By Timothy Dale | Updated Mar 18, 2022 7:49 PM
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Taps cut threads into a piece of metal or wood with a hole for fastening with threaded bolts. Dies cut threads onto the exterior of a long bolt-shaped piece of metal or wood so that this newly cut bolt can be used with a nut as a fastener. In short, taps cut the female threads and dies cut the male threads on a fastener pair. The best tap and die set for you will depend on what you’re using it for, so we’ve assembled a list of the best tap and die sets in five individual categories.
Tap and die sets can range widely when it comes to the variety of parts and number of pieces included in each set. Some sets come in only one measurement system, but you’ll find many sets that offer both metric and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) tools.
For instance, a specialized woodworking set may have only three pieces, while a more comprehensive metalworking set may have more than 100 pieces, with both metric and SAE measurements included. A large 100-piece set may not include the exact tools you need though, because it contains near duplicates of the taps and dies in each measurement system, so look out for this when making a purchase.
Tap and die sets are broken up into two common measurement systems: metric and SAE. You can find a high-quality large-diameter tap and die set and standard tap and die set in either measurement system, but SAE tends to be easier to read for the average DIYer.
Metric tap and die measurements are determined by measuring the distance between the thread crests in millimeters. The crest of a thread is the protruding part, regardless of whether it is internal or external. In contrast, the root is the groove that sits between the two flanks that connect the crest to the root.
SAE tap and die measurements are much easier to understand and are simply measured in threads per inch (TPI). To find this number, just hold a measuring tape up to the thread pattern and count how many complete threads are in an inch. Alternatively, you could just use a pitch gauge if you have one or if one is included with your tap and die set. A pitch gauge is a specialized tool for determining SAE or metric tap and die measurements.
Taps come in three different types, including taper taps, plug taps, and finishing taps.
Dies also come in several varieties, including circular die, split circular die, and a die nut.
Before purchasing a new tap and die set and jumping into your next project, take a look at these factors to make sure you decide on the best tap and die set for a range of purposes.
When purchasing a tap and die set, the material is an important consideration because only sets made with materials like high carbon steel will be able to cut through the harder metals. Sets made with soft metals like aluminum are intended to be used with wood and cannot be used to cut threads into metal.
Tap and die sets made with moderately hard metals like alloy steel are great for most metals but would struggle to effectively cut into harder materials like stainless steel. To be able to cut harder metals, you typically want a set with a carbon steel construction. Fortunately, carbon steel is one of the most popular materials for manufacturing tap and die sets on the market. But if you don’t mind taking a bit longer to search, you could also opt for taps and dies made with high-speed steel (HSS), titanium, or cobalt.
The manufacturing process for most metals, soft or hard, makes them brittle when they’re stressed on the wrong points. So when using the tap and die set, make sure to take the time to clear the metal and wood shavings after every full rotation to prevent the tools from breaking. Invest in a tap and die set that can easily handle the materials you frequently use and always take your time to clear the excess metal or wood from the flute during thread cutting to prevent breaking the material or your tools.
To properly use a tap and die set you will need to have at least one basic tap wrench and one basic die wrench, though a ratcheting tap and die set is ideal.
If you’re investing in a good-quality tap and die set, your tools should be protected. A strong, durable steel or plastic storage case is great to prevent rusting, corrosion, and impact damage when you’re storing or transporting the tap and die set.
Another important consideration for any storage case is how well it holds the pieces in place when closed. There are few things more frustrating than safely packing up your tap and die set in its case only to find that all the pieces fall out of place when you pick up the case to move it.
These top-rated products are some of the best tap and die sets on the market. Based on your shopping considerations, choose the set that is compatible with your project.
The five ratcheting wrenches included with the GEARWRENCH tap and die set eliminate the need for hand-over-hand turning, which can quickly fatigue your hand muscles. Instead, a reversing lever allows you to drive the tap or die clockwise to cut the threads, then reverse the wrench handles counterclockwise to a better grip position before driving the tap or die in again.
The set is made of carbon steel and comes in a durable black storage case. It comes with 48 dies and 48 taps, including circular dies, taper taps, and plug taps, in both metric and SAE standard sizes. The 114-piece set also has a metric thread gauge and SAE thread gauge, as well as die adapters that work on round- or hex-shaped dies. A twist-lock guide system keeps the parts fastened to the handle during use, allowing you to produce neat and straight threads.
Each of the 76 pieces in the Neiko SAE and metric tap and die set is engraved with the correct size, according to either the metric or SAE measurement system. The set comes with 34 plug taps and 34 circular dies and includes 20 of the most commonly used sizes so you’re ready to tackle just about any tap and die project.
The set comes in a hard plastic carrying case that lists both the metric and SAE sizes on the interior so you can quickly locate the piece you need or return it to its position. The tools are made of alloy steel, which is softer than HSS or carbon steel, but also less brittle, so it’s a well-suited material for those new to using taps and dies. The alloy steel has a titanium-brazed coating intended to keep them sharp for up to 20 times longer than regular steel, so you won’t have to worry about replacing them or having to sharpen them any time soon.
The EFFICERE 40-Piece Tap and Die Set comes only in SAE sizes, but this is a versatility issue that you may be able to overlook at such an affordable price. The set has 40 pieces including a screwdriver, a durable case, one SAE thread pitch gauge, two tap wrenches, one die wrench, 17 tapering taps, and 17 circular dies in the most common SAE sizes, making it our pick for one of the best tap and die sets for the money.
The cutting teeth of the tools are CNC machined for higher thread cutting accuracy, and heat-treated for sustained durability and long life. The tools are made of GCr15 bearing steel, which is a high-carbon chromium bearing steel comparable to HSS or carbon steel in both strength and brittleness. This allows you to work with very hard materials like stainless steel or carbon steel. These features also make this budget pick our choice as the best tap for stainless steel.
The Neiko titanium tap and die set is an excellent choice for a professional tradesperson looking to pick up a durable, high-quality set that can be used with a range of materials. The 20 split circular dies are separated into 10 coarse (UNC) and 10 fine (UNF) dies with the sizes engraved on the side. The tapering taps are similarly separated in 10 UNC and 10 UNF sizes so that you can choose the appropriate thread designation for your project.
The carbon steel construction has titanium cutting edges to keep the taps and dies sharp for up to 20 times longer than alloy steel, and the heavy-duty plastic case can protect the tools from rust and corrosion. You can get this set in either metric or SAE, but it does not come with both measurements in one case. However, you do get two tap wrenches, a die wrench, a screwdriver, and a thread pitch gauge with either SAE or metric measurements, depending on the set you choose.
The ratcheting wrench included with this 6-die set has two extension bars to increase the torque while cutting new pipe threads. It has a handle with a cushioned grip to help reduce hand strain and increase control. This kit comes in a tough ABS plastic case, ensuring that the wrench and dies will be safe during transport and storage.
The set is made of carbon steel and cast iron, so it won’t wear out quickly, but it’s important to note that if the user attempts to use the wrong end of the die it will not cut. Additionally, this set is specifically made for cutting threads into the exterior of metal pipes and does not include taps for interior threading.
This versatile tap and die set only includes metric sizes, but that means that the kit comes with 110 unique pieces instead of half of the parts being SAE duplicates. If there is some concern about using only metric taps and dies, then Segomo Tools also offers a 110-piece tap and die set in SAE sizes.
Open the heavy-duty storage case to find 35 assorted dies, a range of wrenches, and 70 assorted taps, ensuring users have a significant variety of options to choose from depending on the needs of the project. Of the 35 assorted dies, there are 12 split circular dies for cutting shallow threads on the first pass, then deeper threads with each subsequent pass. Just keep in mind that the alloy steel construction may wear out more quickly than HSS or carbon steel parts.
The GEARWRENCH tap and die set is an excellent option for new and experienced DIYers due to the wide variety of parts and ratcheting wrench. However, if you are looking for a smaller set without sacrificing quality, the Neiko tap and die set is a better option.
Choosing the best tap and die sets for our list required time and effort to research the various products. The material, number of pieces, and variety of parts formed the main basis for consideration. Additionally, any sets that included extra features to help the product stand out from competitors were typically preferred over comparable tap and die sets that lacked additional features.
While carbon steel and HSS are effective choices for cutting through hard metal, they aren’t the best option for lighter materials like wood, so material considerations included the specific purpose of the set. Additionally, it was important to keep in mind that some sets may advertise a huge number of pieces, but if roughly half are simply SAE and metric equivalents, then the versatility of the product is reduced. Therefore, a high number of unique parts was considered more beneficial than multiple duplicates in the same set.
Take a look at the answers to these common questions about tap and die sets.
To use taps, place the tap in a tap wrench and line it up with the hole that needs threads. Turn clockwise one turn, then counterclockwise half a turn to release the metal chips produced by the first turn so your tap doesn’t break. Repeat until the threads are fully cut.
To use dies, secure the unthreaded bolt in a vise, then place the die on the end of the bolt you want threaded. Begin cutting the threads with the same alternating clockwise and counterclockwise pattern as was used with the taps. Continue until you have cut threads as far down the bolt as you want.
Tap and die sets that are intended for cutting metal should not be used on wood. However, sets that are designed to be used on wood make quick work of cutting threads in wooden holes or making wooden bolts.
The material you use should be based on the material you’ll be cutting. A good tap and die set will clearly advertise which materials it’s designed to cut and what it’s made of. High speed steel (HSS) is the most commonly used material because it can be used to cut most metals used in tap and die applications. However, cobalt or titanium may also be used for very hard materials like stainless steel.
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