When making, testing, or repairing network cables, there are only a few basic tools you will need to survive. Here are my top five recommendations:
- The crimper is the most essential piece you will need for making cables. Along with a good supply of RJ-45 cable heads, a good cable crimper can do everything you need, in case you do not have any other tools. I chose a crimper with three slots: a 4 pin, 6 pin and 8 pin slot for different-sized phone and network connectors. Typically, they also come complete with wire cutters and sometimes cable strippers, so they can be all-encompassing if you need them to be. You can get a decent crimper for less than ten dollars, sometimes with a wire stripper and tester.
- The wire stripper is a matter of preference to different people. The most experienced cable installers will use a good, sharp pair of scissors to remove the outer jacket because they know the feel of the wire and the cut. You can also get a “spinner” to cut, which applies a light amount of cut to the outside jacket and you use the finger ring to spin it around to complete the cut. No matter which you use, be careful not to cut all the way through to avoid cutting the inside wires as well. These typically come with other tools as a set, but can be purchased separately for anywhere from 1 penny to a couple of dollars.
- The punch-down tool is normally a tool of the trade for phone technicians that work with traditional phone lines, but is also used for the female connectors in a network jack. Simply put, instead of lining of wires in order to go in together like the cable, each wire goes in its own slot and the tool “punches” it in place and cuts of the excess wire (make sure it cuts the correct side). This does not have to be a big, expensive tool, it just needs to work. I paid less than two bucks for mine and it works great!
- The network cable tester comes in many varieties and is a must-have when building cables to ensure the job is done right. These range from three dollar keychain testers to the $1500 Fluke testers that test cables and network connections. For obvious reasons, I prefer the small ones.
- The last tool is a tone generator. This device will send a signal through the wire that is picked up by a receiver. In other words, you plug this in, or clamp it to a wire, and you can go to another part of the building, locate that sound with the receiving device, and know which cable is carrying the signal. Not everything is clearly marked and marked correctly, so sometimes you have to use a device like this to hunt down that missing cable.