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What Are Tap and Die Sets Used For: A Starter’s Guide

What Are Tap and Die Sets Used For
Written by Willie Osgood
Last Update: May 3, 2023

Screws and bolts are used in almost all power tools, pieces of machinery, and vehicles. If you are a repair worker, a mechanic or a metal and woodworker who owns a garage, you may need to rethread a bolt or create a threaded hole to fix broken screws or damaged bolts when repairing a machine made of wood or metal. You need to hunt out the tap and die set that will come in handy every now and then.

If you’re wondering about the possible applications of tap and die sets, you’re at the right place. Here at Drillly we will show you how these versatile tools could benefit you and how to use them the right way.

What Are Tap and Die Sets Used For?

What Are Tap and Die Sets Used For

Tap and die sets are usually used by mechanics for onsite repairs, especially when you need to re-thread objects but they are in a fixed place.

You will need dies when bolt holes are totally stripped or the bolts are cut off. On the other hand, taps are used to thread metal, plastic, or wooden rods and pipes. You may also need them to create shafts when the correct length is not available.

How to Use a Tap and Die Set?

How to Use a Tap and Die Set

  • Fixing Threads

It’s very natural for a bolt to become cross-threaded or blunt after serving well for a long time. In cases like this, you will need a die to fix the threads conveniently.

First, fasten the bolt tightly to stop any unexpected movement. Check the size of the bolt threads with a gauge. Align the die in a manner so it doesn’t move in an angular motion, but goes straight down along the bolt’s body.

Since it works using the frictional force, there will be a bit of heat. Use cutting oil or lubricants to keep the die cool when in use and extend the durability of your tools.

Keep threading down until the die cuts freely without causing any friction. With practice you’ll know when to stop as an instinctive feeling will grow over time.

  • Threading a Nut

You may often need to thread a worn-out nut or a new hole. Threading a nut has become a piece of cake with the advent of the tap and die set. Simply use a gauge to determine the correct size to thread the nut or hole. Carefully measure the thread size as a tiny mismatch will make your nut useless because it won’t stick to the target bolt.

Use the wrench that comes with the set to secure the tap. Penetrate the tap into the target nut and keep turning it straight down to the hole. If you notice any debris growing around the threads, remove the tap to clean it. Now run the tap down again to complete the task.

  • Drilling a Thread Hole

Sometimes you have to drill holes through a metallic or wooden object to create a threaded hole. This is necessary when you need to attach a bolt to a surface where no built-in holes are available. First measure the size of the bolt that is supposed to go through the hole.

The measurement tools of your tap and die set should come properly labeled with different sizes. You can easily measure the bolt sizes with these tools. Then choose the correct drill bit to cut holes on the surface.

Now fasten the material you want to cut with a clamp or vise. Slowly and gently start to drill holes. Don’t hurry the process, take your time and apply cutting fluid for better performance.

  • Tapping The New Thread

After clearing the hole, it’s time to create threads as per the number of external threads for each inch throughout the length of the bolt. You can easily measure these numbers with your tap and die set. Now, choose the right tap to cut the new thread. Secure the hole with a clamp or stable workstation and fasten the tap with a wrench.

Turn the wrench clockwise to cut threads along the hole. After every two turns, go half a turn back to make sure that the oscillating motion isn’t damaging the inner part of threads as you keep tapping the new threads.

  • Transforming a Metal Rod Into a Bolt

If you ever need to turn an ordinary rod to a bolt, a die is the only thing you need. Make sure the rod has a beveled or sloped edge since a die doesn’t work well with rods that have flat ends. A grinder can help you make a beveled end rod out of a flat-end.

The other steps to cutting threads are similar to the aforementioned process. Measure the thread size of the nuts so it fits correctly with the bolt you intend to create. Go slowly and gently with the die to prevent any breakage inside the threads. The cutting process may produce heat and sparks. Keep applying cutting oil when using the die to keep it cool and enhance the performance.

Tips to Using a Tap and Die Set

  • Choose a tap and die set made of a harder material than the material you intend to cut
  • Give painstaking attention when determining the number of TPI (Threads per inch)
  • Use the guide or chart that comes with your tap and die set
  • Aim for a slow and steady approach when using a tap or a die
  • Use good quality T-handles, vises, wrenches, locking pliers or clamps
  • Remove debris when needed
  • Apply lubricants or cutting oil to the metal you are working on
  • Keep your drill bits and other tools organized after each use


You won’t need a tap and die set regularly but when you do, it might turn out to be the only remedy available. A tap and die set can be of great help in many situations where other tools will be of no use. Now that you know what a tap and die sets are used for, get one immediately if any of the tasks from your to-do list matches with the uses we mentioned here.

Before diving into the next step, you must choose the right tools suitable for the task. As a tap and die set mostly deals with extremely hard materials, it’s recommended to buy a set made of stronger steel. This will allow you to use these tools for a wide range of heavy duty works.


1. What is a good tap and die set?

Ans: The answer to this question varies to a great extent. The best tap and die set for you depends on factors like what you are cutting, whether you are a hobbyist or a professional, what is your budget, and so on.

2. Can I remove a broken bolt with a tap and die set? 

Ans: Yes, you can. Drill out the broken bolt with a thinner drill bit so it only pierces the affected bolt without causing any further damage. Now measure the TPI using a gauge and use a die to cut threads down the newly created hole. Place the new bolt onto the hole and tighten it to precision.

About the author

Willie Osgood

An Avid Metalworker

Willie doesn’t really consider himself an artist, rather a craftsman involved in practical trades. Yet, most of his projects require him to make interesting and fine objects. Being the eldest son of a carpenter, his background is 100 percent rooted in crafting. He found the art of blacksmithing quite appealing since his teenage years… that fire, the sound of swinging hammers, and those long and shiny blades that came out as a finished product. Soon he literally became obsessed with metal – the way it moved, worked, and changed when heated or cooled.

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