How To Choose The Best Tap And Die Set In 2 Minutes

How To Choose The Best Tap And Die Set In 2 Minutes

Looking for the best tap and die set for your money?  Good.  You’ve come to the right place.

There’s a full guide at the bottom of this post if you need it.

Tap and die sets generally come in three sizes: 40 piece sets; 75 piece sets; and 115 piece sets (or thereabouts).

We’ve reviewed the top three in each category to help you choose the set that’s right for you.

A Quick Overview

The Top Three 40 Piece Sets

Preview
Best Budget Option
Best Choice 40-Piece Tap and Die Set - SAE Inch Sizes | Essential Threading Tool with Storage Case
Neiko 00911A Tap and Die Set, Premium, SAE, Titanium Coated, 40-Piece
Best Overall Choice
GearWrench 3886 Tap and Die 40 Piece Set Metric
Product
Best Choice 40-Piece Tap and Die Set - SAE Inch Sizes | Essential Threading Tool with Storage Case
Neiko 00911A Tap and Die Set, Premium, SAE, Titanium Coated, 40-Piece
GearWrench 3886 Tap and Die 40 Piece Set Metric
Rating
4.4
4.0
4.6
Price
$24.99
$27.85
$64.81
Best Budget Option
Preview
Best Choice 40-Piece Tap and Die Set - SAE Inch Sizes | Essential Threading Tool with Storage Case
Product
Best Choice 40-Piece Tap and Die Set - SAE Inch Sizes | Essential Threading Tool with Storage Case
Rating
4.4
Price
$24.99
Preview
Neiko 00911A Tap and Die Set, Premium, SAE, Titanium Coated, 40-Piece
Product
Neiko 00911A Tap and Die Set, Premium, SAE, Titanium Coated, 40-Piece
Rating
4.0
Price
$27.85
Best Overall Choice
Preview
GearWrench 3886 Tap and Die 40 Piece Set Metric
Product
GearWrench 3886 Tap and Die 40 Piece Set Metric
Rating
4.6
Price
$64.81

The Top Three 75 Piece Sets

Preview
Best Budget Option
Neiko 00908A SAE and Metric Tap and Hexagon Die Set, Alloy Steel | 76-Piece Set
Best Overall Choice
GearWrench 3887 Tap and Die 75 Piece Set - Combination SAE / Metric
IRWIN Tools 76 Piece Machine Screw/Fractional/Metric Tap and Hex Die Super Set (26376)
Product
Neiko 00908A SAE and Metric Tap and Hexagon Die Set, Alloy Steel | 76-Piece Set
GearWrench 3887 Tap and Die 75 Piece Set - Combination SAE / Metric
IRWIN Tools 76 Piece Machine Screw/Fractional/Metric Tap and Hex Die Super Set (26376)
Rating
3.9
4.4
4.2
Price
$83.49
$99.99
from $25.41
Best Budget Option
Preview
Neiko 00908A SAE and Metric Tap and Hexagon Die Set, Alloy Steel | 76-Piece Set
Product
Neiko 00908A SAE and Metric Tap and Hexagon Die Set, Alloy Steel | 76-Piece Set
Rating
3.9
Price
$83.49
Best Overall Choice
Preview
GearWrench 3887 Tap and Die 75 Piece Set - Combination SAE / Metric
Product
GearWrench 3887 Tap and Die 75 Piece Set - Combination SAE / Metric
Rating
4.4
Price
$99.99
Preview
IRWIN Tools 76 Piece Machine Screw/Fractional/Metric Tap and Hex Die Super Set (26376)
Product
IRWIN Tools 76 Piece Machine Screw/Fractional/Metric Tap and Hex Die Super Set (26376)
Rating
4.2
Price
from $25.41

The Top Three 115 Piece Sets

Preview
Best Budget Option
Zoostliss 110 Piece Bearing Steel Tap and Die Set Tungsten Steel Titanium SAE and Metric Tools
Best Overall Choice
GearWrench 82812 114 Piece Large Combination Tap and Die Set
IRWIN Tools Hanson Machine Screw/Fractional/Metric Tap and Hex Die and Drill Bit Deluxe Set, 117 Piece 26377
Product
Zoostliss 110 Piece Bearing Steel Tap and Die Set Tungsten Steel Titanium SAE and Metric Tools
GearWrench 82812 114 Piece Large Combination Tap and Die Set
IRWIN Tools Hanson Machine Screw/Fractional/Metric Tap and Hex Die and Drill Bit Deluxe Set, 117 Piece 26377
Rating
4.6
4.3
4.3
Price
$119.89
$214.99
$255.76
Best Budget Option
Preview
Zoostliss 110 Piece Bearing Steel Tap and Die Set Tungsten Steel Titanium SAE and Metric Tools
Product
Zoostliss 110 Piece Bearing Steel Tap and Die Set Tungsten Steel Titanium SAE and Metric Tools
Rating
4.6
Price
$119.89
Best Overall Choice
Preview
GearWrench 82812 114 Piece Large Combination Tap and Die Set
Product
GearWrench 82812 114 Piece Large Combination Tap and Die Set
Rating
4.3
Price
$214.99
Preview
IRWIN Tools Hanson Machine Screw/Fractional/Metric Tap and Hex Die and Drill Bit Deluxe Set, 117 Piece 26377
Product
IRWIN Tools Hanson Machine Screw/Fractional/Metric Tap and Hex Die and Drill Bit Deluxe Set, 117 Piece 26377
Rating
4.3
Price
$255.76

The Best Tap And Die Set – Detailed Review

When it comes to choosing tools, most people go with the brand that they’re familiar with.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shop around to see what else is out there.

With that in mind, we’ve gathered up some of the best tap and die kits on the market.

1. Best Choice 40-Piece Tap and Die Set

Rating: (4.4 / 5)

best tap and die setThe first set that we’ll be looking at is from Best Choice, and it’s a 40-piece set capable of good threading, provided you do so with care.

With 40 pieces you’ll have enough options for almost every domestic job likely to crop up.

It features CNC machined cutting teeth that are super precise and heat treated to Rockwell hardness 60 HRC.

The tapered teeth design means that you can get off to an easy start before increasing the pressure to create brand-new threads or repairing old ones.

The dies are solidly built and should be sufficient for most non-commercial users.

The handle is however a little flimsy.  We’d recommend the Gear Wrench range over this if you’ll be using it regularly.

Buy on Amazon

2. Neiko 00911A Tap and Die Set

Rating: (4 / 5)

neiko 40 piece setThis set from Neiko should in theory be a step up in quality from the previous one.  It’s marketed as a good choice for both cutting brand-new screw threads and repairing old ones.

And that appears fairly accurate, provided you don’t push the taps too far against hard metals.

If you’re working on softer materials (plastics, wood and aluminium) you won’t have to worry about stripped out threads any longer, because with this set you’ll have the ability to repair most threading, or tap a new thread as and when required.

The parts are made of high-strength alloy steel construction, and in terms of use they’re easy to work with.

That said they’re not a good choice if you need to work with hard metals (like steel and its alloys) with some reports of breakage.

In those circumstances we’d recommend the next product on our list instead.

Buy on Amazon

3. GearWrench 3886 Tap and Die 40 Piece Set Metric

***Our Number 1 Choice***

Rating: (4.6 / 5)

gearwrench 40 piece setGearWrench is probably the top brand out there when it comes to threading.

And this set only enhances that reputation.  The quality is far superior to the previous two products.

The components are stronger, and the threading teeth are sharper, making this the number one choice in the country by some distance.

Among the 40 pieces you’ll find ratcheting T wrench adapters which are a real game-changer in comparison to the crude handles that come with inferior models.

The taps and dies lock into place nicely and are made of a carbon steel construction.

The ratchet design eliminates a great deal of the effort from normal tap and die work, making it easier for you to tap and thread with great accuracy.

This set is suitable for anything from occasional repair work to light industrial use.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Buy on Amazon

4. Neiko 00908A SAE and Metric Tap

Rating: (3.9 / 5)

neiko 76 piece setNeiko has another decent die set that most infrequent users will like.

These SAE and metric tap and dies are made of durable alloy steel that should last a long time and allow you to repair threading or make new threads when needed.

The list of the various components of this set is extremely long, but a few of the things that it comes with (in addition to the taps and dies) include T type wrenches, a one-piece screwdriver, and a two-piece screwdriver pitch gauge.

For those who will use their kit from time to time, but who want a large set just in case, this is a great choice for the money.

The main gripe is that the case is poorly designed, with several users reporting breakages.

Buy on Amazon

5. GearWrench 3887 Tap and Die 75 Piece Set

Rating: (4.4 / 5)

gearwrench 75 piece setAnother great entry from GearWrench is the 3887, featuring the same carbon steel construction and locking taps and dies.

The molded case has index holders for all of the taps and you get the same ratcheting technology as the 40 piece set, which has proved a real hit among professionals using these tools.

It is a significant step up though.  It includes many of the common coarse and fine thread numbered, SAE, & metric sizes up to 1/2″ as well as a couple of 1/8″ pipe tap and dies.

It has SAE and metric thread gages, includes a couple of tap chucks, one for dies, an allen wrench, a sliding T for the tap chucks, and a sturdy blow mould case.

For medium-sized jobs and more occasional use this is an excellent choice.

Buy on Amazon

6. IRWIN Tools 76 Piece Set

Rating: (4.2 / 5)

irwin tools 76 piece setThis 76-piece set from IRWIN Tools is a solid choice for a professional looking to carry out occasional tapping, threading or chasing work.

The parts are made of high carbon steel for extended durability, and the set was designed primarily for vehicle repairs.

It will also work with machinery, but if you are a mechanic that needs a tool and die set, then this is one of the best sets on the list for your type of work.

Buy on Amazon

7. Zoostliss 110 Piece Bearing Steel Tap and Die Set

Rating: (4.6 / 5)

zoostliss 110 piece setThis Zoostliss 110-piece is a little different from the other sets on our list. This starts with the construction.

Instead of being made of carbon steel, this kit is made of bearing steel which is a much stronger steel that performs well with abrasions.

It also features a chromium coating that prevents corrosion. This larger set comes in a rugged storage case that has everything you need for machinery repair, automotive purposes and anything else that a professional craftsman might need.

It’s priced extremely well for a larger set and have received strong feedback from users.

Buy on Amazon

8. GearWrench 82812 114-Piece Set

Rating: (4.3 / 5)

gearwrench 114 piece setFor the serious threader, GearWrench’s largest tap and die kit is a must-have.

The set features the same ratcheting technology mentioned earlier, but with a complete set of taps and dies (48 of each in total).

It is made of the same top-quality carbon tool steel, but the difference here is that the 82812 has 114 different pieces which means that it was made for professionals who want the ultimate in versatility from their kit.

You get more ratcheting, more reach and all of the sizes that you could possibly want.

The quality justifies the price, which is view shared by users.

Buy on Amazon

9. IRWIN Tools Hanson Machine

Rating: (4.3 / 5)

irwin tools 117 piece setThis set from IRWIN Tools is terrific for both auto and machinery functions, but machine purposes is really where this toolset shines.

You get commonly needed taps, dies, drill bits and extractors right at your fingertips due to the innovative case and huge selection that comes with this kit.

Whether you need fastener holes or rethreading fasteners, this contains 117 of the most commonly needed machine screw plug and hex dies sizes as well as a great deal more.

If you’re looking to add a kit to an auto workshop, perhaps go with the 114 piece set from GearWrench above.

But if you run a more general operation, this kit should do just fine.

Buy on Amazon

Conclusion

The bottom line is that all of the kits reviewed above will be sufficient for the type of general use that most people will need them for.

The harder the material you intend to thread, the better quality kit you should buy.

If we had to choose one tap and die set above all of the others, having regard to price, performance and popularity, it would be the GearWrench 40 piece set.

our number one choiceThe design and build quality is superior to all of the others.  The parts are sharper, and made of stronger grade carbon steel.

The ratchet wrench makes it a lot easier to use than its competition, and 40 pieces should be enough for 95% of jobs.

If price is an issue and you only need a kit for occasional use go with the Best Choice 40 piece set.  And if you need a bigger kit for every eventuality, any of the 75 and 115 piece sets will do.

How To Choose A Tap And Die Set

Choosing a the right set isn’t the easiest job in the world, although hopefully our reviews above have helped to narrow down your choices.

Here are some things to consider before you buy.

1. Frequency of Use

The set you go for will probably be determined by the size and frequency of the jobs that you’ll be carrying out.

If you’re a part-time handyman any of the 40 piece sets will probably be a welcome addition to your workshop.

The reality is that the need to use a tool like this doesn’t arise that often.  Only when you scale up your business will you need a more comprehensive set.

On the other hand, if you need to tap and thread regularly on a larger scale (for small to mid-size industrial use say) you’re better off spending a little more on a larger set to ensure you have the right part for the job.

2. Budget

This leads on nicely from the previous section.

As we’ve seen the high-end, all-inclusive 115 piece sets don’t come cheap, so there’s little point in forking out for one if you don’t need to create screw threads of an irregular size.

If all you plan to do is have a set handy in case you need to thread some sheet metal to accommodate a standard sized screw you’re not going to get value for money out of a larger set.

If you simply do not have the funds to buy the biggest and best set on our list, but still need one of the larger sets to carry out your daily trade we’d recommend going with the Zoostliss 110 piece set for size and range or the Gear Wrench 75 piece set for quality.

The Zoostliss will guarantee that you’ve got all the parts that you need, while the Gear Wrench set should last forever.

If you go with the Zoostliss, the jobs that you carry out with it should generate quite a bit of cash, so you could always scale up to the Gear Wrench 115 piece set after the cash has started to flow in a bit.

3. What Material Are You Working On?

metal rodsYou need to consider what you’ll be tapping and threading.

What we mean by that is what type of material do you need to use your set for.

Frequency, as we’ve discussed, is a prime consideration, but so too is the level of stress that you’ll be putting your tools under.

Plastic for example – even the toughest plastic – should not be a problem for any of the sets on our list.  You should be able to tap and thread any plastic based materials to your heart’s content without damaging the sets above.

Softer, non-ferrous metals, will result in more wear and tear to your tools than plastic, but provided you use a firm, smooth, non-jerky technique when tapping and threading, you shouldn’t run into much trouble with any of the sets on our list.

Think brass and copper.  They’re more resistant to cutting, but not so much that you should have any difficulties.  If you’ll be threading non-ferrous metals regularly then stretch for the higher quality Gear Wrench products if you can.

If you’ll be dealing with more resistant materials – ferrous metal like steel and its alloys – you really should spend more on a better quality set if you can.  These metals are highly resistant (which you’ll notice when cutting) and so higher spec tools are recommended for both durability (a cheap set won’t last long if you’ll be tapping steel regularly) and to make the job easier.

What Is A Tap And Die Set Used For?

It’s all very well looking at various products and their specifications, however before choosing one it pays to understand exactly what they’re used for.

It’s no surprise that many people don’t know – we didn’t, until we needed to fix a seat to a cart that had no point of attachment – so let’s run through some fundamentals.

Let’s start with a short clip on how to use a tap and die set:

And here’s all of the other little things that you need to know about threading.

Taps For Tapping

Taps are used to cut a thread on the inside of a whole.  The purpose of this is to create a grooved surface, which acts like a nut, into which a screw can be fixed.

There are various types of tap which serve slightly different functions.

Plug Tap

A plug tap is the most commonly used tap.  They have sharp, tapered, cutting edges and are used to create threads on the inside of a previously untapped hole.

Bottom Tap

A bottom tap is often used to tap or re-tap a thread that has been previously tapped but needs amending to accommodate a different sized screw.

Technically this process is known as chasing.  You’re essentially cleaning a thread by removing more material.

Bottom taps have very little taper and a continuous cutting edge.

Taper Tap

Taper taps are used when working highly resistant metals or when you need to tap a very small hole where the likelihood of damage is greater.

Taper taps, as the name would suggest, have a greater taper at the cutting edge and are designed to be used in a much smoother motion that a typical plug tap.

Crowding

metal shavingsEach of the taps referred to above are used manually with the assistance of a wrench, which you twist by hand.

During this process there is a need to stop and reverse to allow the debris cut from the inside of your hole to fall away.

This is to prevent clogging while you tap, which can compromise the thread.

Power Tap

A power tap, unlike the three taps referred to above, are not manually operated by twisting a wrench, but are powered mechanically or electronically.

They do not need to be continuously reversed.

Instead they throw the chipped debris, inward, towards the centre of the whole being tapped without it ever clogging the thread.

Dies For Threading

A die is used to create a thread on the outside of a cylindrical object – like taking a smooth rod and turning it into a screw.

If you think of a tap creating the thread on the inside of a hole you should think of a die as creating the thread on the outside of the rod that is going to be screwed into that hole.

Holes

Before you can tap, you first need a hole!

Most holes are made using a drill.  The drilled hole is always smaller in diameter than the diameter of the tap.

If you’re unsure what diameter hole to drill (having regard to the size of the thread that you need to make) you will need to consult a drill and tap size chart or use a specialist calculator.

Tapping

If you’re cutting threads on a soft or medium soft material (think plastics or aluminium) you’re most likely to use a plug tap.

The exception would be if you need to cut threads into a hole of unknown depth.  In those circumstances you’d use a plug tap up to the point where the tap reaches the bottom before replacing it for a bottoming tap to finish the job.

If you’re working on harder materials (think steel again) you’re better off starting with a taper tap which will require much less force to thread.

If you need to cut threads in steel into a hole of unknown depth start with a taper tap, then move on to a plug tap before finishing off with a taper tap.

Manual Tapping Vs Machine Tapping

There is some argument that machine tapping (via a drill of some sort) is preferable over the handheld manual tapping process described above.

There is merit in this in that, provided you have some way of knowing the kevel of torque that you are exposing the tap to, you should end up with a more accurate thread.

It’s certainly quicker and less strenuous.

That said, in our experience because the force used by a drill is that much more than by hand, machine tapping often leads to a broken tap and/or a spoiled thread.

We’d therefore recommend hand tapping with a good tap and die set for most small jobs.

Using A Vice Or A Jig

using a die with a viceThis is highly recommended.

The most common problem when tapping and threading is getting the tap to align at a right angle to the material you’re tapping to ensure a straight thread.

Once you’ve started in a direction you can’t stop and change it.

A hole threaded at an angle can place too much pressure on screw resulting in breakage, so it’s important to get it right from the outset.

The best thing to do is to use a jig or a vice to hold your material and your tap at a right angle to one another before twisting with a handlebar.

This will remove any human error when working purely by hand ( which will inevitably be at least a few degrees, even for the most skilled tappers).

Lubrication

oil canIt’s amazing how often something like this gets missed out.

We saw a YouTube clip recently where a so-called expert was running a tutorial on how to use a tap and die set.

Incredibly he didn’t use any lubricant during the tapping or threading process.

This is really important in order to reduce friction, preserve your tools and create a clean, true thread.

The type of lubrication to use will depend on the material that you’re working.

In most cases a mix of mineral spirits with a petroleum based or synthetic cutting oil will suffice.

You can use WD-40 if you’re in a pinch.

How To Use A Tap And Die Set

So, now you know all there is to know about tapping, threading and chasing.

You’ve hopefully picked out a set to suit your needs.

Now lets’ briefly run through how to use it, from start to finish.  We looked at a clip earlier on how to use the most basic of kits.

For a more in depth look (perhaps for those of you likely to be using these for light to mid industrial use) here’s a couple of really helpful clips from Shop Talk.

The first runs through everything you need to know about taps and tapping, the second is all about dies and threading:

And here’s a more crude step-by-step guide:

How To Use A Tap

  • Work out the correct sized hole you want to thread
  • Place your material in a vice
  • Use a drill to open the hole
  • It should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the tap you intend to use
  • Use a chart to work out the correct size drill bit
  • Lubricate the hole and the tap with WD-40 or a mineral spirit mix
  • Select the correct tap for the job
  • This will probably be a plug tap
  • Insert the tap into the hole until it is a snug fit
  • Clasp the turning handle around the base of the tap
  • Twist the handle with some force to thread the hole

How To Use A Die

  • Fasten your rod or other cylindrical object securely in a vice
  • Add some lubrication as above
  • Choose the correct sized die for the cylinder and the width of thread that you need
  • It should again be a tight fit
  • Using the handle, place the die onto the rod
  • Begin to twist the die around the rod with downward pressure
  • Keep the die (via the turning handle) as straight as you can
  • It will get easier the further down the rod that you get

Best Brands

Brand isn’t always everything, but when it comes to important jobs it often is.

Having reviewed lots of kits before settling on the nine above, one thing became very clear to us: the reputable brands received stronger reviews from independent users across the board.

As you’ve seen from the reviews, in our opinion Gear Wrench make the best tap and die set in every size.  Yes, they’re a bit more expensive, but as with most things in life you get what you pay for.  They cannot be beat for quality.

Irwin Tools also deserves an honourable mention.  They’ve been around since 1885 and make excellent tools.  The products of theirs that we’ve listed all come highly recommended.

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully in the information above you have everything you need to make an informed decision on which tap and die set is best for you.

If you feel there are any kits that deserve a place on our list that we’ve missed out, please let us know below.  We’d love to hear from you.

Likewise if you’ve had any problems with any of these tools, or disagree with our analysis we want to hear from you.

What next?  Put your new skills to good use.  Being able to thread and tap can be a real advantage in the workshop.  It can give you a real edge when fitting some tricky speakers, or fixing a blown head gasket for example.

Could your project benefit from a bit of home welding?  If so check out our guide to the best welder for home use here.

Wondering how to remove a stripped lug nut?  Check out all of our handy how-to guides here.

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