Active Member
It is never too early for budding techs to start collecting tools for the trade. One problem with purchasing tools, however, is that as one progresses into soloing out a particular field in tech theatre the tools change quite drastically. But there are some tools that every tech should have. I figure that this would be a good place to start developing a place for everyone to post what they think might be needed or ask about the practicality of a particular tool.
I would say general techs should look into:
a toolbox, keep it reasonably sized something that can easily be carried. I kind of prefer the bag type carrying case.
screwdrivers, just a basic set of phillips and standard
a tape measure, 25'
crescent wrench,6". This seems to be the standard that a lot of ME's are pushing for these days.
a speed square
wire cutters
wire stripper
precision screwdrivers(the little ones)
a cordless drill (eventually don't rush, expensive and technology changes so fast that sometimes by rushing you end up with a piece of junk. Make sure you research)
A utility knife
I think that is a good starting point for discussion.
Sorry it's long, I would liked to have cut down on it but am frequently the person people turn tool at work when considering what they need or should get thus I have a lot of info on it.

-Were I just starting out and looking for a very basic and general tool kit, I would probably get the soft sided tool box too. Heck I even recently bought one. It’s a lot easier than lugging around any of my other tool boxes much less the road box. An alternative to this is that there are also some interesting shoulder bag and backpack tool kits out there. Leaves you with free hands and once you start filling up the bag, They also tend even if soft sided to get heavy fast.
But you will also need a tool box for when your tool collection grows or for working in a constant place. Get one with a few drawers so you can better organize your tools and find them. You will quickly outgrow a cloth bag and need a second place to store the tools not required for the show you are working on anyway. Use a key lock for it and have a second or third key for it in your wallet, or other place such with your boss in case you loose it. Getting multiple locks keyed the same will save time later should you need to chain your tool box up or lock up something such as a locker later.

The tool bag and tool box are stop gaps. Eventually you will be needing a road box proper if this is your career and you travel. A good one will cost a lot of money but be well worth it. You will also be needing a second set of at least the main tools for times when your tools are perhaps still on a truck and you are in the shop trying to get stuff done. Or if you have more than one place you work. Could also get an emergency call one night that something needs to be done at the last minute and your tools are at work.

Don’t be offering your tools out to others unless they have demonstrated proper respect for them, or they have just as many if not more, but just not that particular one. Even than with such people, only loan them out with your permission. Your tools not their's and don't forget it. Do not allow people -even your friends into your tool box without your supervision, or when something becomes lost much less simply not there, you will be the one replacing it not any of the suspects.

People who don’t own their own tools need to make due with shop or the bosses tools not your’s. The shop and the boss have the budget to replace them, you do not. Plus they have the power to enforce making people buy their own, respect and use properly the tools available and enforce their return. Otherwise there is no need for such people without sufficient personal tools to spend their own money on their own tools or develop the respect for what they borrow, much less the need to return them to you immediately at the end of the day or when they are done with them and not just leave them laying around. That respect comes with spending their own money on them instead of going out to eat every day or making "friends" with the person that shares their tools. Why should you invest in tools if others don’t also, you don’t make any more money than they do. If someone needs to borrow something for a moment, either suggest the other options or make sure it’s only for a moment. If it’s not returned promptly, get it back and don’t loan to them again. If such people make it a constant borrowing, tell them they need to get their own because you need your tools and they should get their own anyway, than direct them to the boss for future loans. Again, you seem to be able to budget for personal tools, why shouldn't they? It’s a nasty habit of keeping an open tool box for anyone to grab stuff from. Don’t get into it or you will quickly notice missing or broken things that will be a constant drain on your budget.

Things I think are very important and needed right away would have a (*) preceding it. Otherwise, it’s more of the starting tools most people have when working on professional calls or at shops and thus what eventually you will probably be buying anyway if this is to become your career or pastime. (***) Preceding items are officially and specifically required at the lighting company I work at and others I have worked for and (**) are Items that were suggested on another forum as normal lighting tools.

In the tool case I would put the following in it depending on what I was expecting to be doing: (Most people don’t try to pack both electrics and carpentry tools in the same bag for calls and that's the normal use for a tool bag as opposed to a tool box. Depends upon what type of job you are trying to do, what tools you put in it. Now you will be needing to learn both fields, but after the basic set of tools for both plus some for other fields, you really need to start focusing on one area.)

[Tools used for Both fields:]
-16oz or 22oz hammer (depending upon if you expect to be a electrician or carpenter. Carpenters hammering large nails need the larger hammer, but they also frequently need the smaller one for finish nails. Hammers are usually provided by the shop anyway so you don’t absolutely need one right away. However if you plan to be using one all day long, get used to one weight and brand/style or if you switch you will get blisters. They all have different handles and feels to them.)
***-8" C-Wrench/Crescent Wrench (It’s the standard I was taught at school and it’s specifically the size required in the shop I work at. If not a most of them)
But that’s a debate for another day. What ever you buy, get a good quality brand such as Klien or Craftsman, it’s warrantied and will last a lot longer. Other’s don’t have straight jaws, don’t keep their position and or just fall apart or seize up with time. There are some good quality 6" extra wide jaw C-Wrenches available by mail order out there, but I’m still sold on the proper leverage of a 8" wrench. The debate goes on. Standard 6" wrenches don’t have wide enough jaws to fit a lot of what you work on and are not heavy duty enough to un-stuck bolts. Insulated handle wrenches are comfortable to use all day long and give just a bit of added protection against shorts. Always put the large size into the direction you are turning. It keeps the jaws from opening up and stripping the bolt.)
*-Wrench lanyard (Kind of like a phone cord with hooks or rings and necessary for all tools used overhead in the industry.)
**-Sharpee, Pen and Carpenter’s Pencil (You should provide these unless in school or work provides them. An innitial set of all of them with other things such as paint markers normal pencils and other things should be your purchase as replaced by the shop as needed.)
**-AA Mag Light, Extra Batteries & Pouch (Don’t forget the extra batteries. Many shops will furnash replacements but don't depend upon it. Unfortunately re-chargable batteries don't have as long of a chage to them so they are not that useful.)
*-Leathermen (That is what ever brand of multi-tool you buy. I have a Super Leathermen but lots of people like the Wave. Were I buying, I would probably go with a Xcelite/Cooper ToolZall Electricians Pro, it has wire strippers which could be handy on a ladder in addition to the more normal features.)
- A small pair of Forceps or Tweezers (for pulling slivers and getting small parts.)
*-Electrician’s Scissors (Cuts anything including patterns.) This tool is usually not mentioned as a needed tool but in my opinion is one of the most important to buy. Klien electrician scissors are the standard and extremely useful. Use mine every day for all sorts of things.
*-Backstage Handbook (Too many useful formulas not to have. Also plenty of room for your own notes.)
***-10 in One screw driver having all the basic screw driver bits on it. (I don’t own one but most new people get one) This is the cheaper alternative than buying four or many more individual screw drivers and will fulfill most needs in the immediate future.
There is a difference between cabinet tip and normal or square shank screw drivers. Normal bladed screw drivers have a bit more steel at the blade and are thus perhaps a bit stronger, plus with a square shank at least on the 1/4 or 5/16" flat head, you are able to grab it with a C-Wrench for extra leverage. The cabinet tip of the same size however is also needed because it will allow you to get into small places such as the slot of a lamp base on a 2Kw Fresnel. Don’t buy stubby tools initially, they are not much more useful than right angle screw drivers in ease of use or other than occasional need.
*-7" Wonder Bar II (Small, Portable but really useful.)
***-9" Linesmen’s Pliers (Anything smaller isn’t going to give enough leverage or be able to cut up to a 1/4" bolt or 12/3 SO cable without much difficulty. Plus, unofficially they have about the perfect weight to be a good hammer in a pinch.) Standard Slip Joint pliers are okay for home owners but not very useful in the theater. I don’t even own a pair. Never needed them, there are a lot more tools that will do the same job better.
**-10" Curved Jaw Vise Grips (Needed for gripping things round and flat.)
***-Diagonal Wire Cutters - Dikes (Get Hardened Steel ones for cutting about anything including staples much less for staying sharp with use.) Always look at your tool when you buy it. Does it’s blade touch and match up along the entire length of the blade or is it at a slight angle. Is there any play at the hinge and even though smaller dikes are seemingly more comfortable, will they allow you to cut say a 12/3 cable without a lot of effort, much less are the blades large enough to open that far?
***-16 to 32pc 3/8" Drive Socket Set (6pt. Deep Throat if there needs to be a choice) One socket is about as good as another, but make sure that the ratchet has a warranty, you will probably eventually break it. 6point Sockets have less chance of stripping bolts.
**-Folding Allen Wrench Set (Anything from adjusting tools to fixtures, Can be and eventually will be a normal individual “L” Allen set, but it's lots easier to loose individual pieces. Also you will eventually be needing a metric set.)
***-Leather Work/Rope Pulling Gloves (They should have a tight fit and a draw string or snap. Never wear gloves while using a power tool. They can get caught and suck your hand in as opposed to possibly getting cut by the blade but being able to get your hand away. Getting a sliver is small compared to getting your glove sucked into a saw blade.) Two pair of gloves is also a good idea. One for pushing gear and handling new or oily steel than another for rigging or focusing lights.
**-25' Tape Measure (I usually carry a 16' with me and have a 30' in the box. Fluorescent colors are good)
*-Liquid Bandaid, Aspren & Bandages (Usually provided... let’s see... somewhere around here. - Bring your own.)
***-5/16" Allen T-Handle (Coffin Lock & Road Box Key)
***-Retractable Blade Utility Knife with both straight and hook blades (I like the ones with the quick release buttons. The hook knife blade is a much better blade to use when de-looming/taping cable.)

*-7" Tapered Nose Conduit Pliers (incredibly useful all around especially for fixture strain reliefs and conduit nuts, needle nose in a pinch, bolt holder, pipe holder etc.)
**-12" Channel Locks (Lets you grab big stuff)
***-Calculator style multi-meter if not Amp Probe (A clamp style multi-meter is a bit more money but if you plan to make a living at this, you will be needing to verify your power loading in addition to more normal things. Otherwise just get a small calculator like portable one. Most people just buy a normal meter, but eventually also need the clamp style, and one of better more accurate quality such as a True RMS meter. Might as well if making an investment in one, get one that does it all. Don’t let them get cold in the winter, the electronics freeze especially on cheap meters.)
***-Wire Strippers - Spring Activated (not a multi crimp/strip tool with only one specific exception) You can get more work done and easier with a good pair than a pair that tries to do everything. It’s also more comfortable to use and will do a better job of stripping wire.
**-Double Jaw Crimp Tool (This is the proper crimp tool once the front cutters are chopped off.) Other more normal crimpers or multi-tools won’t have a good crimping surface or provide enough leverage to give a proper crimp. Don’t believe me, try screwing something you crimp with your normal amount of pressure to a wall and tugging on it.
**-5/8"/3/4" Ratcheting Box Wrench (Speed Wrench for ½" Clamp bolts & Clamp 1/2" Set Screws. Avoid offset wrenches, they don’t fit into tight yokes as well.) Offset ratcheting box wrenches are needed for carpentry however because the straight types will mar the surface as they tighten the bolt.
**-Power Sniffer (Very useful in tracking down problems or verifying a circuit is safe.) Invest in a good quality one, your life is on the line and you want it to be a quality tool protecting it.

*-Safety Glasses & Ear Plugs (Usually provided but you should own your own.) Invest in a glasses lanyard to put around the glasses so when you take them off they are still with you. Less chance of getting them broken or later not using them because you are too lazy to go track them down for a quick cut. Ear plugs are also best with at least a lanyard if not a head band so they are removable and you don’t dirty them with your fingers when having to put them in. The better ones are also available in the 20db range for more protection.
*-Nail Set (Very important to have in your pocket for nails and staples.) There are many types of punches and cold chisels that are useful but a standard nail set is what’s most needed.

Above that, I usually have: (Depending upon what I’m doing Carpentry or Electrics)

*-Light Weight Tool belt with mountain climbing type Chalk or zippered lens Pouch for screws or parts (Could be a simple carpenter’s belt or just a light belt with a few specific latching pouches on it. A light weight pouch is useful because of it’s light weight and lack of bulk. True carpenter's aprons get really hot and heavy on a hot day. In any case this will save your pants from it’s pockets being chewed up by a tape measure and a C-Wrench.)
**-Electrical Tape (Provided, but you should also have a roll in as many colors as you can anyway.)
-3/8" Drive 15/16" Deep Throat Socket (Cheeseborough Socket)
-Carpenter’s Calculator & 6" Scale Ruler (Very Useful when working off plans)
-1/4" to 9/16" Nut Driver Set (Good for Electrics & Rigging.) 1/4", 5/16", 11/32", 7/16" and ½" are the normal ones, but 9/16" is good for 3/8" bolts too.
**-Box Wrench Set with sizes from 1/4" to at least 3/4" (also a metric one eventually)
*-100' Tape Measure if not provided, Useful in laying out the stage & hanging points. It should be provided by most shops but if you are on a stage, it might not be.

-14" Pipe Wrench (Usually provided but sometimes you cannot find it.)
-Gam Check (Very Expensive test tool, but worth it.)
-Pin Splitter (Two styles available, one for 20 and 60amp & one for 20amp and cleaning.)
-Palm Lynx (Micro Mini Light Board for doing a lot of stuff, about the size of a wallet, but very expensive.)
-Duck Bill Pliers (Stronger than needle nose but tapered and with a wider jaw.)
-DMX tester and various terminators and DMX/XLR adaptors.
**-Needle Nose Pliers (Good for Staples, but your Leathermen will do in a pinch.)
*-Cordless Screw Driver. A good one will be 3.6v, Have removable battery packs, (buy an extra one,) a blade lock, trigger lock and locking quick release for the bits. Plus a angled handle is more ergonomic. Also having dual speed is nice in having a choice between high and low gear with lots of clutch settings. The best ones are from Panasonic and Milwaukee - both made by Panasonic. They cost at least three times that of a normal cordless screw driver but will provide constant - all day power and have more torque and other features than a $30.00 one. Normal Cordless tools are just not worth the dollars you save on them. Another option would be to go with the slightly more heavy 7.2v DeWalt cordless screw dirver/drill. It’s not much of a drill but would provide a good cordless screw driver.

-Chalk Line (Make sure it’s full and blue is about the standard color, makes a good plumb bob also.)
-1/4" thick Speed Square (for use as a saw guide, 12" is a good size. Smaller than 1/4" thick and your saw will jump over it.)
-Long thin blade 3/16" cabinet tipped Flat Head Screwdriver for use in adjusting tools especially changing the blades on older styles of jiggsaws.
-Combination Square (For layout and scribing. Much more accurate and easy to use than a speed square. Most have levels in them, Don’t let them freeze.)
-12" Magnetic Torpedo Level (Small but very handy - magnetic so it can stick to rigging or metal frames. Remember, it’s water. Don’t let it freeze. Might be treated for low temps but why chance it?)
-C-7 Falcos/Wire Rope Cutters (For rigging work, very useful to just have your own.)
-Large Wood Chisel/Paint Scraper (Using a chisel is bad for general work, I have a reinforced Wagner Power Scaper with original style wooden handle that’s been heavily reinforced for hammering on it. It’s knife sharp for doing things like cutting foam and strong enough to act as a nailing plate, chisel and scaper. Plus it cuts small nails and staples like a pay bar. Easy to grind a new tip on it as opposed to on a chisel.)
-1" Soft Putty Knife (Good for removing shipping tags and applying materials. Get your own soft one because most shops just buy what ever is cheapest.)
-Metal Scribes and De-Burring Tool (For use in metal working and removing little burrs in material.)
-Wood Rasp or Surform Tool, Bastard and fine/oval files (Good for finishing work)
**-Parachute bag of misc. Drywall Screws, Plugs and Fasteners. (Frequently you need one or two more or a size not stocked.) Also adaptors.
-Filtered Face Mask. (Have to protect your own health because what is normally provided is not very expensive or good in protection. Plus if it is good quality but from the shop, when is the last time the filters were changed. Plus wearing other people’s masks is a good way of sharing any colds they get.)
-Small knife sharpening tool. (You don’t need any fancy wet stone that takes a lot of time and care. Most stores sell a little tool with blade guard you swipe across the blade. They work really well and are easy to use.)
-Chisel Set. I don’t recommend buying your own unless the shop you work at will pay to have them re-sharpened for you. Once they get dull they won’t work so you might as well either not use them or use the shop ones given they maintain them.

As for my drill, it lives in a shoulder holster with a secondary bit holder pouch on the strap for some common Drill Bits, a #6 Countersink bit, a few extra assorted Philips, Flat Head and Square Drive Bits, a Locking/Magnetic bit holder, Step Drill Bit, and locking 3/8" Drive socket adaptor.
In addition to that I will have two to three batteries, a charger and usually a 64 bit drill index and some metal cutting countersink bits. I use a shoulder holster because hanging your drill off your belt gets in the way and really starts to weigh it down. I also have a clip on lanyard on my drill for use overhead. It clips directly to the holster so it’s out of the way and is much more heavy duty than a belt loop. Rather not consider dropping it and breaking it verses falling myself while on a ladder and in the moment, but saving the tool. Most shops will provide you with a screw gun that is at least adequate. Eventually you will buy one, but get basic hand tools first and study what you other people use and like or dislike about their tools. A good one is a major investment anyway, don’t skimp on cost.

After that, think the first tool I bought was a Super Sawzall, than a industrial quality Jigsaw, a Worm Drive Skill Saw, than Medium Router...etc to the point I now have more or better powertools than most shops I work at. I own about 8 drills, 4 types of power saws, three types of router and three sanders alone. But that's me and I get paid extra for the tools and skill I bring with me.

But that’s me and I usually am expected to travel heavy, and these tools would be traveling very light for me. Usually my road box goes to the install.

Don’t just put colored tape on your tools, it falls off. Scribe your name into them, and spray paint or at least paint marker your colors. The more you invest in a tool, the more it’s going to stick in your head not to leave it laying around or who borrowed it, and thus the less tools you will loose when you close up and lock your tool box. Buy tools not only by price, but more importantly by their ergodynamics and quality. If your Philips Screw Driver strips out after normal use in a year, how much real value was it to you especially towards the end of it’s life when it’s difficult to drive screws with, but you are not ready to replace it? Consider what the tool would be like to use it all day for 8 hours straight. Is some hard plastic handle with sharp corners really going to be comfortable? Why buy something cheap that’s going to last you a few months inadiquately when you will only have to replace it eventually anyway? Even if this is not to become your career, a good tool will last you a long time around the house for fixing stuff. Also, you get what you pay for.

Anyone interested, about two years ago I started keeping a list of at least the electrical supplies in my road box or tools I special ordered for other people from $450.00 multi-pin crimp tools to Forceps. How much the bulk of the tools cost as priced out amongst a lot of sources and what specific tool type and part numbers are highly recommended and considered the best in quality. Granted some of the prices might be old and a few others specific to company employees but it would in general give some good sources. Otherwise, most of the sources would be posted on my working list of links you could surf for prices and tools.

One final note would be that if your crew pool together your wish list into one big order, you can have the TD or one of your dad’s walk into a contractor or electrical supply store and see what they can do for all of you on a large order. (Sorry but most contractor supply stores won't give you much of the time of day in discount or consideration while young.) You are also going to be assured of getting quality tools at such places. For instance at work we have somewhere over 50 tech people. I was tasked with pricing out various clamp meters for them to be bought in bulk. Amongst the six best in price with their own features the tech people will be able to choose. When I get between 5 and 10 people per type of meter, I’ll place the order on it. Usually it’s like $25 off when you buy over 10 at a time of a meter usually selling at like $150.00. Otherwise, I was able to find decent meters for about $50.00 when bought in quantities over 5.
Same with tools, the more you buy or the larger an account your school or pop has with the company, the more you save.
That and Sears usually has packages of Klien electrician’s starter tool sets at a good price. McMaster Carr a mail order company is another really good source for reasonable priced quality tools.

Also Grainger has a good sale on this month on all sorts of tools.
tools tools and more tools

Another handy book to throw in a toolbox is a pocket reference. The new release is great. It is small, and has just about everything there is to know about everything. Not just theatre stuff, so it can even help you win silly bets.

I would also recommend if one chooses the path of carpentry, to eventually buy your own saws. When I was still an active carpenter I kept in my truck's toolbox: a circ saw, a jig saw, a router, and a sawzall.
Shops generally stock these, but most of the time they are abused and neglected. It is nice Knowing that you have a well cared for tool with a new blade waiting to be used when you are asked to spend a week cutting plywood into a faux rock floor.

Another thing to consider is a corded drill. Cordless drills are great for driving screws and an occasional hole drilling. But sometimes you just need the shear power and stamina of the real mcCoy.

Ship... I noticed that you had some rather uncommon tools listed.. like the 7" Wonder Bar II...

Would you wouldn't mind editing your post to include links to descriptions of the tools... because, until I looked it up.. I had not idea what a wonder bar was...
I just spent the night re-configuring my tool list in preperation for re-quoting it out for this year's prices and helping my co-workers get some toys as bonus checks just came in for the year. Tool lists are on the mind and there is a lot of price checking to do.

I thought I was editing my posting by not adding more info on them and excluding tools that are really job specific such as a: Weller #EC1002, Soldering Iron & Base Station, Ergonomic Pin & Stand. 60w, Calibrated Electronic Variable Temperature Control, Tip is Voltage & Field Protected, 350-850°F. as it appears on my pricing list or work table.

As for links, in an earlier posting, I listed a lot of tool supplier links, like Klien, DeWalt and others. That's the next round of links I'm working on for my tables of data - links to companies like The Stanley Works co. or Comtrex. But that might be a bit of time because there is a lot of them to track down.

What you don't know what a Wonder Bar is? That means you have not studied your Backstage Handbook much less you were sleeping in stage craft class. It's a pry bar. My Bust, I thought such a trade name was more or less standard. Recently I found the 7" version of it is very easy to put in my tool belt and have when I need it even for a job in lighting. Lost my regular Wonder Bar somewhere and have not needed to replace it. Besides there is that memory of me being inside a confined attic space once, hitting the Wonder Bar and having it become a spring sending the straight Claw Hammer into my Forehead... Bad memory, and perhaps thats why I write so much that claw hammer labotamy.
Here is something I found on Stagecraft this morning that seems to confirm many of my ideas about dikes and other tools:

Message Number: 15
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2003 11:07:38 -0800 (PST)
From: June Abernathy <[email protected]>
Subject: AME Tools

There have been a lot of great suggestions on the
list. I agree that the theater should supply tools,
but my experience is Summer Stock tells me not to
count on it. On the other hand, Summer Stock AME's
don't generally make a world shattering amount of
money, so you have to decide what you don't have
already that you really NEED to buy. And, it's
probably best to bring what you need, just because
getting to the store is not always easy once you get
there, even if you have the cash. Asking your new boss
is always a good first step. Find out, if you can,
what kind of connectors are primarily used in the
theater. Stagepin? Twistlock? Edison?

I'd say, check out these lists in terms of what you
already own, and supplement as time and budget allow.
For instance, if you don't own a meter, don't know how
to use one, and would basically spend your whole
budget buying one, don't. But you might want to make a
point of learning to use one over the Summer, if your
theater or your boss has one, so you'll know what kind
of a thing you may want to buy in the future. I'd let
the theater be responsible for expendibles like
electrical tape.

So, my list. For a basic electrician:

1) An 8" adjustable crescent wrench
I use a wide jaw, which basically means that I never
need a 10" wrench, which is a pain to carry in a
pocket, seldom needed, and gives you WAY too much
potential for overtorquing anyway. A lot of people
carry 6" wrenches. It's not a bad idea for a second
wrench, and if you get one, I'd go for the wide mouth
model. For me, it doesn't let me get enough torque to
UNdo some of the evil nuts I encounter. For a big
strong guy, it might.

(I carry extra wrenches for forgetful locals, which
you kind of have to, on the road. Even at home, I usedto have a bag of extra wrenches that I would rent out
at $5 a day to people who forgot theirs. Not a bad
idea for Summer Stock, IMO.)

2) A flashlight.
One you can carry on your belt. The AA Maglight is the
all time workhorse of the industry, and at $10, it's
affordable. High power flashlights are nice, if you
can afford them (and their batteries). A headlamp is
often very nice to have.

3) A multitool
Not to start the whole debate, find one that fits your
hand and is easy to use. I prefer one with needlenose
pliers for electrical work. A built in wire cutter is
good. Screwdriver blades are good. Little scissors are

4) A knife
I know, you can use the multitool. But it's a pain to
get to, and I prefer an easy single or double locking
blade in my pocket for cutting tie line or stubborn
tape, or a quick strip on a cable jacket. One you can
open one handed is extra good.

5) Gloves.
Gloves that can protect your hands from a hot lamp or
hot gobo, but have enough touch to let you focus a
lamp with them on. You may want a separate pair of
fingerless gloves.

IMO, the above five are the very basics. Don't leave
home without them, buy if you don't have kind of
items. As an electrician, you might also want:

6) Diagonal cutters ("dikes")
Wire cutters. Also, the safer way to strip cable
jackets. THE tool for cutting wire ties. I'd recommend
6" or 8" models. Another tiny pair for small work is
always good too.

7) Strippers/crimpers.
Get a pair that will deal with 10, 12, 14, 16 gauge
cables. The kind that let you cut off small screws are
nice, but the higher end kind will last you longer.You may want a good stripper and a separate crimper.

8) A "speed wrench". A ratcheting box ended wrench
with 3/4" and 1/2" ends. Reversing is good. An actual
"lightspeed wrench" (from various theatrical vendors)
is basically an offset version of this, with a 12
point star on the 1/2" end for better grip on square
bolts, and a 3/8" gear on the back of the smaller end
for dealing with the little pan nuts.

9) A pin splitter.
If you are using stagepin cable. Yes, you can use a
knife for this, but it isn't particularly safe, and
it's bad for the knife. Also, pin splitters generally
have a wire brush for cleaning gak off the pins.

10) A test light.
Make your own, or buy a Gam Jr. ($30), which is a
commercial version witht the indicator lamps
mercifully built in, so it's easy to jam in a pocket,
and you don't end up with a toolbag full of broken
glass. A full blown GamCheck is an excellent device,
if you can afford it ($100). It checks not only power
but continuity, in both lamps and cables. But, it's
expensive and bulky to carry.

11) A screwdriver with multiple bits.
An electric screwdriver is often a great thing to have
handy as well. A set of precision "jewelers"
screwdrivers is often VERY useful.

12) A 25' tape measure. A 100' tape is nice too.

13) Sharpies (black, particularly), and white paint

14) A pen type "volt stick" tester to see if power is

15) A chalk bag, fanny pack, or some other kind of
little pouch to carry stuff in, that you can cinch up
or close if you climb.

16) A meter which will check (at least) voltage and
continuity. I think simpler is better as meters go,particularly when you are just starting out.

17) A decent tool bag/box to carry all this in. I'd go
for one you can lock, even if it's a luggage lock
through the zipper of a bag.

Along these lines, MARK EVERYTHING. With your name, in
sharpie at least. With obnoxious colored tape.Engrave
them if you have the ability. Try not to lend your own
tools out, and keep track of them if you do. Don't let
your tool bag become the company tools.

You'll decide what tools you need, and what tools you
like as you go along. Keep an open mind, don't miss an
opportunity to learn something new, and have fun.

June Abernathy
FOH Electrician
Beauty & the Beast 2000
Along the lines of marking tools, has anyone tried that tool dip stuff? The stuff I am thinking about is a kind of liquid rubber that comes in a handful of different colors. I think it's original purpose was to replace rubber grips that might have fallen off over the years.
Dip-It didn't work well for me either time I tried it on tools at least. Rubbed off too easily with use when new and I waited too long the second time and it dried up. But one of my friends swares by it. I do know it works well should you need to sort of vulconize some electrical components given the heat and pressure are not there.
One idea that I didn't try with it that might work it to apply some epoxy to the tool first and let it set up or at least scuff up the tool so the Dip-It has some tooth to stick to. The epoxy would have to be tested also to see if it even sticks to the steel well however.
How about using JB weld to write your initials. I keep look ing for a new way to label my tools. I tried pray painting, but then someone showed up with the same color. i tried two colors and found someone with the same scheme. i tried tape, but it just rubbed off and left the adhesive. i tried three colors and now my tools look like crap. I have replaced most, but keep them under lock and key until I can find some reliable way to identify. Engraving should be great, but it is impossible to tell if your tool is walking from across a theatre.
Isn't that going to crap up your tool?
I agree a good visible marking for them is really needed. I used to do a blue 1/4" paint marker stripe in addition to engraving. Wears off with time and use.
I feel your pain, even with my threat of death most employees would seriously consider when swiping my tools, they still walk occasionally. Luckily, the shop when I twist my bosses arm replaces them. By the way, if a newbee shows up with your color, make them change it.

Hmm. JB Weld. Last time I used it, I was attaching some coffee cans to some very short PAR 56 track light fixtures. Worked really well. Think you would need to take off or rough up the chrome coating on most of your tools for it to stick however and that would lead to rust. Let me know how well it works. I have an emergency tube sitting around without a use I might be interested in doing something with also.

Along the same lines, you could take a blow torch to part of your tools and tin part of them. Perhaps even add some color to it. But than again that might have adverse effects on tool strength. At least you might be able to melt a part of the plastic handle that's not used with say a sodering iron or poke a hole in it as a graphic marking.

For company tools, I have been using mylor labels with weatherstrip adhesive around them, than coating them with adhesive lined heat shrink. Works for a while at least inside a bag of truss bolts at least.

For the most part however, I don't have a lot of worries at work. My tools are for the most part out of the price range of most newer employees so them using such tools would be suspect. Plus, I don't buy the normal store bought tools, for instance I use a Klien square shaft screw driver, most people don't know about using a wrench with it and even if Klien, they get the round ones. My Philips has the wire bending post on it in another instance.
I always keep mine in a toolbox and I keep an eye on it. I have never bothered marking my tools but I also keep a good watch on them. You just have to get in the habbit of taking somthing out and closing up ur box or at least make it seem as thought its closed so that somone has to go out of thier way to take them. Oh and as for gloves and bags check out I know lots of people who swear by them, I don't personaly own anything from them but I was planning on ordering some gloves.
The only way I could keep a close eye on my tools is if I carried my tool box everywhere. I generally leave them in my storage area, the booth, or my office, but even still I don't want to throw a lock on it, because that will slow me down. And 99% of the people I work with are honest and borrow a tool with every intention of returning them and since I am a year round employee with a full staff and almost no turn around I can track down something a couple days later, but still it would be nice to be able to see something and say hey are you planning on returning my meter someday soon or should I pick out the one you can buy me to replace it.
>>As for my drill, it lives in a shoulder holster with a secondary bit holder >>pouch on the strap for some common Drill Bits,

Where did you get a shoulder holster?? I'd really like to invest in one. I work housing construction as well (gonna major in construction management) and own a DeWalt 18V XRP. For those who are looking for drills...I would not reccommend this unless you are sure it's going to get alot of use and you are already very skilled in cordless drilll use. A 12v is better as a beginning cordless drill, with an equal balance of weight and power. Most of my friends dont like ym 18v becuase its too heavy...I dont mind it though. Anywhom where can I get a shoulder holster?
Shoulder Holster

"Where did you get a shoulder holster?? DeWalt 18V XRP. ...I would not reccommend this . A 12v is better ?"

I agree on the 18v and especially for you the shoulder holster would be helpful because a belt holster would not work with a 18v very well. I like the 14.4v gun for a balance between power and battery life when on site. But for shop use of a 12v gun is the best option.

The holster is from Deluth Trading Company and it's a good quality leather. You will probably have to cut away a little from the bottom of the holster because it won't fit a 1/2" chuck otherwise if that's your chuck size. My 14.4v is as I said a pistol grip not a T-Handle. It's weighting is right for the holster I have and I don't need any of the other straps to make it sit right. Don't remember if there was a T-Handle version of the holster available but with most holsters there is a difference in style due to differing balance points.

Don't forget the safety lanyard - saves a lot of money when it's possible to drop them at a height.

I would also advise getting a magnetic locking bit holder. I know Black & Decker/Dewalt makes one, and there is another company that makes a similar one - something like AMEC or ILCOs in just being letters not a name. Such things are about 2" to 3" long and 1/2" in outer diameter and you push or pull on the locking ring to remove the bit depending upon the brand. This way, you can lock down the bit holder into the chuck so it won't come loose and can still with one hand remove and change bits.

I also have a 1/4" drive to 3/8" socket adaptor with a Klien quick release socket bit holder on it for use with my drill. The Klien thing grips sockets well enough that you cannot pull them off without sliding the quick release.

With these two ood way of not loosing bits when walking around the jobsite, or needing to ratchet down on them each time you change a bit.
What type brand name power tools would you recommend.

What type brand name power tools would you recommend. I have seen three shops slowly convert from makitas to dewalts. The transistion was helped by our Dewalt Super Chargers ability to handle batteries from Milwaukee, Makita, etc...

But what kind of large saws are you all using?

Currently we have a Sears craftsman radial arm that has been nothing but reliable. A Delta Rockwell Table saw that is starting to wear away, and a Makita compound miter saw. We have recently attained a 3/4 " floor stand drill press from our schools wood shop, but have not found a place for it yet.

What Brands have proven or not proven themselves?
Re: What type brand name power tools would you recommend.

What type brand name power tools would you recommend. I have seen three shops slowly convert from makitas to dewalts. The transistion was helped by our Dewalt Super Chargers ability to handle batteries from Milwaukee, Makita, etc...

I personally prefer Dewalt cordless drills/drivers, my family or myself own a 12v and an 18v xrp and I have gotten flawless performance for each. However, in my school tech shop we use 14.4 v and 12.v Makita cordless drills, and these work just as well. I hvae seen these wear out, but I dont know if it was because they get heavy and abusive use for several hours almost everyday (and mine is lovingly cared for).

But what kind of large saws are you all using?

We use two different large saws...we've got a delta tablesaw with an extension that allows us to rip pieces as wide as 4' 6", and I love this saw. I'd take it home with me if it fit in my car. We also use a makita 12" compound miter saw with a 2 foot slide. Also a wonderful tool, but very expensive. If you are in the market for a miter saw, and dont want to spend $500+, I would highly reccommend a delta. At work (I am a crew leader for habitat for humanity orange county, nc) we use delta 10" miter saws, they are both hardworking and dependable, and last well, not to mention inexpensive. You can get one for under $100 at your local lowes, homedepot. I think the price for a delta 10" compound miter saw (bevels and miters) is $89. A supurb price for a wonderful tool!

What Brands have proven or not proven themselves

IN short, I reccommend dewalt or makita for drills, and delta or makita for saws.
Hope this help!
I am not going to even touch the cordless drill issue if you want to see my opinion on that one go to the carpentry forums and the heading cordless drills.
As for big saws I have always loved Delta, preferably the more expensive models.
As for names that have disappointed me. Mostly Master Carps and TD's that don't regularly maintain their tools. And I can name a handful, but won't. Usually any moderate priced power tool that is taken care of and loved will last and prove worth the investment.
Of the things to remember in taking care of a tool.

****Never use a power tool for something that it is not intended for****
and this includes trying to cut to hard of a wood, too big of a piece of wood. Always make sure that the saw is intended for the cutting you are doing. And make sure that the blade that is on the saw is intended for the material you are cutting.

Replace or sharpen the blade regularly.

Keep the tool clean and lubricated.

I am also a big fan of JET tools and Bosch.
My gosh!, JoJo we are coming to a working arrangement in views. I agree with regular maintenance on your tools. As a scene shop carpenter, I used to send my cordless drill in for maintenance twice a year and service the rest of the tools once a year. I could fix many of them, but for the most part it was worth the money to have them factory maintained. On big power tools, once a year on service and once a week on cleaning and surfacing. I also sent the pneumatics in once a year for a good maintenance call. Used to use Butcher’s wax on the surfaces of the power tools, but I found “Top Coat” a spray lube and it’s by far better. Again, once a week on the most used tools and once a month that coating on things like jigsaws plentiums and router bases.

Radio Arm Saws only work well with a specifically designed Radio Arm Saw Blade or Dado blade. It’s amazing what the proper saw blade will do for the tool. Had a Craftsman Radio Arm Saw, under powered, but once I put that blade in it, it worked fine. I have never found a radio arm saw yet that works well as designed with a normal saw blade. That said, the Radio Arm Saw is tremendously useful as a tool as long as you have the proper blade in it and it’s wire roped and turn buckled and locked into the proper 90° angle. Much easier to make a cutting jig for it to cut angles than to try to move it’s angle and get it back aligned. That being an exception for the large industrial 12" models that are by nature expensive and accurate.

Besmier stop block fences for all chop and arm saws makes life easy.

As for brands, I’m sold on DeWalt cordless tools and grinders, Bosch medium routers, Roto Zips, Jigsaws, and Medium Sanders. Porter Cable Large Sanders, Random Orbital Sanders, Laminate Trimmers and large Routers. Skil Worm Drive Circular Saws. Milwaukee Sawzalls and Corded Drills. And Delta for my major power tools including drill presses and table saws. Jet being the close runner up especially with Grinders. On a grinder, get over ½ hp and 8" or at least compare actual amperage as opposed to HP because the Delta 8" suckes.

On table Saws, I have just about always used Jet or Delta. Contractor I, Contractor II or the Industrial for Delta. Doesn’t matter if you have a Uni-Fence or better yet Beismaster (sp) fence, as long as you have one or the other, your saw will work well. Sure on the lesser models, you can’t feed them as easily but they preform well easily and accurately. As long as you have a good fence and guard on them. I Like the custom set ups with the special order safety lever safety systems that gets the guard out of the way when needed. For saw blades, I like my Wizard blade for cost verses ability in cutting. But I’ll also buy a good blade (over $60.00) and have it sharpened. Right blade for the right job. “Trade a Blade carbides” are usually not bad blades you can get if you don’t mind replacing them a few times a year. It’s all in the kurf and tear out.

On chop saws, DeWalt for me is the king. Black&Decker makes the exact same model for their industrial line. They do after all own DeWalt. On other saws, they all I’m sure are fine, but I have always liked the DeWalt. Must be 12" what ever the chop saw/power miter box. 10" saws are not worth the effort. Again the proper and sharp blades for what you are doing.
I personally prefer compound miter boxes to compound sliding miter boxes that fill the gap between radio arm saws and miter boxes. I just don’t like the action of both sliding and chopping with the same tool. Have one where I currently work, it scares me. I don’t like the action. What happens if your hands are not placed right and should that blade decide to go walking up the lumber. With a chop saw, it’s downward motion only. With a radio arm saw, it’s linear motion only. With the compound miter box, it’s both that will chop off limbs.

On Drill Presses, it’s a question of how much power and gears you want and a discussion of itself. I just bought a Delta model, but there was stiff competition.

One note on the Uni-Fence or other table saw system. That side table makes a really good and accurate router table top and you get to use the Uni-Fence to guide your lumber into it.
Yeah Ship it is always hard to agree on artistic issues, and from different experiences different opinions can arise. But taking care of equipment and tools is just a must.

That being said...

I just want to give a shout out for the Bosch routers. It has been a couple of years since I was active in a scene shop, but they were top notch in their price line when I was still a carp.

And just another bit of advice a saw is only as good as the blade that is in it. The same with drills and drill presses with bits. Screwguns and their bits. Routers and their bits, ....

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