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Step-by-Step Guide for Using a Tap and Die Set Properly

Do you work in the repair industry? Or maybe just a regular DIY enthusiast? In either way, you’ll come across two very peculiar tools; tap and die. Whether it be broken screws stuck in walls, creating holes to hang plants or frames, or even just a simple house project, a tap and die set will come in handy. This is because a tap and die set enables you to create or modify a screw thread. What’s a screw thread, you ask? In simple words, they’re the spiral patterns on your average screw or inside a nut.

What is a Tap and Die Set?

Let’s begin with the basics about what they are used for. Tap and die are not one name given to a single tool. Instead, they’re both unique tools used for several purposes. A tap and die set, on the other hand, consists of taps and dies of different sizes. We know that not every screw, nut, and bolt is the same size; hence, you may find professionals using an entire tap and die set instead of getting one of each. A tap and die set can also include specific wrenches for both; the taps and dies. Such sets can even include a pitch gauge.

Tap vs Die

Taps and Dies are tools used to make metal threads. Let’s dive more deep into the details about these tools :


The tap tool is mainly made of carbon tool steel or metal. It is used to form or cut the nut (also called the female pair).


The die is quite different from a tap. Its most important work is to create a cut or form a material used for the exterior cutting of a cylindrical object. The die is made of metal and consists of a hole with sharp ends to help create the male on a rod, screw, or bolt (also known as the male pair). Dies can come in two types, but we’ll look into that later.

Tap and Die Wrenches

Both tap and die wrenches are used to hold the tools in place and assist in creating threads. Tap wrenches can be straight or T-shaped, while the die wrench is usually only straight. The simplest way to visualize a T-shaped tap wrench is to remember a drill key since they have similar designs.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Tap and Die Set

Finding the correct and best tap and die set is the first step to properly using it. You should know of several aspects when choosing the most appropriate and suitable tap and die set to use. Here are the most important ones ranging from its construction to its size that you should keep in mind:

1. Material

The first most important factor to keep in mind is the tap and die set material. You will find that tap and die sets are commonly made from steel; however, there are different types of steel for different purposes.

Ideally, tap and die sets made from carbon steel are most suitable for softer materials and are often less durable when compared to other types of steel. However, tools are made from other softer materials, such as aluminum, which are ideal for cutting wood but not metal.

One type is the more moderate type of materials like alloy steel which work for the most part but are not as impact-resistant and robust as more rigid materials. This is because the material of the tap and die needs to be harder than the one it is cutting. However, the increased hardness comes with a cost as they are less flexible and can even break if misused.

2. Handle

As we mentioned above, using a tap and die set improperly can damage and break the tools. Therefore, the tool must be comfortable in all ways to avoid this. An essential factor to use most tools correctly is having an easy-to-use and firm hold. Always check if the handle feels supporting, affecting the tool’s accuracy, precision, and force.

3. Size

Another essential factor to consider before using a tap and die set, another essential factor is size. The sizes are measured in two main sizes: metric sizes and SAE. A versatile tool should have both of these sizes.

Different Types Of Taps And Dies

Since we’re done with what you need to pay attention to while buying a tap and die set, let’s go over some variants of both tools.

1. Taper Tap

Taper taps are also sometimes referred to as starter taps. As its alternative name suggests, the tool begins the threading process. A taper is built in a particular structure that works great for tough metals, such as alloy steel. They usually have around 8-10 tapered threads.

2. Plug Tap

Plug taps are the most generic type of taps machinists use. This is because they’re suitable for initial and end threading. In addition, plug taps have tapered cutting edges that help them function well in starting the threading process and ending it.

3. Bottoming Tap

Bottoming taps are typically used in a hole that is already partially threaded. This is the type of tap you’ll need to finish the threading process in particular. Their structure mainly consists of a cutting edge throughout with hardly any taper. A cutting-edge structure enables them to thread till the end of a blind hole.

4. Circular Dies

Circular dies are the most used kind of die for creating a thread on the exterior side. They come with three or more cutting edges and help in threading both manually or in a turning lathe.

5. Two-Piece Adjustable Dies

A two-piece adjustable die has a vast range of calibrations for threading. In addition, every half of this type of die has two cutting edges that can be easily sharpened.

How to Use a Tap and Die Set?

The process regarding how to use tap and die set to remove a broken bolt or others is simplified in detail in the following:

Step 1: Select the right tools

We just discussed this in-depth in things to consider when choosing the right tools above. Foremost, it would be best if you had all the right tools to begin the work. This is crucial as the tools should not break amid work. Therefore, ensure that you have selected the right tools beforehand and per the functional requirements.

Step 2: Determine the thread pitch

Before starting your work, you need to determine the thread pitch. If you are not aware of it, use a thread pitch gauge to do the work. In addition, you can also use the corresponding drill bit sizes and die displayed on a chart on the tap and die kit.

Step 3: Get started with the thread

The next step is to drill slowly and after the hole is made, start turning the tap after inserting the tool into the ratchet.

The following step is to create the thread. First, you need to set the bolt in its place with the help of a wrench on it and turn, which will create a new thread.
The bolt will get tighter with each turn which means that the die moves and forms the threads. Ensure that you use cutting oil on the set when doing this. The cutting oil will reduce the sparks or heat produced in threading.

The flute in the tap gives it clearance and helps push out the metal chips. These metal chips need to break to ensure that the tap doesn’t break or jammed. A helpful tip to avoid this circumstance is to turn the tap forward once and then turn it in the opposite direction halfway.

How to Use a Tap?

There are six main steps to use a tap which we’ll list below:

  1. Confirm the type of material to drill with.
  2. Choose the correct bit depending on the hole size.
  3. Start drilling slowly.
  4. Take the tap and insert it in the rachet. Place the tap inside the hole and start rotating at a slow pace in a clockwise direction.
  5. Follow the pattern of making one turn clockwise and half turn in the opposite direction to ensure the tap does not get stuck or break.
  6. Once done, rotate the racket in the opposite direction to remove it.

How to Use a Die?

There are four main steps for cutting threads with a die which we’ll list below:

  1. Set up the material on which you’ll use for cutting.
  2. Fill the material’s end and apply cutting oil occasionally.
  3. Place the die and center it over the material you want to cut, and use the same pattern as the tap tool.
  4. Once finished, turn the die anticlockwise to remove it and brush away any remaining debris.


All in all, this was all you needed to know about a tap and die set. Again, remember that there are several variations of taps and dies that you can use. However, it’s best if you get an entire set to ensure that you have the size and shape of tools unless you’re sure of what you need precisely. Then, pick the best tap and die set and put those hands to work depending on the task at hand!