Home 9 CNC Machining 9 Ultimate Guide to Taps for Threads | Thread Tapping Techniques and Types

Ultimate Guide to Taps for Threads | Thread Tapping Techniques and Types

Author: Max
Published on: 2023-08-03

Thread tapping is an essential aspect of manufacturing, fabrication, and mechanical work. At the heart of this process are taps, tools designed to cut threads into the insides of holes. The nature of threading, its size, depth, and pitch, largely depend on the type of tap used, making the choice of taps instrumental in achieving the desired outcome.

This article delves deep into the subject of taps for threads, highlighting the different types of taps for threading, their applications, and how to select the perfect tap for specific thread needs.


The Fundamentals of Taps and Threading

Thread cutting tools (tap and die)

Taps and thread

Taps are essential tools in the machining and manufacturing industry, specifically utilized to create internal threads within pre-drilled holes. The resulting internal threads facilitate the smooth and secure fastening of screws, bolts, or other threaded elements into the material, which can be metal, wood, or plastic, among others. Let’s delve deeper into the intricacies of threading, tap materials, and the anatomy of a tap.

1. Basics of Threading

Threading, in essence, is a procedure of creating helical structures, known as threads, on the surface of a hole or a cylindrical object. Threads can be categorized as internal or external, each serving a distinct function. Internal threads are created within a hole to accommodate a screw or bolt. External threads, on the other hand, are made around a cylindrical object, such as on the outside of a bolt. The process of creating internal threads using a tap is termed ‘tapping.’

The parameters defining a thread include thread diameter, thread pitch (distance between each thread), thread depth, and thread direction (left or right-hand thread).

2. Tap Materials & It’s Anatomy

The tap material is a critical determinant of its strength, durability, and cutting effectiveness. Taps are commonly made from high-speed steel (HSS), which offers excellent resistance to wear and heat. However, for more strenuous applications, such as threading hard metals, taps may be constructed from solid carbide or coated with materials such as Titanium Nitride (TiN) for increased hardness and longevity.

A tap comprises several parts, each contributing to its threading function:

  • Shank: This is the portion held by the tap wrench or tap holder during the tapping process.
  • Square End: Located at the top of the shank, this is where the wrench applies torque.
  • Flutes: These are the grooves or channels that run longitudinally along the tap, serving to guide the cut chips away from the cutting edges.
  • Cutting Edge: These are the hardened edges that cut into the material to create the thread.
  • Thread Lead: This refers to the portion at the front of the tap, which guides the tap into the hole. It can be tapered (taper tap), partially tapered (second tap), or have full thread depth (bottoming or plug tap).


What Are the Different Types of Taps for Threading?

Different types of taps for threading

Taps come in a variety of types, each tailored to a particular threading need or application. Some common types include hand taps, spiral point taps, spiral flute taps, and forming taps. Understanding the functionality and purpose of these types can significantly enhance the outcome of your threading task.

1. Hand Taps

Hand taps are the most common types of taps, typically available in a set of three: taper tap, second tap, and plug tap. They are used manually with a tap wrench and are suitable for through holes or blind holes that don’t need threads right to the bottom.

  • Taper Tap: Features a pronounced taper to the cutting edges, which facilitates an easier start to the threading process.
  • Second Tap: Has less taper, used to cut threads closer to the bottom of the hole.
  • Plug Tap: The least taper among the three, used to create threads to the very bottom of a blind hole.

2. Spiral Point Taps

Also known as ‘gun taps,’ these taps have straight flutes with a unique angular point that helps push the chips forward, making them ideal for through holes.

3. Spiral Flute Taps

These taps feature spiral flutes that pull the chips upward and out of the hole, making them perfect for blind holes where chip removal can be challenging.

4. Forming Taps

Forming taps, also known as ‘fluteless taps’ or ‘roll taps,’ don’t cut threads but form them by displacing the material. They are excellent for ductile materials like aluminum or soft steel and result in threads with no chips and increased fatigue resistance.

Here’s a quick summary of the common types of taps for threading:

Table 1: Common types of taps for threading

Type of Tap Ideal Use Key Features
Hand Tap Manual threading, both through and blind holes Comes in taper, second, and plug variants
Spiral Point Tap Through holes Straight flutes, angular point
Spiral Flute Tap Blind holes Spiral flutes for efficient chip removal
Forming Tap Ductile materials, threads with increased fatigue resistance Forms threads by displacing material results in no chips


Tapping Tools: An Overview

Every threading process requires precise tools to perform the task efficiently. There are a variety of tapping tools available, each tailored to the needs of the threading operation and the specifications of the workpiece material.

1. Tap Wrenches

These are used to hold and turn taps during manual tapping operations. They come in two main types: T-handle (also known as bar-type) and sliding T-handle (or tap reamer wrenches). The former is typically used for smaller taps, while the latter offers adjustable handles that can accommodate larger taps and reamers.

2. Tap Holders

For machine tapping, tap holders are used. They come in several types, including rigid, tension/compression, and torque control tap holders. The selection of the tap holder depends on the type of tap, the nature of the hole (through or blind), and the specifications of the machine and workpiece.

3. Thread Gauges

Thread gauges are essential for verifying the accuracy of the threads. These include screw pitch gauges (which check the pitch of the thread) and thread plug and ring gauges (which verify the accuracy of internal and external threads respectively).

4. Tapping Fluids

Tapping fluids, or cutting fluids, are used to lubricate and cool the tapping process, reducing wear on the tap and facilitating smoother, cleaner threads. The type of fluid used varies depending on the workpiece material.


What are Tap Drills and Sizing?

Before a hole can be tapped, it must be drilled to the correct size – a process known as ‘tap drilling.’ The size of the tap drill depends on the size and type of the tap and the thread that is to be created.

1. Tap Drill Sizes

The tap drill size is an important factor to consider when tapping holes. It corresponds to the diameter of the hole that must be drilled before it can be threaded. The calculation of the tap drill size depends on the thread size and the thread percentage (which determines how much of the thread is to be cut?).

It is important to choose the right tap drill size to ensure that the tapped hole is properly threaded and the resulting thread is strong and secure. Choosing the wrong tap drill size can result in stripped threads, weak threads, or threads that do not fit properly.

2. Tap Drill Charts

Tap drill charts are useful references that provide the correct tap drill sizes for various thread sizes and types. These charts typically specify the tap sizes, the corresponding drill size, and the thread count or pitch. In addition to helping with selecting the proper drill size, tap drill charts can also be used to determine the appropriate tap size and thread count for specific applications.

Using a tap drill chart can save time and reduce the risk of errors when tapping holes. It is important to have access to accurate and up-to-date tap drill charts when working with different thread sizes and types.

Here’s a simplified tap drill size chart:

Table 2: A simplified tap drill chart

Tap Size Thread Count/Pitch Drill Size
M1.6 0.35 1.25mm
M2 0.40 1.60mm
M2.5 0.45 2.05mm
M3 0.50 2.50mm
M3.5 0.60 2.90mm


Tapping Procedures: Tapping Straight and Clean Threads

Creating straight and clean threads is a meticulous process that demands patience, precision, and the right techniques. Here, we discuss the basic tapping procedure and tips for creating accurate threads.

1. Manual Tapping Procedure

  • Select the appropriate tap and tap wrench.
  • Apply tapping fluid to the tap.
  • Position the tap perpendicular to the hole.
  • Apply steady pressure and turn the wrench clockwise.
  • After a few turns, reverse the direction to break the chip and prevent tap breakage.
  • Continue the process until the desired depth is achieved.
  • Clean the hole and inspect the threads.

2. Tips for Straight and Clean Threads

  • Always start with a perpendicular position.
  • Use a center punch to help guide the tap.
  • Maintain steady pressure and consistent turns.
  • Regularly reverse the direction to clear chips.
  • Use ample tapping fluid to reduce friction and improve cutting.

Creating perfect threads is an art that demands precision and the right tools. Understanding the basics of taps and threading, the different types of taps, and the right procedures can significantly enhance your threading tasks.


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Tapping Guidelines: Ensuring Accurate Threads

Achieving precise, clean threads require a careful understanding of the tapping process, the right tools, and adherence to guidelines that enhance the process’s success.

Table 3: Crucial steps for accurate threads

Step Description
Identifying the Right Tap Factors influencing this decision include the nature of the hole (through or blind), the type of material being tapped, the required thread size, and the thread fit.
Setting Up the Operation The workpiece should be secured, the tap alignment should be correct (usually perpendicular to the workpiece surface), and the tap drill hole should be of the appropriate size and depth.
Applying Proper Tapping Technique Tapping should commence with a slow, steady pressure, ensuring the tap bites into the material. For manual tapping, after a few turns in a clockwise direction, it is advisable to reverse the tap slightly to break the chip and reduce the risk of tap breakage.
Regular Inspection and Measurement It’s crucial to inspect and measure the threads regularly during the tapping process. This can be done using thread gauges and ensures the accuracy of the thread form and fit.


Advanced Tapping: Thread Milling and Thread Forming

For applications demanding high precision and excellent surface finish, advanced methods like thread milling and thread forming can be employed.

1. Thread Milling

Thread milling is a machining process that utilizes a thread mill to produce threads. The thread mill is a specialized cutter that features thread-shaped cutting edges. This tool is utilized to create threads that are close to the bottom of blind holes, which is a challenging task when using taps. Thread milling is a versatile process that can be used to create a wide range of thread sizes and shapes. Additionally, this process is suitable for both internal and external threads, making it a highly flexible option for machinists.

Thread milling on the automotive part

One of the primary advantages of thread milling is its high degree of accuracy, which ensures that the threads produced are precise and uniform. This process also has a low risk of breakage and is less prone to producing burrs or other surface defects. As a result, thread milling is often the preferred option for creating high-quality threads in a variety of materials, including metals, plastics, and composites.

2. Thread Forming

Thread forming, also known as thread rolling, involves the plastic deformation of the workpiece material to create threads. This method, which requires no cutting, often results in threads with excellent surface finish and higher strength due to the work hardening of the material.

Table 4: Comparison of the different tapping techniques

Technique Pros Cons
Cutting Taps Easy to use, wide range of applications May produce rough surface finish, higher risk of tap breakage
Forming Taps Excellent surface finish, work hardening, no chip issue Requires more force, not suitable for brittle or hard materials
Thread Milling Can mill threads close to the bottom of blind holes Requires CNC machine, not suitable for high-volume applications
Thread Forming High-strength threads, excellent surface finish High force requirement, not suitable for brittle or hard materials

3. Taps for Special Threads

For special thread forms like pipe threads (NPT/NPTF, BSPT) and certain metric threads, special taps are used. For instance, taper taps are used for pipe threads, which have a tapered form. The selection of these taps depends on the specific thread requirements.

The creation of accurate, reliable threads is a fundamental aspect of many manufacturing processes. By understanding the basics of taps and threading, and the correct procedures to follow, you can significantly improve your threading operations.


Why Choose Prolean’s Tapping and Threading Solutions?

When it comes to threading operations, Prolean offers unparalleled expertise and a range of high-quality taps suitable for a wide variety of applications. With a focus on providing customers with the tools and services they need to achieve flawless threads every time, Prolean is your go-to source for all your threading needs. From standard taps to custom solutions for unique applications, Prolean has got you covered.

Here’s a quick guide to tap selection based on material type:

Material Type Recommended Tap Type Notes
Steel and Cast Iron High-speed steel (HSS), Spiral point taps Spiral point taps are better for through holes
Stainless Steel Cobalt HSS or taps with TiCN coating These have high wear resistance
Non-ferrous Metals Straight flute taps The use of a lubricant is recommended

By combining understanding, the right tools, and proper techniques, achieving precise threads is a task that can be successfully accomplished. Whether you’re working with steel, cast iron, or any other material, the quality and precision of your taps play an integral role in the final outcome. With Prolean’s expertise in manufacturing processes and state-of-the-art tapping and threading solutions, every task becomes a triumph of precision and quality.



From the simplest DIY project to the most complex industrial applications, taps for threads play an integral role. Understanding the basics of threading, the different types of taps available, their applications, and choosing the right tap based on the material type are all crucial for a successful and efficient threading operation. Following best practices for using, maintaining, and storing taps will ensure longevity and consistent performance.

Prolean’s tapping and threading solutions offer a wide range of options, whether you’re dealing with steel, cast iron, non-ferrous metals, or any other materials. With our high-quality tools and exceptional expertise, we make sure that precision is ingrained in every thread you make.



What is a tap used for in threading?

A tap is a tool used to cut threads into the interior surface of a pre-drilled hole, allowing for bolts or screws with matching threads to be inserted and tightened.

What are the different types of taps?

The three main types of taps are taper taps, plug taps, and bottoming taps. Other types include spiral point taps, spiral flute taps, and forming taps.

How do I choose the right tap for a material?

The choice of tap depends on the material’s properties, such as its hardness, ductility, and machinability. For instance, high-speed steel (HSS) taps are often used for steel and cast iron, while taps made of cobalt HSS or with a titanium carbonitride (TiCN) coating are used for stainless steel.

What is the importance of tap maintenance?

Proper tap maintenance, including cleaning, correct storage, and regular inspection, can prolong the tap’s life, prevent tap breakage, and ensure the production of high-quality threads.

Why should I choose Prolean’s tapping and threading solutions?

Prolean offers a wide range of high-quality taps suitable for various applications, ensuring you achieve flawless threads every time. We provide standard taps and custom solutions for unique applications, backed by our deep expertise in manufacturing processes.


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