If you’re going to repair old bolts and nuts or want to make your own from scratch, you’re going to need a great tap and die set. But, you don’t want to make a bad decision and get ripped off.
It can be hard to know what makes for a good deal when shopping online. Manufacturers often tell you all the good things about their products but shy away from any of the downsides, which can make it hard to tell if you’re getting something that is high-quality or not.
If you want to get the best value for your money on a tap and die set, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve assembled a list of reviews of the best tap and die sets of 2020, so you can get to know each set before you buy. We also included a buyer’s guide, so that you can learn everything you need to know about these tools.
|IRWIN HANSON 26377||117-Piece||4.7/5|
The GearWrench 82812 114 Piece Set is the best choice for anyone who wants to be able to create or repair just about any nut or bolt on the market today. While manufacturers often use the number in front of a set to over-inflate what’s included, the 48 sets of taps and dies represent a good ratio of useful parts to extras. It also comes with two great ratcheting T wrenches, which have a 5-degree ratcheting arc, which means you can make meaningful progress even in tight spaces where you don’t have a lot of space to move around.
The taps and dies are made from carbon steel, which is one of the most durable and strongest metals available on the market, making this set a great choice for people who want tools that will last a long time. The taps also come in both plug and taper configurations, giving you the option to use whichever option is better suited to the task at hand. The only problem with this set is that it comes with an underwhelming, cheap-feeling case, but that’s a flaw worth overlooking if you want to get the best rap and die set on the market.
The IRWIN Tools 117 Piece Set 26377 is a good tap and die set, though it has some small problems that keep it out of first place. Like the first entry on our list, these taps and dies are made from carbon steel, which gives exceptional strength and durability, which leads to high-quality nut and bolt machining, and a long expected lifetime. This set is expansive enough to include sizes for both metric and customary sizes, so you’ll never be stuck wishing that you had the other kind. It also includes a great set of spiral screw extractors, which gives you greater value for the money.
However, it has fewer taps and dies than the top model on our list, which costs it some spots. And the ratchets in this set, while good, aren’t as good as GearWrench’s. Overall, it’s on the expensive side relative to the other sets on our list, which means that you don’t get as much value as you could. It also has some quality control problems, which means many sets come with a piece or two that break prematurely. As is, many people will like this kit, but many will like others more.
The GearWrench 3887 75 Piece Set is our top model’s little brother. It comes with many of the same parts, just less of them, and if you’re looking to get into the tap and die game without spending an arm and a leg on parts, this is a good place to start. It comes with one of the same great ratchets included in our top model, that ratchets with as little as a 5-degree twist, making it easy to use, even in tight situations. It also comes with both plug and taper taps, which means you’ll have the variety that you need at any given moment.
However, the absolute best thing about this set is its price. It costs about half of what you would spend on our top two models and contains more than half the number of parts found in those sets, which means that you’re getting a great deal. The only quibble is that the reduced selection is missing some common sizes, so you’re not getting the full variety like you would on larger sets. Still, this is one of the better value buys on the list, and most people will be happy with their purchase.
The Neiko 00912A 40-Piece Set is great for beginners and also the best choice for the money. It only comes with 40 pieces, but you can get it for about a third of what you’d pay for the third-place model on our list, so you’re getting more pieces per dollar than in any other set on our list. That means it’s a great starter kit that has enough pieces to try things out and experiment, and if you break or lose something, you’re not out a lot of money. It’s also a great kit for rethreading bolts, so if you’re looking to learn to do that, this may be the set for you.
However, this set only contains metric-sized tools, though you could buy the SAE set if you wanted to, instead. All the pieces are made from alloy steel instead of carbon steel, which means they’re not as durable as the others on our list. The case is also cheap, which means it doesn’t hold up well in the long run. Overall, this is the best set for the money, but if you’re looking for a lot of variety or something that will last forever, look elsewhere.
The TEKTON 7559 39-Piece Set is a set that doesn’t have much going for it save a very low price. It’s the cheapest on our list, and that shows in both quality and quantity. While you’re technically getting a better per-tool deal than the previous model, the quality is far more suspect. The only real reason to buy this set is when you need a tap and die and want to buy in a manner that is more economical than buying each size when you need it, which can be very expensive.
Consequently, this set is best for someone who will use it very sparingly. If you think that you’re not going to use your tap and die set all that often, then this is a good one to buy that won’t cost you a lot of money but can still get the job done. The steel quality is overall very low, and it suffers from quality control problems in the casting, meaning that parts break randomly. You also have to choose between metric and SAE when you buy, so make sure you get the one you need. Overall, this set’s just not great value.
We hope that our reviews have already given you some insights into the world of tap and die sets. You may have a frontrunner now and may be ready to go ahead and buy that set. If you’re still not sure which set is right for you, this buyer’s guide was designed with you in mind. We walk you through the various features and qualities that make for a great tap and die set, which should give you some insight into the thinking that went into our reviews but should also help you understand these products in general.
The three most important qualities in a tap and die set are quality, quality, and quality. Seriously. If you’re looking to get a good deal on a tap and die set, you should be investing in one that you think will last a long time or will at least get you through that next task that you desperately need to get done.
That means you should be looking for parts that are forged from high-quality steels. Alloy steel, while fine for many kinds of tools in your shop, may be too weak here. If you’re looking to make new nuts and bolts on an industrial scale, you’re going to want to buy parts made of high-speed steel, though this gets very expensive, and is relatively uncommon on the consumer market. That’s because the endurance these parts have is overkill for most users, who stand to save a lot of money, but still get a set that meets their needs.
The best consumer sets feature parts made from carbon or high-carbon steel, as it’s sometimes called. This steel formulation is durable, and very hard, and should give you a long life. Carbon steel lands in a good place between alloy steel and high-speed steel and is a good point of compromise between quality and price. While you can get a good deal on a cheap alloy steel set, you may find that those parts wear out far too quickly.
The next thing you should consider when shopping for a tap and die set is the number of parts it includes. While more parts is generally a good thing, you have to watch for decreases in quality. If two sets from different brands cost roughly the same amount, but one has far more parts, you have to figure out if the set with fewer parts is better quality, or just overpriced. Likewise, the set with more parts could be low-quality, or it could be an incredible deal. That’s why it’s important to be able to assess the set’s quality.
However, different sets include different tools that can make the job easier, which can add a lot of value. For example, how the taps and dies are turned can make a big difference. Included ratchets can make it far easier to get a good quality result in little time, though some beginners find them tricky to use, as you can damage the part you’re working on by over-torquing it.
You also want to look out for “part-count inflation.” Many brands include small extra parts that add little to the value of the kit, such as screwdrivers, to inflate the part count. The best way to avoid getting a set with inflated numbers is to read through the detailed part list before you buy.
Three different tap varieties are used for different tasks, and that are more suitable for beginners or experts. Not all kits include all three, and in many instances, they’ll only include two, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the kinds that you’ll want to use.
Taper taps are the easiest to use. They feature small, flat threads at their beginning, which makes them easy to use to start a blind hole. They require the least force to get going, and for this reason, they’re often called a starter tap, since they can be used to start threads, that you can go back later and perfect with other taps.
At the other end of the spectrum are bottoming taps, which have no flattened threads at the starting point, meaning they will create a high-quality thread all the way down the tap. These taps can be tricky for beginners, as they’re much harder to get started, but both experts and beginners use them to finish their threads.
Plug taps strike a balance between the other two taps. They feature some tapered threads at the start, but not as many as the taper tap, so they’re easier to start than a bottom tap, but not as easy as the taper tap. They do produce a full thread sooner, though, so they’re better into a blind hole than a taper tap.
One of the great metal-casting paradoxes is that the harder you cast something, the more brittle it becomes. Taps and dies have to be very hard to do their job, which means they can also be very brittle. While they could be cast softer, their threads would wear out very quickly, and since parts generally have to be harder than the materials they are shaping, they may not even get the job done.
Consequently, misuse can quickly damage a tap and die set, so you’ll want to make sure that you follow proper procedure when using the tap and die set. A little bit of uneven force can be enough to snap a tap, so one of the best ways to protect your investment is to make use of a T-handle, which helps you distribute the force very evenly.
We’re telling you this because it has implications for the set you should buy. First, if you don’t already own a T-handle, it’s important that you buy a set that includes one. Second, it means that not all reviews that talk about snapping taps or dies are due to quality problems. One of the most frustrating things about tap and die sets is that both quality control issues and user misuse can lead to broken parts, so it can be hard to tell why a set is low-performing.
The best way to get around this problem is to focus on the material from which the set is made. If it’s high-speed steel or carbon steel, it’s likely to stand up well, while alloy steel has less going for it.
If you’re like us, you want to get the best value for your money. That can be a daunting task when faced with the sheer number of options you have. However, there are some simple things you can do that dramatically increase the value you get from your buy.
The first thing you need to do is figure out what your needs are. How many times will you use your tap and die set? Do you need it to last a long time, or just for one project? Will you be using many different sizes, or just one?
Once you’ve answered those questions, you can make a shortlist of all sets that match them. If you choose the cheapest set on that list, then you get the best value, since you get all of your needs covered at the lowest price. Of course, you can always spend a bit more to get a better variety or quality, but that doesn’t strictly increase quality since those extra features aren’t necessarily things you’ll need.
The GearWrench 82812 114 Piece Set is our top tap and die set, and it comes with a great variety of taps and dies, a ratchet with a 5-degree ratcheting arc, and both plug and taper taps. The IRWIN Tools 117 Piece Set 26377 comes in second, and includes spiral screw extractors, metric and customary parts, and great overall durability, though its price keeps it out of first place. The GearWrench 3887 75 Piece Set comes with the same great ratchet you get in our top set, and includes a good, if oddly-selected, variety of taps and dies. The Neiko 00912A 40-Piece Set is the overall best value, coming with 40 pieces, and available at a low price. The TEKTON 7559 39-Piece Set is cheap but has quality control issues that will make it the wrong set for most people.
Hopefully, our reviews and buyer’s guide have taught you everything you need to know about tap and die sets. You should now be able to use that information to find the set that is right for you.
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Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!