VDV Hand Tools & Equipment

Even with jam-packed boxes, electricians new to voice data video (VDV) cabling are not likely to have the full complement of needed tools. In addition to the usual electrical hand tools any wiring job calls for, a cabling job often requires strippers, cutters, needle-nose pliers, punch-down tools, tone and probe testers and a butt set. Typically, one crew pulls and installs the VDV wire and then another crew—generally one more technically savvy—follows behind and uses test gear for certification where required.

A first crew using good-quality tools throughout can cut down on problems for the trailing cable certifier. The quality of the termination is probably the most critical aspect of installing structured network wiring because most of the problems originate at the termination, at a block, patch panel or jack. Poor termination can result from a wire being only halfway inserted or from nicked or displaced insulation.

When installing wires from outside all the way to the point of service, numerous hand tools pass through an installer’s grip. Having tools well-matched to the task can boost productivity by enabling a job to go faster for less effort.

Manufacturers have simplified tool selection. They have put together a group of products in kits or have otherwise identified products that a certified electrician needs to get started or fully participate in VDV wiring. Even hand tools familiar in type from work in power installations, often undergo modifications to make them more suitable and effective for use in communications work. In addition, many manufacturers have refined products toward greater ergonomic efficiency, comfort, and improved performance.

When drilling into interior walls that may have metal pipes or wires behind them or into concrete, workers risk accidentally drilling into unseen materials that could either be damaged by the drill or could cause injury to the drill operator. Portable detection tools are available that can detect non-ferrous metals, such as water pipes, conduits, and electrical wires, or ferrous metals, such as rebar, to help prevent dangerous or costly mistakes in drilling.

The Hilti hand-held PS 20 Multi-Detector detects copper water pipes, post-tension cables and live electrical wires in walls, floors and ceilings, and rebar in concrete at up to a 4-inch depth range. Ergonomically designed to be lightweight and easy to use, the PS 20 is dust-protected and splash-protected, and is suitable for all weather conditions (14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit). The tool, which features a backlit LCD display, runs on four AA batteries for more than 40 hours. To help ensure drilling accuracy, the unit features a marking sensor head that allows the operator to mark the exact location where rebar or pipe is found.

The Gardner Bender GET-4220K LAN Tracker, with adjustable sensitivity, traces unshielded and unenergized wires or cables behind walls, floors, and ceilings up to 12 inches and can distinguish between multiple wire terminations. Application-specific plugs are built into the transmitter to easily connect to coaxial cables, telephone wiring, Category 5 data cables, and unenergized electrical wiring. A warbling tone differentiates the transmitter signal from other signals. The LED intensifies as the signal gets stronger. The transmitter self-stores into the receiver and the plugs self-store into the transmitter.

Consider a kit that puts together a basic set or a more advanced set of installation hand tools. When working with fiber, installers utilize tools distinct for fiber optics, which are also available in kits.

Harris Tools’ Electrical Telecom Kit I features the TS30 Test Set and the D814 Impact Tool, an all-in-one punch-down tool, for making quality terminations to the block. The test set offers high-impedance monitor for DataSafe operation and line monitoring without disrupting existing traffic. The kit includes an adjustable cable cutter and stripper for round cables, UTP/STP telephone and data cables, and other flexible cables and a pocket-size insulated ProbePic. One end of the ProbePic is useful for checking loose or damaged connections or for spreading apart wires for direct access, and the other end is useful for tracing or pulling wires from a bunch or picking one wire off a flat surface.

Suitable for residential or small-office UTP and coaxial cable installations, Leviton Voice & Data Residential Tool Kit contains a self-adjusting Category 5 Cable Stripper and an EZ-RJ45 Crimp Tool with precision ground crimp dies and a full-cycle ratcheting mechanism. The stripper’s spring-action design adjusts to the cable automatically, for removal of cable jackets without nicking inner conductors. The crimper crimps and cuts excess wire in one motion and terminates EZ-RJ45 connectors and most RJ-45 and RJ-11 connectors. A Coax Cable Stripper, Punchdown Tool with 110 Blade, EZ-RJ45 Connectors, a curved-blade Cable Cutter, and a screwdriver with two reversible bits are included.

A complete kit for installation and testing, except for “consumables,” Fotec/Fiber U “Toolbox” T710 contains tools needed for fiber optic installation and a Fotec Mini Test Kit that includes a M712A FO power meter and an appropriate test source. The tools for preparing cables for pulling, splicing and termination include tubing cutters, cable slitter, needle-nose pliers, cable jacket stripper, miller stripper for fiber buffer, connector crimper, fiber cleaver, cleaving fixture, scissors for Kevlar, tweezers, and polishing puck, plate and pad. The Toolbox comes with a microscope, a visual tracer and continuity checker, safety glasses and an instruction manual. A portable connector curing oven for making epoxy-polish connectors for field installation is optional.

Pass & Seymour/Legrand FiberSmart TK Series Fiber Connector Termination Kit provides tools and consumables to perform at least 100 ST and SC multimode fiber optic terminations using industry-standard tools. The termination speed of the QuickTerm system is typically about two minutes per termination, noted the company. The kit, housed in a carrying case, comes with ST/SC universal polishing tool and plate, anaerobic adhesive kit, polishing film, 100x viewscope with connector adapter, fiber stripper, jacket stripper, utility knife, Kevlar cutters, crimp tool, fiber-continuity tester, tweezers, screwdriver, various accessories and complete instructions.

For performing cable termination, Klein Tools’ Coax Multi-Purpose Tool cuts, strips and crimps RG-59 and RG-6 coax cable. The lightweight tool sports hardened-steel cutting blades for clean cuts on copper and aluminum coaxial cable and features embossed tool markings and three precision-ground stripping holes that accurately strip the outer jacket and inner insulation. One stripping hole removes the inner dielectric insulation without nicking the center conductor of either cable type, while the two diamond-shaped stripping holes remove the outer jacket from each specific cable type. Air pockets in the cushion grip handle help ensure a firm, comfortable grip.

Thomas & Betts’ Model 18-DP8-INS 8-inch insulated diagonal cutting pliers feature an offset design that allows for rocking and for reaching under bands and hoses. The offset, or angled cutting blade, enables an electrician to work the tool underneath obstructions and to access items that require cutting. Drop-forged from 1055 steel, the tool is double insulated, for use in potentially hazardous electrical work environments.

Electricians securing insulated wire benefit from working with high-quality punch-down tools. Consistency in the quality of the spring tension in a punch-down tool is vital, to facilitate trouble-free quality terminations. Continued sharpness of the blade is also important. Some punch-down tools have high- and low-impact settings. With the high-impact setting, a user can terminate and cut the excessive wire quickly and easily. Some workers, however, do not have the strength to push down on the high-impact setting and opt for the lower-impact setting.

Suitable for 110-type installations, the Unicom 5-Pair Termination Impact Tool is designed to terminate UTP cable, as well as install 110-type connecting blocks. The tool features an easy-grip handle. The impact action and cutting blades terminate and cut up to five pairs of UTP cable at one time. Termination blades for punchdown tools are reversible, allowing one end to terminate and cut wire or to terminate without cutting. The cutting blades and punch-down heads are replaceable.

HellermannTyton’s Punch Down Installation Palm Tool fits ergonomically in the hand to ease the punch-down process of modular jacks or individual ports in patch panels during onsite installation. The tool eases jack installations by securing the jack in the tool’s cradle during termination. The jack’s labeling is visible while the jack is held in the tool, enabling the installer to clearly see the color-coding for proper terminations.

Weidmuller AM 12 Universal Stripping Tool cuts UTP and STP data cables and other flexible copper cables up to AWG 12. The cutter, which fits in the palm, has a foldaway gauge for measuring repeated cutting and stripping lengths and an adjustable thumbscrew for setting the depth of the stripping blade to accommodate different insulation thicknesses. The cutter blade under the thumbscrew is used for cutting through the wire while the holes below are used for scoring the insulation without nicking the wires.

Progressive Electronics’ professional-grade tone and probe 711K Kit features a 77GX Tone Generator and a 200GX Inductive Amplifier in a case. The tone generator uses microprocessor-controlled circuitry for reliability and has three selectable tone outputs for multiple-line identification, two-line polarity indication for fast outlet checks, selectable power outputs for use on open or shorted pairs, continuity testing and automatic shut-off to prevent battery drain. The ergonomically designed inductive amplifier features one-button operation. The adjustable volume control, LED visual signal strength indication and powerful speaker facilitate tool use in noisy environments. The recessed connectors support use with telephone test sets.

Housed in a lightweight, clip-on pouch, the Siemon CI-KIT 2 features several tools for cutting, stripping and terminating cabling. The kit includes the S814 impact tool with 66 and 110 termination blades, a probe pic, electrician’s scissors, mini flathead screwdriver, and an AllPrep cable preparation tool for preparing both coaxial and twisted-pair cable for termination. The tool has two color-coded dies that are interchangeable for each media type. The coaxial die strips RG59 and RG6 coaxial cable and the twisted-pair die strips a wide variety of UTP, screened and fiber cables.

The Desa International PowerFast Cable Tacker accepts three sizes of Cable Tacker staples for stapling round or flat wire 3/32 to 5/32 inch or round cable up to ¼ inch. The staples feature a raised top that surrounds the wire and holds it in place and wide staple legs that keep leg points from puncturing wire. Flat shoulders stop the staple from penetrating too far into the wood, eliminating overdrive and preventing cutting, crushing or perforating the wire. The tool’s ergonomic design reduces hand fatigue, taking one-third less effort, according to the company.

Designed for installers, the Brady ID Pal is a professional-quality thermal transfer labeling tool for printing labels for any smooth/flat, curved (including wire and cable), or textured surfaces. The lightweight unit features electrical and datacom symbols and prints upper and lowercase characters in five font sizes on single or multiple lines. Tested to withstand harsh environments and a 4-foot drop-to-concrete test, the unit features a top-loading cartridge, a built-in cutter, automatic centering, and auto shut-off. Built-in intelligence automatically senses tape width and formats the label. A special wire-marking mode, including 10 preset lengths, is also available.

Ortronics Punch Buddy is a pocket-sized installation accessory tool for TracJack modules. The molded plastic work base holds the individual jack stable on a surface, in the installer’s palm, or along a flat edge for termination at workstations, in wiring closets or confined areas. The Punch Buddy may be used when terminating regular and angled jacks. A Punch Buddy is supplied in every full carton of TracJacks or may be ordered separately.

For low-voltage cable installations without a ladder, the Erico Caddy VAFT installation tool facilitates installation of VDV cable support assemblies that include Caddy Vertical and Angle Flange (VF/AF) clips. Once the desired fastener or assembly is snapped into the tool, an installer standing on the floor uses cut-to-length rigid conduit as a handle to engage the clip in place on open bar joists, C or Z purlin. The installer pulls down to engage and then pushes up to remove the VAFT tool from the clip. The entire tool and fastener system will fit into the web opening of the bar joist. EC

THE FELDMANS write for various magazines and Web sites. They can be reached at wfeldman@att.net or 914.238.6272.


About the Author

Patti Feldman

Freelance Writer
Patti Feldman writes with her husband for various magazines and Web sites. They can be reached at wfeldman@att.net or 914.238.6272.

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