A Complete Guide to Help You Select the Best Tap and Die Set for Your Hard Earned Money!
Cutting internal or external threads is a tedious metal removal process that’s difficult to master and must be done correctly to achieve acceptable results. That’s why it’s important to have the Best Tap and Die Set available so you can cut clean, proper fitting threads that won’t fail.
In most instances, it’s difficult to know in advance what size or type of thread that needs to be cut. However, the various trades such as machinist, auto mechanic, or service technician typically contend with threads within a certain size range and type making it easier to select an appropriate tap and die set.
Unfortunately, finding the right set for your requirements isn’t that easy. There are veritably dozens of sets to choose from but certain ones should be avoided. Often times the price will be very attractive but the materials used are frequently inferior and won’t hold up under normal usage. Accordingly, the thread tolerances of these budget sets may not comply with established SAE standards. This deviation could produce poor fitting threads that are prone to fail under stress.
Consequently, to make the selection process even more confusing, merchants often exclude important information and specifications that you should know.
My Experience with Tap and Die Sets and Thread Cutting!
When I began researching the various tap and dies sets available I discovered there are a lot of articles offering advice about which set is best. Some of them I found to be very informative with reliable information while others cause me to question whether the author has ever actually tapped a hole or cut a thread using a tap and die set.
Throughout my career as a precision machinist I have cut literally thousands of threads in just about every type of material imaginable. Frequently, my job calls for creating threads in mild and high carbon tool steels. On some occasions I find it necessary to cut threads in stainless, cast iron, brass, copper, aluminum, and even plastic.
Consequently, this experience has provided me with a unique understanding of threading processes and the best tools to use. I realize that all the technical jargon can be confusing for someone who isn’t exposed to it on a daily basis like I am. This is the reason I’ve created this article, to help you choose the best tap and die set for the projects you have in mind.
To make certain you end up with a quality product I have sorted through dozens of sets looking for the important features that should be included. I’ve investigated each of the manufacturers carefully. I have scrutinized hundreds of customer reviews looking for credible issues you should know about. Additionally, I have analyzed the specifications of each set to make sure they will perform the way you expect.
I selected these sets because they will produce the most commonly used Coarse and Fine thread sizes in SAE or Metric series. Each set includes tap handles, die stocks, and other accessories necessary to create threads. You will need a good set of drill bits for tapping holes if you don’t already a set.
Based on my experience and research I believe these are the best 5 tap and die sets currently available and I confidently recommend them.
BEST PROFESSIONAL GRADE:
#1 TEKTON (SAE) 45 Piece Tap & Die Set
- Available in SAE or Metric
- Hardened tungsten alloy HSS (high speed steel) construction for superior thread cutting
- 1/4 inch T-handle Tap Wrench
- 1/4 to 1 inch adjustable Tap Wrench
- 2-inch T-handle Die Stock
- 1-1/2-inch Die Stock Adapter
- (20) each Plug Taps, (20) each Split dies
- SAE Set Model 7560: Full range of 20 each 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
- Metric Set Model 7561: Full range of 20 each Taps and Dies, coarse and fine threads from 6mm to 24mm
- Storage case to keep everything organized
The TEKTON (SAE) 45 Piece Tap & Die Set is designed for machinists, tool & die makers, auto and marine mechanics, and maintenance Personal. All taps and dies are made from tungsten alloy High Speed Steel (HSS) for optimal performance. These tools will hold their cutting edge longer under heavy usage conditions including power tapping and chasing which is common in machine shops.
All Taps are PLUG style for easy starting and reduced torque requirement.
Each of the Dies are SPLIT style which enables the user to chase a thread oversize for the first rough cut and adjust to Spec for finish cutting.
The TEKTON 45 Piece Tap and Die Set is available in either SAE Mod. 7560 or METRIC Mod. 7561.
If your job or business requires professional grade tools the TEKTON 45 Piece Tap and Die Set is your best choice.
- Plug tap design for easy starting
- Split Dies allow adjustment
- Industrial grade HSS withstands high usage
- Tools can slip lose from case
- Die stock adjustment screw isn’t hardened
#2 IRWIN Tools Tap and Die 117 Pc. Deluxe Set, SAE and Metric
- (2) Tap Handles
- Die Stock
- (2) Thread Gauges
- (36) each Drill Bits
- Spiral-flute Screw Extractors: EX-1, EX-2, EX-3, EX-4 and EX-5
- Machine Screw Taps & Dies: 4-40 NC, 6-32 NC, 8-32 NC, 10-24 NC, 10-32 NF and 12-24 NC
- Fractional Screw Taps & Dies: 1/4″-20 NC, 1/4″-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, 1/2″-13 NC and 1/2″-20 NF
- Metric Taps & Dies: 3mm-0.5, 4mm-0.7, 4mm-0.75, 5mm-0.8, 5mm-0.9, 6mm-1.0, 7mm-1.0, 8mm-1.0, 8m -1.25, 9mm-1.0, 9m -1.25, 10mm-1.25, 10mm-1.5, 11mm-1.5, 12mm-1.25 and 12mm-1.75
- Pipe Thread Taps & Dies: 1/8″-27 NPT and 1/8″-28 BSP
- Blow Molded Plastic Carrying Case
The IRWIN Tools Tap and Die 117 Pc. Deluxe Set comes with just about every tap and die size you might need in a home workshop or professional auto garage setting. The set includes all the accessories you will need to tap a hole or thread a bolt including all the appropriate size drill bits. (5) Spiral-Flute Extractors are ready to help you remove that stubborn broken screw or stud.
Both the taps and dies in this set are made from premium High Carbon Tool Steel and heat treated to 60 Rc. These tools will cut class 2A and 2B threads in a variety of materials including low carbon and annealed high carbon steel, aluminum and other non-ferrous metals.
For the money the IRWIN Tools Tap and Die Deluxe, 117 Pc. set is hard to beat!
- Well-designed accessories
- Includes all tap drills
- Wide variety of thread sizes
- 4 Flute taps don’t work well for power tapping
#3 GEARWRENCH Ratcheting 114 Pc. Tap and Die Set
- (48) ea. Taps and Dies in SAE and Metric sizes ranging from #4-40 to 3/4” and 3mm to 18mm
- Ratcheting “T” Handle Stocks hold Dies and features a Reversing Lever to eliminate hand-over-hand turning
- Twist Lock Guiding System reduces die “walk back” and keeps dies centered while turning
- Die adapters work on both round and hex shaped Dies
- Die Adapters work with the 3/8″ Drive pass thru ratchet and socket system plus socket Accessories
- Auto-locking feature allows the tap adapters to be safely removed
- Drive Tap extension adapters provide greater access in confined
- Ratcheting “T” Tap wrench works with GEARWRENCH pass thru socket system
- Set includes (2) ea. Ratcheting “T” handles, (3) ea. sizes tap adapters and (2) ea. sizes of die adapters, (2) ea. Extension adapters plus a sliding “T” for the adapters, 4mm hex key, 5 screw extractors, SAE and Metric thread Gauges
- Blow molded carrying case with tilted tap holders for easy access and storage
The GEARWRENCH Ratcheting 114 Pc. Tap and Die Set is ideal for the pro mechanic or the home workshop. The set is well-thought out and has some nice features that make cutting threads easier. It has almost all the SAE and Metric tap and die sizes you will probably need. Each tap and die is precision machined from premium grade High Carbon Tool Steel and then heat treated to 60 Rc which is the same hardness as HSS.
These thread cutting tools will cut Class 2 threads in low and high carbon steel, aluminum, brass, or copper.
There are No pipe NPT taps and dies in this set.
The Blow Molding case keeps every piece secure and the tilt out tap holders are a nice touch.
The GEARWRENCH Ratcheting 114 Pc. Tap and Die Set is a quality product that you will be proud to own.
- Ergonomically engineered support accessories
- Twist lock guide system keeps dies centered
- Wide range of taps and dies
- 4 Flute taps don’t work well for power tapping
- Large ratcheting tap handle can come apart if inverted
BEST ENTRY LEVEL:
#4 Bosch Tap and Die 58 Piece Set
- (16) ea. 1″ Hex Dies: 6-32, 8-32, 10-24, 10-32, 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, 1/8-27
- (1) ea. Pipe Dies: 1/4-18
- (6) ea. 1-7/16″ Hex Dies: 9/16-12, 9/16-18, 5/8-11, 5/8-18, 3/4-10, 3/4-16
- (23) ea. Plug Taps: 6-32, 8-32, 10-24, 10-32, 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, 3/4-10, 3/4-16, 1/8-27, 1/4-18
- Pipe Tap: ¼-18
- (3) ea. Tap Handles
- (2) ea. Die Stocks
- Blow Molded Carrying case with designated compartments for each piece
Bosch has become a familiar name when it comes to quality tools. I currently own a number of Bosh tools and have never had a single problem.
The Bosch BTD58S is an entry level tap and die set. It includes the most commonly used SAE thread sizes. There are NO Metric taps or dies included in the set.
The threads are rolled instead of machined which is a process that produces a very precise thread and at the same time structures the metal grain so the tool is stronger. The material is high grade tool steel, heat treated to 60 Rc. for cutting mild to high carbon steel, aluminum, copper or brass.
The Bosch Tap and Die 58 Piece Set is a good match for the person with limited needs. It has all the features for tapping holes or cutting clean sharp threads on a shaft or bolt stud. The best feature of this set is the low price!
- Plug style taps start easily
- Includes Easy-Outs for removing broken screws
- Rolled threads for more accurate threads
- No Metric sizes
BEST for HOME WORKSHOP or HOBBY:
#5 HappyBuy 86 Piece Combo SAE/Metric Tap and Die Set
- METRIC Tap and Die sizes: M3-0.5, M 4-0.7, M 5-0.8, M 6-1.0, M 7-1.0, M 8-1.0, M 8-1.25, M 9-1.25, M 10-1.5, M 10-1.25, M 11-1.5, M 11-1.25, M 12-1.75, M 12-1.5, M 14-2, M 14-1.5, M 16-2, M16-1.5
- SAE Tap and Die sizes: 1/8″-27NPT, 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
- Die Stocks: (1) Small size, and (1) Large size
- Tap Wrenches: (1) Small Adjustable (1) Large Adjustable (1) T-Handle
- Thread Gauges: (1) U.S. (SAE) and (1) Metric
- Metal & Plastic Storage Case w/ Screwdriver
The HappyBuy 86 Piece Combo SAE/Metric Tap and Die Set will produce professional looking threads for a fraction of what other sets cost.
I have researched this product and the tooling in this set is quality made from heat-treated tungsten steel. The cutting edges are nice and sharp for easy and clean thread cutting. Each piece is coated with Titanium Nitride (TiN) that increases the hardness to an incredible 80 Rc.
Each tap and die is clearly etched with the size for easy identification.
The set includes all the tools you will need to create American SAE and Metric threads.
You can use this set to cut metals such as low and high carbon steel, stainless, cast iron, brass, and copper. And just in case you are not familiar with cutting threads, the listing for this set has a complete set of step-by-step instructions.
This set is ideal for the home workshops or for the hobbyist. It can also be used in business such as auto repair and restoration, HVAC, or other service applications.
Don’t let the exceptionally low price fool ya, this is a darn nice set you will be proud to own!
Also SEE: Hobby Tap and Die Sets for more options
- All tooling is TiN coated for long life
- Sizes are clearly marked on Tooling and Case
- Wide range of SAE and Metric thread sizes
- Lower tray in case is difficult to access
What to Look for When Buying a Tap and Die Set
When you are shopping for a tap and die set the most important thing to consider is what you will be using it for and how often. The difference between a professional grade set VS a set made for the do-it-yourselfer and home workshop use is hundreds of dollars.
Unless you have money to burn there is no point in paying for features that won’t give you any benefit.
Pro Tip: Always use a generous amount of a high quality cutting fluid such as Tap Magic for easier threading and longer lasting taps and dies. Your cutting tools will cut cleaner threads with less effort and it will greatly reduces the risk of tap breakage.
Taps and Dies are metal cutting tools that must be harder than the material they are intended to cut. These tools are mostly used for cutting threads in steel or other metals.
Depending on the intended use it’s important to consider the material the taps and dies are produced from.
High Carbon Steel
For most threading applications a good quality high carbon steel that has been properly heat treated will work just fine. Tap and die sets made from high carbon steel are a good choice for occasional use. They are ideal for low volume auto repair garages, service contractors, or home workshops. Under these conditions a tap or die will last for many years when properly used.
HSS (High Speed Steel)
In a machine shop or high volume auto or mechanical garage setting taps and are used regularly. Often times a machined part will require multiple tapped holes in it. This kind of usage requires that the too be made from M1 or M2 HSS (High Speed Steel) as opposed to heat treated High Carbon Steel. They won’t perform better but they will last longer than High Carbon Steel taps because of the tungsten and vanadium content.
These alloying elements enable the thread cutting tool to retain its hardness under the high heat generated by machine operation. And the wear resistance is significantly higher which means the tool will last longer. Also READ: High Speed Steel VS High Carbon Steel
Another factor to consider is the coating on the tap and die. Metal coating technology has advanced considerably over the last 20 years and there are several coatings that enhance the performance of cutting tools.
Titanium Nitride (TiN)
The most widely used coating or metal treatment for tooling is Titanium Nitride (TiN). TiN increases the effective hardness of a HSS or High Carbon Steel tool from 60 Rockwell C Scale to 80 Rc. That extra hardness greatly increases the life of the tool making the small additional cost worth it.
One of the oldest and still widely used metal coating is Black Oxide. This finish increases the ability of the surface of the tool to retain lubricant. It improves chip flow and helps protect the bit from rust.
What Type and Series of Threads Will you be Cutting?
- Plug Taps: For general applications a Plug Tap is the best type of tap to use for most applications. It starts easily and requires only moderate torque to turn. They are best suited for through-hole applications because of the tapered starting threads.
- Bottoming Tap: Quite often it is necessary to tap threads in a blind hole. If the hole is relatively shallow a bottoming tap is required to produce as many full threads as possible. If the hole is approximately 2 1/2 X the diameter deep a plug tap will produce enough threads for full strength.
- Tapered Tap: Tapered taps are used for cutting very precise threads with a minimum of torque. Because of the long taper they are easier to start than a plug tap. Tapered taps are not used that often and are seldom included in tap and die sets.
- Pipe Taps: American Standard Taper Pipe Thread (NPT) are the most commonly used threads in residential and commercial plumbing applications as well as automotive and hydraulic applications.
- The most common thread series used in the US are SAE National Coarse (UNC) and National Fine (UNF) and Metric Coarse and Fine threads.
- Coarse (NPT) and Fine (BSP) are the most commonly used Taper Pipe Thread series in the US.
The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) established what are referred to as “Unified Thread” Classes. Basically a thread class refers to the tightness of the fit of an internal thread with an external thread. Or, stated another way, the clearance between the internal and external threads.
There are (3) “Classes” of threads designated as 1, 2, and 3. The letter “A” refers to External threads and the letter “B” references an internal thread.
External threads are designated as 1A, 2A, or 3A and Internal threads are designated as 1B, 2B, or 3B.
- Class “1” threads are very loose-fitting and were developed for military ordnance or for other special applications where Loose-fitting threads are desirable.
- Class “2” threads were developed as a standard for general applications. The majority of nuts and bolts are made to Class “2” specifications.
- Class “3” are very tight fitting, close tolerance threads used primarily in the Aerospace, Medical, and the Auto Racing industries where precise-fitting threads are desirable.
Tap and Die sets come with tooling that produce Class “2” threads.
When selecting a tap and die set it’s a good idea to choose one with the appropriate accessories. The best sets usually include at least one Tap Wrench and one Die Stock. These are absolutely necessary to grip the tool while turning it.
Tap handles and stocks with a ratcheting feature are very handy and worth paying extra. It eliminates the hand-over-hand twisting that can often cause a tap or die to become misaligned or break.
Some sets include a set of Easy Outs which are designed to remove broken studs. Also, if you don’t already have a good set of Fractional, Number, and Letter drill bits some tap and die sets include them which saves money from buying them separately. SEE: Tap and Die Sets with Drill Bits
- 1 A Complete Guide to Help You Select the Best Tap and Die Set for Your Hard Earned Money!
- 2 RECOMMENDATIONS
- 3 #1 TEKTON (SAE) 45 Piece Tap & Die Set
- 4 #2 IRWIN Tools Tap and Die 117 Pc. Deluxe Set, SAE and Metric
- 5 #3 GEARWRENCH Ratcheting 114 Pc. Tap and Die Set
- 6 #4 Bosch Tap and Die 58 Piece Set
- 7 Set
- 8 #5 HappyBuy 86 Piece Combo SAE/Metric Tap and Die Set
- 9 What to Look for When Buying a Tap and Die Set