Last updated on March 5, 2021 by qualified builder Aaron Barnett
Have you ever wondered how you can make your own threaded rod, and custom bolts and nuts? See, the beauty of a tap and die hardware is that they basically turn you into a tool-smith – certain tools allow you to make others, reducing the need to buy them. Most people start their own hardware business this way.
Today, our spotlight is on Tap and Die sets. Often called a ‘mating pair’, the two components allow you to thread your own bolts and screws.
#3 Best value HSS tap and die set
Tekton 7560 45 pieces, SAE, HSS, tap, and die set
#4 Alloy SAE andmetric tap and die set
Matco 675TD 75 pieces, SAE/ metric, alloy steel, tap and die set
#13 A premium Irwin tap and die set
Irwin Tools 26377 117 pieces, SAE/ metric, carbon steel, tap and die set
#14 A carbon steel tap and die set
Irwin Tools 26376 76 pieces, SAE/ metric, carbon steel, tap and die set
#15 Most comprehensive set with wrenches
Gearwrench 82812 114 pieces, SAE/ metric, carbon steel, tap and die set
#16 Quick-release tap adapter system
Gearwrench 3887 75 pieces, SAE/ metric, carbon steel, tap and die set
#17 The Craftsman tap and die set
Craftsman 75 pieces, SAE/ metric, carbon steel, tap and die set
#18 Most comprehensive metric tap and die set
ABN 110 pieces, metric, carbon steel, tap and die set
#19 Good value Irwin tap and die set
Irwin Tools 97311 25 pieces, metric, carbon steel, Hanson tap and die set
#20 Tap and die set for DIY
Craftsman 39 pieces, SAE, carbon steel, tap and die set
#21 Budget-friendly carbon steel rethreading tool
Orion Motor Tech 80 pieces, SAE/metric, carbon steel, tap and die set
Taps and dies were used in metalworking in the early 18th and 19th centuries. The tool was used to create screw threads for nuts and bolts that were to be used with other machinery.
Joseph Clement was a renowned British engineer and . The onset of machine milling in the 1860s gradually made the process of threading faster and easier. Yet, not all can afford an industrial-grade milling machine for just a simple job. Especially for small business owners and your average project-dabbler, a classic manual tap and die set is irreplaceable.
Today, we’ll be looking at the best tap and die sets around.
Features to consider with a tap and die set
Reasons to buy a tap and die set
Before you buy a tap and die set
Know your brands.
It’s important to know which brands have a good track record with tap and die sets. Especially if you’re looking for one to use for your metalwork, an established brand is more likely to deliver a durable and high-quality product. Names like Greenfield, Neiko, and Muzerdo have both the credibility and experience to ensure you an investment-worthy set.
Check the durability.
Consider the size.
A set of 100 pieces that cover both SAE and metric sizes is more versatile than even a similar-numbered set that only covers either of the two. While you should go for whichever is more versatile, also consider which sized set is more suited to your needs, such as the scale and frequency of your projects.
Check the included wrenches.
A rethreading kit is not a set without the wrenches. A normal set would have a tap wrench and a die handle but it’s best to have a T-wrench included in the set.
Think about the size.
You should always consider the price. In the case of tap and die sets, more pieces equates to higher prices, but that’s not a constant. When considering the price, also base it on your needs, as well as the brand name. The more casual the work, the lower the acceptable price range, otherwise, invest in the more premium ones.
What’s the difference between a tap and a die?
A tap and die essentially makes screw threads.
The tap is often associated as being the ‘female’ component and is used to make threads for the bolts and thread to fit into. The process of creating threads in material with a tap is called ‘tapping’.
A die is associated as being the ‘male’ component and is the one used when making screws or creating threads along with a material that functions as a screw/nut/bolt. Using a die to create threads is called ‘threading.
Just like any other metalwork such as engraving or carving, you can say tapping and threading is a work of precision art. They both require an eye for detail.
How to use a tap and die?
So, you probably want to know how to tap and thread by now, right? Here’s how:
Types of taps and dies
Don’t get confused with the different pieces you’ll find in your rethreading tool kit. Taps and dies are different.
Taper taps are often used for initial threading because their ends taper to a smaller diameter that’s easier for starting threads.
Plug taps are more the middle-ground between taper taps and finishing taps and are pretty common.
Finishing taps are best for finishing threads as they can cut completely until the bottom of the hole.
Die nuts are more of a refining tool as they can sharpen existing threads, but cannot make new ones.
Circular dies are the most common and come included in almost every set. Circular dies cut threads on exteriors.
Split circular dies are versatile circular dies that can either be split in half or have just a single split. These are able to take on larger material and can cut subsequently deeper from a shallow, initial pass.
How to choose the right material for taps and dies?
Tap and die sets are made from various kinds of steel; each with a different degree of threading efficiency depending on the material. You’d generally want to go with the best HSS tap and die sets that are capable of handling tougher material as these will most certainly work with softer ones, saving you time and effort.
Why HSS is the strongest?
High-speed steel is rather flexible, able to be combined with other alloys to attain an even greater range of application. As mentioned above, most cutting-tools utilize HSS and, as such, are able to perform better and faster.
In addition to being low-cost, HSS is very durable, being both tough and strong, making it perfect for threading as it can fare well even against a harder material. Highly heat resistance allows you to also take on more demanding and work-intensive projects.
In fact, HSS is so versatile that it can probably fit into most of the metalworks.
Choosing the best tap and die set
#1 Best SAE tap and die set
The overall best has to be Greenfield 420361. Despite the small number of pieces, the combination of HSS taps and carbon steel dies well makes up for it by giving you performance, longevity, and efficiency.
The HSS taps provide you with good wear resistance when creating internal threads, while the carbon steel dies to provide you with a more economical choice for threading external material.
As a plug tap, the Greenfield is also versatile, allowing you to do initial threads and fine-tuned refinements with ease. Despite it being SAE only, we can’t recommend anything better.
If you also need metric and want to stick with HSS quality, pair it with this.
Best value SAE tap and die set
The best value set goes to the Tekton 7560 for its balance of size and cost. Much like the Greenfield, the Tekton tap and die set covers SAE, but bolters a bigger number of pieces at a total of 45.
With 20 taps and 20 split dies and a 1½ inch die stock adapter, this relatively modest-sized set comes in handy for light to medium applications and can cover most standard thread sizes.
Best value SAE and metric tap and die set
If you’re looking for affordability and both a metric and SAE set, look no further than the Efficere 60. This good-sized set is a good pick for those just starting out or those who are in need of a casual work set. The Efficere 60 features both SAE and metric sizes and can make both coarse and fine threads.
It has 20 metric taps and dies and a 20:12 ratio of SAE fractional taps and dies for coarse and fine threading respectively.
Accessories and their role in hand tapping
All the sets mentioned here are hand taps, meaning that they are all operated manually. There is no automation involved, as such, certain accessories play a vital role in getting work done and are essential parts of any fully-functional tap and die set.
For even better form, you might want to see what this power metal shaper, polisher, or sharpener can do in your workshop, for first creating fine sharp edges before getting threaded.
Essentially a compact, T-shaped handle that’s used to turn the tap or other small tools. The tap wrench has a very basic design but seems to also be the most efficient when it comes to manual turning.
Of all the wrenches that should be included in a set, this would be the best.
The die wrench works as a handle for turning die, they are basically the ones responsible for creating the threads. A die wrench can either have a built-in die or have a hole that’s specifically shaped for certain dies.
A multipurpose and often elongated variant of a tap wrench. Both share the same T-shaped appearance, but a T-wrench can work with more than just taps and can be used for applications outside threading.
Nothing does a better job at creating uniformed threads on various materials than a die stock. A die stock gives you a guide or framework and allows you to position the die with precision.
Not included but before you thread you need to first drill the pilot hole. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you have the right-sized and quality drill bits for metal.
Can you use a tap and die set for making wooden bolts & nuts?
Yes. You can definitely use a set to custom-make your own wooden bolts and nuts, although there is specific woodworking tap and die sets that are specifically designed to make working with wood faster and easier.
Tips for using tap and die sets
Comparing tap and die sets
|Greenfield 420361||Greenfield 420368||Tekton 7560||Matco 675TD||Neiko 00916A||Efficere 60 pieces||Vector tools||Neiko 00908A||Mostbest||Muzerdo 86||Muzerdo 110||Metart||Irwin Tools 26377||Irwin Tools 26376||Gearwrench 82812||Gearwrench 3887||Craftsman 52377||ABN||Irwin Tools Hanson 97311||Craftsman 52382||Orion Motor Tech|
|Verdict:||Best tap and set||Best value rethreading kit||Most affordable|
|Total pieces in the kit||26 pcs||18 pcs||45 pcs||75 pcs||45 pcs||60 pcs||80 pcs||76 pcs||110 pcs||86 pcs||110 pcs||86 pcs||117 pcs||76 pcs||114 pcs||75 pcs||75 pcs||110 pcs||25 pcs||39 pcs||80 pcs|
|Material:||HSS/Carbon steel||HSS/Carbon steel||HSS||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Alloy steel||Tungsten steel (High carbon steel)||Tungsten steel (High carbon steel)||Tungsten steel (High carbon steel)||Carbon steel||Carbon steel||Carbon steel||Carbon steel||Carbon steel||Carbon steel||Carbon steel||Carbon steel||Carbon steel|
|Number of taps:||11 pcs||5 pcs||20 pcs||34 pcs||20 pcs||27 pcs||34 pcs||34 pcs||70 pcs||39 pcs||70 pcs||39 pcs||34 pcs||34 pcs||48 pcs||34 pcs||34 pcs||70 pcs||11 pcs||17 pcs||34 pcs|
|Number of dies:||11 pcs||5 pcs||20 pcs||34 pcs||20 pcs||27 pcs||34 pcs||34 pcs||35 pcs||39 pcs||35 pcs||39 pcs||34 pcs||34 pcs||48 pcs||34 pcs||34 pcs||35 pcs||10 pcs||17 pcs||34 pcs|
|Tap wrench:||0||0||1 pc||0||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||2 pcs||2 pcs||2 pcs||2 pcs||2 pcs||2 pcs||3 pcs||3 pcs||1 pc||2 pcs||1 pc||1 pc||2 pcs|
|Die wrench:||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||2 pcs||2 pcs||2 pcs||0||1 pc||2 pcs||2 pcs||1 pc||2 pcs||2 pcs||0||2 pcs|
|T-wrench:||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||2 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||1 pc||2 pcs||2 pcs||2 pcs||1 pc||0||1 pc||2 pcs|
The best tap and die set is the Greenfield 420361 with its durable and versatile HSS/carbon steel tap and die combination. Though it only covers SAE sizes, the small piece count makes it easy to manage and allows you to really focus on quality job completion.
If you’re after the best value, then the Tekton 7560 is your man. It’s a good-sized set and the split dies to give you a good amount of flexibility with your threading options.
Looking for both a metric and SAE set in an affordable kit? Then the Efficere 60 should be right up your alley; its highly assorted 60-piece kit allows for coarse and fine threading and is also for both SAE and metric sizes.
So, ready to tap out? If yes, then do remember these sets as they are among the best the market has to offer. We hope you had a fun read with this and we’ll see you in the next one!
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