Most Common Hand Tools for an Electrician

by Bovidix

Are you getting ready to be an apprentice electrician or perform some DIY work on your home? Learn about the important hand tools you'll need for the job.

If you're getting a job as an apprentice electrician or want to do some electrical work around your own home, the right hand tools are necessary to get the job done safely. Many tools designed for electrical use are insulated to protect against shocks, including insulated screwdrivers and pliers. There are also some tools that aren't necessary, but can make the job go a lot quicker. Here's a look at the most basic hand tools you'll need to perform any type of electrical work.

Image credit: Thomas Fowler

1. Electrician's Tool Belt

You can choose from many types of tool belts or bags, but an electrician's tool belt will include pockets to store small parts you're working with on one side and larger pockets on the opposite side for various hand tools. You'll also want a loop for your hammer and a hook to hang electrical tape to keep it handy. Try to find a belt that doesn't add a lot of weight to your body, which will leave you worn out early in the day. You should only need around 4 pockets, plus loops, although you can get by with less if you know you only require a couple of hand tools for the day's work. You'll also want a high quality belt with good stitching and rivets as well as an adjustable buckle to accommodate your clothes.

2. Precision Screwdrivers

These tiny hand tools are made for delicate work like adjusting capacitors or variable resistors. They can also be used to connect thin wires to terminals. Regular precision screwdrivers can be used if there isn't the risk of electrical shock, but you'll need a set of insulated screwdrivers if you're working in a high-voltage situation.

3. Pliers

There are a really dozens of types of pliers out there and you'll need a few of them for electrical work.

  • Lineman's Pliers - These pliers are considered the do-it-all version, capable of twist, cutting and gripping wires. They feature a squared edge, a cutting blade in the center and an area to grip located between the handles so you can pull wire.
  • Side cutter or diagonal pliers - These pliers are designed to cut wire and have a special edge that extends to the tip of the tool. They're used for getting into cramped areas when you need to trim wire. These pliers should have durable hardened jaws because they're also used to cut through cable, staples and nails.
  • Channel lock or slip joint pliers - These pliers can adjust ceiling fan boxes, tighten Romex connectors and remove knockouts from electrical boxes. Chose an 8" pair to start but you may want to invest in a good set with many lengths.
  • Needle-nose pliers are always useful, but you'll want a pair with built-in wire cutters for more versatility.

4. Wire Strippers

Wire strippers can remove wire insulation and they feature different sized teeth designed to match up with different sizes of wire you'll work with. They can also be used to cut wire. Wire strippers tend to wear out fast, so expect to buy quite a few over the course of your career. You'll get by just fine with a pair of basic wire cutters, although you can choose automatic versions as well.

5. Screwdrivers Tool Set

A complete set of screwdrivers is an absolute must for every electrician. Make sure your set includes square tips, Phillips, flat head and cabinet tip flat heads. Because you'll be working around electrical currents, it's vital that you invest in high-quality insulated tools to protect you against shocks. Insulated screwdrivers will be rated to 1,000 volts. Take very good care of these tools and always inspect them for damage before you use them. They should always be kept clean and dry so store them in their own case, such as the Multibox system from Bovidix.

6. Wrenches

You'll need quite a few styles of wrenches as well as an apprentice or DIY electrician. A set of SAE allen wrenches will be necessary, as well as 8" and 10" adjustable wrenches. A good 10" pipe wrench will also serve you well when working with conduits. Make sure you select very well-made wrenches that won't warp, rust or wear out or you'll quickly find yourself in a tough situation on the job and out the money you need to spend on replacement tools.

7. Socket Sets

Residential electricians generally don't need socket sets, but they're still good to have. Choose a deep socket set with a wide selection of socket sizes and go with a good brand.

8. Nut Drivers

You'll need an assortment of nut drivers to handle a variety of fasteners you'll encounter. You may be able to find an all-in-one nut driver and screwdriver set, but make sure it's well made with a comfortable handle.

9. Hammer

You'll definitely need a hammer, especially for residential electrical work. Hammers are necessary for many tasks, including putting boxes with brackets on a stud or driving in Romex straps when you're installing Romex wiring.

Other Important Specialty Tools for Electricians

Along with these basic hand tools, your tool bag should be equipped with the following:

  1. Multimeter to detect continuity and up to 600 volts.
  2. Non-contact voltage detector
  3. Plug tester with GFI tester
  4. Conduit bender if you're working in commercial settings
  5. Level with a metal case
  6. Measuring tape
  7. Conduit reamer
  8. Power tools, including a drill and saw
  9. Fish tape to pull stranded wire out of a conduit
  10. Wire crimpers
Measuring Tape

There you have it, the essential tools for any DIY or apprentice electrician. This list of tools can definitely seem overwhelming when you consider the cost, so focus on the most important tools first and buy the rest when they're necessary. You can skip complete pliers sets and socket sets at first, for example, and just get the 4 basic pliers you'll need in standard sizes. Many of these tools aren't expensive, either, such as measuring tape and voltage detectors. Just make the tools you do buy now are made well and built to last so you won't be replacing them in a few short years and wasting your money.

Updated: 09/14/2012, Bovidix
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login

You might also like

Wallpaper Removal is Easy Using a Wallpaper Steamer

Liquid spray wall-covering strippers work ok on small areas. However, medium ...

Reasons to Buy Dyson Vacuum Cleaners

This article focuses on flashy vacuum cleaners and how the Dyson brand began ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...