what the tools and testers do

The buttset (or butt set) is one of the most versatile and important pieces of telephone test equipment ó a handset with touch-tone pad, alligator clips, and various features that allow you to know if a circuit is dead or live, good or bad. It can also make and receive phone calls. No one seems to be sure why it's called a buttset, but there are several possibilities:

  • Maybe because a buttset can be used to "butt-in" to a conversation.

  • Maybe because a buttset is usually hung from a tool belt on a phone technician's butt.

  • Maybe because phone technicians use them while sitting on their butts.

  • Another possible origin relates to connecting two things together with a "butt splice" or "butt joint" in electricity, printing, recording or carpentry.

  • And then there's the temporary and powerful contact when people "butt heads."

  • When you touch the alligator clips of a buttset to a pair of telephone terminal screws or clips, you are butting them together.

Tone generator and probe This is a very important two-piece test set. A tone generator ("toner") is like a radio transmitter. You attach its alligator clips to a pair of wires, or plug its plug into a phone or data jack, and it sends a sound through the wire. The probe works like a radio receiver. It picks up the tone when it is near a wire, even if it is one wire in the middle of a bundle of wires, or is inside a wall. An internal speaker lets you hear the sound that the probe picks up, and you can also attach a buttset to hear better in noisy environments, or when the signal is weak. A tone generator and probe are extremely useful in identifying wires, finding open circuits and short circuits, diagnosing crosstalk, and other telecom tasks. They're also good for tracing speaker wires and alarm and remote control circuits. Most tone generators also allow you to test polarity of a phone line, indicate the presence of voltage, test continuity, and provide "talk battery" to test phone equipment when no dial tone is available.

Punchdown Tool This is a vital telecom tool used to attach wires to the ubiquitous punchdown blocks that keep the planetís telecommunications infrastructure functioning. Punchdown tools generally accept interchangeable bits for working on different types of blocks, patch panels and jacks. The two main types are 66 and 110, and any techy needs both. Other types you may encounter include BIX, Krone and 630.

Cable Tester This can be a one-piece or two-piece tool that connects to both ends of a cable and lets you know the condition of all of the wires within the cable, revealing short circuits, open circuits, reversals, foreign voltages, etc. Lots of different models are available, and each one usually works with more than one type of cable and connector, including phone, data and video. Some have additional features such as tone generation.

Phone Line Tester This is an small inexpensive tool that plugs into a phone jack and uses an LED to indicate whether the jack is dead, live or has reversed polarity.

Wire Stripper Used to remove insulation from wire without damaging the inner wire. Some phone geeks use their teeth.

Modular Plug Crimper Basically this is a special purpose heavy-duty pliers that is used to attach a modular plug to a wire.