I need a set of taps/dies. Mostly, I need them to chase threads, and to thread some light thin work. Nothing really heavy or any quantities. Only up to 3/8 diameter.
Can anyone suggest a name brand or source of a decent set that won't set me back an arm and a leg. Standard sizes, standard threads, USS. Are el cheapos acceptable for light use?
Geez, my dad used to have sets and sets of these, and boxes laying around with tons of them. What was I thinking? But, then, he had all Starrett tools, only one of which I ended up with. I really should have been paying attention.
If you know nothing of taps, avoid the super cheap carbon taps and dies. They are usually black. These are extremely brittle and are much more prone to breaking off in a hole. All taps are very capable of breaking off in a hole!!!!! Maybe I should reconsider: if a carbon tap breaks in a deep hole and it is important to get it out it can either be shattered with a sharp blow, annealed and drilled, or dissolved in acid - all of which are easier with carbon steel compared to HSS.
Home owner use should be alright with name brand HSS taps. Morse, Hanson, Triumph, etc. You may not need dies, you are more liable to use taps. The Morse tap and die set that includes coarse and fine threads from 1/4" through 1/2" is about $100. Add the smaller taps individually as you develop a need. I prefer the hex dies as they are easier to catch in a vise which I find handy sometimes.
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Several schools of thought on this one. My own personal philosophy is that taps and dies are tooling you can not afford to skimp on, not if you want them to work reliably. A cheap tap will often have flashing still in it and so you'll have to run it into wood or something a few times and maybe do a bunch of work with a needle file just to get clean threads.
I like OSG, Nachi, Greenfield, Cleveland, names like that. However, there is something to be said for using carbon taps -- they are tougher than HSS taps and thus don't break off as easily, and when they do they can be drilled out with carbide tooling. Busted HSS taps are a real bummer. But don't try to cut stainless with a carbon tap.
I tend to shop around used places a lot and I generally keep a list of what taps or dies I'm looking for. I need more sizes of taps than I do dies, it seems. I keep mine clean and in labeled compartments in a little plastic compartmented box and it works great.
One other thing, taps come in taper, plug and bottoming, and for the commonly used sizes you should really have some of all 3.
Taps and dies must be started straight.
Taps that you power are different taps than those you twist in by hand. The ones you power are called gun taps and they should only be used in through holes since they drive the chips out ahead of the tap.
Please don't specify tools based on their colour, unless the colour is standardized.
We use Dormer premium quality HSS spiral-point taps at work which are excellent. They also have a black oxide coating.
Because I sell cutting tools retail, I see quite a bit of this mentality. TiN coated drill bits get a bad name because certain borg stores sell awful drill bits with TiN coatings. We sell Dormer premium HSS drill bits with TiN coated tips. I sometimes have trouble convincing people they are worth the $99 (for a 1/2" 18pc set) because the borg sells a "similar" set for $9.99.
I gotta agree with Grant on every thing he's said. FWIW I have a set of Crafstman HSS taps and dies that are 40 years old and belonged to my father and they ALL still work perfictly fine.
Over the years I've accumulated my more. Like several other responses have said don't scrimp on quality here, cheep taps and dies *ARE* false economy and generaly do a poor job.
Mid level names like Vermont are quite adequite for Hobby/home use. I do a lot of 1/8 scale work and have a Vermont 5-40 (no typo, it's a 1/8 clearance hole and scales to 1 inch) that I have tapped well over 1000 holes with in every thing from cast iron to brass to steel to stainless, and it also works as good as the day it was made. Just use LOTS of cutting oil and go slowly. As Grant said starting straight when tapping is a MUST. I've posted this link before, it's a cheap tapping fixture I've made, beleive me it's worth making, if you have any skill at all I doubt you'll ever break a tap again.
FWIW along with my comment in that article about making a half sized one for smaller work, I'm about to build a bigger one too. Probably the same basic size but bigger handle. I've been doing some 1/2 and 5/8 stuff lately and those are too big for that handle, made me remember why I built it in the first place.
I don't take that as a rant, Robin. I've bought both qualities. The cheap sets have TiN on 'em; sure -- 'bout a hundredth of a micro-inch. They start rust-spotting in just normal ambient humidity. How'd they protect against drilling friction?
(and have you ever seen the GRIND on those garbage bits?)
I'll echo Tom's suggestion. I've got an old Craftsman set that I bought almost 40 years ago. One inch adjustable dies, through 1/2", Krome Edge I think they called them. They have served me well.
But, whenever I have had the opportunity, I have picked up tap sets (3 taps)in single sizes. Good brands. Most have been the typical taper, plug and bottom tap sets, some serial taps instead. Plus assorted gun taps and others. All very cheap - only once, I think, did I have to buy a new set (a special size).
I prefer the HSS taps, of course. But, when I have to remove a tap that someone else broke off, I prefer that he used carbon steel.