People often say that the first portion of a pipefitter’s work life is spent on learning a plethora of tools. I wouldn’t argue — pipefitters have critical workloads whose requirements can drastically vary among jobs. The constant part is that each one requires utmost precision.
Given this uncertain and critical nature of the work, pipefitters often wonder which tools they should have alongside them. After all, there’s so much to do and so little you can carry in your bag at once.
That’s why I have decided to come up with an essential pipefitter tools list, which would cover most of the necessities regardless of the workload. Of course, things may be different when you’re working on massive projects, but the fundamentals tend to remain the same.
Essential Tools for Pipefitters
As I said, pipefitters see to a wide range of jobs. Think of it this way — while a plumbing job would require one to work with smaller infrastructures, a pipefitter deals with the larger ones. That includes tasks like high-pressure, complex pipelines, maintaining them, and so on.
Given the risk factor, I’ll make sure to include tools that ensure your safety along with the ones that boost productivity. Let’s now take a look at the picks.
Well, everything from plumbing to pipefitting requires gloves;big deal.
I think they matter more than we give credit for. Given that pipefitters constantly work in hazardous conditions surrounded by things like toxic substances, rusty pipes, and whatnot, gloves are paramount.
But the answer to which kind of gloves would depend on your use case. If you’re working somewhere where you may be exposed to chemicals, buying chemical-resistant gloves would be the way to go.
If you’re working with a typical infrastructure, a quality rugged pair should be fine. There are even cut-resistant gloves if that’s your cup of tea.
02. Safety Goggles
Once again, a somewhat obvious but absolutely necessary type of tool for you to have. Given how dangerous pipefitting can be, it’s vital that you have a pair of safety goggles in hand at all times.
You could even opt for full-face shields if the job turns out to be risky enough. However, safety goggles should suffice for most workloads, be it during welding or anything else.
03. The Square
The square is one of the closest friends you’ll have. This is a tool that has two edges connected to each other at a right angle. It can come in handy for many workloads — finding out the center-to-end dimension for pipe elbows, outside diameters of weld neck flanges, or even determining the arc length for a radius.
That’s only a part of what you can do with a square. You can also use the square to determine decimal equivalents, find a pipe’s center-line, make really accurate measurements, and ensure the squareness between surfaces.
Given all these, it’s apparent how vital the square is. While one can use any square, there are options designed explicitly for pipefitters. It’s better to get one of those, as they make things much more convenient.
04. Pocket Level
If there’s one constant in a pipefitter’s job, that’s being precise and accurate. Even the slightest deviation in measurements can have massive repercussions, so caution is necessary. That’s where pocket levels come in to allow for better angle measurements and alignments.
There are models with one or multiple vials for these levels. Advanced models allow you to verify the installation angle, which is crucial. Furthermore, these are especially handy for a quick check on places where a torpedo level can’t even get in.
That’s why spending a bit on this tool can be a worthy investment. Just remember to pick one designed for pipefitters, as those usually have a few more tricks up their sleeve for your work.
05. Quality Control Welder’s Gauge
As I’ve repeatedly been saying, pipefitting requires high levels of quality control. Even the littlest defect or imperfection in the pipes would mean that there may be issues with leakage and the overall fitting.
It’s also essential to have a clear idea of their precise dimensions, how they can and should be welded, and everything in between. A quality control gauge allows pipefitters to ensure the quality of pipes before fitting. That makes sure that it can hold up against the test of time and pressure.
06. Fitter Grips
Once you get through your measurements to the crucial step of welding, it’s crucial to keep things in place. Even the slightest movement during that process can create discrepancies in the end result. That’s where fitter grips (some call them pipe pliers) come in.
These tools hold the pipes in place when you are welding. Usually, they have a decent range, meaning you can work with various sizes of pipes with one. Fitter grips are an absolute necessity for every pipefitter, so the investment is worthwhile.
07. Measurement Tape
Half of what you do as a pipefitter will rely on maths and measurements. Hence, it’s pretty obvious that you’ll need a measurement for fitting jobs. Measuring the distance between objects, figuring out where to fit them — everything requires strict measurements.
Usually, these tapes are made with fiberglass, metal strips, or ribbon clothes. Metal strips are probably the most versatile for a pipefitter, so I’d recommend going for one of those. You can also find them in different lengths — 3m, 5m, 10, and so on.
A 5m measurement tape can be a sweet spot between compactness and versatility. But still, it entirely depends on the kind of pipefitting you do and what your requirements are.
08. Sharpie and Center Punch (i.e., Marking Tools)
Once you’ve got the measurements, the next step is to create a mark on the pipe or whatever you’re working with. To do that, it always comes in handy to have a marker or sharpie with you. It’s pretty obvious for most pipefitters, but it’s crucial nonetheless.
Now, a center punch may be less of an obvious tool for some. You may come across situations where a marker won’t do the job, and you need a permanent mark. In such cases, a center punch can help you by leaving a small round indent on the pipes.
This gives you a proper point of reference, especially when you need to keep the center of a pipe marked. That’s why getting a center punch is pretty helpful, and I recommend always having it.
09. Tinners Rule (Circumference Rule)
Given that pipefitters have to work with pipes, it’s not enough to only measure distances. Circumference plays a huge role in determining the fit between one pipe to another, and that’s where a circumference rule comes in.
This tool has two aspects — firstly, there’s a typical measurement scale at the top, like a usual rule. Additionally, the bottom portion allows for circumference measurements. Therefore, you could use this rule to measure both the diameter and circumference of a pipe.
10. Flange Aligners
Flange aligners are what you’d use to align joints before welding them together. They’re the distant relatives of fitter grips, dare I say. Usually, these have levels for horizontal and vertical alignment and show you if the joints are misaligned.
Pipefitters use these during maintenance as well. These tools are a quick and surefire way to get things in place quickly. You can also find magnetic flange aligners. These perform the same tasks; only a bunch of magnets hold them in place.
11. Pipe Wraps
It just shows how much pipefitting is concerned with measurements. Pipe wraps essentially allow you to create marks around the pipe. As you can imagine, it’s nearly impossible to draw a straight line around a curved pipe without some sort of help.
Pipe wraps work as the guides to ensure that. These allow you to get all the edges perfectly aligned before finalizing the measurements. Not only that, but it’s also possible to make angled cuts with this essential tool, which is an even tougher task.
They’re pretty inexpensive, but the utility they can provide is remarkable.
12. Radius Markers
A radius marker allows you to create a radius (duh) at any point. For pipefitters, creating circles of various radiuses is a regular chore. But it’s crucial to have the marking constant throughout the area. Otherwise, the measurements will be all wrong.
These markers have adjustable distances, and you can add a pen, pencil, or whatever is necessary to the holder to create marks. There are various available sizes, so you’d have to decide that depending on your project. I recommend having multiple sizes anyway, as they come in handy pretty often.
Pipefitters are constantly making measurements, doing maths, and figuring out what goes where. While many of those can be done without a calculator, having one just saves you so much time and effort.
You could have a scientific calculator for when you need to make advanced calculations. But even a typical one would do. You won’t always be doing mechanical engineering maths, after all.The point is to save yourself as much time as you can and concentrate on the work at hand.
14. Centering Heads
If you need to determine the center-line around a pipe’s circumference, a centering head will let you do that. Given that pipes are cylindrical, it’s tricky to figure that out without specialized tools.
Magnetic centering heads come in various sizes depending on the pipe’s size you’re working on. The protractor dials are usually marked in tiny increments, allowing the user to have extremely precise measurements.
These also have a pin to allow you to mark a particular position. All you’d have to do is use the pin as you would a center pin.
15. Miter Markers
When you’re creating markings around a pipe, it can become particularly different due to the shape. The angles need to be adjusted, the position needs to be accurate — the requirements are endless.
That’s something miter markers can work on. These pipe fitting tools sit in position and have an arm that you can manipulate all around the pipes to create marks from various angles and measurements. You could make saddle cuts, 45-degree cuts, 90-degree cuts, or everything in between.
Some models even allow you to change the rotating shaft with different sizes to make the experience even more versatile.
16. Cutting Tools
As a pipe fitter, you would often have to cut or modify pipes. For that, pipe cutters may be necessary, and the required tools depend on the pipe system.
For example, a typical hack saw would suffice for a plastic pipe. For a metal or copper pipe, you may need a bit more power. This depends on the scale and type of the project you’re working on, so I’ll leave that up to you.
These are 16 of the essential tools a pipefitter should have, in my opinion. Some of them may seem obvious, and some may not. Regardless, you’ll come across them in most of your pipefitting endeavors, and investing in them would be wise.
Things to Remember
One thing to keep in mind is that what you call essential may not be the same for another pipefitter. For example, the required set of tools would differ when you’re working with copper and steel compared to working with steam or refrigerants.
But only including the bare minimum would not allow you to fulfill your responsibilities, would it? That’s why you should keep an eye on which of these may not be related to your field of work. Nevertheless, all of these tools are on this list because they are essential in one pipefitting workload or another.
Another thing to remember is that this workload may have a lot in common with a professional plumber, but there are many differences. The piping layouts are very different, for one.
While one may be working with the plumbing system with tools like basin wrench or PVC pipe cutters, the other may be working with a propane torch and large metal pipes.
As I said, pipefitting is a task with large stakes. One has to work with large layouts and make precise measurements and adjustments to ensure optimal results. This essential pipefitter tools list should get the weight off your shoulders and help clear things out.