If you are a pro machinist, auto mechanic, or a home workshop do-it-yourself novice cutting threads can be a challenging task. Quite often an SAE thread size is required and that’s why its important to have the best SAE Tap and Die Set on hand to do the job efficiently.
What is the Meaning of SAE?
The acronym SAE is familiar to most of us who are involved in the mechanical trades but there is some confusion as it pertains to thread sizes. A lot of people associate it with fractional thread sizes or as an American standard which is true but only part of the implication.
SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers and was established in 1905 as a means for automotive engineering and technology developments to be shared. As the automotive industry evolved the various auto manufactures decided it was to everyone’s benefit to share the things that had been learned by experience and by testing.
The industry pooled the wisdom of their engineers and agreed upon a standardized system of threads to be used among many other things.
SAE Thread Systems
There are two SAE thread systems: Fractional and Machine Screw
As the name implies, fractional refers to the nominal diameter of a threaded bolt or hole. A 1/4″ diameter threaded bolt or hole is designated as 1/4″. The pitch of the thread is based upon the number of threads per inch. For example a 1/4″ bolt with 20 threads per inch is designated as 1/4″-20.
Fractional thread sizes are also designated as either Coarse (UNC) or Fine (UNF).
Machine Screw Threads:
Screw sizes smaller than 1/4″ diameter are called Machine Screw Threads. They range from #0 up to #12. The “Number” designates the diameter and a second number designates the number of threads per inch (TPI).
Machine Screw Thread sizes are also both Coarse and Fine series which are designated as UNC or UNF respectively.
Fractional and Number threads that make up the SAE threading system have also become loosely referred to as American Standard or US threads.
What to Look for When Selecting a SAE Tap and Die Set!
Because Tap and Die Sets are indispensable where mechanical and machining work is done dozens of manufactures are offering their products hoping to get their share of the market. Some are good quality made from the appropriate materials while others are junk and likely to fail when you need them most.
Here are a few things to consider when picking out the best SAE Tap and Dies Set for your needs.
- Size Range: Choose a set that includes the thread sizes you expect to encounter in your job. It doesn’t make sense to pay for tooling you will probably never use.
- Tap and Die Material: Another important issue to consider is the material the taps and dies are made from. If your job only demands that you hand tap or cut threads occasionally High Carbon Steel will do the job just fine. If you are a machinist and expect to do a lot of threading with machines then HSS is the best choice. SEE: High Speed Steel VS Carbon Steel
- Accessories: A tap and die set should include a well-designed Tap Wrench and a Die Stock. Most sets include a basic T-Handle wrench for smaller size taps and an adjustable wrench for larger sizes. These work great but a Ratcheting feature is worth paying extra because it makes the job much easier. A basic die stock secures the die in place with set screws while others use a more sophisticated retaining system. Some die wrenches can also hold a tap adapter and might also have a ratcheting mechanism for easier threading.
Pro Tip: Never touch the cutting edges of a tap or die with your fingers. The slightest amount of your natural body acids will erode the razor sharp cutting edges within seconds, diminishing the performance of the tool.
What are the Best SAE Tap and Die Sets?
With so many products available, finding the best ones is time-consuming and a bit frustrating. In my research I discovered that tool merchants don’t include the some of the important information in their listings. It has been necessary to draw on my years of experience in the machining trade, analyse hundreds of customer reviews, and contact manufactures to get accurate information.
I can confidently recommend each of the following SAE Tap and Die Sets. Each set includes quality tools and the appropriate accessories to create proper fitting internal and external threads when used correctly.
#1 MOST USER-FRIENDLY
IRWIN Hanson 40 Piece SAE Tap and Die Set 1835091
- 1” Die Stock w/ Spacer
- Small Adj. Tap Socket #4 to ¼”
- Medium Adj. Tap Socket ¼” to ½”
- T-Bar for Adj. Tap Sockets
- SAE Thread Pitch Gauge
- Machine Screw Tap and Die Sizes: #4-40 NC, 6-32 NC, 8-32 NC, 10-24 NC, 10-32 NF, 12-24 NC
- Fractional Tap and Die Sizes: ¼”-20 NC, ¼”-28 NF, 5/16”-18 NC, 5/16”-24 NF, 3/8”-16 NC, 3/8”-24 NF, 7/16”-14 NC, 7/16”-20 NF, ½”-13 NC, ½”-20 NF, Pipe 1/8”-27 NPT (Tap Only)
- Plastic Storage Case
The IRWIN Hanson 40 Piece SAE Tap and Die Set 1835091 is part of the company’s Performance Threading System line up of tools. Irwin has become one of the most innovative tool manufactures who dares to challenge the status quo of traditional tool design. And that philosophy is clearly evident in this set of tools.
The accessories that come with this set are thoughtfully engineered to make threading easier and more efficient.
The 1835091 set comes with a Die Stock with ergonomically designed handles that are so much more comfortable to use than the old style. And, instead of having to grab a screw driver to turn a set screw to lock a die in place, a simple twist locks or unlocks the die.
This set includes a small and a medium size Adjustable Tap Sockets. This clever design enables you to insert the adapter into the Die Stock for tapping a hole. Or, you can use your 3/8” Ratchet Drive (Not Included) which works great for difficult to reach places.
The most commonly used SAE Machine Screw and Fractional tap and die sizes are included ranging from #4 up to ½” plus a 1/8”-27 NPT Pipe size. Each tap and die is crafted from Chrome Moly High Carbon Tool Steel for long lasting performance.
An SAE Thread Pitch gauge comes with the set and everything is fitted in a rugged molded storage case.
This USA made set is appropriate for the machinist, metal fabricator, mill wright, HVAC service professional or home workshop
#2 MOST BUDGET-FRIENDLY
Neiko 40 Piece SAE Tap and Die Set 00911A
- Adjustable Tap Wrench
- T-Handle Tap Wrench
- Adjustable Die Stock (wrench)
- SAE Thread Pitch Gauge and Screwdriver
- (10) each SAE Coarse Thread (UNC) Plug-type Taps, sizes: #4-40, #6-32, #8-32, #10-24, #12-24, 1/4″-20, 5/16″-18, 3/8″-16, 7/16″-14, 1/2″-13
- (10) each SAE Coarse Thread (UNC) Hexagon Dies, sizes: #4-40, #6-32, #8-32, #10-24, #12-24, 1/4″-20, 5/16″-18, 3/8″-16, 7/16″-14, 1/2″-13
- (6) each Fine Thread (UNF) Plug-type Taps, sizes: #10-32, 1/4″-28, 5/16″-24, 3/8″-24, 7/16″-20, 1/2″-20
- (6) each Fine Thread (UNF) Hexagon Dies, sizes: #10-32, 1/4″-28, 5/16″-24, 3/8″-24, 7/16″-20, 1/2″-20
- 1/8″-27 NPT Pipe Tap and 1/8”-27 NPT Pipe Die
- ABS Plastic protective Storage Case
The Neiko 40 Piece SAE Tap and Die Set 00911A is a quality made Imported tool set. The taps and dies are made from high carbon chromium alloy GCr15 steel. GCr15 is a bearing alloy developed by the Chinese. This steel is incredibly strong and has similar although not equivalent wear characteristics to American HSS (High Speed Steel). Each tap and die is TiN (Titanium Nitride) coated which greatly improves the wear and increases the hardness from 60 Rc (the industry standard hardness for threading tools ) up to 81 Rc.
The Neiko 00911A set comes with a full range of the most common SAE thread sizes ranging from #4-40 up to ½”-20 in both Coarse and Fine series. A 1/8”-27 NPT tap and die are also included.
The T-Handle Tap Wrench and the Die Stock are decent and will get the job done. An SAE Thread Pitch Gauge and Screwdriver are included with the set.
The Neiko 40 Piece SAE Tap and Die Set 00911A is very Budget-Friendly. It’s a good choice for the home DIY person or the professional machinist on a limited budget. It can also provide good service in an auto repair garage, metal fab shop, or home workshop but I wouldn’t recommend it for high production use.
#3 BEST SAE and METRIC
Muzerdo 86 Piece SAE & METRIC Tap and Die Set
- Adjustable Tap Wrench (M6 to M20 or 1/4″ to 3/4″)
- Long Handle Adjustable Tap Wrench (M3 to M12 or 1/16″ to 1/2″)
- T-Handle Tap Wrench
- Die Handle (M25 -1″)
- Long Die Handle (M38 – 1-1/2″)
- Screw Pitch Gauge SAE, Screw Pitch Gauge Metric, and Screwdriver
- SAE TAP SIZES: 1/8″-27 NPT, 4-40, 6-32, 8-32, 10-32, 10-24, 12-24, 1/4″-20, 1/4″-28, 5/16″-18, 5/16-24, 3/8″-16,3/8″-24, 7/16″-14, 7/16″-20, 1/2″-13, 1/2″-20, 9/16″-12, 9/16″-18, 5/8″-11, 5/8″-18
- SAE DIE SIZES: 1/8″-27 NPT, 4-40, 6-32, 8-32, 10-32, 10-24, 12-24, 1/4″-20, 1/4″-28, 5/16″-18, 5/16-24, 3/8″-16,3/8″-24, 7/16″-14, 7/16″-20, 1/2″-13, 1/2″-20, 9/16″-12, 9/16″-18, 5/8″-11, 5/8″-18
- METRIC TAP SIZES: M3-0.5, M4-0.7, M5-0.8, M6-1.0, M7-1.0, M8-1.0, M8-1.25, M9-1.25, M10-1.5, M10-1.25, M11-1.5, M11-1.25, M12-1.75, M12-1.5, M14-2, M14-1.5, M16-2, M16-1.5
- METRIC DIE SIZES: M3-0.5, M4-0.7, M5-0.8, M6-1.0, M7-1.0, M8-1.0, M8-1.25, M9-1.25, M10-1.5, M10-1.25, M11-1.5, M11-1.25, M12-1.75, M12-1.5, M14-2, M14-1.5, M16-2, M16-1.5
- Blue or Grey Carrying Case
I really like the Muzerdo 86 Piece SAE & METRIC Tap and Die Set because it offers tremendous value. It is Imported but the quality is very good for hand threading in most work environments.
This is one of the most complete sets available that includes both SAE and Metric screw thread sizes.
Each tap and die is machined from GCr15 High Chromium Bearing Steel . This alloy has tremendous strength and wear resistance that is roughly equivalent to American HSS. It lacks the ability to withstand High Temperatures like HSS but this isn’t an issue for hand threading operations.
Each tap and die is finish ground and coated with Titanium Nitride (TiN). This metal finish greatly increases the hardness and wear resistance plus it protects the tool from rust.
The accessories are decent quality. A plastic storage case securely holds each item in place.
NOTE: The case comes in TWO colors (Blue and Gray). The cases are shipped randomly so you may receive either color.
I highly recommend the Muzerdo 86 Piece SAE & METRIC Tap and Die Set for the tradesman or for any person who wants to be able to hand-cut SAE and Metric threads.
#4 BEST LARGE DIAMETER SET
NEIKO SAE Pro Grade Large Diameter Tap & Die Set
- Adjustable Die Wrench w/ Adapter
- T-Handle Tap Wrench for smaller size taps
- Adjustable Tap Wrench for larger size taps
- Screwdriver and SAE Thread Pitch Gauge
- (10) each Coarse UNC Dies sizes: 1/4-20, 5/16-18, 3/8-16, 7/16-14, 1/2-13, 9/16-12, 5/8-11, 3/4-10, 7/8-9, 1-8. (10) each Fine UNF Die sizes: 1/4-20, 5/16-18, 3/8-24, 7/16-20, 1/2-20, 9/16-18, 5/8-18, 3/4-16, 7/8-14, 1-14
- (10) each Coarse UNC Taps sizes: 1/4-20, 5/16-18, 3/8-16, 7/16-14, 1/2-13, 9/16-12, 5/8-11, 3/4-10, 7/8-9, 1-8. (10) each Fine UNF taps sizes: 1/4-20, 5/16-18, 3/8-24, 7/16-20, 1/2-20, 9/16-18, 5/8-18, 3/4-16, 7/8-14, 1-14
- Plastic Storage Case
If you are looking for an economical way to cut larger size SAE threads the NEIKO SAE Pro Grade Large Diameter Tap & Die Set 00916A is a good option to consider. This is a good quality tool set that will cut good fitting SAE threads.
Neiko is a division of Ridgerock Tools Inc. in Gardena, CA. Although they manufacture many of their tools in the USA the 00916A is imported.
Each tap and die is laser engraved “tungsten” which is one of the agents used in high wear and heat resistant alloy steels.
Each cutting tool is TiN (Titanium Nitride) coated which dramatically increases the hardness from 60 Rc up to 82 Rockwell “C” Scale. This high tech metal coating also increases the wear resistance of the metal extending the life of the tool by as much as 20% under normal use conditions. TiN coating also protects the metal from rust and corrosion.
The Die Stock is well-made and comes with an adapter insert to enable it to accommodate both small and large size dies. A T-Handle Tap Wrench is for the smaller size taps and an Adjustable Tap Wrench is provided for the large sizes.
One of the features I like is the Dies are SPLIT which gives you the option to adjust them to cut oversize or undersized threads. Each of the taps are PLUG Style which makes them easy to start and requires only a moderate amount of torque to turn. An SAE Thread Pitch Gauge is included with the set.
The plastic storage case is functional although I recommend that you be cautious when opening so as not to have any items fall out.
For the money, the NEIKO SAE Pro Grade Large Diameter Tap & Die Set 00916A is an excellent value. Although you certainly can use it for “professional” applications, this set is a better option for the home workshop or for any situation where occasional hand threading is required. NOTE: Also available in METRIC
#5 BEST ECONOMY
TEKTON (SAE) 45 Piece Tap & Die Set
- 2” T-Handle Die Stock
- 1 ½” Die Stock Adapter
- ¼” T-Handle Tap Wrench
- ¼” to 1” Adjustable Tap Wrench
- Set 7560 Include: 20 total SAE Tap and die sizes: Coarse threads (NC): 1/4 NC 20, 5/16 NC 18, 3/8 NC 16, 7/16 NC 14, 1/2 NC 13, 9/16 NC 12, 5/8 NC 11, 3/4 NC 10, 7/8 NC 9, 1 NC 8 and Fine threads (NF): 1/4 NF 28, 5/16 NF 24, 3/8 NF 24, 7/16 NF 20, 1/2 NF 20, 9/16 NF 18, 5/8 NF 18, 3/4 NF 16, 7/8 NF 14, 1 NF 14
- Blow-molded Plastic Storage Case
Tekton is a family-owned business located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They produce 19% of their tools in the USA. 75% are made in Taiwan, and 5% in China to Tekton specifications.
The TEKTON (SAE) 45 Piece Tap & Die Set, 7560 is intended for occasional hand-cutting threads. The taps and dies are machined from High Carbon Tool Steel. When used correctly they will cut SAE compliant threads.
Each of the support tools included in this set are decent and will do the job for which they are intended.
The Taps are PLUG style making them easier to start and require moderate torque to cut threads.
Each of the Dies are Round Style and SPLIT so they can be adjusted. The plastic storage/carry case is functional although the items are not held securely in place and may fall out when case is opened.
I recommend the TEKTON (SAE) 45 Piece Tap & Die Set 7560 for occasional use in a home workshop setting. Because they are not made from HSS they would not withstand the rigors and wear in a commercial environment.
As with any metal cutting tool, ALWAYS use a high quality cutting fluid such as Tap Magic. This product will greatly reduce your chances of breaking off a tap. It will also enable you to cut cleaner, sharper threads with less effort.
The TEKTON 45 Piece Tap & Die Set is also available in METRIC, model 7561
- 0.1 What is the Meaning of SAE?
- 0.2 SAE Thread Systems
- 0.3 What to Look for When Selecting a SAE Tap and Die Set!
- 1 What are the Best SAE Tap and Die Sets?
- 2 #1 MOST USER-FRIENDLY
- 3 IRWIN Hanson 40 Piece SAE Tap and Die Set 1835091
- 4 #2 MOST BUDGET-FRIENDLY
- 5 Neiko 40 Piece SAE Tap and Die Set 00911A
- 6 #3 BEST SAE and METRIC
- 7 Muzerdo 86 Piece SAE & METRIC Tap and Die Set
- 8 #4 BEST LARGE DIAMETER SET
- 9 NEIKO SAE Pro Grade Large Diameter Tap & Die Set
- 10 #5 BEST ECONOMY
- 11 TEKTON (SAE) 45 Piece Tap & Die Set