Please note, some links contain affiliate links. All this means is that I may receive a commission of the sale if you click on a link and purchase. These are all my own opinions - money will not sway me!
Welcome to my guide on the recommended tools for apprentice electricians who are just getting started in the electrical trade.
There’s a few things I want you to be aware of before you go spend your hard-earned money!
When I first started, the company I worked for offered a bundle pack, which they deducted from my pay cheque, until it was paid off.
This is a really convenient solution.. but just be aware that some companies can be taking advantage of you here..
Many times you can get these tools cheaper through online stores like Amazon, or even through your local electrical wholesalers.
Please note – Many of the links below are affiliate links. This means I may receive monies for any purchases you make towards any of tools below. There is absolutely no charge to you! All links are my personal recommendations which I have personally owned, used, or have seen around the job site. Thanks for your support 🙂
Apprentice Electrician Starter Kit
The best way to go about buying your tools as a new electrician is to buy them in a bundle.
Electrical Tool Industry Leaders
I also want to share the companies which are highly recommend in this electrical industry.
If someone talks bad about one of them, it’s just their personal opinion.
They’re tools are typically great, and will complete your task great and effieciently.
Currently there are 3 Industry Electrical leaders:
Klein Tools is probably the most known electrical tool company (almost all trades recognize the brand while on the jobsite.) In general.. any tool you purchase from them will be quality and should last for years.
However, their tools often tend to be overpriced, and offer features which aren’t really necessary (which you end up paying for)
Greenlee is another well-known company in the industry. Known for conduit benders, heavy duty electric benders, knockout kits, and even basic hand tools.
Actually, my first hand tool starter kit was Greenlee. (I still have and use these tools to date.)
In my experience, a lot of people talk bad about Greenlee’s hand tools, but I think they’re great! (Don’t fall into paying more just for the name brand, Greenlee is quality!)
Milwaukee has exploded in recent years with innovation and branching into other parts of the construction industry.
We typically knew them for their power tools, but they rapidly raced their way to compete with industry leaders in regards to hand tools, tape measures, levels, and even tools bags/backpacks!
I’ve found most of their tools to be awesome.. but I’ve also noticed some cheapish flaws such as easily broken tape measures and chucks not holding bits in their drills.
(I’ve gone through 3 milwaukee drills that have had a loose chuck that dropped bits!)
Separate Hand Tools For Better Efficiency
If you purchase my two recommend bundles (the two boxes below), there is still a few left out tools which I highly recommend for your improved efficiency as an electrician!
Typically employers make you provide all your own hand tools and drills, but there’s a lot of things that companies do provide, which you should take advantage of to save your own tool’s life, and money! (We will get more into that talk below.)
The 11-in-1 by Klein Tools is absolutely essential for an electrician. It allows you to quickly switch between the common electrical bits.
For example, #8 Robertson is used for lights, metal 4×4’s and octagons, but the #6 is used for plug installations, or other devices!
And another bonus is it also has 4 different types of nut drivers. These really speed up your workflow when you are taking apart different pieces of equipment. It’s just a matter of pulling out the bit, use the nut driver, and then put the bit back in. (The only down side to these is if you lose a bit!)
A reamer saves so much time as an electrician.
Yes, you can use your pliers or side cutters to remove burrs from your pipe, but sometimes you have to cut a pipe in a really tricky spot, and this can make reaming really hard.
A reamer will really speed up your workflow, and give your pipe cuts that smooth edge, making for a safe wire pull. This reamer also has a flat head at the tip, so you can also tighten/loosen couplings for a quicker install, too!
There are also two other types of reamers you can buy.
- Reamer Slip-On (Goes onto an existing screwdriver which you tighten down with a set screw)
- A Drill Attachment Reamer
I actually owned the slip-on reamer, and would not recommend it. I chose the slip-on because it was cheaper at first.. but in my experience, the set screw loosens over time, making reaming really hard. (And from reading another blog post, I’ve heard that the extra length of a screwdriver can make reaming really short pieces of pipe with a bend hard because the length of the screwdriver won’t allow the reamer in.)
And for the drill attachment reamers.. These work! But in my opinion, they’re super loud.. But they seemed to do a great job, as well as prevent strain on your wrist from repetition.
This conduit hand reaming screwdriver is a bit pricey.. but I do highly suggest one to speed up your pipe work.
FATMAX tape measures are by far my favorite.
They give you amazing reach, allowing for easy light installs if you’re trying to find center of a bedroom, or anything similar that requires length.
I actually owned a Milwaukee tape measure and it ended up breaking only a month or two in. It was the only tape measure that broke in half for me, and it rolled up inside the tape measure, never to be seen again! lol
One thing I’d like to note.. Since I am in Canada, we deal with both imperial (inches) and metric (meters).
I have recommened the inches/meters tape measure for that reason.. but my actual favorite tape measure is the FATMAX 16′ with just inches for measurement.
It’s so light, and you can accurately measure on both sides of the tape measure, whereas when you have multiple measuring variables (inches + meters), only one side you can be accurate on, the other side is a bit of a guess. (You’re still in the ball park, but maybe off by an 1/8 to a 1/16..)
Let’s Go Over Each Tool Individually
I want to go over each tool more in-depth.
It will not only educate you, but also let you have a better idea of what you need and don’t need. There will be specialty tools which you only need at certain times, depending on the task.
The bundles include these tools, but below I have linked my current gear I use and recommend.
(Things I’ve picked up individually over the years. Whether it be an old tool broke, was getting worn out, was lended out and not returned (as we know on the site as “borrrowed” 😉 ), or I simply just lost it..)
Linesmen/Pliers (Also Known as Kleins)
There are many options out there for pliers as an electrician. Even in Klein’s own brand, there’s at least 4-5+ different pliers offering different features.
The color of the handles allows you to decipher the different features. The price point also differs depending on the features, too!
For example, one color is hardened steel, allowing you to cut through nails and screws without damaging your pliers cutting teeth. (Light blue handles)
Then there’s another that has a crimper built in (yellow handles). In my opinion, it’s best to get your own crimper, since the crimp is in behind the plier’s head, it sometimes makes it tricky to get into places..
And! Some handles both offer a fish tape version I’ve noticed on Amazon..
Over my years, I’ve liked the hardened steel ones, as sometimes you have to quickly cut down a screw, and you don’t have to worry about wrecking the integrity of your pliers cutting.
(You’ll notice your pliers are getting dull, or have a little dip taken out of them when you go to cut something like string.. only some fibers will cut.)
In all honesty, my absolute favorite pliers so far have been the Greenlee one’s that are included in the hand tool bundle I recommended above.
(My con with the Greenlee pliers were their grips started to come off.. I could of fixed this with a bunch of glue and stuck them back on. I believe their handles have improved over the years, as I’ve seen other electricians with a more updated Greenlee handle grip)
Diagonal Cutting Pliers (Also Known as SideCutters)
Side cutters are an absolute asset for an electrician.
This is because side cutters allow you to get into really tight areas where you sometimes just need to nip something.
Whether that be to cut your bond wire inside your box, cut the ear tabs off a plug if installing onto a taylor plate, cut string/twine really easily (preparing runs by pulling a bunch of string before actually pulling wire), and they even make a good pipe reamer!
In my experience, I’ve tried the ones without the nice comfy handles, and I don’t like them as much. Sure they get the job done, but the bigger handles allow for more comfort. (The comfy one’s are called the Journeyman 2000 series.)
You may wonder if you actually “need” wire strippers..
Couldn’t you just use a knife?
And actualy, as you go, you’ll see some more seasoned electricians using their lineman’s or sidecutters to strip wire, too! (They do this by putting the wire inside the tool’s cutters, pushing down just slightly to score the insulation while moving the tool back and forth, and then they can pull the insulation off; this is definitely a skill that takes time to learn!)
I personally like wire strippers. And the image I’ve shown are the one’s I suggest.
They allow you to go all the up to #10 AWG, which is pretty much the biggest size of wire we as electricians use before getting into a knife to strip a wire’s insulation..
An awesome bonus to wire strippers is being able to cut your finishing screws, whether that be 6-32’s, or 8-32’s, without messing up your threads. (Make sure to thread in the right way, otherwise you’ll be stuck with a piece of cut screw in your hold that is a hassle to remove.. ask me how I know 🙂 ).
They do have another stripper which allows for #8 AWG.. but this actually thew my workflow out of wack, because I was also so used to my wire strippers only going to #10, and the sequence of where you’d put the wires to strip is different.
So I’d always put my wires in the wrong one because I was so used to the strippers that only go to #10. (Yellow trim insulation)
Needless to say, after a couple of months I got fed up and bought the Klein yellow trim wire strippers which had the normal sequence I was used to.. one’s that only went to #10 AWG.
Level (Torpedo Level)
We use a level because you don’t want to be that guy on the job site who doesn’t use one.. 😉
Whether this be for getting a pipe straight, installing a box plumb/level, or seeing where your conduit’s 90 degree bend is at!
In my experience over the years, yes, there are definitely some better levels than others, you just have to be careful with the price you pay.
The difference is in the strength of the magnets. We as electricians need really good magnets on our level because we hang it in weird directions on our pipe.
If you’re magnets are poor, I can guarantee you that you’ll see you’re level on the floor a couple times.
I remember walking into Home Depot and looking at a Klein level for like $70! I actually laughed out loud and thought.. “$70 just for a level?”
Then I walked down the general tool section and found a very similar level to the one I was browsing by Klein for only $30. It worked amazingly well.
So the level I suggested is acutally a Klein one, and it’s quite affordable! (This is very similar to the $30 I found.. that brand was Empire.)
Funny story – I’ve told other electricians on sites about that empire level, and they ended up buying one too. There was like 3 of us with the same level!
Exacto Knife (Also known as a Snap Knife)
There’s two things an electrician must always have on them.. That’s a knife and a volt tick (voltage tester). (And probably an 11-in-1, too! – That’s enough for quick tasks such as quickly troubleshooting a plug, light, or taking apart equipment.)
In my experience, I’ve always liked these snap-off/exacto knives.
A main benefit is that you can extend the blade’s length really far if you need to cut something thick. And since you can lock the blade, it’s a pretty rigid design!
I’ve had some bosses/journeymen tell me they don’t like them because they’re so sharp, so you have to keep that in mind, especially when just inserting a new blade into them as these knives are typically used for insulators, drywallers, and other tasks like opening boxes etc.
But I really enjoy using this knife, and am just extra careful when it comes to stripping wires, such as when working with NMD.
But it fits great in my side pocket, and it’s always there when I need it.
Volt Tick (Voltage Detector, Non-Contact Voltage Tester)
A voltage tester is a necessity for an electrician, especially once you pass the rough-in stage, and start getting into the finishing stage where power starts getting turned on. (Also to mention if you’re doing temporary power during the rough-in stages, too!)
Since I wear coveralls for my work clothes, there’s a really convenient spot in the chest of my bibs. It’s always with me, and I can quickly test if wires are live or not.
Besides safety, it really speeds up troubleshooting or testing circuits when turning off and on breakers. It beeps when voltage is there, so you push the volt tick into a plug for example, walk to the panel and turn on the breaker, and the beep will let you know that the circuit is on!
One word of caution: I’ve always been told by my journeymen to never trust a volt tick when testing for power. Even if you rub the volt tick on your arm, the static electricity of rubbing the plastic on your arm hair will set off the volt tick (which is a good way to check your battery life), but you should always use a meter to be confident to see if voltage potential is there or not.
Electrical Meter (Volts, Amps, Continuity – Beep Test)
A meter is another crucial piece of equipment for an electrician. We use these to test if we’ve wired things correctly with the proper voltage, to identify which wire is which if mislabelings happen, as well as test to see if potential power is there for safety reasons.
Most companies offer these bundle deals, where you can get a volt tick and a plug tester too.. however they didn’t have the GFI plug tester, which is a good feature to have to make sure the GFI you installed works properly.
I also would recommend a clamp on meter because you can use the jaws to hang from places while using your leads, making it safer when testing for life power, rather than trying to juggle a bunch of things in your hands.
The clamp-on meter will also allow you to test a single wire for how much power is being drawn on it, another powerful tool for troubleshooting.
I also want to stress something important here.
Meters are a hot commodity to be stolen on a job site because other trades know that they are expensive. Not so much these cheaper Klein and Greenlee ones.. but people know the name Fluke is an expensive brand.
And! I’ve actually been on jobs when dealing with tasks such as fire alarm where these expensive meters don’t do well with continuity, and the cheap inexpensive meters work great!
So that’s something to keep in mind. We as construction electricians do not need expensive meters to do our job. We simply test what voltage is there (120, 208, 240, 347, and 600 are most common for us), and test continuity of our wires.
I’ve gotten away with a cheap $10 meter for my whole apprenticeship, and I still have it in my journeyman years! (Go figure.. right?)
An expensive meter is required in other applications like electrical engineering, or if you’re trying to calibrate something for example.. but not us.
Save your money, get the cheap meter, and you don’t have to worry about people borrowing it, or it getting stolen.
Plug Tester (Circuit Tester)
This is actually my favorite plug tester I’ve used.
I like the fact is has the GFI tester in it just so you can test to make sure the GFI safey feature works.
When finishing and installing plugs, it’s important to go around to each plug, and plug this in.
It will tell you if you’ve wired things correctly, such as putting your hot, neutral, and bond wire on the proper screws.
The plug tester has 3 lights, and will light up according to how the plug is wired.
It’s a really easy diagram to follow. This is a tool that just brings confidence that you’ve done your job correctly.
Various Hand Screwdrivers (#6, #8, Phillips, Flathead + Beater Flathead)
Besides your 11-in-1 Multiscrewdriver .. I still prefer the single hand tools for certain jobs.
For example, if you ever have to work in a live panel, you do not want to use a multi-bit screwdriver because by accident one of the bits can fall out as you are working.
The single screwdriver is also a bit more nimble too, since the 11-in-1 is a bit fatter, sometimes it’s hard to get into certain spots.
You’ll also notice I said a beater flathead in the title of this recommended product.
You do not want to be using your nice tools for a beater screwdriver. The more you take care of your tools, the longer they will last.
For example, as an electrician, you will have a finishing screwdriver. Try not to use this tool for any task other than putting on your cover plates.
But your beater screwdriver you may be chipping out concrete, bashing wood with it, or most commonly, tightening on lock rings after you’ve installed your connector and conduit into it.
Channel Locks (Pump Pliers, or Tongue and Groove Pliers)
You may be surprised, but Channel Locks are a very important tool to an electrician.
Want a bonus tip?: Always carry two Channel Locks on you. Once you start dealing with certain types of connectors (liquid tight, rain tight etc.), you will need to twist in both directions to tighten these connectors down. So having two Channel Locks allows you to twist hard in both directions.
And as a personal preference, I actually prefer to use Channel Locks when bending pipe. I find it really fast to break and remove box knockouts, as well as tighten connectors really quick; especially when working with multiple sizes of connectors, it’s a really fast adjustment and an always sure sinch down.
I even hit with my Channel Locks at times, not even close to how hard I’d hit with a hammer, and I make sure I use the back side as that seems like the strongest part of the tool (not flat where the rivot is.) But it’s surprisingly one of my favorite tools to use as an electrician!
Needle Nose Pliers
Needle nose pliers are not a tool I use tons as an electrician surprisingly, but it is a required tool to have around..
You never know when you’ll need to reach in those tight spaces.
An alternative to needle nose are the new types of strippers coming out, which are the heavy duty wire strippers.
They are similar to needle nose pliers, but are like two tools in one; yet still built strong to take a bit of a beating.
I’d still recommend a set of needle nose pliers as they’re always handy to have.
Tool Bag for Electricians
This has been my absolute favorite tool bag I have yet to own.
When first starting, I went from holding most of my tools in my tool pouch (a big no no.. too much weight will hurt your body), to getting a bucket with a tool fabric insert (that was actually pretty cool..), and then finally this DeWALT tool bag.
The first thing I like about this electrician’s tool bag is that everything is visual. You can quickly look down and grab what you need.
Second, it has a nice an amazing little parts tray you slip underneath the bag. Do you know how many times this parts tray has made me look good, or sped up my task completion. (Whether that be just a single bx connector, an anti-short, concrete or drywall anchors.. I highly recommend this tool bag.)
Third – The shoulder strap has come in handy quite a few times, whether that be walking to site, going up a ladder, or even hanging my tools off something when up high.
This one has been my bread and butter. I’m so happy I found it.
Tool Pouch for Electricians
Depending on what type of electrician you are, you may not wear a tool pouch at all! This also depends on the task you are doing as well, too.
If you are a residential electrician, you will definitely benefit from a tool pouch, but you must be careful with how many tools you are holding all day. It really adds up and quickly deteriorates your body!
With that said.. you can still get away with a really light set of tools and work just as fast as the next guy.
So as a residential electrician in the rough-in stage, the most important is being able to hold staples, screws (both 8×1’s and longer screws for special scabs), and nails.
You can do that with a drywall 3-pocket pouch. It’s even great for splicing when it comes to having a bunch of marettes on you.
As a commercial electrician, it’s rare that you’ll ever see an electrician wearing a tool pouch.
Typically people will find a box and put their materials in that. (And you end up with a lot of miscellaneous boxes because people don’t put stuff back.. haha.)
This does all come down to your boss and company, but you can be just as efficient without a tool pouch since your work clothes have many pockets to hold the required tools for your task.
The electrician’s tool pouch I suggested is one I’ve seen a couple guys wear. If you wear work pants and a belt, you actually slip this over your belt.
It’s not huge, and allows you to have all your basic tools on you at all times.
It’s not extremely heavy, and yeah.. I guess it would make you a bit more efficient 😉
Another thing I’d like to stress is the nylon pouches are typically lighter compared to leather. In my opinion, you want the lightest tool pouch you can get your hands on.
Drill Bits, Spade Bits, Unibits (Step Bits)
Drill bits are very often used in commercial electrical.
Whether that be drilling holes in strutt for ready rod, bolts, or even 4×4 metal boxes.
They are always a handy tool to have around.
Be careful though, as they are a disposable item which your employer should be providing or replacing.
I really like spade bits for quick holes I have to drill because of a forgotten hole drill when planning your hole route, or for renovation work.
Typically we as electricians use Auger Bits when drilling holes in residential. You company should be providing these for your use, but a spade bit is a nice little bit to have on your for those just in case moments as a starting electrician.
A seasoned electrician would probably laugh that I am recommending these step bits.
(I couldn’t find my actual ones I use – mine are mastercraft, but these are very similar.)
But do you know what?
In my experience, when using the 1/2 step bit drilling things like strutt and 4×4 boxes, has outlasted expensive bits (close to $100!) in the long-run for a fraction of the cost..
And again, you shouldn’t be providing these bits if you’re working for a company.
Nut Drivers (Hex Set)
As a commercial electrician, I’ve found your most popular nut drivers are:
(Sorry, couldn’t find a nut driver on Amazon that included the 9/16. But in all honesty, I use one of these 9/16 Hollow Shank Nut Drivers anyways! They speed up your flow tremendously!)
That’s the list for apprentice electrician tools for Now
I hope you enjoyed my recommended essential tools for apprentice electricians just getting started up in the trade.
I broke down each tool to why you need it and the benefits it can bring to you.
If you feel I’ve missed something, share your own tool in the comments.
I’d love to update this list to make it an industry go-to guide.