Updated: Mar 9, 2022
The Instrumentation Tool Kit to cover 90% of Jobs
Today we are going to look at the essential Instrument technician tool kit. As Instrument technicians our tools are what allow us to carry out our role and solve the problems we need to solve.
In this article I’m going to recommend a tool kit that will cover us for 90% of our day to day jobs. There will always be those uncommon jobs that need some specialised tools but here we are going through a nice compact tool kit you can carry around with you on site or in your van and fix most issues you are likely to come across!
When it comes to tools I generally recommend spending as much as you can afford on some quality tools that will last a life time as replacing lesser quality tools over the years becomes more expensive in the long run and you’ll have a better experience with the tools that you use.
I’m only recommending tools and equipment I’ve personally used and have got on well with!
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Multimeter or Process Meters
Lets start with one of the most Important pieces of equipment you will need. A good process or multimeter, these are absolutely essential for any instrument technician for day to day work.
Fluke 789 Now there are cheaper alternatives but for a good quality piece of test equipment that will last years of use in the field then Fluke has you covered.
Whether you are testing the mV of thermocouple, continuity of field cabling or testing voltage outputs of power supplies in AC or DC up to 1000 volts, the fluke 789 is up to all of these tasks.
The important distinction with this piece of kit over cheaper alternatives is its usefulness in carrying out calibration, It has the ability to source or sink current loops for testing 4-20mA and can be set for auto stepping of your signals. Perfect if you are lone working on site.
Fluke 117 I’ve included a link to a much cheaper fluke alternative if you don’t need to source current loops and are just looking at basic diagnostic measurements. This will do the job without issue.
If you are isolating electrical equipment you will need a proving unit to ensure the validity of your test equipment. The proving unit provides a reference voltage that shows your meter is detecting voltage, or lack of, correctly. A literal life saver!
Hand tools cover a large portion of your toolkit, lets go over some of the essentials.
Screw Driver Set
The next thing I have in my tool set is a good quality set of screwdrivers. I like the Wera insulated set, its nice and compact with most of the sizes you need with double handles and swap-able drives at a great price. I’ve personally used these for the last 5 years or so and Wera are my go to brand for driver sets.
Next up we have a 1/4 inch drive ratchet socket set. This isn’t the cheapest item either but a good set will last a life time and is brilliant investment.
I use the Wera 43 piece socket set. This is great for removing junction box and instrumentation lids and fastenings and the ratchet feature really saves time.
It also has a bit adapter with a good selection of TORX, flat and cross head attachments. The pivot head on this set allows you to work in tricky to reach spots.
Every Instrument tool set should contain at least 2 shifters or adjustable spanners. I love the soft grip Bacho 8 inch adjustables with the reversible jaw.
The reversible jaw gives you the ability to get purchase on any shafts or rounded bolt or screw heads. Adjustables also allows you to cut down on the amount of fixed sized spanners you will need. Great when you are looking at an on the go tool kit.
For times when you need a perfect fitting spanner and an adjustable just won't do the job, I love the Facom combination spanner set with a tiltable ratchet head. A great piece of hardware that should last a lifetime. the ability to angle the head makes working in them tricky to reach spots much more palatable.
Allen or Hex Keys
Next up is a set of Wera Stainless Steel Allen / Hex keys. I’m honestly not sponsored by Wera, but just love the quality of tools they produce.
This set is perfect, being stainless its going to last forever and not need as much maintenance and the multi coloured sleeving makes identifying the correct size quick too.
I love the simple holder that gives a good grip level and stops your keys coming out in your tool bag. I’ve also included a link to the imperial set but unfortunately these don’t have the coloured sleeves in the stainless variant but are still a great set none the less.
Next is a set of good quality insulated side cutters and I’m a big fan of Knipex offerings, perfect for cutting signal cable cores / ty wraps. Try not to use these for cutting wire locks or anything else that will damage the blades and they should last years.
If you are making off braided cable you aren’t going to want to use your nice side cutters. I use a cheaper point of point tip side cutters for tidying up braid that I can replace yearly.
Long Nose Pliers
You’ll often be working in awkward spaces and need to get hold of something or pull a signal cable through a freshly glanded instrument. A quality pair of insulated long nose pliers are an absolute must. Again I like Knipex for there insulated versions.
When you really need to get a grip of a piece of hardware and your long nose pliers aren’t up to the task some straight pliers will give you more leverage and a better grip. Once again I like Knipex for their variant.
You need a hacksaw in your toolkit and for a portable option I always use a junior hacksaw, perfect for cutting cable as you might be when making cable glands off. Being a junior it doesn't take up too much room in the tool bag, ideal for our cover all aim.
Bootlace Ferrule Crimping Tool
You’ll need a good solid crimping tool and I find the Wirefy set with multiple jaw options perfect for the mobile tool kit. You can select the jaws that suit your needs.
Other items that are worth noting are a decent Hazardous area pocket torch for getting details off data plates and looking in panels at terminal number. Some basic consumables like insulation tape / PTFE tape and tie wraps.
Hopefully the above tool kit will allow you to complete most of the tasks you are likely to come across as an Instrumentation Technician.
Check out my YouTube Video Discussing the above down below.