Top 13 Essential Tools for Electricians

Top 13 Essential Tools for Electricians

Tool kits are every electrician’s trusty companion, you take them with you to every job and rely on the tool to apply your hard-won skills and deliver reliable and safe solutions. We've asked engineers what tools they keep in their kit and pulled them all together to create this guide to the best electrician’s tool kit essentials. 

1. Wire strippers

Wire strippers are plier-like tools used to remove the insulating outer sheath from cables in order to attach terminals or connectors to the central core via crimping or soldering. Some strippers also allow electricians to cut right through the copper or conduit in a wire or cable.

Types of wire strippers

Multiple models and designs are available, including:

Adjustable strippers - these combine stripping with crimping and wire-snipping abilities.
Triple action wire strippers – these strippers are made for thicker cabling with tough insulation and can use a unique spiral cutting motion.
Wire stripper pliers – these feature V-shaped stripping jaws for thicker, multicore cables.
Sheath stripper – these use a rotary action and produce a neat ring cut.
Pistol wire stripper – these strippers have a self-adjusting blade and use a compound stripping action with a firm grip.
Automatic wire strippers – these use a mechanism to remove insulation and cut wire rapidly, with a single application of pressure
Manual wire strippers – these are the standard, hand-operated model, but usually, include a spring-loaded handle and safety lock.

Alternative names:

  • Cable strippers
  • Cable wire strippers

2. Insulated screwdrivers

Screwdrivers are one of the most traditional of tools but are still indispensable for most electricians who frequently require access to electrical containers sealed with screws. There are multiple sizes and shapes available for compatibility with the abundance of screw designs.

Screwdrivers work through the simple application of torque – rotational force – when the head of the screwdriver has been inserted into the slot on the screw. Electrician’s screwdrivers feature carefully designed, insulated handles to provide protective electrical resistance. This will be indicated by VDE approval.

3. Insulated pliers

Pliers are another tool that has been with us for a long time. Their versatility means they can be used to accomplish a multitude of tasks requiring ‘torque’, working in a much more robust manner than would be possible with the use of bare hands alone.

Nowadays pliers are usually made from steel to provide additional strength to the grip exerted by the jaws.

Types of pliers

Pliers are available in a variety of designs for different specialist tasks. These include:

Long nose pliers- these have long tapered jaws making them ideal for gripping small objects.
Combination pliers– these feature a design that combines wire cutting, insulation stripping and gripping functions in a single tool.
Water pump pliers– also known as slip joint pliers, tongue-and-groove pliers and adjustable pliers (among other names), these tools feature a movable lower jaw, allowing the span of the grip to be adjusted. They are ideal for use with nuts, bolts and fasteners.
Side-cutting pliers– also known as wire cutters, these are typically used with wire. A variant called diagonal cutters applies different finishes to the cut wire.
Mole grips/ locking pliers– these are ideal when working with metal.

Pliers are ideal for:

  • Gripping
  • Twisting
  • Clipping

4. Electrical tape

Electrical tape is used to insulate wires or other items that conduct electricity. Also known as insulation tape or electrical insulation tape, it is self-adhesive and pressure-sensitive, built to resist abrasion, heat and liquids in order to protect the sensitive conducting core within electrical wiring.

It is also made from different materials, including PVC, vinyl, copper foil and glass cloth. Different varieties feature varying colours, widths, thicknesses, temperature tolerance, adhesion strength and insulating capabilities.

The colours help electricians select the correct type and also enable them to colour code the wires they are working with.

Black tape is the most widely used colour - for general insulation and in order to indicate the low voltage neutral point in a circuit. Meanwhile, in the UK green and yellow tape typically indicate the protective earthing point. Blue tape is usually used to colour code low voltage neutral wires and red marks low voltage AC wires.

5. Hacksaws

Hacksaws are fine-toothed saws designed primarily for cutting through metal. The thin blades are held at tension in an adjustable frame, between the head of the saw and the pistol grip handle. These blades can break or become blunt but are easily replaceable.

Full sized hacksaws typically feature 12-inch blades. Meanwhile junior hacksaws are typically much smaller, with even finer teeth designed for more precise work.

6. Cable cutters

Cable cutters are a staple of every electrician’s tool kit. These versatile tools feature steel blades and cut through standard wiring easily. Stronger cable shears will make short work of even thicker cabling. They also provide a handy way to strip off insulation for crimping and similar operations quickly.

Different models enable cuts of different kinds, from straight multi-purpose designs to those made especially for flush cutting or diagonal slicing. Fully insulated models are suitable for use with high voltage wiring, electrical equipment and environments high in electrostatic discharge, making them an ideal choice for electricians.

Look for models with an ergonomic grip to improve ease of use and try to avoid using particular models on material that is too hard. Look for their cutting capacity, which ranges from 0.4mm to 600mm.

7. Spanners

Spanners will almost certainly be an essential inclusion in your tool kit if you regularly need to loosen or attach nuts, bolts or similar fixings.

With so many different sizes of bolt and nut, a similar variety of spanner designs are available to ensure a close fit between the head which applies torque and the fixture in question. Size is equally important in order to achieve a tight grip.

Common spanner models include:

Adjustable spanner -As the name suggests, these feature a moveable jaw which can be adjusted to fit different-sized bolts or nuts. The monkey wrench is the best-known form of an adjustable spanner.

Open-ended spanners -These spanners have a double C-shaped clamp in different sizes at either end and are useful when space is limited.

8. Voltage tester

These are another toolkit standby with a relatively self-explanatory name. Voltage indicators, or ‘multimeters’, are handheld devices used for – you guessed it – testing whether a live current is present in a particular location. They are primarily employed for safety purposes when checking cabling, switches, junction boxes or similar equipment.

The presence of voltage is indicated by the illumination of a light-emitting diode. If this light appears, electricians know to shut down the current before beginning work. This is a vital safeguard and one required by health and safety legislation. Most voltage indicator models feature redundant circuits and resistance to electrical surges for additional safety.

9. Safety knife

Safety knives are not just a specialist professional tool – they are in fact familiar to most of us. We may know them as Stanley knives, utility knives, pen knives or box cutters. The principle remains the same whatever name is used: the knife blade is shielded for safety at most times and only extended when in the tool is actually in use, thereby minimising accidents and injuries. Some models feature spring-loaded sliders that automatically retract the blade after use.

Like all tools, safety knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes for use in different situations. Professional safety knives suitable for use by electricians typically feature handles made from aluminium, plastic or steel, and the blade itself will be stainless, carbon or tool steel for maximum cutting power. Blades are usually replaceable when they break or go blunt.

10. Hex keys

Hex keys take their name from the hexagonal fasteners and fixings they are used to adjust. Another common name is Allen key or Allen wrench. They can be made from steel, or nickel and sometimes bronze or copper alloys. There are four principal types: straight hex keys, L-shaped ones, folding hex keys and T-handles.

Straight hex keys are used as extensions to screwdrivers and allow these to apply torque to hexagonal fastenings.

L-shaped keys have identical heads at either end so they can be used either way round, but with differing leverage: the shorter end provides more while the longer end allows access to more confined spaces. As the name suggests, folding hex keys can be stored easily.

Finally, the handles on the T-handle variety are more ergonomic, allowing a firmer grip to be applied.

11. Claw Hammer

Claw hammers feature a standard hammer on one side of the tool, primarily used for inserting fixtures like nails, and a dual steel claw at the other end, which is designed to enable the easy removal of the same nails or similar fixtures by applying a robust grip.

Claw hammers are useful to gain access to sealed spaces – for example, fuse boxes hidden behind the panelling.

12. Chisel

Chisels are another ancient tool that have lost none of their power or utility in the present day, providing a powerful and time-honoured method of breaking through wood, stone, brick, concrete and similar materials. Modern chisels are made from various steel alloys.

Electrician’s chisels are a specialist variation used to cut channels in walls during installation procedures. Popular sizes to keep in your tool kit include:

  • 5mm
  • 10mm
  • 16mm
  • 18mm
  • 20mm
  • 50mm

13. Torch

Torches are another common item that are always handy to keep in the tool kits of electricians and other professionals. Many different designs are available but smaller torches powered by LEDs rather than traditional bulbs are typically favoured by professionals: they are lighter and easier to carry without sacrificing illumination.

The job of the torch to electricians is a simple one: they allow work in darkened areas, for example, a building in which the lighting has failed or the power is switched off. Head torches attached to helmets or hats may be required if both hands are needed for precise work.

Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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