So, you want to be an electrician, huh? That’s fantastic! Electrical work is some of the most important fieldwork one can get into; without electricians, we’d still be living in the Dark Ages! Whether you’re looking to do some basic electrical work around the house or you’re hoping to become an apprentice electrician and go at it professionally, one of the most important aspects of electrical work is what tools you’ll use to get the job done! To that end, we here at Ohio Power Tool have partnered with the Electrical Trades Center of Central Ohio, located just across the parking lot from our own building, to come up with a list of all the tools that trade schools like the ETC require for those enrolled in apprentice electrician programs. For those of you home DIYers that are just looking to do basic electrical work around the house, you could benefit from a few items on this list as well! ETC does a lot of work with Klein Tools, so you’ll be seeing them pop up quite often in this list, and we’ve also got a Milwaukee equivalent for nearly everything, so we’ll be sure to include those as well. Not to mention various other great brands like Knipex, Crescent Tools, and Wiha (coming soon to OPT!) So, without any further ado, let’s dive right in!
First and foremost, we’ll need something to carry around all of our tools in. Back in the day, the main mode of transportation for tools on, off, and around the jobsite was a belt that contained a variety of pockets to carry everything you need throughout your day, similar to Batman’s utility belt. These days, however, the hot new thing, whether you’re on the jobsite, working on an electrical box at home, or journeying cross-country with a plucky fourteen-year-old twenty years after a fungal infection left most of the United States an apocalyptic nightmare, are backpacks. If you’re one of those kinds of people that enjoy chaos in your lives and don’t have anxiety, first of all tell this writer what that’s like, and you may be able to get away with throwing all of your tools in the old LL Bean or Lands End bag that you used in high school with your initials stitched in right at the top there. For the rest of us that prefer a bit of organization, however, jobsite backpacks like Klein’s Tradesman Pro pack that ETC requires are built with specific pockets for things like safety glasses, screwdrivers, and larger tools. A total of thirty-nine pockets provide the ultimate level of storage customization, and the orange interior is a good contrast to many brand colors so you can be sure to find exactly what you’re looking for in record time. The bottom of the backpack is built with a hard molded plastic to protect the contents from jobsite elements that one may encounter out in the field, like water, dust, and debris.
Milwaukee’s Ultimate Jobsite Backpack features a similarly built bottom, which is rated five times more protective than the competition, and the 1680D ballistic material and rugged metal zippers provide an extra layer of durability. The forty-eight pockets ensure each and every one of your tools will be snug and secure during transport, including two hardshell pockets designed specifically to protect electronics and other essential devices from drops and falls. There are a variety of other jobsite backpack options that you can choose from to suit your specific needs, so be sure to find one to your liking!
If you’re a fan of Crescent, their Tradesman Backpack (CTB1000) features a hard polypropylene base to provide additional durability during the day, while also keeping the interior safe and dry from jobsite debris. The thirty-four interior pockets provide plenty of storage for all of your essentials and extras that you need to take with you throughout the day, and the four exterior pockets can hold things like water bottles, tape measures, and more!
Knipex have also just announced their first ever tool backpack, the Modular X18, at their Spring Update 2023 event, which we’ll have more information on soon. The bag is made of recycled polyester, with a hard waterproof base and MOLLE webbing on the front for the optional attachment of carabiners or other accessories, with reflective stitching sewn into the webbing to provide ample refraction points, making this backpack perfect for night work as well. You won’t have to worry about storage space with this backpack; the 37 interior pockets and 21 different straps provide enough room to carry everything you need with you, and with a maximum carry weight of 33lbs (15kg), this bag can be toted around all day with minimal exertion.
No, not the cocktails! You apprentices are going to need a host of different types of screwdrivers, and those of you doing simple electrical work around the house should also have at least a couple of these, just to be safe. Now, just a small safety tip before we get on with the list; you homeowners and DIYers may be thinking, “Oh sure, I can just use one of those screwdrivers I’ve got laying about in the garage,” and while you could be correct, but you’ll want to check to be sure. Non-conductive material in the handle is absolutely vital in working with electrical components to avoid the risk of electrocution!
The first screwdriver we’ll need is a #2 Phillips head screwdriver. These screwdrivers have a larger head than your typical Phillips head driver, and the ETC lists Klein’s 603-4 as their model of choice. The cushioned grip is insulated, and rated against a thousand volts, with extra cushioning in the grip to give an added boost to torque as well as comfort during use. The precision machined tip provides a more accurate fit into settings with significantly less slippage, giving you another added boost to power on the jobsite.
When it comes to Milwaukee’s screwdrivers, their #2 Phillips driver (48-22-2812) features a similar cushion grip for that added comfort and boost in torque, as well as a unique precision knurling to provide added efficiency and effectiveness on the jobsite. Milwaukee also has a brand new line of Made in the USA hand tools that will be coming out soon featuring new screwdrivers, and the part number you’ll want to keep an eye out for in that line will be the MT202. This one will feature everything found on the 48-22-2812 that is, yes, made in China, with the slight difference of being made right here in the States.
Your best bet with Crescent will be their Screw Biter line of screwdrivers, of which the Dual Material Extraction Screwdriver (CIMSDPH) will be the one we’re looking for. The Screw Biter line offers the ease and familiarity of a hand powered screwdriver with the extraction abilities of an impact driver to bust rusted, stripped, or otherwise deteriorated fasteners loose. The high-performance end cap transfers impact energy into an internal mechanism, which rotates the shaft 12° when struck to give added force.
If you’re a Knipex fan, they also have great screwdriver options! Their 5pc. 1000V Insulated Plier & Screwdriver set (9K 98 98 22 US) features a triangular 5″ x 7/32″ slotted screwdriver, triangular handle 4″ x #2 Phillips screwdriver, and triangular 4″ X #2 Robertson screwdriver. With a handle designed with an insulated comfort grip and a hang hole for easy storage, they shouldn’t be easily dismissed!
Cabinet Point – 4” & 6”
You apprentices will also need a couple of cabinet point screwdrivers, in both 4″ and 6″ lengths. Cabinet point screwdrivers have narrower heads than traditional flathead screwdrivers, allowing for greater access in harder to reach areas like those small electrical boxes, outlets, or panels. Klein’s options are the 605-4 and 601-6 respectively, and both come with the same cushion grip found on the Phillips head driver and are rated for 1,000 volts. The 2 size shanks are able to get you through a variety of different sized fasteners that you’ll encounter throughout your career.
Similarly, Milwaukee’s versions of 48-22-2821 and 48-22-2832 respectively, feature the same precision knurling found on the Phillips driver as well as that cushion grip for additional torque and comfort during use. They will also have options in their American-made line with the same specs, under part numbers MT206 and MT212 respectively, so be sure to keep an eye out for those as well!
Crescent‘s offerings will gain you an additional couple of inches, with their 4″ and 8″ offerings both including chrome plating to increase corrosion resistance and ergonomic tri-lobe handles to ensure maximum comfort and added torque while in operation.
A good set of nut drivers are essential for any apprentice electrician, and might not be a bad idea for those of you at home that find yourself working with nuts and bolts quite often, though not necessarily required. Klein has a 6-piece set under part number 635-6, color-coded for a variety of sizes up to 1/4″, which feature hollow shafts capable of torquing hex nuts onto threaded bolts of any length as well as rare-earth magnets in the tip for a solid hold on the fastener while you find a good position for it.
Milwaukee’s set of 48-22-2507 also include similar color coding and rare-earth magnets found in Klein’s offering, but with an extra driver to bump it to a 7-piece set. With this you get the versatility to fit a variety of fasteners, including square, hex, 12-point, and spline.
You’ll be faced with a choice if going with Crescent, as their 5-piece sets only come in SAE or metric conversions, without an option to mix and match other than buying individual nut drivers to build out your own set. These nut drivers feature chrome plating to increase resistance against corrosion, as well as a secure fit in the tip to hold onto nuts while being driven and a similar color coding feature found in Klein and Milwaukee’s offerings.
Knipex sadly have not got any nut driver sets, but each of their individual nut drivers feature an ergonomically optimized dual component handle for an optimum transmission of force as well as reduced fatigue when in use. The design of the handle prevents rolling, ensuring a tight, secure fit when you need it most.
Not a bad start, but now we’re going to be diving deeper into the world of pliers. You apprentices will need a fair few to go about business, and those of you doing basic electrical work around the house would do well to grab a number of these just to have on hand; you never know when you’ll need a good pair of pliers handy!
Straight Jaw Pliers – 10″ & 12″
Let’s start with the basics. A couple pairs of straight jaw pliers in both 10″ and 12″ sizes should be a given for almost any tool kit anyway, and Klein’s D502-10 and D502-12 each come with a quick-adjust rivet for simple one-handed adjustments, and the secure tongue and groove design allows for a powerful non-slip grip on the fastener, even when intense pressure is applied. The jaws on both sets are induction-hardened, which provide a significantly longer life than typical pump pliers, so you’ll be able to hold on to these pliers much longer than an average pair.
Not to be outdone, however, Milwaukee’s 48-22-6310 and 48-22-6312 both feature a rust coating over the jaws designed to keep rust away from the tool for as long as possible, which also extends the life of the pliers by an order of magnitude. The comfortable grips include a non-peel layer that helps to prevent slippage and peeling when faced with intense pressures, and are perfect for punching knockouts or reaming pipe.
Two good Crescent options (RT210CVN-05 and RT212CVN-05) are both made of alloy steel, and are precision machined for added durability and an incredibly long lasting life. Their unique tooth design provides a better grip on objects than their competition, and also increases torque with less effort required. Their 10″ option has 6 different jaw settings for flexibility and versatility on the jobsite, while their 12″ option has 2 additional jaw positions for a total of 8.
You Knipex fans will be looking at the 86 03 250 and 86 03 300 for your plier options, which feature smooth jaws as opposed to those with teeth. This allows for damage-free installation of plated fittings, which also means that you can work directly on chrome with these things if you find yourself working with that a lot. The zero-backlash parallel jaws prevents damage to the edges of sensitive or fragile components, while providing a stronger grip on the workpiece and the ability for flexible adjustments of all jaw widths.
9” Side Cut Pliers
Next up, we’ll need to grab a pair of side cut pliers, or crimping pliers as they’re often called. These will be a necessity for those looking to do this professionally, and is also a wonderful thing to have laying around the house for those of you just looking to do this stuff at home. Klein’s D231-9NE-CR are built with a sleek, streamlined design with a unique handle tempering, allowing the handles to better absorb the snap that occurs when wires or cables are cut. The precision hardened head provides an extra layer of toughness on the jobsite, and the induction hardened blades allow for an extended life of the pliers themselves.
The rust resistant material makes a return on Milwaukee’s 48-22-6100, which include a comfortable pair of grips that won’t bite into your hands during use. The on-board crimper can also act as a fish tape puller, should you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re in need of that, which gives you the versatility when working with both insulated and non-insulated terminals. Milwaukee has not yet announced a solution in their American-made line, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one in the future; we’ll be sure to keep our eyes peeled as much as we can, so be sure to keep an eye out right here for any of those announcements!
8” Long Nose Pliers
Our next pair of pliers will be an 8″ pair of long nose pliers, which will grant you an extended reach in those harder to reach areas. Klein’s D203-8 feature a heavier design than your typical pair of long nose pliers, leading to a greater cutting power on the jobsite, and the extended handle provides an even longer reach as well as additional leverage. The same induction hardened blades found on their side cut pliers make a reappearance here, giving you longer life than average long nose pliers.
Milwaukee has also taken cues from their side cut pliers with the 48-22-6501, and has included the fish tape puller within the 2″ gripping nose, which is perfect for gaining access in the hardest to reach portions of the electrical panels or boxes. While we don’t have exact confirmation just yet, we can guess that many of the same features will be included on their American-made MT505 when they’re released later on this year.
Crescent‘s 10338CVNN are designed for longer reach in confined areas, with the finely serrated jaws on the long chain nose making it the perfect tool to create loops and bends in wire. The induction hardened cutting edges are hand-honed to ensure an extra long life, and the forged alloy steel and rust protection coating only help to further the life of the pliers.
The Knipex 26 11 200 include distortion-tolerant flexible tips, precision machined for a stronger grip in harder to access areas. The hardened cutting edges are perfect for hard, medium-hard, or soft wire, and the elastic tips are stable even when under intense pressure and twists.
8” Diagonal Cut Pliers
With that, we’re down to our final pair of pliers, which will be an 8″ pair of diagonal cut pliers. The angled head of diagonal cut pliers make them perfect for working in more confined spaces where you may need more power than you do reach. The D248-8 from Klein are made with high-leverage handles, which provide up to 36% more cutting power than a regular pair of diagonal cut pliers, and the hot riveted joint and non-slip coating on the handles ensure maximum power on the jobsite.
Milwaukee will have their MT508 pair of American-made pliers unveiled later on this year, but until then, we can take a look at the 48-22-6528 to get an idea as to what they’ll be like. These diagonal cut pliers are made with the same rust resistant material that their pliers are to ensure a long life, and the comfortable handle ensures all-day use without any pain or discomfort.
The high leverage point in Crescent‘s Z5428-06 helps to provide up to 35% greater cutting power than your average pair of diagonal cutting pliers, with laser hardened edges designed to remain sharp up to 50% longer than traditional pliers while providing a smooth, clean cut. The cutting head is angled at 20° to provide a truly flush cut throughout the jobsite.
Knipex have their 74 01 200 for intense, continuous use throughout the day, which is assisted by the forged-on axle. The pliers require up to 20% less effort to cut than their competitors thanks in part to the optimal coordination of the angle of the cutting edge along with the force transmission ratio, and the precision induction-hardened edges can cut through a variety of wire, including piano wire!
At this point, we really only need a few more things to fill out our backpacks. A level would be a good idea to have whether you’re an apprentice electrician or just an at-home enthusiast, and a torpedo level is the perfect size to fit in your pack. With an overall length of 8″, Klein’s 935RB is still large enough to provide plenty of information at a glance from 4 different angles; pure level, 90°, 45°, and 30°. The bright orange body is a perfect contrast against the greys of metal and conduits on the jobsite, and Klein’s patented magnet track prevents its rare-earth magnets from falling out, giving you peace of mind when you’re on the job.
Milwaukee’s 48-22-5107 boasts amplified rare-earth magnets for up to 2 times the holding power of the competition, and its maximized viewing area is perfect for identifying the pitch of your piece in 1/8″ and 1/4″ per foot options. The aluminum frame is toughened to stand up to even the harshest of jobsite conditions, so you won’t have to worry about damage during drops or falls.
Crescent also has a handy torpedo level, with large magnified vials for simple viewing from 3 different angles, and the sturdy aluminum housing is able to protect against damage during falls or drops. The permanently embedded magnets help to affix the level to any ferromagnetic surface with a powerful grip, ensuring the level won’t fall or slip during use.
A utility knife can go a long way in a variety of situations, and are especially useful for quick cuts when you need them. Many are of the belief that a Swiss army knife, or at least one that carries a multitude of additional blades and accessories, would be the best way to go to have all your bases covered. While they’d be correct in some situations, if you’ve got your backpack outfitted properly, a simple utility knife will be all you need. Klein’s simple Folding Utility Knife (44131) is compatible with any standard utility blade, giving you the freedom and versatility to stick with your blade of choice, and the solid aluminum handle provides an added boost to power during use.
Similarly, Milwaukee‘s FASTBACK Folding Utility Knife (48-22-1502) features the same press-to-open design that Klein’s model has, as well as a comfortable grip and quick, tool-free blade swaps, getting you back on the job much faster. This knife also features built-in blade storage in the handle to make sure you never get stuck with a dull blade. Weighing in at less than 1 pound, this utility knife is the perfect addition to any toolkit, even for homeowners or DIYers who are just looking for a nice new knife.
The resilient handle construction on Crescent‘s CTKFHEDC is able to stand up to heavy intense use on the jobsite, with a sleek low profile and an EDC handle to allow for quick and easy access in pockets or bags. The ball-bearing assisted design helps to extend the life of the knife itself, meaning you won’t have to replace the handle as often as some other utility knives.
Another area where apprentices and DIYers can differ is with the tape measures they use. Those of you at home can likely just stick with your average run of the mill tape measure to get the job done, but often times you apprentices will be working in situations where magnetic tape measures might be required. The Electrical Trade Center requires a 25′ magnetic tape measure, and have included the Klein 9225 on their list. The durable nylon coating ensures a tight grip while in use, and easy to read markings every 1/8″ provide quick and accurate measurements. The powerful magnet in the hook is able to latch on to a variety of ferromagnetic objects and materials, and the double hook on the blade ensures a tight grip on studs, conduit, and other objects. It also includes dual-sided printing, which gives you a reading no matter what angle you need to put yourself at to do so.
The anti-tear coating on the first 6 inches of Milwaukee’s 48-22-0325 provides a strong reinforcement on the blade to prevent any potential tearing, and a comfortable finger stop protects your fingers during the blade’s retraction. It, too, features dual-sided printing to ensure an accurate reading at any angle, and has its own powerful magnet in the hook to latch onto a variety of ferromagnetic materials and objects.
The extra-wide blade on Crescent‘s LM1225-02 provides easier viewing angles, with an additional mylar coating on the first 6 inches of the blade for additional protection as well, which also extends the life of the tape measures. The magnetic diamond-coated end hook protects the front of the tape from tears and snags, and improves both horizontal and lateral grasp on magnetic objects and materials, making one-person measurement much easier.
Now, some of you may be wondering, is there really a difference between the hammer I’ve got out in the garage and one made specifically for electricians? And the answer is, yes! Electrician’s hammers like Klein’s 807-18 are designed with a longer neck and include a more narrow striking face than regular hammers for greater access in those harder to reach areas in outlet boxes and other tight spaces. Most are also built with a fiberglass shaft and rubber grip to protect from electrical surges.
You unfortunately won’t be finding a solution for electrician’s hammers from Milwaukee, Crescent, or Knipex, but if Klein doesn’t strike your fancy, there are a multitude of other options out there; just be sure to do your research and get a hammer that will protect you from electrical surges, whether you’re out in the field or doing things around the house.
We’re almost done filling up our backpack! A pair of wire strippers will go a long way, and are a good thing to own whether you’re an apprentice electrician or a homeowner looking to do some basic work around the house. The Kurve Wire Stripper/Cutter (K11095) from Klein includes 6 separate holes for stripping wires, as well as a shear-cutting knife to handle the tougher 8-18 AWG Solid and 10-20 AWG Stranded wire, along with the ability to shear holes for for 6-32 and 8-32 bolts. The narrow head allows for greater access in those hard to reach spaces, and the curved comfort handles provide extended coverage and additional comfort throughout the day.
The curved cutting blade on Milwaukee’s 7-1/8″ General Purpose Wire Stripper Pliers (48-22-6109) is perfect for cutting through larger, tougher wires, and the ergonomic grip can sit in your hand comfortably for all day use. Milwaukee has also included the bolt cutter threads for #6 and #8 bolts, and the lightweight design is perfect for one-handed use, increasing its versatility on the jobsite. The head is also coated in a rust protection that extends the life of the tool by preventing corrosion, and the simple one-handed swing lock ensures the tool stays locked when not in use.
Crescent‘s 8″ Wire Strippers, conveniently numbered CTWIRES, are designed specifically to efficiently strip stranded or solid wire between 8 to 20 gauges. The cross-hatched jaws are perfect for gripping and pulling when needed, and the 7-in-1 option provides an additional layer of versatility throughout the jobsite. The ergonomic grips provide comfort during prolonged use, and you’ll also be getting a durable hardwire cutter for soft chain and wire to extend the life and usage of the tool.
Last, but certainly not least, we’ll be needing a voltage detector! Perhaps one of the most important pieces in our backpack, voltage detectors will tell us whether the wires that we’re going to be working with contain live electricity, and if so, how much. Klein’s Dual Range Non-Contact Voltage Tester (NCVT2P) is a non-contact detector that can find a range of 12 – 1000 volts of AC in a wide variety of applications, including cables, cords, circuit breakers, switches, outlets, and more. It can also detect AC voltage in doorbells, thermostats, low level lighting, and irrigation systems. Simultaneous audio and visual cues provide identification of voltage, while a green light indicates the lack of electricity within the piece you’re working on. With an auto-off feature to conserve battery power and an IP54 rating for dust, debris, and water, Klein’s voltage detector is the perfect addition for any tool bag.
Milwaukee’s Voltage Detector & LED Light (2202-20) features a similar indication feature to Klein’s model, with an audible warning if live voltage is detected. This detector can measure a voltage range of 50 – 1000V AC. The rear-button power is simple to use, and a pocket clip ensures easy access and quick retrieval when needed. The 2 AAA batteries that power Milwaukee’s voltage detector are simple to replace, and the CAT IV 1000V rating provides a measure of safety in a variety of applications.
And with that, our backpack is complete! These are all the tools that you’ll definitely need to start your career as an electrician, and a great starting off list for those of you who need to do some basic electrical work at home. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the long list, you can check out some of Klein’s Electrician’s Tool Kits that they have already assembled, or shop some of our other general hand tool sets to get a good start on what you’ll need.
Trade schools like the Electrical Trades Center of Central Ohio are the perfect place to begin your quest for knowledge and an apprenticeship if you are looking to get into the trade. There are some that say trade schools are for those that, for whatever reason, can’t, won’t, or don’t want to attend traditional 4-year universities, but we all know that isn’t true. The trades have always and will always be a necessary career field, and they boast tons of opportunities for those looking to get into a new and prosperous career. For those looking to get some real world experience at a job in the industry of their choosing while continuing to learn and gain hands-on knowledge, trade schools are the places for you, and you can be sure to find everything you’ll need throughout your career at your favorite tool dealer, which is of course Ohio Power Tool. Feel free to reach out at 614-481-2111 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or concerns, and be sure to follow us on all the fun social media places to stay up to date on news, announcements, deals, and more!