Taps will make the female part of the threads, basically those on the inside, while dies will allow you to make quick work of making the male portion of the threads. Put together, you can basically turn anything you want to into a bolt and bolt-hole in order to get things held together with a remarkably simple process.
Let’s take a look at 4 of the best tap and die sets on the market, then we’ll help you figure out which one is best for you.
Micro SAE Tap and Die Set
If you’re working with the small stuff, you know how hard it can be to get things to fit together properly. This tap and die set comes with everything you’ll need to get the job taken care of for anything under an inch in diameter. Make your smaller projects fit perfectly, whether they’re metal or plastic. You’re in good hands with adding this set to your tools, and it comes in at a bargain cost as well.
IRWIN HANSON Machine Screw/Fractional/Metric Tap and Hex Die and Drill Bit Deluxe Set
If you’re looking to get things done, but you’re not quite sure what sizes you’ll need, well, start with pretty much every size you’ll ever be likely to want to use. This set is easy to use, and comes with 117 pieces (see full specs) which will cover virtually anything you might want around the house as long as you’re not getting into industrial sizes. As a bonus, it also comes with high-speed steel drill bits so you can get the holes in without having to purchase anything else. This is one of the most comprehensive and best tap and die sets around.
Greenlee DTAPKIT 6-32 to 1/4-20 6-Piece Combination Drill and Tap Set
This budget kit from Greenlee will barely leave you with a lighter wallet, making it ideal if you’re planning on using the kit just once or twice. These are drill bits that will allow you to make the hole, then tap the bits through in order to leave you with female threading and they’re fantastic for holding together metal bits. If you’re planning on heavy use, however, you might want to skip this set and spend a little bit more money. If you’re on a tight budget, however, this is one awesome set.
GearWrench 3887 Tap and Die 75 Piece Set
The decision between this and the Irwin Hanson set is mainly based on how much you’re going to be using the set. This set gives you most of the functionality, sans drill bits, but its make is slightly less sturdy. If you just want to make sure that the capability of producing threads is in your garage, then take a closer look at this set (see full specs) but it’s not the one you want if you’re planning on mass production in your home workshop. That said, it’ll stand up to light to moderate usage and you’ll be able to fit almost anything together if you go with this set from GearWrench.
How to Pick the Best Tap and Die Set
Picking up a tap and die set can be a little bit confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for just yet. The truth of the matter is that these tools will see little use in most people’s garage or home workshop and even a cheap set is going to add capabilities you haven’t dreamed of.
Threading pipes is one of the primary uses, but some people will find themselves with a specialized project but in most cases what things will boil down to is simple: the price. We recommend picking up a big set, however, just so you won’t have to wait for another tool to arrive if you’re doing something else that requires a different size in the future.
If you do plan on heavy usage, figure out what material you’re primarily planning on using them for.
Plastic will rarely damage your set, even a cheap one. You can use pretty much any steel on plastic and you’ll be assured it will work just fine. Coated steel, which we don’t recommend for anything else, is actually quite nice here since the plastic won’t damage the finish but will be easier to clean up afterwards.
Non-ferrous metals like brass and copper will do a little more damage than plastic. Even a bad set will be able to thread about a dozen pipes before taking damage. It’s still a good idea to get a high-quality set for this purpose.
Ferrous materials, like steel and its assorted alloys, are the hardest things you will be cutting and demand stronger taps and dies. A cheap set might fall apart with only a couple of uses, and this is likely to leave your project up in the air until you can replace the whole thing.
Once you’ve figured out what material you’re going to be cutting, you’re pretty much in the clear.
Using Your Tap and Die Set
Usage is amazingly simple, as long as you pay attention to what you’re doing.
Taps are used for the female part of the connection, or where the screw goes in. You’ll generally be using them more often than dies. You’ll simply lock them into the handle and then drive them into the drilled hole that you want threaded.
Dies make the male threads, or the screw itself. Depending on your set, these might use a different handle than the tap but in any case you’ll basically be using the handle to provide the leverage you need to cut the thread. Be careful not to let it slide back, or you’ll have a ruined piece of material on your hands.
If you need to be able to make your own threads, well, there’s no way around buying the best tap and die set you can afford. As time goes on and your set begins to wear out, you might want to consider buying single pieces from high-end manufacturers but do yourself a favor in the beginning and start with the most comprehensive set so you won’t be limited by the application of your tools. Good luck!