Here's a few of the electrical tool articles I've compiled over the years. In them you'll find some of the must-have tools for electrical work and some pros and cons of others.
Electric chainsaws have their advantages and disadvantages. They run on your home's ordinary 120-volt circuit via a receptacle. Just plug in an extension cord, plug the cord into the chain saw, and you're ready to cut wood. Here are some reasons to and not to buy electric chain saws for your choice of wood cutting tools.
If you have a fear of sticking a screw driver into an electric panel or other electrical box, an insulated screwdriver may just be for you. This is a specially designed screwdriver that has a tough, non-conductive plastic cover over the throat of the screwdriver and handle. Only the tip of the screwdriver is exposed. This built in safety feature protects the user from the possibility of touching the live parts of a circuit and the grounded walls of the box you are working on. On circuits with delicate electronic parts, one of these screwdrivers is a necessity.
Electricians sometimes need to check the amperage on a wire without disconnecting from a circuit feed and clamp-on amp probes are the answer. These amp probes come in either an analog display or a digital display. By simply pressing the button on the side of the tester, the loop at the top opens and can be easily placed over a wire in a junction box or electrical panel. This is an easy way of checking the current value running through a wire at any given time.
A knockout punch is an electrician's favorite tool when he needs to make a hole in an electrical box or panel. A knockout punch set gives you the choice of many different sized knockouts to make different sized holes. Some sets have a hydraulic pump to make punching the holes very easy, while others, like the set shown, have a large bolt head that you must use a wrench or socket to turn in order to make the punch do its work.
Learn how to check receptacle troubles with a receptacle analyzer. With this tool, you can find out a lot about a receptacle before you ever remove it from a wall. The tester simply plugs right into a receptacle and does all the work. It sports three LED lights that, through different lamp combinations, will tell you the problem with your receptacle connection.
One of the easiest ways to check for faulty devices and parts, is to use a multi-tester, sometimes called a multi-meter. Testing continuity by using the ohm setting will tell you if the connection through the device is complete or if it has opened and is no longer usable. For instance, if you place one of the test leads on one side of a fuse and the other lead on the other side of the fuse, you should show a short circuit or 0 ohms. If your meter shows infinite resistance, the fuse is bad and should be replaced.
Certain DIY projects will have the need for specialized tools to perform the job. The NM wire stripper is just one of those tools. It is designed to not only strip the outer plastic sheathing from NM wire, but also to strip the insulation from the conductor wires.
Photo: Timothy Thiele
OK, you've heard the term fish tape, but what in the world is that? Actually, it's a great tool that electricians use to pull wire through electrical conduit. A fish tape is a thin piece of steel wire in a flat style that is coiled in predetermined lengths and is referred to as tape. That explains part of the name, but what about the fish part? Well, I'm glad you asked. You see, to be able to pull the wire through a pipe, you must first fish the tape through the pipe. At the other end, usually at a box, you attach the wires to the fish tape in order to pull them through the pipe.
If you've ever tried to install new drywall over a junction box and had to measure and cut the hole, only to miss the opening all together, then there is a tool for you. The question I get periodically is, "Is there a better way?" Well yes ther is. It is a rotary cutout tool.
Like any other project you may try to tackle, electrical work will require a few tools to accomplish the job. This is a partial list of needed tools to take care of most electrical jobs. These tools are readily available at most building material outlet stores or electrical wholesalers. Hopefully the descriptions below will help you in selecting the proper tools for the type of electrical projects you will encounter.