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Tap & Die Set Recommendation Needed

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Bristol_Rob

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Hi Guys

I'm planning on doing some tap & die work at home (small size 3-4mm upto 12mm) and I want to buy a general good quality T&D set.
As we are in the UK I'm going to stump up for an SAE/Metric set to cover the usual range of frustrations we get in the UK.

I was looking at the Gearwrench 75pc set at circa £150 inc shipping. (They looked nice and owners seem to like the tools/quality) (Fear of import tax has me here)

I have no experience of buying these and couldn't name any brands, which is why I'm here.

I'd be keen to hear of people's experience of brands available in the UK (to avoid high shipping costs) hopefully with your UK avilable recommendation.
My budget is up to £150 inc of delivery costs.

I don't like using cheap tools and I'd like to buy once before I die (see what I did there ;)

The little research I've done has led me to believe I'd be best suited to a general set of 'PLUG' type taps set.

Many thanks :)
 

Trevanion

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You really don't want just plugs/bottom taps as you'll have an extraordinarily hard time starting them as well as trying to keep them perpendicular to the surface. You need a taper tap to start the tap much easier and more perpendicular, sometimes a second tap is needed for a shallow blind hole and then you follow through with a bottoming tap.

Tap and Die sets always tend to be made of rubbish Chinesium steel instead of HSS (high speed steel) to keep the costs down and be appealing to the average punter.

Myford supply Presto HSS Taps and Dies which are absolute top quality, they aren't cheap but if you ever compare a cheap chinese tap to a Presto tap you'll come to appreciate the huge difference, Presto taps bite instantaneously whilst Chinese ones are a struggle to start and provided you look after them they will last a lifetime whilst Cheaper ones only last a couple of holes. Myford sell them in sets of three taps and a die in the specific size: Myford Ltd Home Page (British Engineering at its best) I'd personally recommend just picking them up as you need them rather than having a full arsenal and only ever using two or three sizes which would likely be M6, M8 and M10.

SAE is just a standardisation system similar to ISO would be for metric, SAE bolts would be using UNC or UNF threads and these taps and dies are a little dearer to purchase so definitely buy only what you need at the time or the most common sizes Myford Ltd Home Page (British Engineering at its best)

You'll also need a decent tap wrench and die stock, these are best picked up second hand on eBay to get a decent quality one such as the ones Eclipse made.
 

AndyT

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Sets are nice to have, but mostly contain sizes you never use.

As you are in Bristol, you have a big advantage. We still have that rare luxury, a real, in-person shop selling old tools, Bristol Design, on Perry Row, between the university and the BRI, near the top of Christmas Steps/bottom of St Michael's Hill.

Although they mostly deal in woodworking tools, they also have a big cabinet stuffed with old screwing tackle.
Naturally, it's strong on Whitworth and older types but there is metric in there too. With a bit of patient rummaging, you can find good old HSS taps, dies and holders.
Brands that spring to mind include Presto, Goliath, LAL and others I have forgotten.
The good news is that they will only cost a few quid each, leaving cash to splurge on other nice old tools!
 

Bristol_Rob

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You really don't want just plugs/bottom taps as you'll have an extraordinarily hard time starting them as well as trying to keep them perpendicular to the surface. You need a taper tap to start the tap much easier and more perpendicular, sometimes a second tap is needed for a shallow blind hole and then you follow through with a bottoming tap.

Tap and Die sets always tend to be made of rubbish Chinesium steel instead of HSS (high speed steel) to keep the costs down and be appealing to the average punter.

Myford supply Presto HSS Taps and Dies which are absolute top quality, they aren't cheap but if you ever compare a cheap chinese tap to a Presto tap you'll come to appreciate the huge difference, Presto taps bite instantaneously whilst Chinese ones are a struggle to start and provided you look after them they will last a lifetime whilst Cheaper ones only last a couple of holes. Myford sell them in sets of three taps and a die in the specific size: Myford Ltd Home Page (British Engineering at its best) I'd personally recommend just picking them up as you need them rather than having a full arsenal and only ever using two or three sizes which would likely be M6, M8 and M10.

SAE is just a standardisation system similar to ISO would be for metric, SAE bolts would be using UNC or UNF threads and these taps and dies are a little dearer to purchase so definitely buy only what you need at the time or the most common sizes Myford Ltd Home Page (British Engineering at its best)

You'll also need a decent tap wrench and die stock, these are best picked up second hand on eBay to get a decent quality one such as the ones Eclipse made.
That's really good advice and I like the Myford website.
Maybe I'll invest in some thread pitch guages and just buy quality as I go.

I'll do some deeper reading. Thank you
 

Bristol_Rob

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Sets are nice to have, but mostly contain sizes you never use.

As you are in Bristol, you have a big advantage. We still have that rare luxury, a real, in-person shop selling old tools, Bristol Design, on Perry Row, between the university and the BRI, near the top of Christmas Steps/bottom of St Michael's Hill.

Although they mostly deal in woodworking tools, they also have a big cabinet stuffed with old screwing tackle.
Naturally, it's strong on Whitworth and older types but there is metric in there too. With a bit of patient rummaging, you can find good old HSS taps, dies and holders.
Brands that spring to mind include Presto, Goliath, LAL and others I have forgotten.
The good news is that they will only cost a few quid each, leaving cash to splurge on other nice old tools!
That is good advice. However for a novice I wouldn't know a good old branded tap and die if it bit me.

The danger is I come out of there with 3 planes and 2 hand saws :rolleyes:
 

Spectric

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As mentioned buying a set is not always a good idea unless you are a machine shop or the like that will benefit from all the sizes you would get. Write yourselve a list of sizes you feel you need, the taps come in sets of three for each size and get the corresponding die. I most often use 5,6 and 8mm sizes with standard pitchs and occasionally 12mm. I have had some need for different finer pitchs but not often thesedays. Get both types of tap wrench as you will find both usefull, the collet type(looks like a small drill chuck) and the clamp type. As for brands, a good starting point is not to use your local DIY outlets but find a decent tool supplier and brands like Sherwood, Dormer and Presto are good, people like Swisstech make some more fancy types for more specialised use, their spiral taps are good.
 

MikeK

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I had a complete tap and die set I bought decades ago that was useful only for chasing threads. I broke a tap trying to thread a hole in a cast iron table and threw away the entire set. I was able to extract the broken tap, but learned the valuable lesson of buying quality tools. I only bought what I needed, and always bought the three-tap set for each thread size I needed from McMaster-Carr. The set came with a taper, plug, and bottom tap. I no longer have any of my SAE taps, since going completely metric. Now I have the M4, M5, M6, M8, and M10 sets from McMaster-Carr, with two sets of the M5 since I use that the most.

Also not mentioned, unless I missed it, is buy the correct drills for each tap. I can't remember all of the sizes now, but the 4.2mm drill is used for the M5. tap. I use a Sharpie to write the drill size on the container for each tap set so I don't have to guess.
 

clogs

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Tracy tools will help....they offer sometimes new but resharpened taps in all types.....
cheap'ish but always quality.....they have got me out of hole a few times.....
if you give them a list it will work out cheaper than the website prices....multi purchase.....
all my stuff got stolen and needed to start again quickly.....that's where I went....my first bill was £500.....
 

Farm Labourer

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Tracy good but so are Chronos. As stated above, I only buy the sizes I need and have a box of various UNF/UNC/Whit/BSF/BA/NPT and have only in the last 5 years started doing Metric!
 

Jackbequick

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I had a complete tap and die set I bought decades ago that was useful only for chasing threads. I broke a tap trying to thread a hole in a cast iron table and threw away the entire set. I was able to extract the broken tap, but learned the valuable lesson of buying quality tools. I only bought what I needed, and always bought the three-tap set for each thread size I needed from McMaster-Carr. The set came with a taper, plug, and bottom tap. I no longer have any of my SAE taps, since going completely metric. Now I have the M4, M5, M6, M8, and M10 sets from McMaster-Carr, with two sets of the M5 since I use that the most.

Also not mentioned, unless I missed it, is buy the correct drills for each tap. I can't remember all of the sizes now, but the 4.2mm drill is used for the M5. tap. I use a Sharpie to write the drill size on the container for each tap set so I don't have to guess.
...and learn how to properly use taps and dies. Lubricate the operation. The equivalent of 'Trefolex' which I used copiously as an apprentice I have found difficult to buy however a great deal of local heat is generated at the edge in cutting so a suitable coolant/lubricant is 'essential'. Trefolex took care of all that.

As well as Mike K would know well but didn't get into as discussing other aspects , sensitive turning of the tap or die, perhaps an half turn at a time then reversing say 1/4 turn to clear the swarf assists in a clean threading with reduced jamming.

Do not force a tap or die, removing the broken section can be a pain. It's not sensible idea to tap using the tap in a drill chuck and switching it on....professional workshops do it in some cases but the operation is a professionally planned one with top materials, cooling and lubricant...it's not a DIY effort.

Although pretty expert with taps and dies I have broken a couple of the small chinese junk with less force applied than a good tap would take. ( just will not buy that rubbish now which floods ebay, but had an urgent need...their easy-outs are no better). Even with just 'easy-easy-easy ' turning and relieving, suddenly 'snap'...

You might do better if you buy used but high quality much-older items which are still sharp if going eBay. Fortunately I still have my 'ancient' P and N's from apprenticeship (1960's) and my later workshop (in which some old tools I bought from a closing old workshop) because that DIY commercial rubbish on eBay and in Chinese based places such as 'Bunnings' may have a quality brand name but be made... allegedly 'to manufacturer spec'... in China.

Unfortunately brand names themselves may no guarantee the makers of quality they once were before liquidation or selling-out. If you want reliability and longevity look for tools of high quality genuinely manufactured in UK America New Zealand or Australia to be confidently used however one can look at one product (say of P and N) and find it made in one of those places and then another product by the same organisation finds it made in PRC.

It is usually more expensive but wiser to buy only the sizes you need...as another commenter said...and as also said and is very important use the correct drilling sizes...In closing your starter tap, secondary and plug tap should be all bought unless you have a specific 'through hole'. Chaps break taps trying to tap a blind hole with just a starter tap. Use the three in stages and do not 'bottom' the tap until using the plug tap.

You may be wise to drill the 'blind' hole just a few mm deeper than the set screw for which it is being done, just to thread completely for the distance needed...and always clean the holes of swarf.

Dies also require sensitive use along with 'Trefolex' or one can find torn threads or threading not of the correct height.
 

AJB Temple

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You can still get Trefolex. Cromwell tools sell it for about £14 a tin. My dad used this as well. I still use his taps and dies, but had to buy some metric ones as well.
 

Trevanion

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I've got an old tin of Rocol RTD Compound which is a cutting paste/grease similar to Trefolex.
 

MikeK

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It sounds like Trefolex is similar to the Tap Magic that is popular in the States.
 

TFrench

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I've accumulated a vast amount of taps over the last few years. So gratifying when you can just grab the one you need and crack on. I'd post a picture of my tap drawer at work but I feel I'll get a rap on the knuckles from AES...😆 When I do have to buy them I buy presto or dormer.

Edit.
Found a picture.
 

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Jackbequick

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You can still get Trefolex. Cromwell tools sell it for about £14 a tin. My dad used this as well. I still use his taps and dies, but had to buy some metric ones as well.
Hi thanks for the heads-up ...I sort of know its 'around' but 'real' hardware stores carrying an array of the things one does need are few and far between now 'Bunnings' has taken over as China-only...although occasionally one finds something actually made in better areas. I'd feel a bit uncomfortable buying from 'Cromwell's' (smile) after the way their ancestor treated Thomas Aquinas...That rather silly comment aside I'm not in UK but in your penal colony 'Horstroylya' . Trefolex has a smell I can still recall. One my first day as apprentice I was taken to the roof of Australia square stage 1 and shown bundles of 5/8, 3/4, 1, 1.5 and 2 inch steel conduit.

I was told to screw them (4 metres/length) end to end and cut them into 1-1/2 (for the smaller sizes) and 1-3/4 inch long (for the larger two sizes) bushes, file off the dags and make smooth..then clean with a rag.

I set about it with a will and 3 days later had piles of bushes, I suppose a couple of thousand or so... and the odour of Trefolex forever more in my nostrils.

A very handsome man "the silver fox' Ray Gallen introduced himself to me as I madly screwed and screwed the conduit...not stopping for his intrusion...

"You are the new apprentice?...yes..."what are you doing?"...I explained. He said well you have done pretty well... "ok stop now(it was morning tea time)...and come with me" He took me down to a store room and on the shelves were numerous boxes comprising thousands of all size steel bushes. They never caught me again with anything!

I later found that plumbers had a machine for screwing pipe but we never had such-like...actually conduit walls are a bit thin for that and really...screwing 4 metre lengths end to end would be a pain even with a machine.
 

evildrome

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Top tip... if you use RTD or any of those grease type tapping compounds, they always end up skanky with little bits of embedded metal from dipping taps in them.

Stick the tin (lid off) on the hob at the lowest setting. The 'grease' melts and all the rubbish sinks to the bottom.

Remove from heat, allow to set and now its clean!

N.B. Do not try this with actual grease (like LM) it does not melt and bad things happen at the bottom of the tin!
 

Jackbequick

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Hi...ok advice, but don't dip taps into the lubricant....and that includes Trefolex...use a spatula to apply the lubricant to the tap and don't be backwards in sometimes cleaning the tap free of lube and swarf with a lint free cloth...and the spatula. It's surgical skills in engineering...not a Indonesian abattoir...
 

MusicMan

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Lubricant is important. I personally prefer liquid spray, as it is easier to clean. and keep clean, both taps and dies and the work. I use CT-90.

Lots of good advice above. However, don't rule out the mass products. I have a very useful set from Toolzone, very likely Chinese but good. It's very important to use sets of three taps, as said above, taper, intermediate and plug, and it is a huge advantage if these are "progressive", ie increasing sightly in diameter from taper to the final plug which is the full size for the thread. The Toolzone ones are like this. That is a set form 3 to 12 mm. and I buy individual other sizes as needed (and like others have a drawer full).

Pretty much anything will cut threads in brass or aluminium but you need decent ones for steel, and especially stainless steel.

As for dies, they don't come progressive but should be split at one point, opposite the central of three screws that hold them in the die holder. You start with the central screw rammed in hard to open up the die, then on the next pass loosen that and tighten up the others a little. The final size should be the "unstressed" size.

Many sets or individual dies come without this slot nowadays. Strictly these are 'chasers', used for cleaning up an existing thread. If you have a Dremel or similar, it is easy to cut a slot in the right place (between the outer indents for screws) using the think carbide wheel.
 

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