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I did a bit of electrical wiring on a small trailer (shocking, I know...) and I'm looking for advice on hand tools. As I look at the various hand tools that I might use, there are several brands that I see, for example, at Lowe’s and online, and I see other guys using. I have a complete set of Craftsman screwdrivers, and a real mish-mash of pliers, side cutters, and some of the basic tools that one would want in a nicely-equipped home workshop.

Do you have a recommended brand to invest in, for things commonly used by electricians (like screwdrivers, nut drivers, crimper/stripper, wire cutters, continuity tester)? I see a couple of brands commonly stocked at Lowe's and the local electric supply house, etc., but I don't know if that's the best way to go. The big-box stores tend to stock products from manufacturers they have deals with, not necessarily the best products (quality, effectiveness, etc.).

Also, is there a brand recommendation for electrical fasteners? Things I might use for making splices (“butt connectors”), a quality soldering iron, and so on. I bought some connectors at Radio Shack and a soldering iron at Lowe’s. They did the job.

I’d rather buy a quality tool once than buy a cheaper tool first, only to discover later how it doesn’t work well and then buy the right tool.

Thanks.
 

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I have used Craftsman tools from Sears for many years and have been satisfied. These days, of course, I keep look for that "Made in USA" mark. I absolutely will not buy tools made in China; the quality is just not there.

For soldering irons, I've always had Weller temp-controlled, though a good 25 watt pencil will be serviceable. It's been almost 20 years since I bought any soldering equipment, so I'm not up on whether or not Weller is still good stuff.

For a Volt-Ohm meter, an investment would be something like a Fluke, though the inexpensive items from Radio Shack or Lowes will be serviceable for measuring voltage and ohms to see if there "is some" and roughly how much. :)

For connectors, I go to my local independent electronics store and look for tinned copper connectors. I think he's stocking his own brand called Jim-Pack these days; I believe it is off-shore origin, but I haven't had complaints. The stuff at Lowes isn't bad. If you have a marine store nearby they may have quality items as well. I don't use crimp connectors, preferring soldering and heat shrink tubing.

Tom
 

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12R12RT said:
---------------------------snipped--------------------------- I don't use crimp connectors, preferring soldering and heat shrink tubing.

Tom
If you are trained and really good at soldering connections, then that is good. However, almost no one uses soldered connectors any more. Requires a lot of training and inspection on production lines, and crimped connectors have been far more reliable over the past few decades. That is assuming of course that you have GOOD connectors, and the proper crimping tools for the ones being used.

Soldered connectors require a bit of finesse, as the solder should NOT travel up the wire more than 1/16", and NEVER under the insulation. If it does, the joint will be prone to breakage under vibration. However when many try to get this right, they do not get the connector filled, or end up with a "cold" solder joint. I do not recommend soldering to anyone who has not had training or considerable experience doing it.

You will not find soldered joints on much of anything any more, even in aircraft connectors. Of course they are using absolutely the proper crimp tools, that ratchet down and will not open until the proper crimp position has been reached.
 

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I've had good success with Posi Taps for electrical connections when I use them correctly. They allow you to "experiment" and if wrong easily patch the trial and move on to a better spot. I now have an assortment of them and use the correct size.

http://www.posi-lock.com/posiplug.html

I recently used them to hook up side lights to my turn signal indicator, under the BMW Roundel and even in a tight space, they were east to use.
 

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Old Slow Guy in A Fast Car
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For the DIY kind of work Craftsman is a good way to go. Good tools at a good price. I have some that are 30+ years old & have had some of them replaced FREE at my local Sears.
 

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I pretty much use Craftsman myself. I got my first Craftsman tool kit and box for my 16th birthday. I'm 41 and I still use the same kit.. I get my "butt connectors" from Napa. The but connecters have heat shrink built into it and they work great.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the replies and info so far, guys. A couple of thoughts based on what I've seen so far:

Klein is one of the brands I see at Lowe's, and at the local independent electrical supply house where the contractors and electrician pros hang out. I don't think I'll be replacing all the screwdrivers I recently got from Sears, but if there are specific tools you need for doing crimping, cutting, etc. - tools one would use in a typical trailer lighting scenario, or doing basic electrical mods/repairs on a bike - that's what I'm looking for. Specific brand, model, etc.

Interesting comments regarding soldering, Dave, and that's good to know. Where that came into play is when we tried to put the Dauntless five-pin plug on a Bushtec wiring harness. We ended up removing it and going with the Bushtec plug, but only after several failed attempts at soldering the Dauntless plug.
 

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I have some Craftsman hand tools that I've had for years. All SAE. I had started buying a few metric tools from Lowe's. Kobalts were made in USA, but within the past year are all made in Taiwan. I have expressed my displeasure at this at Lowe's stores and the employees tell me the same thing. "I hear that from everybody that comes into the tool section." Hasn't persuaded management to stop using the imports. I know they have to be cheaper to make, but that didn't cause them to lower any prices. What's up with that?

I haven't been in Sears in a while and haven't researched Craftsman tools, so I don't know if they are still made here.
 

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Enjoy The Ride
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dshealey said:
If you are trained and really good at soldering connections, then that is good. However, almost no one uses soldered connectors any more. Requires a lot of training and inspection on production lines, and crimped connectors have been far more reliable over the past few decades. That is assuming of course that you have GOOD connectors, and the proper crimping tools for the ones being used.

Soldered connectors require a bit of finesse, as the solder should NOT travel up the wire more than 1/16", and NEVER under the insulation. If it does, the joint will be prone to breakage under vibration. However when many try to get this right, they do not get the connector filled, or end up with a "cold" solder joint. I do not recommend soldering to anyone who has not had training or considerable experience doing it.

You will not find soldered joints on much of anything any more, even in aircraft connectors. Of course they are using absolutely the proper crimp tools, that ratchet down and will not open until the proper crimp position has been reached.
Good comments Dave, On our race car wiring the only time we solder anything (which is very seldom) we pot it with epoxy past the solder so only the wire can flex.
 

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katnapinn said:
For the DIY kind of work Craftsman is a good way to go. Good tools at a good price. I have some that are 30+ years old & have had some of them replaced FREE at my local Sears.


Sears no longer replaces their old tools.

I have used all the above, you must take your time and do all with care.
 
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