We had a service call from a new electrician today, and here’s a look at his tool bag.
I spy… quite a few Milwaukee tools.
We talked a bit about tools (of course), and I was especially interested in what led the electrician to move to Milwaukee’s Packout tool storage system.
Here, they only had a Milwaukee Packout tote bag, but they also have a full stack of Packout tool boxes that gets brought out on bigger jobs such as those involving backup generator installations.
They actually first bought into the Dewalt ToughSystem tool box lineup, but after a couple of broken side latches in just a few months, they were done with Dewalt. Coincidentally, a coworker had been showing off their new Packout tool box purchase, and that pretty much won them over.
From a glance, I recognize Klein long nose pliers (or something very similar), a Milwaukee tape measure, Milwaukee screwdrivers, a Klein multi-tap tool driver, Husky ratchet (you can see the logo on the quick release button), Klein non-contact voltage detector, something else by Klein (maybe a wire stripper or diagonal cutters), and of course the Milwaukee Packout tool bag.
I’m not familiar with UEi, but that’s a UEi DL99 clamp-on multimeter.
Oh, let’s not forget the Channellock pliers tucked into a side pocket – that’s actually the first thing I noticed, despite the sea of red. There also looks to be a Milwaukee wire stripping electrical pliers in the opposite corner.
There are likely a couple of more items at the bottom of this electrician’s tool bag, but I try not to eyeball others’ tools too much, and I certainly don’t put my hands on them.
It seems that a lot of electricians have been migrating over to “team red,” and although it shouldn’t surprise me, it often does. Klein Tools used to dominate the pro electrical tool industry, and they are still extremely popular, but Milwaukee Tool is also making big waves.
Related, Milwaukee will soon be coming out with USA-made hand tools aimed at professional electricians and utility linemen. It seems that Milwaukee knows they’ve gained traction and are taking things to a new level.
Coming Soon: Milwaukee Made-in-USA Hand Tools Planned for 2021
Milwaukee takes pride in their “disruptive innovation,” and they certainly appear to be disrupting electrical hand tool traditions and trends.
Most of the tools in this kit make sense, and frankly I’d make most of the same tool and brand choices.
As for the tool bag, I should have asked the electrician if they considered adding on a half-size Packout organizer to the bottom of the Packout tote for keeping commonly-needed parts and small components close at-hand. So far, they’re still using Milwaukee’s non-Packout organizers in the truck.
For all you electricians out there, what brands of hand tools are favoring these days?
Not an electrcian, but a commercial contractor. Most the electricians on the job use Milwaukee power tools and Klein hand tools. Usually Husky bags. Has one that worked on a job that had his all Klein collection in an Occidental Leather bag…that’s what I would want.
Most of my electrical contractor buddies either buy their helpers and journeyman’s tools for their vans outright or reimburse them. Both Union and not shops.
I dunno if that’s common everywhere but that might also be why Hilti has a strong presence out here. Or just better customer service. Certainly compared to any big box in NA.
Also these guys seem to use soft bags and shoulder and/or belt pouches on site.
They also seem to all have built in van cubbies etc.
I’ve literally never noticed hard cases. Hmmm.
I dunno what our electrical subcontractors did but starting with our plumbing business (both our union subsidiary and non-union business) we bought the tools. We carried that over to out GC/Remo business, our cabinet business and our metal/pipe fabrication business. We came to think that it had advantages putting everyone sort of on the same page – preventing substandard tools from creeping into the workplace – and more easily trying-out and introducing new tools . We hoped that this would help reduce injury or poor workmanship from sketchy or worn out tools. We also thought it to be fair to our employees by not expecting them to have to purchase their own tools (unless they really wanted a $250 titanium hammer) – and keeping them out of debt to the tool truck guys (who sometimes visited our fabrication shop)
I’ve heard counter arguments that say if the job buys the tools – then lots of tools will walk off the jobsite. But with few exceptions – and usually only when we were subcontractors on big projects with lots of other contractors – we had only modest inventory loss with the guys respecting and protecting company-bought tools. We also had a pretty generous policy of allowing our employees to appropriately borrow and use company tools for at home use – but tried to keep and eye on misuse to prevent loss of business from moonlighting using company tools.
I like hearing your accounts.
My art-services business is at a very small scale, and I work alongside the people who work for me, but rather than continually furnish all the tools as a business, if there’s something I notice they should have, I just give it to them. Once they aren’t green, they are expected to bring and manage their own basic kits (~60-100 items, for which I also email an itemized and prioritized list). Everyone makes better than a living wage, but people who are seasoned and maintain their own kit do make more money. We have had almost zero issues with tools walking and none within our team.
That’s interesting. perhaps a bit of a difference in the plumbing and construction businesses is that we had many part-time employees. We were not one of those contractors that hired on day laborers at the informal shape-ups that you often see outside of some Home Depots. But we did hire college students, recent graduates and sometimes police and firemen who wanted to work alongside our lead carpenters and master plumbers. We took some pride in our ability to attract and keep those who proved that they wanted to learn and be productive – and we had many who spent many years (sometimes most of their careers) with us. Of course in our union business areas hiring was quite a different process – and we operated independent businesses to keep things separate and the Unions happy
Your company tool policy and success speaks highly to the quality of your business. Many of the operations around our primarily industrial work out here will provide the high dollar task-specifc tools for crews (such as battery crimpers and cable cutters, core drills, mag drills) but with the constant shift from site employment to contacting, and the regular influx of travelers, contractors are usually expected to have a basic load out of tools (drill, saw, hand tools) with easy reimbursement/replacement policies, and tool allowances from the companies are pretty common. It’s generally understood that core tools of the company are usually hard worn, and less relaible having changed hands from folks of wildly varying skill levels. The companies I’ve worked at, and my friends at many others all tend to agree that the ability to bring our own preferred tools without fear of exclusively owning the liability of their cost, is preferential in our case.
I also enjoy your comments. My impression is the person vs company tools also depends on the culture and job area.
For example I believe machinists are expected to have a lot of their own tools (I know ours does, and he also makes a lot of jigs and such). Also, I believe the German intern we had said that workers there had personal tools (and a company allowance) that they were responsible for,
At my workplace, the company will buy tools, but I like using some of my own – mechanical keyboard, Wera and Wiha screw drivers, etc.
Did he unhook the handle to get access to the bag?
That looks like the 10” packout tote with square form factor and loose pockets. The 15” has the correct form factor to neatly carry the half-sized organizers underneath without protruding awkwardly. This is one of my setups, and it managed to replace a Veto MCT.
The ten inch is decent if you basically never carry it with anything below it (maybe one short half-width organizer) – the Packout let’s you put it on the top of the stack when moving the stack, and then disconnect it and carry it with you.
I prefer the 15 or the other zipper bag that’s full length.
Thoughts – Husky indicates Home Depot – which also has Milwaukee – so the choices made are likely to be amongst the equipment available there.
Mike from CA
Agreed… Husky being the Home Depot house brand, would also be a one-stop shop to pick up Milwaukee, Klein, and Channellock too
That jumble would irritate me, why I moved to Veto Pro bags a long time ago. And I stick with Klein, too, mostly.
Me personally to both as well. I bought one of the first Vetos the guy invented after reading about it in Fine Homebuilding decades ago.
I actually called them to order one and he answered. That’s a very long time ago now…
UEI is a great tool company. I’ve moved most of my HVAC techs to UEI because their tools work well, have some robust features, and most importantly don’t cost an arm and a leg.
I’ve had my fair share of guys come into the shop talking about their expensive Fieldpiece or Fluke meters and nearly every one of them had a damaged meter that didn’t work right and they couldn’t afford to replace.
I have a couple of those packout totes, and my main gripe with them is the handle. I wish it were stiff and in place like the 15″ version. I may see if I can conjure up a handle out of wood for it. It shouldn’t be too difficult.
Also, I didn’t know the middle divider was removable at first glance. I took them out of both of mine. IMHO, the bag is too small for a center divider.
If it had a stiff handle, it’s be a 10/10. I need to tinker with mine though.
For 5 gal buckets etc without plastic handle grips I take a length of Pex and cut it lengthwise in a spiral. I then thread it on the wire handle and wrap with self-bonding rubber tape. You might be able to adapt something similar.
Charles A Andrews
My electrician buddy swears by husky bags, Klein hand tools, and Milwaukee M18. He carries pack out hard cases in the van but hates the totes. He converted me to the husky bag to replace my army mechanics bag. I’ve been very happy so far and they are dirt cheap.
Which husky bags?
This is hilariously ironic to me. I’m a mostly residential electrician and am currently in the midst of swapping my Klein tools as they wear out to Milwaukee (my power tools are primarily a mix of DeWalt 20v/flexvolt). I’ve been picking tools up this year as I need them and currently I have milwaukee linesman, needle nose, a set of their 8” adjustable pliers, one of their Black Friday special head lamps, and set of their pen lights. Don’t get me wrong, I love Klein and the products they put out, but honestly, I’m off put by the cost of their nicer Journeyman series tools and have opted for Milwaukee’s offering (I have a pair of Klein multi plier/wire strippers that I absolutely love and will be sad once they’re worn out).I see Milwaukee tools as a better opportunity to save cash and get two tools for the price of one. Though they are imported, I’ve found their quality to be top notch. I have a pretty Spartan rig that I use when I go on house calls that’s loaded with their product. Packout “ammo” box, packout organizer for wire nuts, crimps, etc. linesman, needle nose, adjustable pliers, 12v fuel impact, 12v fuel installation drill, bits, and even one off their pipe cutters for emt. I’ll be picking up some Milwaukee 6” or 7” dikes up when my Klein’s finally die (soon as one of the handles keeps slipping on heavier cuts). No regrets and I LOVE how comfortable their bigger padded handles feel.
just another industrial mechanic
are electricians really tool guys? sure they use tools but so does someone hanging drywall or piling rocks. doesnt look like a lot of thought went into the appreciation of tools here, just something cheap to do the job imo. and im guessing a residential electrician?
I don’t understand whatever point you are trying to make.
Tools are there to help you complete a task. There’s no need to be elitist just because you don’t agree with someone else’s brand and tool selections.
I mean, I also noticed this looks like a guy who USES his tools – mashes, drops, and tosses them. I know guys like that; I used to just throw everything into a messenger bag and go, and I’d always make do.
I didn’t begin to shift away from that until I started to see my job as a career I enjoyed and was going to be in for awhile.
Now my work flow is very geared towards mise en place, and I’ve spent hours and hours laying out my bags, even cleaning and greasing my tools on occasion.
Oh, but I would say for all the jumble, the tool selection looks decent and spartan to me – nothing that’s a liability in terms of getting the job done right. And I would add a lot of electricans are definitely tool guys, on and off the job. Take a look at Montrealsparky, NZsparky, and Lower48 on instagram.
When I’m using tools back and forth, they go into a central location as well, and are put away when the tasks are completed.
Some other electricians would put their tools on the floor or around a tool bag when they’re still in play. Here they put the tools in the central tool bag compartment.
I didn’t see anything wrong with this.
Most professional users are “tool guys.” I met a locksmith that is still very much attached to their older Dewalt 18V drill and the several copies they keep around to pull parts from for repair. One doesn’t have to pursue the latest and greatest exotic brands to be a “tool guy.”
Wonder if he’s reading this!
Hope you’re feeling better now.
The Milwaukee hand tools have a higher price tag but for example when it comes to those little tiny screws on terminal blocks for control wiring, your choices are basically down to a couple Klein models, a couple Harbor Freight sets, the Milwaukee precision screwdriver set, or something German. Out of those the HF are the cheapest but I broke tips every few weeks and regardless of the free replacement, it was more trouble than it was worth. Milwaukee is second, and basically Klein and the German stuff is the highest priced but no true advantages.
Their demolition screwdrivers are about $2 more than the Dewalt brand. I love everything about them except this. The one thing that the flat blade doesn’t do…it’s not a screwdriver! As in it does literally everything except that the blade is so fat that it doesn’t fit in the vast majority of slots. Dewalt wins hands on the basic function of a “beater screwdriver” here in the first round. I mean if I can’t use it to turn the rusted up screws on the outer doors of equipment because the blade is too fat, which is the #1 use, even if it works great as a general purpose pry bar and takes abuse while I hammer on it to “reform” said rusted up screw, which is the #2 and #3 use, it is a big FAIL.
Love their utility knives. Just plain comfortable. Take it from a guy that spends hours skinning large diameter cables.
Tried their strippers and went back to Klein.
As for Toughsystem vs. Tough Organizer vs. Packout, this is a pretty easy matchup. I have a van equipped with the Toughsystem racks. Packout doesn’t have a van racking system. Easy decision there. So if I can’t clip it onto my tool boxes, the extra bulk on the tool bag is useless. The big nail and screw box is just as nice as the non-clear lidded Toughsystem box but their small parts boxes have way too much plastic and not enough storage. Toughsystem is the same way. The Tough Organizer system which is actually not compatible with and nothing to do with Toughsystem are perfect. You can stack up to 4 Tough Organizer half width (lengthwise version) boxes into a Toughsystem roll around box. I keep all my lugs, Stakons, barrel connectors, and wire nuts all neatly organized in those and carry it with bags of wire ties, splicing, and some other related tools all in the roll around.
When it comes to power tools, it’s pretty evenly matched between Dewalt and Milwaukee but the clear winner is Milwaukee for two reasons. Better lighting options and that impact gun that for guys that are working on 1000+ HP motors on a regular basis, we need those, and there are times where we need to break out the old 3-4 foot long 1″ drive torque wrench AND the 3:1 torque multiplier, especially when the high torque impact just can’t quite reach the torque we need, and we gave up on hydraulics because the wrenches themselves are just so fat that they won’t fit into the narrow spaces we need…which is also an impact problem…need a “right angle impact” that is not wimpy like the current Milwaukee model.
And I am a field service engineer by trade. So I abhor working on houses, even my own, and I try to avoid being a pole jockey, but everything else, especially working on equipment where I can crawl inside and shut the door, is fair game. Just yesterday we finished and fired up a car shredder. There is just something exciting about watching a 1500 HP hammer mill snack on refrigerators, then EAT a whole car, engine block and all, smoke billowing out, metal screaming, seats and upholstery flying half down the conveyors and half into the wind, turning it into shreds 2-4″ long.
And the day before was replacing a VFD in a sewage plant…so I might not qualify as your “average” electrician.
Milwaukee makes two demo flatheads – one huge and sold by itself and one more normal and sold with a Phillips.
Can we mention the issues with the Milwaukee Packout bags?
– floppy handle that is not reinforced
– internal pockets that are shallow, difficult to use and only to one side
– no usuable external pockets
– seriously overpriced
My 20” bag Packout bag is rather heavy and bulky (I customized the blank sode to hold many tools which made it acceptable) so I ordered the 10” to compliment it and separate out my electrical stuff. I just had to return it. That floppy fabric handle is inexcusible. The same silly and ineffeciend hard plastic pocket sets …
It really is a love hate relationship with Milwaukee, as they continue to stumble on the bags, cases & accessories while charging an unjustifiable premium.
I am actually going to clean up and mod my old 10” electrical bag. It holds exactly the same as a standard 20” packout, because my old 10” bag has usable deep and open bottom pockets on the inside and outside, and a reinforced metal handle that clips in two eye loops over the top.
https://saddlebackleather.com/ Has some insane bags but very pricy – I use one for my electrical tools
I should try the canvas someday.
While the vast majority of electricians have gone to bags and backpacks, I still use a metal toolbox. When the tools are in a gang box, the open top tool bags are an easy target.
I bet you look in people’s medicine cabinets when visiting and using their bathroom as well.
If you wanted to take a pic, just ask……. (well, I imagine you did but the “snuck a pic” part makes for a better story or at least I hope so).
My guys were on a site and found the customer holding one of the guy’s Martinez hammer ($250+ custom titanium hammer for those who don’t know) and before it got all done I had to go and calm things down–my guy was convinced the customer got caught stealing it even though the customer said he was just looking at it. There was enough bad blood that we only did the first stage of a two-part job. Customer didn’t want us back and before the words were done being exchanged, we didn’t want to go back…
ha, no I don’t look in medicine cabinets. It’s not interesting to know what kinds of fungal creams or brands of razors or shaving cream anyone uses.
I took a pic when he stepped out. I wasn’t waiting for it, it was just right in front of me and it came to mind. Or rather, I thought “Channellocks? Interesting.” *click*
I follow 3 simple rules:
1) Don’t touch anyone else’s tools unless there’s explicit permission.
2) Nobody touches my tools unless there’s explicit permission.
3) Don’t distract (too much), especially if of when it could be a safety hazard.
A plumber once dumped metal shavings all over my basement floor because they wanted to stand on my 5 gallon bucket and didn’t think to ask me for a step stool.
I “snuck” the photo, rather than asking, because a quick “oh, that’s an interesting choice of tools” can very easily turn into at least a half hour conversation and show-and-tell that I usually end up feeling super guilty about.
I was going to bring it up at the end, but troubleshooting a dead circuit took way longer than anyone expected, and I forgot.
Regarding the phrasing, “grabbed a photo,” “snagged a photo,” and even “took a photo” seemed a little awkward.
Nice to see that someone pointed him away from Dewalts poorly engineered handles.
Now all he needs is for someone to introduce him to Knipex and he will be able to move on from the “die-hard” “real electricians” toy…cough…tool brand called Channellock.
Channellock’s tooth design is no match when side by side with a set of Knipex cobras and 10 years from now the Cobras will still have useful teeth, unlike the less than useful teeth that come factory from Channellock.
Hopefully he doesn’t cheap out like a bunch of people I know and make the first stop at Irwin’s excuse for a copy. The “butter” teeth are so soft, you’d have to buy the two pack to get any work done…Buy once, Cry once.
He complained about the Toughsystem handles breaking, when his Packout tote is suffering the same issue.
To be fair, the nylon handle on a toe tearing off is a lot smaller deal thatn your stackable/lockable cases no longer being lockable. (but still, wth)
Note; An electrician may also be in need of a work light. CPO has a Bosch 18v 2200 lumen work light with some sale incentives. The light is BLUETOOTH enabled, allowing for remote on/ off, control other lights, among other features. Run times are denoted in per amp hour. Probably will run a whole work shift on high with a larger battery. Remote on / off great feature!
Acme has the 4000 lumen Bluetooth Bosch floodlight for $199, looks like a $20 discount sale also.
Acme also has the 10000 lumen light for $299 with an added $20 discount off that. The 4 & 10k lights are us made, not sure about the 2200 lumen light. Stuart has been frowning on some Bosch products lately. I wonder if the Bosch lights are ok with him?
Why would they buy Bosch?
Bosch is not tailored/nor do they market to electricians.
If anything, they would probably go with Milwaukee based on the other choices shown.
P.S. Your first post sounds very “shill-y”.
I guess Bosch’s $700 wall & floor scanner is targeted toward your average homeowner.
Your confusing your average electrician with a contractor.
No field electrician goes out and spends $700 on a wall/floor scanner, but a contractor might buy one for the shop to be used as necessary.
I’m a Journeyman turned estimator and I promise you those would not be bought for any normal residential/commercial job.
Do you see electricians toting something like that in their tool pouch? Probably not.
Are you by chance a Bosch rep?
I can imagine a large electrical service company having them available for their electricians.
Your clearly not tracking…
Have a good day.
There’s a 0% chance they’re a Bosch rep.
In the unlikely chance they are, they have never given any indication of a pro-Bosch bias, and certainly not in any inappropriate way.
I wouldn’t buy them.
For my own use, I’d stick to Milwaukee or Dewalt.
As for the tool bag, I should have asked the electrician if they considered adding on a half-size Packout organizer to the bottom of the Packout tote for keeping commonly-needed parts and small components close at-hand.
That is a great idea that had not occurred to me! HNY…
The removable Packout bins are a great feature. Quickly moving needed parts from organizer to organizer.
I’m a maintenance electrician, with the very occasional friends/family/recommendation on the weekend or whatever. I can’t say I’m a brand guy, just quality and innovation. I do have Milwaukee power tools, because that’s the battery system I jumped in on and stuck with. With Milwaukee, I can say, they are trying new things all time. That’s a good thing. Doesn’t mean everything is in a regular guys price point. Pack out looks cool. I kinda wish I went with it, but the Rigid System got me before (better price).
You need a better electrician if the first tool you see is big blue channellocks and no other wrenches. I’de fire him.
You’re right, he should have dragged his entire installation tool kit when even this was more than he needed.
This is a compact and easily portable service kit. How many wrenches should he have brought when even one was too many for this work order?
Who cares WHAT he uses if he’s competent and fairly-prices his work, and more importantly than price, HE COMES WHEN NEEDED.
I know guys who can do more with one pair of Channellocks than the next guy can with a truckload of Snap On…
Thinking otherwise is shallow.
Read the book, The Millionaire Next Door…..
I know guys that would settle for cobbled up projects, rather than spend the money on quality tools. They pat themselves on the back for being so frugal, while not even seeing the countless dollars going out the back door.
What do your electricians use wrenches for? In either commercial or residential, my slipgrooves have been, almost exclusively, used as grip that doesn’t bruise or bleed – or to unstick the chuck on my drill when it seizes.
They don’t even go in my bag, just in the van if I need them. Might toss a pair in the bag when hanging emt, especially if using the cheap pipe clamps, or if I know I have frequent bit changes needed. Occasionally, I’ve needed one pair to hold and one to turn a nut/bolt combo that was hidden from socket access.
I have a set of wrenches on the van too that I use for things outside of work and that I’ve loaned to another trade here and again. Can’t remember the last time I used one personally on a site.
I do really relate to the fact that he’s got 2! demo screwdrivers in his service bag. Smart man. Not a set, both look to be slotted. Ones been very well used, it looks like.
My co-worker’s boyfriend isn’t far away from leveling up to journeyman and I was honestly surprised to see how much Wiha and Wera he’s packing.
When I was a teenager I worked in a electrical supply warehouse. Klein and milwaukee was the go to. Even though I am more of a great head I still favor those brands from that experience earlier in my life.
This is turning into a Milwaukee fanboy site.
No, Milwaukee has been well known for innovating new and novel ideas far more than other manufacturers in the tool sector.
The more new tools they debut, the more coverage they will naturally receive (Good and bad).
This year alone saw Milwaukee show off 4 “pipeline” episodes with a multitude of new or redesigned tool offerings that get coverage from a multitude of sources (not just this site).
Dewalt by comparison has come out with another drill, impact, saw and another drill, impact, saw and another… etc. (this example can apply to other manufacturers as well,Bosch was a good example this year).
Let’s see… currently my service tool bag has a pair of Irwin lineman pliers, Klein side cutters, Orbis long nose pliers, Klein 11 in 1, Klein multi nut driver, Klein stubby ratcheting screwdriver, Milwaukee 6 in 1 strippers, M12 screw driver, some Lang close quarters but drivers, Thomas and Betts crimp tool, Fat Max tape measure, Fluke T5-600 meter, some small Felo screwdrivers, a set of Bondhus metric folding Allen keys, a set of Klein SAE folding Allen keys, a pair of 7” Knipex Cobras and I’m sure a few more things I’m not remembering. All housed in a Veto TP-XL.
Most of my additional hand tools are Klein with some Knipex, Felo, Greenlee, Lennox, Channel Lock, Rigid and Wera scattered through. Mostly kept in Veto bags and Dewalt Tough boxes.
For the most part the rest of my meters are Fluke, although I do have a Klein amp meter and a REED insulation meter.
I use a lot of Milwaukee M12 tools, including impact and band saw, and keep them in TStak boxes with foam inserts. I’m currently using Makita 18V tools and store them in Rigid boxes.
I worked as an electrician all of my life after graduating from a Vocational Technical Center in 1973 where I studied electricity. The contractor that I worked for had 75 work vans on the road. Every truck was stocked with Milwaukee power tools, and Klein hand tools were the norm in every tool pouch. Even today, if I need a power tool, I always buy Milwaukee. If I need a pair of pliers, I buy Klein.