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 and spend your hard-earned money!
When I first started, the company I worked for offered a bundle pack, which they deducted from my pay check, until it was paid off. This is a really convenient solution to get started.. but just be aware that some companies can be taking advantage of you here, as they are profiting off of you, and it may not REALLY be the tools you need as an electrician in this industry.
Apprentice Electrician Starter Kit
Klein Tools has an awesome bundle, or view the two bundles below.
Electrical Tool Industry Leaders
I also want to share the companies which are highly recommended in this electrical industry.
If someone talks bad about one of them, it’s just their personal opinion.
All of these brands are great, and will complete your task efficiently!
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.
I’ve always known them for power tools, but they’ve now started 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
Now the two Electrician Starter bundles I shared above are great to get you going, but there are a few tools left out of these bundles which I highly recommend for improved efficiency as an electrician!
Typically employers make you provide all your own basic hand tools and drills, but there’s a lot of things that companies do provide like big drills, hammer drills, and cutting blades. (Be wise out there, and use company tools when they are available to help your tools last longer, which ultimately saves you money.. that’s a pro-tip!)
The Ultimate All-in-One Screwdriver for Electricians!
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!)
Save TONS of Time with a Conduit Reamer
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.
The Absolute BEST Tape Measure for Measuring Lights
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).
For this reason, and for workflow, I suggest you actually have two tape measures on a jobsite.. a big 25′ tape measure with both inches/meters on it, and a small tape 16′ with just inches.
When a tape measure has both inches and meters, it makes measuring tricky on the opposite side of the tape measure (you’re guessing), and a big 25′ tape measure I find so so heavy to carry around all day!
So I use a small 16′ FATMAX Tape Measure, then if a task requires a large measuring job, I’ll bring out the big one.. (pro-tip!)
It’s so light, and you can accurately measure on both sides of the tape measure with just inches, whereas when you have multiple measuring metrics (inches + meters), only one side you can be accurate on, the other side is a bit of a guess.
Let’s Cover Each Hand Tool Individually
I want to go over each tool more in-depth to educate you, as well as give a first-hand recommendation of the electrical hand tools I used on a daily basis!
The bundles suggested above include most of these tools, but these tools I’ve either picked up individually over the years because maybe an old tool broke, was getting worn out, or was lended out and not returned (as we know on the site as “borrrowed” 😉 ), or I simply just lost it..)
Understanding the Different Klein Tools Linemans Pliers
There are many options for Electrical Pliers out there, and even within Klein Tools’ own brand there are at least 5 different types!
Like.. some pliers offer a fish tape puller, but the biggest thing I look for in a set of Linemans Pliers is hardend steel.
Klein Tools offers two hardend steel Electrical Linemans Pliers I’d suggest:
- Klein Tools D2000-9NE Pliers [My Personal Pliers]
- Klein Tools J2000-9NE Pliers [Journeyman Series Insulation!]
Don’t you dare try cutting a screw without hardend steel! How often do you cut a screw as a commercial electrician? VERY OFTEN!
With hardened steel, your pliers won’t get dull or have a little dip taken out of them when you go to cut something. Hardend steel pliers are 100% worth it, and will last you YEARS.
In all honesty, my absolute favorite pliers are my first pair as an apprentice. They were from my Greenlee starter kit that I purchased at the beginning of my apprenticeship, but eventually the grip started sliding off (the glue released).. I could have re-glued it, but taking off the insulation handle actually came in handy to hit something, like a knockout on a 6×6 box.. go figure!
Sidecutters (Diagonal Cutting Pliers)
Sidecutters are an absolute asset for an electrician!
MAKE SURE TO BUY ANGLED SIDECUTTERS.. angled sidecutters are AMAZING for removing staples, and prying!
I have also linked to the hardened steel cutters, as they will last you a long time, but I’d suggest cutting screws with your Linemans Pliers if you need to cut screws..
Sidecutters allow you to get into really tight areas where you sometimes just need to nip something.. like a wire! You must be careful as they are SUPER powerful.. you can nip your finger easily!
No, it doesn’t stop there, sidecutters can easily cut ear tabs off a plug, cut string/twine really easily, and they an amazing pipe reamer!
I’ve tried sidecutters with regular insulation grip, and the nicer Journeyman 2000 series grips.. the J2000 is totally worth it (linked below).
Recommended Wire Stripper Model
Alright, I need to say I REALLY like the 10-18 AWG Solid Wire model of wire strippers compared to their little bit bigger AWG size (the 8-16 AWG Solid Wire model).
(The one with blue handles and a yellow accent is the 10-18 AWG Solid, which I like. The 8-16 AWG has a white accent.. Why do I like the yellow accent? It was muscle memory to know the yellow accent wire hole size.. I purchased the white accent after I cut through a live wire (oops), and could just never get used to the wire hole positioning on the white accent ones..)
Now, techincally you don’t “need” wire strippers, as some electricians use their Linemans Pliers! But I’ve always liked wire strippers.
They are light, and really fast if you have to strip a lot wires in a box (think like over 40 wires…….)
An awesome bonus to wire strippers is being able to cut your finishing screws (6-32’s or 8-32’s) without messing up your threads. Simply use the built-in threads on the wire stripper, and it makes a clean cut! (Make sure you thread in the finishing screw from the right side of the wire stripper, otherwise you’ll be left with a tiny piece of screw in the hole that is a hassle to remove.. ask me how I know 🙂 ).
So yes, I think you need wire strippers as an electrician, and I REALLY like the yellow accented ones (10-18 AWG Solid Wires)
6-Inch EMT Pipe Bending Torpedo Level for Electricians
However.. sometimes the Empire one is hard to find, so I linked a very comparible Johnson Level Magnetic Billet Torpedo Level.
Don’t be that guy on the job site who doesn’t use a level.. 😉
Now, I can’t stress how important a level with GOOD MAGNETS is while you are pipe bending.
If you’ve ever tried bending pipe with a cheap torpedo level, I’m sure it’s probably spun around the pipe then fell off, am I right?
Yes, that is because you are not using a level with “rare earth magnets”.. these are much stronger magnets and REALLY attract to electrical metalic tubing (EMT pipe).
The only problem is that the magnets are so good, you may end up losing it somewhere like I did.. (I dropped it, it stuck somewhere, and I couldn’t find it.. even days later LOL!)
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!
My Favorite Knife as an Electrician.. (18mm Snap Knife)
There’s two things I think an electrician should always have on them.. That’s a knife and a volt tick. (And probably an 11-in-1 Screwdriver, too!) – These are VERY handy tools to have around when you get caught off guard on a jobsite, which allows you to troubleshoot quickly.
You see, sometimes trade workers, other than our electrician buddies, need urgent help with power.. someone’s power saw may have stopped.. And they will then yell.. “Hey Sparky.. I got no power.. help a brother out!!”. If they have no power.. they can’t work.. they’ve literally come to a halt and can’t finish the task or make any money, they’re begging for your help!
So who better to call than an electrician right by them? So.. Help a brother (or sister) out, and make sure they have their power so you can both go and make your money!
In my experience, I’ve always liked these snap-off knives, especially the 18mm size as it’s light, powerful, and versatile.
Electricians like different styles of knives, so this one’s up to you.
Snap knives are VERY sharp and dangerous.
Once they dull a little bit, they are EXTREMELY versatile, as they are able to cut things very aggressively when you need it, but still have a lot of control to not accidently cut a wire.
Some co-worker electrician’s would tease me about the small knife, but I really liked it, and have fairly compared both a 18mm to a 25mm, and like the 18mm way more… It’s not as bulky, fits great in my side pocket, and it’s always there when I need it.
Good Volt Tick for Electricians by Klein Tools
Like all of the tools on this recommended list, I can personally say I used this on a real jobsite for years, and it was rock solid.
The odd time the button would randomly be pressed, and be annoying to turn it off at sporadic times.. but day-in-day-out, this thing was my favorite volt tick as an electrician. I haven’t tried them all, but definitely a handful, and I like the sound it makes, and the dual voltage functionality.
Now, a voltage tester is a necessity for an electrician, especially once you pass the rough-in stage, where power isn’t there..
Once an electrician enters the finishing stage of a home, power starts getting turned on, and this is where you can get shocked, or cut into a live wire and damage your tools!..
Double-check EVERY circuit you’re going to begin working on! .. and yeah.. don’t listen to the guy who says “It’s off, I tested it”.. I’ve tried that one time, and blew up my sidecutters! (He said.. oops, sorry about that).. And so that’s why you just test.. it’s nothing personal!
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. (That was why the button would accidently be turned on.. sometimes I’d go in a position I had to reach, and would bump my chest, and it’d turn on lol.. But on a regular basis it was fine, and was ROCK SOLID!)
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 if the battery works), but you should always use a voltage meter to be confident no voltage potential is there.
A volt tick, voltage tester, or non-contact voltage tester.. whatever you want to call it, it’s a MUST HAVE as an electrician.
Recommended Volt Meter for Electricians (Multi-Meter)
The first thing I want to really stress is YOU DO NOT NEED AN EXPENSIVE VOLT METER AS A NORMAL ELECTRICIAN. If you are doing HVAC, then expensive meters are something to look into, in my own personal experience over the years.
The main reason is that meters are expensive, which make them a hot ticket to be stolen item on a job site. For example, a lot of other trades know the name Fluke as expensive..
Now, if you are going to get a meter, this is what I recommend..
I have purposely listed this Klein Tools bundle which includes a plug tester, as well as a line splitter (see their video here) to be able to measure current at any plug conveniently!
This is a great bang for buck. Be careful with multimeters for electricians, because HVAC workers need these meters too, but they also need things like temperature and capacitence. As a residential and commercial electrician, we are mainly doing continuity testing and voltage testing. (The odd time amperage, which is where the clamp-on comes in handy).
This same Klein Tools clamp-on digital meter has various models of the same body.. the CL120 is what I recommend for electricians, then as you go up in numbers, things like temperature and capacitance start getting added in.. save your money, and just get a reliable meter for continuity, ohms, volts, and amps (like this bundle provides you!)
My Favorite Plug Tester (Circuit Tester)
Now, personally, I’d suggest the electrical tester bundle above, as you’re getting a lot of value and versatility in it…
But this is my personal plug tester I’ve used ever since my apprenticeship. It has never broken, and has been really reliable.
But to be fair, it is just a plug tester, and any company’s model will probably suit you well out there.
THE BIGGEST THING I CAN SAY IS TO MAKE SURE YOU GET A GFCI PLUG TESTER, AS YOU’LL NEED IT AS AN ELECTRICIAN WHEN TESTING AND FINISHING (TESTING BATHROOM PLUGS!)
A pro tip about a plug tester is that if a plug is twisted in the finishing stage, you can plug this in, and GENTLY twist it back to center. It can really save you time from having to take off the cover plate and adjust the plug.
In short, a plug tester gets plugged into a live receptacle, which will then tell you if the plug has been wired correctly or not. It should be used on EVERY PLUG when you are finishing for your final testing.
Various Hand Screwdrivers (#6, #8, Phillips, Flathead + Beater Flathead)
Alright, so if you didn’t grab Klein Tools Apprentice Starter Bundle, I highly recommend buying their 7 piece screwdriver set for electricians.
I chose this screw driver set on purpose (they have a couple) because it comes with a FINISHING SCREWDRIVER, allowing you to take off cover plates without damaging them.. a must-have!
Now, as mentioned, I like to always have my 11-in-1 Multiscrewdriver on me for convenience, but there are times when a single screwdriver is called for.
These situations could be working in a panel where you do not want the bit to fall out. A single screw driver is a safer approach, and gives you more control and precision.
And also to mention, the 11-in-1 shaft is sometimes too big to fit in places, so these single screw drivers are a must have in addition to the 11-in-1!
ONE WORD OF CAUTION… NEVER USE YOUR NICE SCREWDRIVERS AS “BEATER SCREWDRIVERS”..
As an electrician, we need a cheap separate beater screwdriver OFTEN for things like tightening on lock rings on boxes, chipping out concrete while pipe bending, or even bashing some wood to get your box to fit.
Look after your screwdrivers, and they’ll look after you! Companies have actually started making special beater screwdrivers for this purpose, but they are a little bit heavy honestly.
Channel Locks (Pump Pliers, or Tongue and Groove Pliers)
These Channellock 430 pliers are the EXACT ones I use.
I never knew how important it was for an electrician to own a pair.. but you have to make sure to get a good set, as they come in a bunch of different sizes.
The 430 model by Chanellock allows you to clamp up to 2″ pipe, which is PERFECT for electricians, as in a commercial setting, 2″ EMT pipe is common for data runs.
But the versatility is amazing.. They can be used to quicky pop-out a knockout on a box, grab the hard to reach outer ring if going from 1/2 to 3/4 on a 4×4 box, and it can even tighten down the EMT connector for you to finish off!
This is a tip I learned later on in my years, and wow are these 430 Channellock pliers such a gamechanger for workflow when bending pipe.
Want a bonus tip?: Always carry two Channellocks on you. Once you start dealing with certain types of connectors (liquid tight, rain tight etc.), you will need to twist hard in both directions to tighten these connectors down..
The Best Needle Nose Pliers for Electricians
Needle nose pliers are an absolute necessity as an electricial to reach in to tight areas.. I do not use them tons, but there are times that no other tool will fit.
There are also those newer wire stripper needle nose pliers, but I personally found them a little bulky, and like to use my wire strippers and needle nose pliers independently.
These needle nose pliers I’m sure will last you years. They are the journeyman series with the nice insulation grips. (I’ve only had nice Greenlee 8-Inch Needle Nose pliers, which I REALLY like, but the insulation grips fell off. I’d still recommend them, but I know these Klein Needle Nose will also be a great choice, which is why I’ve listed them for you).
Best Hand Tool Bag for Electricians
You can view a similar model to this by DeWalt hand tool bag by clicking the “Buy from Amazon” button below.. or view my hand tool bag article to see a similar model by a different company.
Now, sadly my EXACT Favorite Hand Tool Bag I can’t find for sale anymore by DeWalt. These are special hand tool bags for electricians called Electrical and Maintenance Tool Carriers.
If you’d like to read my in-depth article about choosing a good hand tool bag as an electrician, you can click the button below..
But briefly, I like a tool bag like shown, as your tools are always visible and easy to grab, you can organize yourself really good, and a plastic parts tray is stored underneath to make you a VERY fast worker!
I have never been happier with a tool bag in all my years, and if you read the article below, you will understand why as I show you pictures of my old tool bags!
Drill Bits, Spade Bits, Unibits (Step Bits)
Now as mentioned, your company will often provide you most of these drill bits, but depending on your company, it can be like pulling teeth to get certain types of drill bits (like a unibit.. also know as a “Step drill bit”, as they can be like $70+!!!!)
I’ve heard there is a general rule between employees and employers that “you buy drill bits first and your company will replace them”, but my suggestion to you as an apprentice is to go with the flow and use the drill bits the company provides until you start to feel that it is hindering your workflow. You don’t need to buy expensive bits, as the ones below I suggest have lasted me a very long time, and when I can’t get my hands on a company drill bit, these tie me over and allow me to keep working fast.
When I have to drill lots of holes into metal or wood, I’ll try to grab company stuff as that is very hard on your equipment. You’ll be thankful you did, and your equipment and bits will last you for years to come.
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.
These were the exact spade bits I purchased, and they were AWESOME.
Typically we as electricians use Auger Bits when drilling holes into wood in a residential setting, which your company provides for you.
But a spade bit is nice to have in case you miss one or two holes. Be careful around nails with these wood spade drill bits!
These are often called “unibits” or “step bits” on the jobsite.
A seasoned electrician would laugh that I am recommending these, but do you know what? My cheap step-bits have outlasted expensive step bits (close to $100!) with HEAVY use.. go figure!
And again, you shouldn’t be providing these bits if you’re working for a company.
Best Nut Drivers for Drills for Electricians
Now, if you’re working with a lot of ready rod, strutt, spring nuts, and the like, here’s some really awesome nut driver accessories to really speed you up as an electrician.
Mainly when it comes to building pipe racks for our EMT pipes, we are using 7/16″ and 9/16″ nut drivers, and when inside our electrical rooms, it can vary from 1/4″ all the way to 1/2″ in size for your nut drivers.
Hollow Shank Nut Driver for Electricians
This is a hollow shank nut driver is SO POWERFUL with ready rod, building pipe racks or an electrical room. You will LOVE this 9/16 hollow shank by Klein Tools. (Another brand that makes it is called Big Willy.. I thought that was funny to say on site!)
Because it’s hollow inside, when tightening a nut on ready rod, you can reach much higher lengths and securing tighten the nut down. They also come in bigger sizes like one-foot if you need them.. but I like the smaller 5-Inch hollow shank nut driver I’ve listed.
It’s lightweight, allows you to fit in tight areas, and most of the time it’s wise to pre-cut your ready rod to the required height, and then this hollow shank will allow you to finish off what’s left to securely tighten the pipe rack.
Magnetic Nut Driver Set for Electricians
Where do you use nut drivers as an electrician?
Well, in a commercial setting, ALL THE TIME in an electrical room, building strutt racks, or even if using special zinc hex-head screws!
Most of the time I’d use my 11-in-1 Multi-screwdriver, as it’s so convenient. But if there’s A LOT of hex-head screws to remove, that’s where getting a set of this nut drivers for an impact drill really will speed you up.
As mentioned, as a commercial electrician, I’ve found your most popular nut drivers are:
What makes these DeWalt nut drivers awesome is they are magnetic (keeps your screw in there nice and secure), and it also reaches to the 1/2″ which I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed for random components or panel covers.