APPRENTICE TOOLS - 13 Tools Apprentice Electricians Need To Have

Luke Begley

Key Takeaways

  • Building a toolkit with versatile hand tools is crucial for apprentice electricians.
  • Multipurpose tools enhance efficiency and reduce the need to carry an excessive number of tools.
  • Regular maintenance and correct usage of hand tools ensure longevity and job site safety.

Essential Hand Tools for Apprentice Electricians

As an apprentice electrician, certain hand tools are indispensable for your daily tasks. Lineman's pliers are a must-have. You'll use them frequently for tasks such as twisting wires, providing leverage, and cutting thick wires or even bolts. It's advisable to opt for the high-leverage variety for easier cutting, and some versions come with additional functions like wire stripping or crimping.

Another key tool is the needle nose pliers, known for their usefulness in tight spaces or delicate operations, such as bending wires or handling small components. Klein's, renowned for durability, offer a reliable choice, including models with incorporated wire strippers.

No tool pouch is complete without diagonal cutting pliers, also referred to as dikes. Their cutting abilities are pivotal when lineman's or needle nose pliers are impractical due to their shape or size.

Wire strippers are essential for your work, with variations in size and functionality. Some cater to a range of wire gauges, and others integrate bolt cutting or crimping capabilities. Models that include the capacity to strip larger wire gauges, like number 8, can be particularly useful.

Lastly, consider a set of channel locks in different sizes. An 11-inch size is practical for most situations, but having options allows flexibility for different tasks.

Remember, the choice of tools can hinge on your personal needs and the work environment, but starting with the basics before expanding your toolkit is a solid approach.

Lineman's Pliers

High Leverage Pliers

High leverage lineman's pliers are a fundamental tool that offer you the ability to exert greater torque for cutting and gripping tasks. Their distinct design boasts longer handles, providing the mechanical advantage needed for more efficient cutting. When wielding these pliers, you enhance your ability to cut through various materials, including bolts and wires, making them an indispensable part of your toolkit.

Characteristics of High Leverage Pliers:

  • Long Handles: Facilitates increased torque.
  • Cutting Ability: Can easily cut wires and bolts.
  • Use Cases: Twisting wires, cutting, and providing leverage.

Multi-Tool Pliers

On the other hand, multi-tool lineman's pliers are the epitome of versatility, combining several tools into one. This design allows you to strip wires, crimp wire ends, and cut bolts all with a single tool. Opting for a multi-tool can simplify your workflow, as it reduces the need to carry multiple, single-purpose tools.

Features of Multi-Tool Pliers:

  • Stripping Tool: Built-in for wire insulation removal.
  • Crimping Capability: Allows for attaching terminals to wires.
  • Bolt Cutting: Integrated threading tool or cutter for bolts.

Benefits of Multi-Tool Pliers:

  • Versatility: Multiple functionalities for diverse electrical tasks.
  • Space-Saving: Carrying one multi-tool instead of several.
  • Utility: Suitable for tasks such as prying, cutting wires, and twisting.

When starting out, it may be advisable to begin with a basic set of high leverage pliers to get accustomed to their use before progressing to a multi-tool model, which offers more complex functionalities. Having multi-use tools like multi-tool pliers can greatly reduce the burden of carrying an extensive array of items, thereby streamlining your tool management.

Needle Nose Pliers

Design and Durability

Your choice in needle nose pliers is crucial as they are one of the most versatile tools in your electrician's toolkit. The needle nose pliers I strongly recommend have a design that withstands rugged use. They can endure significant wear and tear, ensuring they remain a reliable tool for various tasks such as reaching into tight spaces, manipulating wires during intricate tasks, crimping, and more.

Klein, the brand I trust, offers a rugged version with a built-in stripping hole. It robustly handles rigorous usage without the tips breaking, a common issue with less durable models. Additionally, Klein has a variation equipped with multiple stripping options, which streamlines the number of tools needed.

When considering design and durability in needle nose pliers, prioritize the following:

  • Strong, durable build: Select pliers that resist damage and wear well.
  • Comfort and grip: An ergonomic design that enhances grip and leverages strength improves your efficiency and precision on the job.
  • Versatility: An integrated wire stripper or multiple stripping sizes add to the tool's utility.
  • Longevity: Opt for pliers that maintain their integrity even after extensive use.

Your toolkit should include needle nose pliers that exemplify these attributes. By doing so, you ensure a tool that serves your needs well without frequent replacements.

Diagonal Cutting Pliers

Diagonal cutting pliers are indispensable in your toolkit, particularly for tasks requiring precision cutting and wire manipulation in tight spaces. These tools, commonly referred to as dikes, are characterized by their angled cutting edges, which allow for incisive snipping and access to confined areas.


  • Designed solely for cutting, with no gripping surface at the tips.
  • Highly suited for cutting wires or prying out small components.
  • Often used to cut wires that are energized, although this can lead to damaging the tool over time.


  • Employ them for neatly trimming wire ends.
  • Utilize the sharp cutting edge to reach spots other pliers can't access.
  • They can pry objects due to their strong build, despite their primary function as cutters.

Durability Concerns:

  • Prolonged use may create a hole in the center from cutting energized wires.
  • Ensure to select a robust pair that can withstand the demands of frequent use.

Remember, the diagonal cutting pliers complement your other hand tools by offering a focused functionality that is essential for clean, precise work. Equip yourself with a reliable pair that can sustain the rigors of day-to-day electrical tasks.

Wire Strippers

Standard Strippers

When handling electrical tasks, your choice of strippers is critical to ensure precision and efficiency. Essential in any electrician's toolkit, standard strippers are your go-to for routine wire stripping needs. With typically fixed-sized stripping holes, they accommodate various wire gauges. Here's a quick glance at the main attributes:

  • Design: Standard strippers usually feature straightforward, long handles for a comfortable grip and optimal leverage.
  • Wire Range: Catering to common wires, they vary from size 10 to 18 gauge. It's important to choose one according to the most frequent tasks you perform.
  • Construction: Opt for a durable, well-constructed model such as the Klein tools which are known for ruggedness and long service life.

Multi-Function Strippers

Multi-function strippers are all about versatility and reducing the number of tools you need to carry. Consider this type if you're looking to streamline your tool pouch with a multi-purpose gadget. See the key characteristics in the table below:



Crimping Ability

Suitable for attaching various crimp-on connectors.

Bolt Cutting Integration

Some models include bolt cutters for common screw sizes like 6-32 and 8-32.

Ergonomic Design

Designed to fit snugly in your hand, offering more leverage and control.

Wire Range Extension

Models like the Crocs go from 8 to 22 gauge, covering a broad spectrum.

Remember, it’s practical to own a couple of different styles to best suit the diverse projects you'll encounter.

Screwdrivers and Nut Drivers

Types and Sizes

Screwdrivers and nut drivers are essential to your toolkit, varying in design to meet different tasks. Understanding their differences will enhance your efficiency.

  • Screwdrivers: Your main interaction with screwdrivers will likely involve two types—flathead and Phillips. However, screwdrivers come in various sizes to fit different screw heads, which are critical for a secure fit to avoid slipping or stripping screws.



Common Uses


A single flat tip

Standard screws, prying


Cross-shaped tip

Wood screws, mechanical screws


Star-shaped tip

Electronics, automotive


Square-shaped tip

Canadian screws, woodworking


Hexagonal tip

Furniture, bicycles

  • Nut Drivers: Consider nut drivers as your go-to for hexagonal fasteners. They resemble screwdrivers but have a socket at the tip to fit over nuts and bolts.



Common Uses


Fits smaller nuts and bolts

Electronics, precise mechanical work


General-purpose sizes

Electrical connections, appliances


Larger nuts and bolts

Construction, heavy machinery

Always choose the correct type and size for the task at hand to ensure effective and safe tool use.

Measuring and Marking Tools

When selecting tools for precision tasks, it's crucial to consider a sturdy and reliable set of needle nose pliers. These pliers are invaluable when you're working in tight spaces, feeding wires into panels, or attaching wire to plugs. A strong preference for a durable set is advised, as they'll be used very often.

For jobs that require cutting and a certain level of precision, a set of diagonal cutters is indispensable. Also known as dikes, these cutting pliers allow you to reach into confined spaces, making clean cuts without obstruction from the tool's nose.

Wire strippers are a must-have for handling various wire gauges. Options range from multi-function tools with crimping abilities and multiple size holes to more compact variations for convenient carrying. Versatility can be a priority, as some wire strippers provide extensive size ranges for stripping and include integrated bolt cutters for common screws such as 6-32 and 8-32, which you’ll find frequently in electrical work.

When it comes to leveraging or twisting wires, lineman's pliers are the tool of choice. High-leverage versions of these pliers enable more force for cutting and gripping. Multi-tool variants are available, offering crimping functions and bolt cutters, making them practical by minimizing the number of tools you carry.

Plier Type

Use Cases

Additional Features

Lineman's Pliers

Twisting wires, cutting bolts, and gaining leverage

Multi-tool versions for crimping and threading

Needle Nose Pliers

Precision work in tight areas, bending wire ends

Wire strippers integrated in some designs

Diagonal Cutters

Cutting in restrictive spaces

Often have a hole in the handle for hanging or pulling wires

Wire Strippers

Stripping various gauges of wire

May also include bolt cutters and crimpers

Remember, it's advisable to consider tools that offer multiple uses, as this approach can significantly reduce the weight and bulk of your tool pouch.

Leveling and Alignment Tools

When selecting your essential tools, consider the lineman's pliers, an indispensable tool for twisting wires, prying, and cutting. Opt for high-leverage models for increased torque. For versatility, multi-tool versions like the Klein are beneficial, incorporating additional features such as stripping, crimping, and bolt cutting. This multi-functionality can reduce the number of tools you carry.

Needle Nose Pliers should be sturdy, as they are incredibly handy in tight spaces within panels and for intricate wire manipulations. A solid pair, such as those made by Klein, can withstand heavy use without breaking—ideal for precise tasks.

Diagonal cutters, or Diagonal Cutting Pliers, are another must-have. Their design allows for cutting in tight spots where other pliers might not fit. They are mainly for cutting, without additional gripping functions.

Wire Strippers are crucial for insulation removal and should accommodate a range of wire gauges. There are variations, such as the Crocs from Rack-A-Tiers, which effectively covers wire sizes from 8 to 22 AWG. Additionally, look for models that offer bolt cutting capabilities; common sizes you'll encounter include 6-32 and 8-32 screws.

Tool Type


Recommended Model

Lineman's Pliers

Cutting, Twisting, Prying, Bolt Cutting, Crimping

Klein High-Leverage

Needle Nose Pliers

Wire Manipulation, Access in Confined Spaces

Klein Durable Set

Diagonal Cutting Pliers

Cutting Wires, Access in Tight Spaces


Wire Strippers

Stripping Insulation, Crimping, Bolt Cutting

Rack-A-Tiers Crocs

Regularly assess your environment and tasks to determine the most suitable tools—prioritizing durability and multi-functionality will ensure your tool pouch is efficient and organized.

Channel Lock Pliers

Variety of Sizes

When dealing with channel lock pliers, having a range of sizes at your disposal is vital. The average tools you'll be utilizing are the 11-inch channel locks, which are useful for a broad range of tasks. It is advisable to start with this size as it provides enough versatility for common jobs without being too cumbersome.

Channel Lock Pliers Sizes:

  • Small Size: Essential for working in tight spaces where larger pliers can't fit.
  • Medium Size (11-inch): Offers a balance of control and strength, suitable for various general uses.
  • Large Size: Provides greater leverage and grip, ideal for tasks requiring more force.

In your toolkit, you might also come across different types and sizes, each with unique features. Some have a button release and an array of finely tuned teeth, enabling precise adjustments.

Why Diverse Sizes Matter:

  • Improved Accessibility: Different tasks will require pliers that can fit in various spaces.
  • Enhanced Leverage: The larger the pliers, the more force you can apply, making them suitable for tougher jobs.
  • Versatility: Each size can be used for specific applications, thus reducing the number of tools you need to carry.

Remember, while the medium-sized (11-inch) pliers may be your go-to, having the option to choose from a variety of sizes ensures you're always prepared for any situation.

Personal Protective Equipment

When performing electrical tasks, it is imperative to ensure your personal safety by using the appropriate protective equipment. This includes a selection of tools engineered to guard against hazards commonly encountered on the job.

  • Lineman's Pliers: These are essential for a variety of tasks. With high leverage designs allowing for heavy-duty wire cutting, twisting for wire connections and for gripping or prying objects. Some models include a striper, crimper, and threaded bolt cutter—all in one—providing multiple functions without the need for additional tools.

  • Needle Nose Pliers: Opt for durable, robust models capable of withstanding tough conditions. They are invaluable when working in confined spaces or when meticulous tasks are required, such as bending, repositioning, or snipping wire to precision.

  • Diagonal Cutting Pliers: Also known as dikes, these cutters help you access tight spots and clip wires swiftly. Sporting only a cutting surface, they excel in tasks where other pliers may be obstructed by their broader profiles.

  • Wire Strippers: There is an assortment of strippers available, with various multi-function capacities. Some are equipped with different size holes for wire gauges, complemented by longer handles for ease of use. Models with the capability to cut bolts and threads are particularly useful, offering a range of options from heavy gauge wires to smaller precision tasks. For increased leverage and comfort, ergonomic designs that conform to your grip are highly recommended.

  • Channel Locks: Having a variety of sizes at your disposal is beneficial. The most commonly used 11-inch size often suffices, yet having a selection for different tasks can improve efficiency and safety.

In the electrical profession, the tools you choose serve as essential protective equipment. Whether it is the versatility of a multi-tool lineman's plier or the precision of a snugly fitting pair of strippers, they play a pivotal role in personal protection. Opt for reliable, multipurpose tools that will reduce the load in your pouch and enhance your ability to work safely and effectively.

Specialized Hand Tools

Your essential toolkit as an apprentice electrician is not complete without specialized hand tools that keep you efficient on the job. Lineman's pliers are indispensable for a range of tasks. You'll rely on their high-leverage design for cutting and torquing.

  • High-leverage pliers for powerful cuts
  • Multi-tool versions with strippers, crimper, and threader
  • Use extensively for twisting wires, cutting, and leverage

Needle-nose pliers offer precision and durability, perfect for reaching tight spaces.

  • Ideal for detailed electrical work
  • Robust construction to withstand rigorous use
  • Design incorporates a wire stripper for multifunctionality

Diagonal cutting pliers, or dikes, are crucial as well, allowing you to cut wires where other tools can't reach.

  • Designed for cutting in tight spaces
  • Durable cutting edge to handle repeated use
  • Essential for gripping and trimming wires

Wire strippers are a must, with various models designed to handle different wire gauges.

  • Versatile for stripping various wire sizes
  • Models with additional crimping and cutting functions
  • Compact designs make them easy to carry every day

In line with versatility, a variety of channel locks in different sizes will prove beneficial.

  • Multiple sizes for different applications
  • The 11-inch variant is a good all-purpose tool
  • Look for models with easy adjustment mechanisms

Remember, starting with basic tools is wise, building up to more complex multi-use ones as you advance. It's practical to have tools like lineman's pliers and dikes that are sturdy, reliable, and well-suited for diverse tasks rather than carrying a plethora of one-use tools.

Tool Maintenance and Care

Lineman's Pliers: Your essential tool for wire twisting, cutting, and prying. Its high-leverage design allows for strong torque application. If starting fresh, opt for the basic design to familiarize yourself with its usage. As you progress, consider a multi-tool version which includes a wire stripper, crimper, and bolt cutter - saving space and weight in your tool pouch.

  • Basic Maintenance:
    • Clean after use
    • Inspect for wear
    • Oil the pivot point to ensure smooth operation

Needle Nose Pliers: Highly dependable for reaching tight spaces or bending wires. The durability of a well-made pair, like the Klein brand, can prevent breakage and wear. Select strong, robust needle nose pliers instead of precision variants that are prone to damage.

  • Basic Maintenance:
    • Keep them dry to prevent rust
    • Check alignment of tips
    • Use the correct pair for the job to avoid damage

Diagonal Cutters: Also known as dikes, these serve multiple purposes. Beyond cutting wires, they can pry or grip small objects. Regularly examine them, as frequent cutting of live wires may cause damage over time.

  • Basic Maintenance:
    • Sharpen cutting edges periodically
    • Inspect for electrical damage
    • Do not cut beyond the tool’s rated capacity

Wire Strippers: Choose a pair that matches the wire gauges you commonly work with. Maintain a secondary, more compact set for quick access. Stripping multiple wire sizes and cutting bolts are essential capabilities. Ensure they have an ergonomic grip to aid in leverage and precision.

  • Basic Maintenance Tips:
    • Clean to keep the stripping edges sharp
    • Regularly check the bolt cutter for dullness
    • Calibrate the stripping holes to avoid damaging the wire

Channel Locks: These come in various sizes, for diverse tasks. An 11-inch lock suits most tasks. Use smaller or larger ones as needed, ensuring you have the correct size for sufficient grip and leverage.

  • Basic Maintenance Tips:
    • Keep the adjustment mechanism clean
    • Store in a dry place to avoid rust
    • Use the appropriate size for gripping to prevent jaw damage

In maintaining these tools, prioritize keeping them clean, dry, and stored properly. Regular inspection for wear and corrosion is key. Use each tool within its intended capacity, and they will serve you well throughout your apprenticeship and beyond.