Tools Make the Electrician: Manufacturers highlight their most-used tools

Cartoon of a man in a hardhat and gloves, holding a drill in each hand, with a backdrop of various tools. Shutterstock / Ava Bitter / Dzianis_Rakhura / Alexzel

The tools most often needed by electricians vary with the jobs they do, but there are basic tools most electricians carry or have access to when needed. We asked manufacturers of hand tools, handheld power tools and testers what their three most in-demand products for the electrical market are right now. Some named specific products; others listed product categories.

Manual hand tools

Klein Tools, Lincolnshire, Ill., has been providing quality hand tools to electricians since 1857 and has expanded its line to include testers, accessories, tool bags and wearables. The three best-selling Klein tools for electricians are:

  • NCVT-1 noncontact voltage tester
  • 11045 wire stripper and cutter
  • 32500 11-in-1 multibit screwdriver and nut driver set

“The NCVT-1 is the base model in a wide line of noncontact voltage testers,” said Mark Klein, president of sales and marketing. “It detects standard voltage in cables, cords, circuit breakers, lighting fixtures, switches, outlets and wires.”

A bright-green LED indicates the tester is working. The LED changes to red, and warning tones sound, when voltage is detected.

“The American-made, 11045 wire stripper has a spring-loaded opening action, easy-to-read gauge markings and textured handles that make it comfortable to use, while the hardened steel, precision-ground stripping holes provide durability and reliability.

“American-made, 11-in-1 multibit screwdriver and nut driver combines Klein’s cushion-grip handle with the convenience of 11 commonly used screwdriver tips and nut driver sizes, a staple in any professional’s tool bag,” Klein said.

Channellock 369 round-nose linemen's pliers
Channellock 369 round-nose linemen's pliers

Channellock, Meadville, Pa., has been manufacturing quality hand tools in the Unites States since 1886 and is in the fifth generation of family ownership. Ryan DeArment, vice president of sales and marketing, lists the company’s three top-selling products for the electrical market:

  • Straight-jaw, tongue-and-groove pliers
  • Round-nose linemen’s pliers
  • Insulated-grip, long-nose pliers

The straight-jaw, tongue-and-groove pliers design—the iconic “Channellock”—was patented in 1935. Today’s 10-in. model has a no-slip grip and tight bite to easily turn, tighten and loosen. Teeth are laser heat-treated, and its PermaLock fastener eliminates nut-and-bolt failure.

Linemen’s pliers were revolutionized by the 369 9.5-in. XLT round-nose tool. Xtreme leverage technology positions the rivet closer to the heat-treated cutting edge, so considerably less force is required.

The 318I 8-in. XLT long-nose pliers with 1,000V insulated grip is made of high-carbon steel and has a cross-hatch grip surface. XTL technology reduces fatigue.

Milwaukee Tool, Brookfield, Wis., also a maker of power tools, introduced its line of manual hand tools in 2010. Milwaukee also offers testers, tool bags, tool storage systems, wearables and other accessories. Currently, the company’s three most in-demand categories of manual tools for electricians are:

  • Fish tapes
  • Electric fish sticks
  • Conduit benders

“Fish tapes are essential for pulling wire through conduit, and polyester tapes are ideal for applications where wire is already present or for runs with multiple bends,” said Adam Moscherosch, senior product manager. “Unlike fiberglass, polyester tapes offer increased flexibility and won’t kink.

“Electric fish sticks are used to position wire behind walls and in cable trays. The bright glow of electric fish sticks facilitate working in low-light and dark environments. Milwaukee fish sticks feature a knurled grip for easy threading, even when wearing gloves.

“Hand conduit benders allow electricians to make bends of various angle[s] as needed on job sites. Milwaukee benders feature high-contrast markings for the best visibility, allowing users to easily and accurately make bends. A reinforced hook and pedal add durability, and a secure double-bolted handle won’t loosen.”

Southwire Tools and Equipment, Carrollton, Ga., introduced its line of hand tools in 2013. The company’s three best-selling products for electricians are:

  • Simple PET fish tape
  • S7N1HD multitool pliers
  • S1018SOL stainless-steel wire stripper

“The PET [polyethylene terephthalate] fish tape has a low coefficient of friction, allowing for easier pulling and pushing through conduit bends and couplings,” said Tayler Brinson, who was Southwire’s product manager of hand tools at the time of this interview. “PET won’t break like fiberglass and won’t rust like steel tapes. It’s lighter in weight, and has a lifetime warranty.

“The S7N1HD multitool plier packs seven functions in one tool. Large, scalloped, shearing blades cut larger cables better than classic ‘anvil’ blades. It is extremely precise for stripping holes. It carries a lifetime warranty.

“The stainless steel of the S1018SOL wire stripper is five times more durable than standard carbon-steel strippers. It makes stripping holes very precise. The tool has a five-year warranty.”

Southwire PET fish tape
Southwire PET fish tape

Power tools

Bosch, Farmington Hills, Mich., markets a broad line of cordless and corded tools, cutting accessories and other products to the electrical industry. According to Corey Hinkel, product marketing manager, the top three currently are:

  • 12V Max EC brushless Flexiclick 5-in-1 drill/driver system
  • 18V EC brushless Freak 2-in-1 bit/socket impact driver
  • 18V EC brushless SDS-Plus Bulldog rotary hammer
Bosch 12V drill driver
Bosch 12V drill driver

“The 12V EC drill driver with Flexiclick delivers outstanding versatility in a compact brushless tool ideal for working in hard-to-reach areas,” Hinkel said. “The right-angle and offset attachments are rotatable to 16 different positions.

“The 18V EC Freak 2-in-1 impact driver is two tools in one with seamless switching from ¼-inch, quick-change hex shank to ½-inch square drive. Its powerful motor delivers 4,200 rpm and 1,800 in./lbs. of torque.”

DeWalt cordless cable stripper
DeWalt cordless cable stripper

The 18V EC brushless SDS-Plus Bulldog rotary hammer, Hinkel said, “provides 50% more impact energy and greater runtime than previous-generation brushless, cordless hammers. KickBack control technology reduces the risk of sudden tool reactions. Vibration control provides user comfort for extended work periods.”

DeWalt, Baltimore, is a provider of power hand tools, equipment, accessories and work gear. Daniel Heiney-Gonzalez, product manager, said the three top products for the electrical market currently are:

  • DCE151 20V Max XR cordless cable stripper
  • DCE700 60V Max cordless pipe threader
  • DCN701 20V Max cordless cable stapler

“The DCE151 20V Max XR cordless cable stripper quickly, cleanly and consistently strips electrical cable without an exposed knife,” Heiney-Gonzalez said. “It also has an E-Clutch system to help the user maintain control of the tool if it becomes jammed.

“The DCE700 60V Max cordless pipe threader has an oil-resistant, glass-filled nylon battery to protect it from cutting oil that is housed in a latched and sealed battery box. This kit also includes a patent-pending pipe clamp with depth gauge and a die arm to start the threads without direct contact to the spinning die head.

“The DCN701 20V Max cordless cable stapler is designed primarily for fastening Romex brand wires and cables. This stapler has a proprietary cable guide that helps drive staples over the cable.”

Hilti SID 4A22 impact driver
Hilti SID 4A22 impact driver

Hilti Inc., Plano, Texas, manufactures power tools, fastening systems and other products for the electrical market. The three power tools most in demand are:

  • SID 4-A22 impact driver
  • SCM 22-A cordless metal saw
  • Cordless hydraulic cutting, crimping and knockout tool set

“The SID 4-A22 is a 22V impact driver with ¼-inch hexagonal click-in chuck designed for medium-duty applications in wood, metal and other materials,” said Robert Chetelat, senior product manager at Hilti. “The tool can be used for days with one battery. Four LED lights illuminate the work area.

“The 22V SCM 22-A cordless, metal-cutting circular saw makes fast, precise and cold cuts in metal so personnel can immediately work with the material after a cut. A tool body can be purchased separately or with two batteries.

“The set of cutting, crimping and knockout tools can be purchased through the Hilti Fleet Management System in monthly payments over three years. It includes the NUN 54-A-A22 universal cutting and crimper and NPU 100-A22 knockout tool set for applications up to 4 inches.”

Milwaukee Tool power crimper
Milwaukee Tool power crimper

Milwaukee Tool has been making tools for professional trades since 1924. While the company has expanded to multiple tool lines, Milwaukee remains a primary provider of electric power tools for the electrical market.

Currently the three most in-demand tools in that market are:

  • Crimping tools
  • Cable cutters
  • Knockout tools

“Milwaukee crimpers feature a fully enclosed, high-speed, hydraulic pump to deliver ultimate reliability,” said Troy Marks, senior product manager at Milwaukee. “Predictive force monitoring constantly measures force output.

“All are UL-listed, and many have One-Key capabilities for sharing crimp data.

“All Milwaukee cable cutters have an open jaw and a breakthrough powered-ratcheting mechanism that puts out over 5,000 pounds of force. These tools easily fit into tight places.

“Milwaukee’s knockout tools with exact punches and dies are designed to make every step in the hole-making process faster, easier and more accurate. The Quick Connect alignment system delivers easy set up without having to handle the weight of the tool,” Marks said.

Testers

Fluke Corp., Everett, Wash., offers a wide range of testing, measurement and diagnostic equipment. The company’s current top three products for the electrical market are described as product categories:

  • Digital multimeters
  • Clamp meters
  • Basic electrical testers

“Digital multimeters are a standard diagnostic tool for electricians, technicians and engineers in the electrical/electronic industries,” said Susan Isaac, product manager at Fluke. “Many of Fluke’s multimeters have expanded measurement functions, such as current, capacitance, frequency, temperature, diode test, duty cycle, pulse width and more.

“A clamp meter is an electrical test tool that combines a basic digital multimeter with a current sensor and is capable of measuring far higher current levels than digital multimeters.”

Fluke Corp. multimeter
Fluke Corp. multimeter
Megger MIT400-2 series testers
Megger MIT400-2 series testers

Brian Painting, Fluke product manager, said basic electrical testers must perform their tasks in a basic, no-frills manner.

“The most recent innovation in basic testers is the ability to get AC voltage and current measurements without making contact with an electrically live wire,” he said.

Megger, Dallas, offers electrical testing equipment to meet a broad range of industry requirements. Currently, its three most in-demand tool categories are:

  • 1 kV insulation tester
  • Digital low-resistance ohmmeter
  • Thermal camera

“Insulation testers no longer are a single-function tool,” said Jeffrey Jowett, senior applications engineer. “Megger’s MIT400/2 family provides a combination of both needs in a single tester while including adjustable test voltages in 1V increments, automated and timed tests, and much more.

Klein Tools noncontact voltage tester
Klein Tools noncontact voltage tester

“A good, low-resistance ohmmeter can make high current and high-quality low-resistance tests. Among its capabilities, Megger’s DLRO10HDX applies a full 10 amps (A) through an appropriate load and measures to a tenth of a micro-ohm. The recently-released DLRO2 is a 1- and 2A hand-held model for specialized operations.

“The TC3231 thermal camera combines an infrared thermometer with a thermal imager to quickly and accurately spot heat problems to prevent serious and costly damage and repairs. Six thousand images can be saved on a memory card and downloaded,” Jowett said.

About the Author

Jeff Griffin

Freelance Writer

Jeff Griffin, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at up-front@cox.net.

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