Getting ready to get myself a decent tap & die set. Looking in the MSC catalog I think I'm going to stay away from the Import sets, but the 39 piece Hanson set is $108 in carbon steel and $497 in HSS !!! I plan to do some work with better quality steels (like some hobby gunsmithing) so is the HSS necessary or will the carbon steel work (if the carbon steel taps need to be sharpened after three holes that isn't "working" in my book). Or is the Import set any good?
Well, while they ARE import, I see that MSC has some HSS taps on sale just at the moment.
However, instead of buying a 'set', why not simply buy the ones you need for the project? That way you can afford to get the best, and will not end up saddled by a ton of taps and dies that you have not or may not use. Regards Dave Mundt
I wouldn't ever buy another tap and die set. Those are for homeowners, not machinists. Taps come in taper, regular (?) and bottoming. Which do you get in the set? Not all 3, that's for sure. Also, some taps are designed to push chips out ahead of them for through holes, and some are designed to pull chips back out easily for blind holes. Which come in the set? Not both, that's for sure.
I gotta tell you, there will come a time when you will value the work they put in the scribing of the size on the tap almost more than the way the tap is made. I'm 50 years old, and many of my taps I just cannot read, so I have to measure them. If I knew of a reputable manufacturer who etched the lettering in deeply and made it really legible, that would be a big deal to me.
I got a plastic box with compartments, sort of like a tackle box thing, and labeled the compartments for tap sizes. Got a box for NC and one for NF. Now when I come across a tap I have a place to put it. And I know what sizes I'm completely out of.
Spend your money on die stocks and tap wrenches, not fancy named sets.
I'm getting to the same stage, and a lot quicker than I would have ever guessed. I could see like a hawk, both near and far up till I was about
42 (that was also about the time I got my first computer). Now at 49, I can still read newsprint without reading glasses (with difficulty) in direct sunlight... but in normal conditions, forget it.
I was in Sears the other day looking at their new 'laser etched' 3/8" drive sockets... the markings are BIG and BOLD! Would have bought a set of both fractional and metric (shallow and deep), had they had them in
Tap and die sets are a waste of money in my humble opinion. Buy a cheap set from Sears, and then only buy individual sizes you need as you need them. You will find that there are a few that you always use, some are used every now and then, and some are never used. When you have identified the ones you use all the time buy a ½ dozen each of them, otherwise you will always be running out of them, and have to use the cheap Sears ones.
If you are serious about doing gun work then get a copy of Brownells' catalog and order your taps for gun work from them. Gun use some standard sizes, some standard "Gun sizes" and a whole lot of custom sizes. Guns also have been known to use 60º thread, 55º threads, square threads, rounded threads, "V" threads and the devil only know what else.
The same applies to screwdrivers for gun work. Make your own, so you know what you have! Screw heads found on guns are not standard. AND YOU DON'T USE A $2.00 SCREWDRIVER ON A PRICELESS FIREARM.
Don't buy anything but high-speed steel taps and dies. The carbon steel dies are okay for really soft iron or steel and brass. Waste of money.
Buy the taps and dies you need, as you need them -- one tap set (taper, regular, bottoming) at a time and one die at a time.
The taps you need the most are the ones you will break the most. So you'll end up buying individual taps anyhow. The dies don't break as often, but stainless steel can be really tough to put a thread on.
You fill in what you need from flea markets, garage sales, special sales, etc. You'd be amazed what you can pick up in ten to twenty years. Still working on my metrics, acmes and left-hand specials....
You don't bother sharpening taps (except ...). You throw them away or make scribers, scrapers, or lathe bits. An expensive tap, say a 1.5 x 8, or a 1 x 10 left-hand Acme -- taps like that are very expensive so the cost of sharpening is worth it. A big machine shop that has its own tool sharpening department might sharpen their own taps -- or a home shop machinist with a quorn grinder -- mainly to show that he can. I not sure if dies can be sharpened -- certainly seems more difficult (expensive) than sharpening taps.
While most of the respondents suggest not getting a tap and die set, I might first ask what kind of work you do. If you are like me and do your own repair work (and the neighborhood's as well) you will want to be prepared for any thread cutting job that may crop up, unexpectedly.
When those jobs come along, I want to be able to grab a tap or die,
*right now* and get things done. So, I bought an inexpensive "Kromedge" Craftsman set from Sears. The taps are darned near worthless, but I can force them to work in a pinch.
In order to lessen the sticker shock, I'm gradually assembling a complete set of taps, piecemeal. Whenever a construction project demands it, I usually order a set of all three taps for each thread size. I also watch for sales and swap meet deals. (But, never buy a tap that's been rattling around, loose, against other stuff. That's no way to treat a cutting edge.)
Now, I have almost every tap I'll ever need, every one of them good quality, made in the USA stuff, such as Cleveland, Greenfield, etc.
In summary, the answer is up to you. If you do an occasional project, order good quality taps and dies in the sizes you need when you're getting the rest of your materials together.
If you want a complete set, buy a relatively inexpensive one from a reputable outfit. As you break or wear out the cheapies, replace them with good stuff.
I agree 100%. I got a Sears set about 35 years ago. I've only broken one or two of those taps, but maybe I'm lucky. Some of them are dull now, and I reground a few into bottoming taps when I needed one. Now, I'll always look first for one of my hand tap sets, or for one of the gun taps I've picked up along the way. But I sure couldn't afford all those at first, or at new prices. They took a while to collect.
Buy the Sears set. Use it on Sunday when you have an unexpected repair to do. Keep your eyes out for good sets of hand taps - both the taper+plug+bottoming type and the serial type - and for other quality taps in good shape in the sizes you use most.
If you ever break off an HSS tap in a gun, you will discover why Brownells offers quality carbon steel taps in the common gunsmithing threads. A broken off carbon steel tap can be shattered with a punch and the pieces will be fairly easy to get out of the hole, usually not seriously damaging the threads in the hole . If it is an HSS tap you will be forced to find a shop with an EDM machine or possibly use a carbide endmill in a good vertical mill to cut out the center of the tap.
Yeah, you can run a stone along the flutes to sharpen taps - after a fashion. In order to properly sharpen taps with a stone (not recommended) you would need a stone having the exact contour of the flutes. This is because the curve below the cutting edge formed by the flute is an important part of the taps cutting geometry - actually it forms the rake. You could make do with a flat stone but it would change the tap's cutting characteristics.
Most of my taps are greenfield sets, where a set is one each taper, plug and bottoming. These come in a nice little box with a plastic liner to seperate them. The taps are well marked and the boxes are well marked by me so they never get mixed up. I buy sizes as I need them. So far, I have from 0-80s up to 1/4 inch. I don't use big stuff for model building.
I also have some old sears sets for "maintenance" applications. This combination works well for me. chuck
Thank you gentlemen, for the surprizing but valuable information. Never thought of that aspect of it. I had always assumed that the cheaper, carbon steel, taps were just that - cheaper and inferior. I suppose that the same holds for drills that aren't high speed? Just to cut off the guys who will suggest using a "tap extractor" -- I think that those gizmos' only purpose is to sell more tap extractors. They break as badly and quickly as the tap.I've been successful with those about one out of ten times.
A gunsmith I got to know as a kid tought me to finish the tips of slot screwdrivers by grinding them crosswise to the shank with a medium grit wheel to leave sideways scratches on the blade. The scratches grab the sides of the screw slot and help prevent "cam out".
He also tought me to keep the sides of the tip of the blade parallel to each other in the portion that goes into the slot, and the thickness as close to the slot width as possible; another trick to help prevent it from popping out.
Makes sense when you think about it. It's interesting to see that most "off the shelf" screwdrivers violate both of his advices.
Some day I'm gonna build me a "wheel operated screwdriver". It's sort of like an arbor press with a shaft going down through the rack part with a handwheel on the top. A screwdriver bit at the bottom of the shaft can be pressed firmly into a stubborn screw's head and then twisted with the wheel. I saw a picture of good sized one in a Brit car shop manual. It was the tool they said to use to remove those short fat flat head slot screws that (used to?) hold the pole pieces to the housings of starters and generators.
I've bailed myself out on a couple of occasions by just firmly chucking the proper sized hex shanked bit in my drill press and pulling on the motor belt with my left hand while pressing the bit into the screw head by pulling on the drill press feed handle.
-- Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)
"If you can keep smiling when things go wrong, you've thought of someone to place the blame on."