Advice on crimping tool selection

sw_ross

Senior Member
Location
NoDak
Obviously the ability to crimp connectors is expensive. There's tons of options with wide ranging prices, which are all pricey for a tool that isn't used a whole lot for a small operator.

I know I need the ability to use crimp connectors, possibly a stud lug for terminating in a panel enclosure, or a butt splice for adding length to a wire (maybe underground burn-off or similar).

Being a small operation I mostly work with wire 350 MCM and smaller (and mostly aluminum). I also would like to be able to crimp ground wire if I need to extend a GEC with an irreversible crimp.

Every time start researching the buying options I get overwhelmed with information.
Different tools handle different dies...
What types of dies do I need for the crimps I'll be doing...
Can those dies handle different brands of crimps... (Burndy versus Ilsco...)
Does one set of dies handle all brands of crimps (universal)...
Do I need a battery operated tool...
Could a hydraulic manual tool do the job, possibly saving money to put towards dies...
Etc..., etc..., etc...

I'm just a small operation and wouldn't use the setup often.
I can't see getting into this for less than ~$2,200. And could go up to $5,000.
That's a lot of coin for something I'll only use a few times a year.

I'm scared to go the eBay route and get used on an investment like this.

I know some will suggest going the rental route. I've looked into that and it doesn't seen to be available at the couple of SH's I have access to (I live in rural North Dakota). Also, if I were to do a service call on a weekend for an underground burn off I feel I should be "crimp ready" and not have to wait until Monday to get a tool.

Any advice for a small operator would be great.
Thanks!
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
I can understand your frustration. The company I work for uses crimpers on almost every job since crimped terminals are often in our spec. and there is nothing better for splicing two large conductors together. For our application and given the number of crimps performed on a given job a motorized tool is needed. Back 20 years ago that was a separate pump, diverter valve, hose with a cutting head and a hose with a crimp head. Now we use battery operated crimpers which are smaller, faster and don't require 120 volts.

Having used the aforementioned pump system and manual crimpers well now I'm spoiled. I can say that if I have to use a crimper I only want to use a battery operated one. You're right that it's a big investment. One potential up side to purchasing a high end crimper is that you may find that you are using at times where in the past you may have used mechanical terminals.
 

paulengr

Senior Member
I work for a motor shop. I do this all the time. Used just about every crimped.

So the way UL works is you are supposed to use the crimper that the manufacturer specifies. Of course few electricians ever do that. And by UL crimpers have a list of lugs they work with. There are “universal” crimpers though that work with a half dozen or more manufacturer lugs. I will also say right up front do NOT expect everything to always work as marked. Even with the correct die, correct wire, correct crimper sometimes you get over/under crimping. You need to recognize this and adjust.

Look at the crimps. For you this may be less critical but I’m doing a lot of medium voltage (2.4 kv to 35 kv) jobs. Especially at 15 kv and above you need to stay close to “round” and file off every sharp edge. So your choices are indent crimp, quad indent, and hex crimp. Do hex crimps. Even on lower voltages they just look more professional than a big old dent in the lug with the wire squeezed off to the sides with who knows what pressure. That looks OK at #14 but it looks amateur at 350, and the price is the same,

I’m going to tell you right now though that there are Chinese made crimpers on the market. Temco for instance sells one in a blue case and Amazon sells the yellow case one. Neither is UL. The yellow one is metric...don’t buy. These things are about $100. They are due types with hex dies. We’ve used them for years with no problems. It’s as cheap as hand crimps. I’ve never had an inspector fail these. Mostly they’re more impressed with crimped on bolted lugs instead of mechanical crap. It is a hand pumped hydraulic crimper. It obsoletes all the other low end tools, we have an old one, at least ten years old, that we finally retired and got 3 more. I’m a big fan of avoiding questionable products from China. This isn’t one of those.

Going past that all crimpers work one of two ways. Either they use fixed dies and squeeze until the dies touch (or indent hits a stop) or they have a pressure relief. 6 ton dies relieve at 5000 PSI. 12 ton dies at 10,000 PSI. The 6 ton dies stop at 350. Get the 12 ton. You will get 500 MCM jobs once in a while. Don’t limit yourself.

You can rent a $1500 pump and a cheap hydraulic crimper or use a mechanically pumped or electrically pumped all in one. The pump system is fast but best for big jobs.

The motorized ones are AWESOME. This is what all the line crews use. The best two are the Greenlee Gator ECCX Pro series and the Ridgid RE 6. For two reasons. First they are truly universal which is why I would ignore the cheaper Dewalt and Milwaukee. In one motorized crimper you can cut, do knockouts, and crimp, it makes quick work of any crimp job. Second reason is these things are used by all the line crews. Which means you can often get one on EBay for around $1500 with some dies. It will probably be missing a few. Die sets are common and you can fill a couple gaps to get up to speed easily at under $2000. Plus do motorized cutting and knockouts...I love mine. I’ve got an ECCX Pro with all the bells and whistles.

Ignoring utility dies (C, O, W) there is one universal 12 ton die, U dies. They work on Milwaukee, Greenlee, etc. But the dies themselves run about twice the price of proprietary die sets such as Greenlee KC series. So see my previous comment. Dies last almost forever. Get the proprietary set and save the money. The RE-6 and ECCX Pro can use either with adapters.

Another option is dieless. These aren’t motorized but it takes the die issue out of it. You just pump until they pop. Anderson makes a nice hex crimp one and I think T&B private labels it. They are very nice and the shop has a couple. But the crimp heads are enormous. It’s hard to get into some peckerheads and tight boxes with it. Plus it doesn’t cut so back to ratchet crimpers. And add 1000-2000 to the die crimper prices WITH dies.

Other good points about this approach. On the larger lugs especially with emergency jobs you are going to struggle to get lugs quickly if you don’t stock your own. And I have thousands wrapped up in lug inventory too in the truck. So you can buy the T&B crimper for instance but what if the supply house that has the 350s you really need only has Ilsco or Burndy? The truth is your T&B crimper will work just fine but I like the idea of truly universal.
 

Jolted

Member
Location
Wisconsin
I keep a Thomas and Betts TBM5 in my truck. One of our supply houses keeps a TBM8 as a loaner. Anyone's tool of this type can be had for a few hundred and will generally do up to 500 KCMIL with the right dies.

The tool is a little bulky to use, and makes a square crimp. If you're doing a lot, you'll want a hydraulic/cordless one. We keep hydraulic ones at the shop and take them out when we have more than a couple to do.

As far as crimps, almost all crimp tools are listed for all brands of connectors, however if there is a failure/law suit it would probably make life a lot easier if you were using the same brand of connector and tool.

Sounds to me like you need to go to your favorite supply house, find out what connectors they stock and buy a basic mechanical crimper that will crimp the connectors they carry.

Sent from my SM-A102U using Tapatalk
 

ptonsparky

Senior Member
Location
NE (9.06 miles @5.9 Degrees from Winged Horses)
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
I never spent the bucks. Burndy MD6 does up to 4/0 and larger emergency repairs can be temped with mechanical until we get a tool&crimps from an area supplier.

We don’t do a lot of crimps at any one time and if we do, we buy the crimps from the supplier with tool included at no charge.
 

sw_ross

Senior Member
Location
NoDak
A previous EC I worked for had the Greenlee die-less tool it was hydraulic and seemed fine for most applications.

That's definitely the one I'm leaning toward for my application, partly because I have experience with it and I don't need to by a die kit.

Can anyone comment on that option?

Another EC I worked for when I was an apprentice used something similar to the Burndy MB7 mentioned (like loppers), but it used dies.
It was a workout to use and was pretty much a 2-man operation because it required one man to operate the crimper and the other to hold the wire into the crimp. The price of the Burndy (MD734) with a die kit will get me to a price comparable to the die-less Greenlee hydraulic crimper.
 

Cow

Senior Member
Location
Eastern Oregon
If I could only get one crimper, I would get a PAT750LI and buy the dies as needed.

We have a Burndy 4 point dieless, two PAT750's, a couple manual crimpers, etc. The PAT750 can do everything the others do, if you have the dies.
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
Location
-
Occupation
Engineer/Technician
How do you know if you need a 12-ton or a 6-ton crimper?
Why would I need a 12-ton?
More than likely you won’t need dies that wide. Stick with the 6 ton and use the smaller width dies sold with the 6 ton.

12 ton tools use a die that will make say 2 crimps to finish the connector out. We have those on every truck.
also have the 6 ton on the trucks. They are used more. It just takes a narrower die and takes four crimps vs 2 to finish the crimping the connector out.

we also have a couple of 60 ton crimpers.
thats expensive and used so seldom it stays in the warehouse. But when it’s needed, there isn't a temporary solution...
 

paulengr

Senior Member
Look at the size range on the crimper. Unless you are doing utility work you will almost never see anything bigger than 500 or 535 MCM.
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
Location
-
Occupation
Engineer/Technician
Opinions on Milwaukee crimp tools?
We are going to them now, although slowly.
our battery operated tools are mostly Milwaukee.
Chainsaws, polesaws, crimpers, drills, impacts, etc.
it would make sense to use one battery for all.

one problem we run into is the brushless tools.
they won’t work on energized lines. (15kV and above) We need brushed impacts for that.
 

JZE14

Member
Location
Montana
I just purchased the Milwaukee crimper, it has fixed BG die with D3 groove and can use inserts for other sizes. A interchangeable cutting head is also available.
 

sw_ross

Senior Member
Location
NoDak
I just purchased the Milwaukee crimper, it has fixed BG die with D3 groove and can use inserts for other sizes. A interchangeable cutting head is also available.
Now this is part of what confuses me, -mainly the terminology part of what a "fixed BG die" is and "D3 groove"?
I know visually what the crimper head looks like, I just don't know what they are capable of doing, what types of dies are needed, etc. for the application of what I want a crimper to do.
 

sw_ross

Senior Member
Location
NoDak
What's the difference between O and BG die? Pros and cons of either?

Does the D3 groove use/require a specific type of die?
What style of die works best for my application? (See post #1 for my info)
 

JZE14

Member
Location
Montana
The Burndy dies will work with the Milwaukee crimper, however from what I can tell it takes a different die for every size wire ($99 a set). The biggest downfall I can see so far is how heavy it is.
 

oldsparky52

Senior Member
When I was using a bunch of mining cable at marinas, I had to use compression lugs on the wire. I found that a lug (let's use T&B 54148) that was rated for #1 code wire and #2 find stranded cable like mining cable that I was using.

I was concerned that using the same die for a #1 code wire on a #2 flex wire would not be snug enough. I elected to use a dieless crimper so I knew that I had the same compression for both wire sizes.

One added feature that I liked was the expanded wire range (UL listed) when using a dieless crimper. It allowed me to butt splice code wire to flex wire, you would not be able to do that with a die crimper.
 
Top