to identify who is the owner of the lock.
Three medium sized padlocks should be enough to isolate a piece of electrical equipment. If any more locks are required you will often find that the factory will have a lockout procedure set out for you.
Speciality Electrical Qualifications
Now there are a whole range of electrical fields you can get into such as:
- Refrigeration Electrician
- Auto Electrician
- Electronics Technician
- Aircraft Electrican
- Instrumentation Electrician
- High Voltage Electrician
Some of these will have very specialized testing equipment which will be provided by the employer. Usually, you will also be provided with a small tool allowance each week to grow and replace your tools as needed.
If you are keeping your tools at work be sure to lock them up or take them home each night. The last thing you need is someone stealing thousands of dollars worth of tools from you.
I own all the tools mentioned here and many more. After 25 years of being a sparky, you sure tend to collect some weird and wonderful tools. As the years go by you will find the need for more electrical maintenance tools but this is just a quick list.
Always buy quality tools as some are just worthless and that is usually the cheap $5 tool from the local supermarket. Stay away from these as it is not worth your time.
My dad always used to say ” Buy Cheap Buy Twice.”
Don’t forget that buying tools for your job is tax deductible especially here in Australia. Let me know in the comments below what tools for apprentice electrician do you recommend and use.