Brendan Lamothe

Key Takeaways

  • Carefully select hand tools that maximize leverage and ease of use.
  • Ensure that electrical testing equipment is accurate and multifunctional.
  • Choose power tools and protective gear that offer reliability and protection.

Tool Shopping Purpose

When equipping yourself with essential electrical tools, consider a variety of factors including tool effectiveness, cost, and comfort. Starting with hand tools, securing a pair of high leverage diagonal pliers is imperative; they offer extended handles for increased force—crucial for any electrician apprentice. Expect to invest around $130 for primary hand tools.

Tool Shopping List:

  • Diagonal Pliers: Must-have for cutting. Prefer high leverage for ease of use.
  • Wire Strippers: Numerous varieties exist. Opt for compact and affordable ones that handle wires from #10 to #16 gauge.
  • Needle Nose Pliers: Choose according to personal preference, but ensure the handle is comfortable.
  • Multi-tools: A stubby multi-tool can be immensely handy when working in confined spaces such as ceiling fan installations. Prices start as low as $10.
  • Screwdrivers: A durable, super high leverage flat head can serve multi-purposes, including prying.

Must-have Tools:

Tool Type


Cost Estimate

Magnetic Level

Essential for bending conduit; look for multi-angle and magnetic

Approx. $30

Tape Measure

Choose durable with front/back print and additional features


Plug Tester

Digital varieties offer detailed readings

Approx. $20

Voltage Tester

Select one that includes a flashlight; covers a wide voltage range



An indispensable diagnostic tool for any electrical work


For your personal protective equipment (PPE), prioritize items that enhance safety without compromising comfort. Electrical work demands visibility and precision, so options like high impact, fog-free safety glasses are beneficial. At times, you might also require a heavy-duty hammer for leverage or broad range of sockets for compatibility with various fittings.

Electrical Power Tools:

  • Drills: For commercial jobs or heavy-duty requirements, you can turn to 18-volt models for additional power. However, if you're looking for cost-effectiveness, consider brands that offer decent performance without heavy investment, perfect for starter kits.

Tool Brands:

  • Milwaukee: Offers high-end, reliable tools, with "Fuel" indicating their pro-grade line.
  • Ridgid: Known for quality, especially their "Octane" series.
  • Ryobi: Provides a good balance between affordability and functionality; ideal for beginners.
  • Makita: Noted for compact tools that maintain robust performance.

In conclusion, selecting the right tools demands consideration of both functionality and economics. Keep abreast of the various options and invest judiciously in tools that will serve you reliably through your apprenticeship and beyond.

Suggestions From the Community

Upon reaching the remarkable milestone of 200,000 subscribers on YouTube, it is both a privilege and an exciting chance to give back, and what better way to do so than by supporting a charity with a tool donation. With the intention to guide new electricians on their tool-shopping journey, your input from the member-only section on YouTube has been invaluable. Based on your suggestions, here is a curated selection of essential tools for apprentices.

High Leverage Diagonal Pliers

  • Essential for any electrician
  • Longer handle for increased leverage
  • Recommended for newcomers: crucial for electrical tasks

Wire Strippers

  • Numerous styles available
  • Personal preference: smaller, inexpensive models
  • Must-have for sizes #10 to #16: compact and efficient

Needle Nose Pliers

  • Variety of handle lengths
  • Preference: longer handles for comfort
  • Short-handled pliers: suitable for precision work


  • Multi-tool, 6-in-1 functions
  • Includes nut drivers and diverse screw types
  • Particularly useful for space-restricted areas like ceiling fans

High Leverage Screwdrivers

  • 5/16-inch flat head screwdriver, 6-inch shank
  • Suitable for heavy-duty prying
  • A unique tool for tasks requiring significant force

Magnetic Levels

  • $30 investment with high utility
  • Angles: 90°, 45°, and 30° levels
  • Robust magnet: ideal for bending conduit

Tape Measures

  • Stanley Fat Max alternative
  • Dual-sided print with tear-resistant material
  • Extras: conduit bending multipliers and dual hooks for ease

Plug Testers

  • Advanced digital readout
  • Features GFI testing and voltage display
  • Higher quality tool at $20

Voltage Testers

  • Comes with an integrated flashlight
  • Ranges for low voltage and standard electrical systems


  • An unequivocal necessity
  • For accurate measurement across various electrical applications

Sheetrock Saws and Nut Drivers

  • Diverse socket sizes for various uses
  • Priced at $30

Measuring Tapes

  • 13-foot standout for high reach

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • High-impact, fog-free safety glasses at $20
  • Glove selection: firm grip for secure handing

Portable Lighting

  • Handy pen lights for $20
  • Compact flashlights: bright, lightweight, pocket-friendly


  • 28-ounce weight for effective leverage
  • Large heads: ideal for heavy-duty tasks

Starter Tool Sets

  • Ryobi: cost-effective choice for beginners
  • Milwaukee's fuel line: professional-grade options
  • Rigid's octane and Makita's compact tools: sturdy and reliable

Remember that starting with the right tools is crucial. While high-quality tools come at a premium, there are budget-friendly options available that will suffice until you're ready to upgrade. Each tool serves a fundamental purpose, so choose ones that suit your specific needs, and don't shy away from investing in gear that will withstand the daily demands of electrical work.

High Leverage Hand Tools

As you venture into the electrical trade, beginning with the right set of high leverage hand tools is crucial for efficiency and convenience. High leverage tools are designed with longer handles to increase your cutting and gripping power, an essential feature to have on hand.

Recommended High Leverage Tools

  • Diagonal Pliers: Essential for any electrician, these come in various price ranges to suit your budget. Prefer a pair with comfortable grips and durability for daily usage.
  • Wire Strippers: Countless options exist, but it's important to select a set that's compact, lightweight, and capable of handling wire sizes from #10 to #16. Cost-effectiveness is key.
  • Needle-nose Pliers: Some might prefer short-handled versions but a longer handle often provides better leverage. Choose a pair that sits well in hand.

Hand Tool Pricing

A comprehensive toolkit can be assembled within a reasonable budget. Here’s a possible cost breakdown:

Tool Type

Estimated Cost (USD)

Diagonal Pliers


Wire Strippers


Needle-nose Pliers




High Leverage Screwdriver


Magnetic Levels


Tape Measure


For a basic set up, you are likely to invest around $130 to $200, which can equip you with the fundamentals to start off in the field.

Additional Handy Tools

  • Stubbies: For $10, get a multi-purpose tool with nut drivers and various screw types, handy for tight spaces such as ceiling fan installations.
  • 11-in-1 Multitool: Similar to Stubbies, offering various attachments including Phillips, Flat, Square, and Torx – an all-in-one tool that covers a wide range of needs.
  • Flathead Screwdriver: A high leverage, heavy-duty screwdriver with a 6-inch shank is indispensable. This could serve you well for robust applications, especially when prying is necessary.
  • Magnetic Levels: This isn’t just about straight lines; a sturdy, magnetic level with multiple degree markings is worth every penny for precision tasks. Expect to pay about $30, an investment that aids in conduit bending and more.
  • Tape Measure: A durable tape with front and back printing, tear-resistant material, and conduit bending multipliers will assist you greatly. Price is around $30.

Each tool serves a specific purpose in daily tasks; thus, having a broad selection can maximize your effectiveness on the job. Remember, investing in quality tools from the start reduces the need for replacements later, ensuring you’re prepared for a range of electrical work.

Wire Strippers

When looking for wire strippers as an apprentice, you want tools that will be effective and economical. Your best bet is to opt for compact, lightweight strippers that are small enough to fit in any tool pouch, yet sturdy enough to handle wire sizes from #10 to #16 gauge. The advantages of having a smaller tool are numerous; you can carry them easily and they won't weigh you down on a long day.

Wire Size Compatibility


#10 to #16 gauge

Versatile for common wire sizes

Compact design

Fits easily in a tool pouch


Reduces fatigue

Remember, as an electrician, getting tools that are high-leverage, a longer handle, should be on your shopping list. High-leverage tools like a pair of diagonal pliers, or side cutters, provide more cutting force with less effort on your part.

Choosing the Right Handle:

  • If you prefer a long handle for better leverage, ensure it’s comfortable to grip.
  • For tasks in tight spaces, consider a tool with a shorter handle.

Budget Consideration:

While you may be tempted to invest in the most expensive tools, it’s wise to balance cost with quality. It's possible to find strippers that are affordable without compromising on functionality. As you are starting out, look for high-quality but reasonably priced options. You can expect to allocate about $30 to $60 for a decent pair of strippers that will serve you well without breaking the bank.

Needle Nose Pliers

When selecting needle nose pliers, you want to consider the handle length and your preference for grip. If you're an apprentice starting out, you would do well to choose a pair with high leverage, which means a longer handle for better gripping power. While there are variations available, like short-handled and small skinny pairs, high leverage ones are a staple for any electrician's kit.

  • Handle: The longer handle provides high leverage, enhancing your grip strength and making your tasks more efficient.

Your preference might lean towards the pairs featuring a similar style handle to other favored hand tools, for consistency in your tool kit.

  • Budget: Expect to spend around $30-$60 for a quality pair of needle nose pliers.

Remember, these pliers are just one part of a well-curated set of tools. Alongside them, ensure you have a range of drivers, a robust multimeter, cutters, and safety equipment to be prepared for your electrical tasks.

In summary, the right pair of needle nose pliers, selected with attention to the style of handle and features like high leverage, can make a significant difference in your day-to-day tasks as an apprentice electrician.

Diagonal Pliers

When selecting diagonal pliers, high leverage is a key feature. A longer handle provides increased leverage, making them indispensable for electrical work. As an apprentice, your toolkit should definitely include a pair of these. The ones I prefer offer a balance between quality and cost.

Key Features to Consider:

  • Handle Length: High leverage with longer handles for better cutting power.
  • Usability: Should comfortably fit within your tool pouch due to their compact size.
  • Price Range: Price points vary, but a sturdy pair is a smart initial investment.

My Recommended Diagonal Pliers:

  • Handle Design: Ergonomic and suited for prolonged use.
  • Durability: Constructed to withstand the demands of electrical tasks.
  • Cutting Edge: Sharpened to ensure clean and precise cuts.

When shopping, evaluate the diagonal pliers based on these aspects to find the pair that suits your requirements. Remember, they're a fundamental tool that you'll use frequently, so choosing the right ones from the start is crucial.

Multitool Options

When considering tools, it's essential to keep in mind both your needs and your budget. Starting with the basics, high leverage diagonal pliers are a must-have. They feature longer handles for increased force, making them ideal for any electrician, especially an apprentice.

For wire stripping, there's an abundance of choices, but small, lightweight strippers that handle wires from #10 to #16 offer convenience and effectiveness, easily fitting into any pouch. Needle nose pliers also vary, and while some prefer the short-handled version, a similar style to diagonal pliers may be the better option for consistency in handle feel.

In multitool screwdrivers, the stubby offers a remarkable array of features, including a quarter inch and 5/16 nut driver with various small bits, perfect for tight spaces like ceiling fans—an incredible value at around $10. The 11-in-1 variant expands on this, adding more bit options like Torx and square, providing broader utility.

A 5/16 flathead screwdriver with a 6-inch shank is another indispensable tool with its high leverage and long reach, handy for heavy-duty prying tasks. For leveling tasks, investing in a magnetic level with 30, 45, and 90-degree bubbles can prove invaluable, especially one that can withstand rough handling and doubles as a conduit bending aid.

A high-quality tape measure can make your work seamless, particularly one featuring printed measurements on both sides and standouts of up to 13 feet. Opt for robust, tear-proof design, and built-in conduit bending multipliers to aid in accuracy and speed.

Beyond manual tools, an electrical tester is critical, and a plug tester with a digital readout and GFI not only indicates basic wiring issues but also provides voltage readings, justifying a slightly higher price point around $20. For voltage detection, a flash-enabled tester can be convenient, especially when handling both low and high voltages, from 12 to 480 volts.

Nut drivers and drill bits are also crucial, with sets that cover all the common sizes making for a sound $30 investment. For personal safety, consider high-impact, fog-free safety glasses and gloves that offer a snug fit, and don't forget a sturdy, bright pocket light for visibility in dark spaces.

In terms of power tools, a starter brand like Ryobi offers cost-effective options, while experienced users might prefer the performance of Milwaukee's M18 line. For robustness and durability, both Milwaukee Fuel and Ridgid Octane lines cater to professional-grade requirements. Makita remains a choice for those favoring more compact tools over raw power.

Remember, investing in quality tools not only impacts the efficiency of your work but also its safety and the longevity of your toolkit.

Flathead Screwdrivers

When choosing flathead screwdrivers, it's crucial to consider the tasks you will be performing. As an electrician, you'll frequently encounter large slotted screws requiring considerable leverage. Here are some details about the types of flathead screwdrivers that are most beneficial for your toolkit:

  • High Leverage Flathead: A high leverage screwdriver is indispensable. The 5/16-inch tip and 6-inch shank provide ample length and the robustness needed for vigorous prying tasks.

  • Size Variety: For fine work, a smaller flathead may be necessary. It's wise to have a range available to accommodate different screw sizes.

  • Screwdriver Features:



Long Handle

Greater leverage for tough jobs.

Magnetic Tip

Aids in holding screws, increasing efficiency.

Heavy Duty Tip

Durable for rigorous use, particularly in prying tasks.

  • Usage: You'll use a flathead screwdriver extensively. It's recommended to acquire one with a durable design explicitly for heavy usage.

  • Tool Quality: While shopping, explore both premium and budget-friendly options, mindful of their durability and functionality. Your tool selection might be influenced by your current needs and budget constraints.

Remember, the right flathead screwdriver can greatly enhance your efficiency and precision on the job. Therefore, invest in quality tools that will withstand the daily demands of your work.

Magnetic Level

When selecting tools for an electrician's toolbox, one indispensable item is the magnetic level. Opt for one priced around $30 that offers not only a 90-degree bubble but also 45 and 30-degree indicators. Its magnetic feature is incredibly potent, which proves useful when working with conduit—thanks to the built-in notch facilitating accurate bends.

  • Durability: Reliability is key, and this tool's robustness stands up to the rigorous activities of daily electrician tasks, such as bending conduit.
  • Versatility: Beyond standard levels, this magnetic level adheres securely to metal surfaces, freeing your hands for other tasks.
  • Angles Provided: Equipped with indicators for 0, 30, 45, and 90 degrees, it's designed for utmost precision.
  • Price: At approximately $170 inclusive of other basic hand tools, it provides significant value for its utility and long-term performance.

Remember, when you're tool shopping, especially if you're an apprentice, a magnetic level of this caliber is an excellent investment for its multifunctionality and durability in the field.

Tape Measure Features

When selecting a tape measure, consider one that has both front and back print for ease of use. Look for models featuring tear-proof blade coating, as this enhances durability. Additionally, choose a tape measure with conduit bending multipliers and shrinkage charts for accurate pipe work. The standout of a tape measure can greatly aid in tasks; a 13-foot standout is a premium feature, helping when taking measurements from a distance, such as when on a ladder.

  • Print on Both Sides: Simplifies reading measurements from any angle.
  • Tear-Proof Blade: Offers enhanced durability against wear and tear.
  • Conduit Bending Multipliers & Shrinkage Charts: Essential for precise pipe fitting.
  • Extended Standout: A 13-foot standout is useful for high reach measurements without support.

In addition to practicality, ensure your tape measure has a strong hook with versatility to latch onto objects from different angles. Confirm the strength and reliability of the magnet if you opt for a magnetic version. The magnet should be strong enough to hold the tape measure in place against metallic surfaces.

  • Dual Hook: Allows more stable and versatile measuring.
  • Strong Magnetic End: Facilitates work with metal conduit and pipe.

Electrical Testing Equipment

When shopping for electrical testing equipment, you'll find a plethora of choices catering to different requirements, but certain tools are indispensable and offer great utility for a variety of tasks. Whether you're an apprentice or a seasoned electrician, high leverage tools such as long-handled diagonal pliers serve as a staple in your tool kit due to their extended handles that provide increased force.

Screwdrivers are yet another essential, with options ranging widely in terms of size and type. For robust applications, a super high leverage flathead screwdriver with a 5/16-inch tip and a 6-inch shank is recommended, catering to tasks that necessitate significant prying. Smaller, more precise jobs will benefit from a range of smaller screwdrivers.

For conduit work, a magnetic level is exceptionally useful. Preferably one with 30°, 45°, and 90° vials and a strong magnet to secure it in place when bending conduit. Also, selecting a tape measure—like one with dual-sided printing, tear-resistant coating, and conduit bending multipliers—can significantly ease measurements, especially when working at heights.

Electrical testing is safely managed with tools like a plug tester—ideally, one which includes a GFCI and a digital readout for providing accurate voltage readings and identifying common wiring problems. Additionally, a non-contact voltage tester with an integrated flashlight can offer versatility in testing both low voltage and standard electrical systems.

Your multimeter signifies another essential piece of equipment as it offers extensive diagnostic capabilities across various electrical parameters. Moreover, acquiring a multi-tool screwdriver with multiple sizes and types of bits can offer convenience and variety, addressing different materials and fixtures efficiently.

For safety, high-impact, fog-free safety glasses and firm-fitting gloves are crucial. Gloves should provide comfort without compromising on grip or dexterity. A compact yet bright penlight serves well for visibility in dim spaces or during intricate tasks.

Lastly, a heavy-duty hammer, such as a 28-ounce option with ample leverage, can be indispensable during installation processes where more forceful application is necessary. Remember, invest in reputable brands that promise durability and longevity—your tools should withstand rigorous daily use and cater to all facets of your electrician duties.

Multimeter and Nut Drivers

When considering essential electrician tools, a multimeter and nut drivers significantly influence your efficiency.

Nut Drivers:

  • Stubbies: For compact spaces, such as disassembling ceiling fans, a stubby with a 1/4 inch and 5/16 inch nut driver, along with different size flatheads and Phillips, provides versatility for only $10.
  • 11-in-1 Multitool: This includes Phillips, flat heads, squares, torx, and nut drivers of 1/4 inch, 5/16 inch, and 3/8 inch. It's a fundamental purchase that ensures preparedness for diverse tasks, priced reasonably.


  • Essential Tool: Every electrician requires a reliable multimeter, a vital tool for diagnosing electrical issues.
  • Variety in Functionality: Whether you're dealing with low voltage (12V) systems or standard residential and commercial voltages (120V, 240V, 480V), a good multimeter will be indispensable.
  • Features: Opt for a multimeter that fits your needs, including a built-in flashlight for low-light conditions.

It's crucial to weigh function against cost when selecting these tools; investing in a diverse set enables you to tackle a wide range of jobs with confidence.

Drill Bits and Screwdrivers

When selecting drill bits, it's vital to opt for ones that serve your projects well. Specifically, for electricians, I recommend the Diablo bits known for their automatic feeding feature that pulls the bit through materials efficiently, enhancing your workload. In terms of sizes, ensure you have a range at your disposal. For screwdrivers, a high-leverage flathead is a non-negotiable tool. The 5/16 inch tip with a 6 inch shank gives the necessary durability for heavy usage.

  • Diagonal Pliers: A staple in any electrician's toolkit, the high leverage design with longer handles offers increased force, making your tasks easier.
  • Wire Strippers: Look for varieties that strike a balance between affordability and effectiveness. The preferred type should be compact yet robust enough to handle wire sizes from number 10 down to 16.

When considering screwdrivers, diversity is crucial:

  • Stubby Multi-Tool: At $10, this offers versatility with a quarter inch and 5/16 inch nut driver, combined with two sizes each of flathead and Phillips heads.
  • 11-in-1 Multi-Tool: Enhances the stubby's offerings with varied screwdriver bits, including Phillips, flathead, square, torx, as well as nut drivers.

As for bits and drill extensions:

  • Multifaceted Sockets Set: An assortment of socket sizes can be a lifesaver during diverse tasks, priced around $30.
  • Phillips Drill Bit Set: A container with an assortment of sizes is essential; you might want to include a quarter inch and smaller sizes too.

Remember, a sound set of drill bits and diverse screwdrivers greatly enhances efficiency and ensures preparedness for a multitude of scenarios on the job.

Personal Protective Equipment

When selecting protective gear, ensure you find high-quality items that offer both safety and comfort. Here are some essentials:

  • Impact-resistant glasses: Opt for models that are fog-free to maintain clear vision during work.
  • Durable gloves: Choose gloves that fit well—look for ones that offer dexterity without sacrificing protection.



Price (Approx.)

Safety Glasses

High impact resistance, fog-free



Firm grip, large size, snug fit on fingers


Remember, investing in reliable personal protective equipment is crucial for your safety and efficiency on the job site.

Portable Lighting

When shopping for tools as an apprentice, lighting options are key, especially if you find yourself working in attics or dimly lit areas. Portable lights come in various capacities and sizes to fit any job. Remember, good visibility is crucial for safety and precision in electrical work.

Types of Portable Lights:

  • Pen Lights: Convenient for carrying in your shirt pocket, these lights are bright, small, and easily accessible. They are great for quick inspections or working inside panels where space is limited.
  • Headlamps: Keep your hands free while ensuring the light follows your line of sight, making headlamps essential for tasks that require both hands.
  • Work Lights: Ranging from standing floodlights to hanging lights, these provide broad illumination to the entire workspace, perfect for lighting up a dark room or an outdoor night project.

Lighting Features to Consider:

  • Brightness: Measured in lumens, higher brightness provides better visibility but can also drain batteries faster.
  • Power Source: Options include rechargeable batteries, which can save on costs over time, or replaceable batteries, which are convenient if recharging isn't possible.
  • Durability: Sturdy construction is vital since work environments can be rough on equipment. Look for lights designed to withstand falls and resist moisture and dust.
  • Battery Life: Always check the expected battery life against your typical workday to ensure your light won't fail in the middle of a job.
  • Extra Features: Some lights offer additional functionalities such as laser pointers, flashing modes for signaling, or the ability to pivot and direct light where needed.

Selecting Portable Lights:

  • For tight spaces, choose compact lights that can fit comfortably in your pocket or clip onto your clothing.
  • If you frequently work in areas without power outlets, battery life and the ability to replace batteries quickly are top priorities.
  • Opt for lights with cast aluminum or reinforced plastic housing to withstand the inevitable drops and impacts.

Maintaining Your Portable Lighting:

To ensure your portable lights are always ready, perform regular maintenance:

  • Check the Battery: Before starting work, check that your light is fully charged or replace the batteries as needed.
  • Clean the Lens: A clean lens ensures maximum light output. Wipe it down with a soft, damp cloth to remove dust and grime.
  • Inspect the Housing: Look for cracks or damage, which could affect the durability and safety of the light.

Adopting portable lighting that matches your work context is as essential as choosing the right hand tool. By investing in quality lights that suit your needs, you'll work more efficiently, safely, and with greater accuracy.

Hammer Considerations

When choosing a hammer, consider its weight and head size. A 28-ounce hammer offers significant leverage due to its heavy weight and large head. The 28-ounce size is ideal for tasks requiring substantial impact.

You should ensure the hammer fits comfortably in your hand and aligns with your strength level. Here's a breakdown of the key features for your ease of reference:




28 ounces provide high leverage

Head Size

Large head for forceful strikes


Should fit well in hand for comfort

In your toolkit, it's crucial to include a hammer that not only meets your immediate needs but also guarantees longevity and reliability in various work scenarios. Selecting a heavy-duty option can be a practical and long-term investment in your apprentice toolkit.

Power Tools Selection

When shopping for tools as an apprentice electrician, it's crucial to select those that strike a balance between quality, functionality, and budget. Begin with the basics:

  • High leverage pliers: Essential for any electrician, the longer handle provides increased leverage to make your work easier.
  • Diagonal pliers: Choose sturdy ones that feel comfortable in your hand.
  • Wire strippers: Opt for compact and efficient models. Look for strippers that are cost-effective and cover a wide range of wire sizes, like 10 to 16 AWG.

For screwdrivers, versatility is key:

  • Multi-tool screwdrivers: A stubby multi-tool is great for tight spaces. Invest in an 11-in-1 model to handle a variety of screws including Phillips, flathead, torx, and nut drivers.
  • High leverage flathead screwdriver: A must-have, especially a 5/16 inch with a 6-inch shank, for heavy-duty work.

Don’t overlook measuring and leveling tools:

  • Magnetic levels: Prefer those with multiple degree markings (30°, 45°, 90°) and a strong magnet.
  • Tape measures: Look for models with dual-sided printing and standout features; added benefits like conduit bending multipliers are a bonus.

For electrical testing, go for upgraded gadgets:

  • Plug testers: A digital display version provides more detailed information like voltage readings.
  • Voltage testers: Select one with a built-in flashlight and dual range capability to cover both low and standard voltage applications.

And if you're venturing into power tools:

  • Cordless drills: Starting with a 12V model is cost-effective; however, an 18V drill from a reputable brand offers more power for demanding tasks.
  • Quality saws and driver bits: Choose brands known for reliable and effective cutting tools with features like automatic feed or pull-through tips.

Lastly, never compromise on safety:

  • Safety glasses: Opt for high-impact, fog-free models.
  • Work gloves: Fit is crucial, large tends to be a good starting point with some room in the thumb and pinky.

Remember, a balanced kit starts with durable hand tools and extends into versatile power tools. Brands like Milwaukee, Ryobi, Rigid, and Makita offer a range of options catering to different needs and budgets. Keep these tips in mind and choose tools that will serve you reliably throughout your apprenticeship.

Milwaukee Tools

When outfitting yourself as an apprentice, consider high leverage side cutting pliers—essential for any electrician. With extended handles, they offer greater cutting power. Look for a dependable pair of diagonal pliers, a necessity due to their versatility.

For wire stripping, numerous options exist, but prioritize affordability, compactness, and efficiency. A preferred choice handles wires from size 10 down to 16 and is conveniently small to fit in any pouch. Additionally, when selecting needle-nose pliers, different preferences exist, but ones with longer handles provide better leverage and are my recommendation.

Budget-wise, essential hand tools like these can total around $130. Exploring multi-tools, $10 stubbies are useful investments. They combine several screwdrivers and nut drivers, ideal for tight spaces such as ceiling fan installations.

An important addition is a super high leverage flathead screwdriver with a 5/16 inch tip and 6-inch shank, invaluable for heavy prying. Similarly, magnetic levels are worth the investment, aiding in conduit bending with various angles, strong magnets, and durability through rigorous use.

Tape measures must be robust, offering dual-sided printing and features like conduit bending multipliers. A standout feature to consider is a long standout, which proves exceptionally handy during overhead measurements.

Adding to the tools, a plug tester with a digital readout provides detailed voltage information, enhancing electrical work accuracy. A flashlight-enhanced voltage tester is preferred for its versatility across different voltage ranges.

A reliable multimeter is a necessity for electrical diagnostics. Moreover, consider adding an automatic feed drywall saw and a comprehensive set of nut drivers to your arsenal. For drilling, opt for bits like Diablo's self-feeding bits, and don't overlook a selection of Phillips bits, ensuring readiness for any task.

Regarding safety gear, prioritize high-impact, fog-free safety glasses and well-fitting gloves—essential for protection. For portable lighting, a pen light or compact flashlight easily clips onto pockets and provides bright illumination.

In the category of hammers, a 28-ounce hammer offers considerable leverage, although its heavier weight requires consideration of its frequent need.

When it comes to power tools, while the 12-volt line can be cost-effective and adequate, my preference lies with the 18-volt Milwaukee M18 series—suitable for heavier tasks and offering more power. Despite the higher costs, investing in better brands such as Milwaukee is recommended, especially their Milwaukee Fuel line representing their top-tier professional-grade equipment.

For apprentices and budget shoppers, consider starting with brands like Ryobi offering cost-effective solutions. Remember that with more affordable sets, the longevity and performance may differ.

In contrast, Ridgid tools, especially their Octane line, ensure robust and quality performance for professional use, aligning closely with Milwaukee's pro grade offerings. Makita also has been a go-to brand, with tools increasingly designed to be more compact, spotlighting a trade-off between size efficiency and rugged durability.

Ryobi Starter Kit

When considering an apprentice kit that balances cost and functionality, Ryobi stands out. Recognizing each electrician's preference, if you're looking to save without compromising on your starter tools significantly, Ryobi is a sensible selection. Keep in mind, although cost-effective, it defines the expression "you get what you pay for".

Hand Tools

Your toolkit isn't set without the basics:

  • Diagonal Pliers: Look for high leverage options—longer handles giving you more cutting power. Essential for every apprentice.
  • Wire Strippers: There are countless types, but a compact design that can strip from #10 to #16 gauge wire is versatile and user-friendly.
  • Needle Nose Pliers: Variants abound, but a pair with a comfortable grip can be your daily ally.
  • Multitool Screwdrivers: A 6-in-1 stubby or an 11-in-1 screwdriver offers multiple types and sizes, providing invaluable utility. With prices around $10, they’re economical.

Specialized Tools

For tasks demanding specific functionality:

  • High Leverage Flathead Screwdriver: This is your workhorse. A 5/16-inch tip with a 6-inch shank can tackle most challenging pry jobs you’ll encounter.
  • Plug Tester with GFI: The digital face on some plug testers offers an advanced diagnostic readout including voltage, improving your assessment capabilities.

Measurement and Leveling

Accuracy is paramount:

  • Magnetic Levels: Look for a durable level with multiple degree markings and a sturdy magnet; vital for conduit bending and other alignment tasks.
  • Tape Measure: Dual-sided print and a tear-proof design enhance durability and utility. Bonus points for measures that include conduit bending multipliers.

Protective Gear

Safety should never be an afterthought:

  • Safety Glasses: Choose high-impact, fog-free glasses for clear vision in varied conditions.
  • Gloves: Ensure a snug fit without too much slack in the fingers for optimal dexterity.


Visibility in cramped or dark spaces is crucial:

  • Compact Penlights: A bright and pocketable light source can make all the difference. Look for designs that clip to your shirt or tool belt for easy access.

Cost management is key when starting your trade journey. Remember, while affordability is attractive, especially with brands like Ryobi, investing in higher-quality tools can save money over time as they often endure the demands of the job better. Keep an eye out for professional-grade lines such as Milwaukee's Fuel or Ridgid's Octane when you're ready to upgrade.

Makita Compact Tools

When considering tools for electrician work, especially for those just starting their journey as an apprentice, size, cost, and efficiency play significant roles. Your experience will be greatly enhanced by selecting tools tailored to these needs. It's crucial to consider the balance between quality and budget.

For your essential toolkit, begin with high leverage diagonal pliers. Their longer handles provide increased leverage, making them a must-have. Similarly, opt for comfortable strippers; look for options that are economically priced, compact, and effective for wires from number 10 down to 16.

With needle-nose pliers, personal preference comes into play. Some favor short-handled, slim versions; however, I recommend models with handles matching the diagonal pliers, as they've proven to be reliable for me over time.

Essential Hand Tools Price Estimate:

  • High Leverage Diagonal Pliers: $30
  • Strippers: $30
  • Needle Nose Pliers: $30
  • Stubby Multi-Tool: $10
  • 11-in-1 Multi-Tool: $30
  • Large Flat Head Screwdriver: $10
  • Magnetic Level: $30
  • Tape Measure: $30

Your toolkit should include a heavy-duty flat head with a 5/16 inch tip and a 6-inch shank for tasks requiring significant prying force.

Magnetic levels, such as the one that includes 30, 45, and 90-degree bubbles, are exceptionally valuable due to their strong magnets and practical design for conduit bending.

When selecting tape measures, opt for those with features like tear-proof material, readable print on both sides, and built-in conduit bending multipliers.

Don't overlook the importance of a good multimeter, essential for any electrical work. Along with this, a sheetrock saw and a comprehensive set of nut drivers are beneficial additions.

In the realm of compact tools, Makita stands out – their commitment to crafting smaller, more manageable tools without compromising on ruggedness is apparent. This approach suits you if portability and ease of handling are top priorities in your daily tasks.

Safety and Convenience:

  • GFI Plug Tester with Digital Face: $20
  • Voltage Tester with Flashlight: $20
  • Safety Glasses (Fog-free): $20
  • Durable Gloves: $20
  • Pen Light: $20
  • Hefty Hammer (28-ounce): $30

Here's what to consider: For your power tool collection, light-duty jobs may be well-served by 12-volt toolsets. They're affordable and adequate for light commercial or delicate work. However, when tackling heavy-duty tasks, banking on more robust options like the 18-volt sets may be ideal, offering that extra power that is often needed.

When you're starting out, brands like Ryobi provide a cost-effective entry point with their tools that are suitable for novice electricians. Eventually, you may transition to higher-end brands like Milwaukee, which offers its professional-grade 'Fuel' line, or to Rigid, known for the 'Octane' series for heavy-duty applications.

If you've been wedded to a particular brand, like I was with Makita, you'll note the shift towards creating more compact tools. While this doesn't necessarily compromise on durability, it reflects a trend towards ease of use and functionality in confined spaces. This is something to consider based on your specific work environment and personal ergonomic preferences.