FREDWESTON.NET - Master Network Tool Kit
Master Network Tool KitPosted under Work Stuff on Friday, February 26, 2016 @ 12:07:09 AM
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As part of my job, I periodically have to do network cabling (moves/adds/changes). I'm primarily working with ethernet (cat5e only), but also have some gear for working with coax RG6/RG58/etc and analog telephony (66/110 termination, etc) as well as some general tools that are useful for many different things. I also occasionally have to pick up and move around the country to set up temporary event networks, so I've made my kit semi-portable by packing it into two Pelican 1620 travel cases.
I've built my kit over a period of a few years, but when I started out I bought a bunch of stuff all at once. I did some searching, but couldn't find anything in terms of a comprehensive buying guide. There are plenty of pre-built kits for sale, but my primary complaints about them are that they're 1) incomplete, and/or 2) have really cheap (borderline disposable) gear. For some folks that's fine, but my preference is to "buy once, cry once".
Having said that, I wanted to compile a list of what's in my kit in hopes that someone else might stumble upon this article and find it useful. Without further delay, here's what's in my kit along with a few notes on why I chose what I chose:
- Fluke Link Runner LRAT-2000-KIT. This is a more in depth ethernet test kit and it does everything from testing PoE to measuring cable distance and showing shorts/crossed pins/other faults to showing CDP info to tone generation, to port identification, to VLAN mapping, to testing IP/DHCP/DNS, etc. The kit I purchased includes 6 of the port identifiers which allow you to easily identify user ports at the patch panel as well as the IntelliTone probe. This unit supports both copper and fiber. It's by far the most expensive item in my kit, but if you can afford it, it's a real time saver. The only gripe I have about this is that it has a rechargeable battery and the charger is proprietary and isn't easy to transport (bulky and tangly). I like the rechargeable battery, until I'm in the field with a dead battery and don't have the charger with me. At that point, I'd much rather be using AA batteries. In a perfect world, it would allow you to use either.
- 6' DB9-DB9 straight through cable - for various devices which use a serial port for configuration
- DB9 male to male adapter
- DB9 null modem adapter
- Cisco RJ45 - DB9 console cable - I usually keep 2 or 3 of these in my kit in case I lose one
- Cables to Go USB to DB9 serial adapter - since most modern laptops don't have serial ports these days
- RJ45 couplers - I usually keep 5-10 of these in the kit, you never know when you'll need one (or five)
- Greenlee 25' fish tape - for fishing cables through walls, etc. I much prefer using cable fish sticks, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find any I like that'll fit in a Pelican case. I have a set of fish sticks that I keep in my office, but they don't typically go anywhere with me unless I know I'm going to need them.
- Pack of gel filled telecom butt connectors - for field splicing of analog communication cables
- 200-300 RJ45 modular connectors - they're relatively small and light so I prefer to have way more than I'll need at once than risk not having enough
- 25 RJ11 modular connectors
- Coax toner - for toning coax cables
- Klein Coax Explorer - same as above, but allows tracing multiple cables at once
- 3M heavy duty double sided tape - for mounting / organization
- Self adhesive cable tie mounts - for cable mounting / organization
- Assorted zip ties - I typically carry sizes from 4" - 18" and use them for everything. I just replace them as they get used, I usually end up restocking once or twice a year.
- Bulk velcro - perhaps one of the most important organization tools you can buy. I like to buy the 15' rolls of 3/4" velcro and use it for cable organization where changes may need to be made in the future.
- Ideal compression F-connector tool for coax - used for terminating coax
- 50 pack of compression F-connectors
- Ideal 3 stage coax stripper
- 3", 6" and 8" side cutting pliers
- Fluke 66/110 impact tool
- Fluke cable scissors
- Misc screwdrivers - I usually carry 3 sizes each of slotted and phillips
- Modular screwdriver with a bit set containing hex and security bits
- Greenlee cablecaster - for pulling cable through plenum / drop ceiling spaces
- 10 each of leviton RJ45 / RJ11 modular jacks
- Fluke TS19 butt set
- Various alligator clips with short test leads
- Modular adapters (banjo) - I have a fluke 4 pin as well as a greenlee 8 pin
- A handful of 6' cat5e patch cables
- Fluke can wrench - for the ability to open telco network interface cabinets
- Stanley fatmax drywall jab saw
- A few 1 gang low voltage old work wall brackets
- AA-powered headlamp - for working in dark places
- Two AA-powered LED flashlights - cheap and bright, for working in dark places
- Gaffer's tape - for running cable across carpet / floors without leaving marks when the tape is removed
- Fluke Pro3000 tone generator and probe set - I have this functionality in the LRAT-2000, but if all you need to do is tone a single cable then breaking that out is often overkill so it's nice to have a quick and simple option
- RJ45 / RJ11 ratcheting crimper - I always buy combo crimpers that do both RJ45 and RJ11 instead of buying separate crimpers so I don't end up without the one that I need
- Ideal cat5e stripper
- 2 sets of Perle eX-S1110 ethernet extenders - these are VDSL modems in disguise that allow you to extend gigabit ethernet over a single pair of copper (like an alarm circuit, or analog phone line) for up to 10,000 feet.
I also have some other stuff that isn't in the normal kit, but that I take with me if I'm supporting an event on the road because it's easier to have it than to try and find someone to borrow it from:
- Milwaukee 18V hammer drill, impact driver, circular saw and reciprocating saw w/ charger and batteries
- Pliers, Channellock and vise grip
- Small 3/8" drive socket set
- Small drill bit set
- Driver bit set (i.e. impact driver to 3/8" socket, etc)
- Various size masonry bits up to 12" in length
- Spade bit set
- Milwaukee hole saw set
- Small box of 1 5/8" drywall screws
- Duct tape
Since I periodically have to take this kit with me on the road, I purchased two Pelican cases and used the organizers / dividers that are available as accessories from Pelican to keep everything organized. This allows me to easily ship the cases via UPS without worrying about anything getting broken, though this is a double edged sword - when UPS see a Pelican case they seem to assume it's bullet proof and won't handle it as carefully as they would a normal package so the cases tend to get abused.
To make sure my tools stay where they're supposed to be, I put two Abus 83/45 brass padlocks on each case. These are a decent security option in that they're 1) pretty beefy, 2) solid brass (weatherproof) and 3) can be keyed to match your existing Schlage or Kwikset house or office key so you don't have to carry a special key. This isn't so much to keep things safe in transit as it is to prevent people from "borrowing" things. I've had several occurrences of things going missing, even right off the back of a golf cart while working.