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For troubleshooting purposes it often becomes necessary, for a lineman to test a telephone line with a butt set, as a primary means of tracking down problems with the phone itself or the telephone line. There are multiple ways the butt set can be used effectively for such tasks, and there are several functions that can be carried out using the butt set. The butt set can connect directly using the included test leads or used in tandem with a modular adapter (commonly referred to as a ‘modapt’), which allows in-line testing for any plug and jack combination.

Monitoring a phone line

To listen for line noise and line clarity, tap into a telephone line for the purpose of monitoring any given call, connect your butt set to wires or to another jack already connected to that phone line, and switch the butt set to ‘monitor mode’ to establish monitoring of the phone line and any calls which are made. You can also use the speakerphone in ‘mute’ mode, if you don’t wish your presence to be known during monitoring.

Connecting to the telephone line with a modapt

When connecting the butt set to a telephone jack to verify that the wiring is correct and a dial tone is present, the modapt comes in very handy. By using the modular phone cable on the modapt, you can easily connect the modapt to the telephone jack. One end of the cable gets plugged into a port on the modapt, and the other end gets plugged into the telephone jack. The red and black leads of the butt set get clipped onto the test pads located on the perimeter of the modapt, then by pressing ‘test call’ or ‘hook’ button on the butt set, a test number can be dialed on the keypad and a connection can be made.

Checking connections inside and outside the jack

When a phone cable is seemingly terminated properly but there is still no dial tone, the butt set can be used to figure out the problem. First, unplug the phone and connect your butt set clips to a modapt, then either plug it into the jack, or connect the butt set clips to the screws inside the jack, if the jack has screws. If you can make calls using your butt set while connected directly to the screws but not through the jack, the jack itself is faulty or damaged.

Dead phone or dead line?

In the TALK mode the butt set functions as phone. Connect it to a suspect jack to verify if there is a dial tone. If a dial tone is not detected, it’s the phone line. If a dial tone is detected but you weren’t able to do so with a standard phone, it’s a faulty phone

Checking a line at the source

A noisy or dead line may be attributable to faulty equipment connections, or some problem originating from the phone company itself. At the network interface device (NID), disconnect the privately owned equipment, and connect your butt set to the incoming line. While thus configured, if you hear a dial tone and are able to make a call without the presence of background noise, the problem with the line is not due to any problem from the phone company.

Finding a phone number

Determining a phone number is a frequent lineman’s task, and since phone lines are not always tagged by phone companies, it’s sometimes hard to identify which is which. The good thing is, most phone companies use Automatic Number Announcement (ANA) numbers which can be called, and the automated answering system will tell you which number you’re calling from. You can even store these numbers on your butt set if it has the capability.

The versatility of the butt set

These are a few of the monitoring functions that a lineman can accomplish with the very versatile and handy butt set. With this one tool and a couple simple, helpful supporting utilities, most of the tasks a lineman encounters in the performance of his duties can be easily accomplished in a very effective manner.


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