A Better Way to Tap

It's always hard to choose a tool that costs five times as much as others, especially when everyone else does things the traditional way with what appears to be good success.

For years I've used conventional taps, with the occasional foray into spiral taps just for aluminum. Though the results were fine, it seemed like the taps quickly dulled, even with good quality lubricants. When taps are called "perishable tooling" they really mean it.

There was also the issue of cleaning the chips out of the tapped holes. Most of my projects are precision or optical in nature and chips simply can't be tolerated. I've spent many hours with a fine wire getting the last particles out of some particularly small threaded hole.

Finally, a machinist friend gave me a Balax "Thredfloer" tap. These are cold forming taps- they don't cut at all, but form the material into the correct geometry. The formed thread generates no chips, and strength is increased due to work hardening of the material. Naturally, they can only be used with ductile materials, but that includes most of the things I would normally tap. With a good moly oil they even work on stainless steel.

My first reaction was amazement at how easily the taps did their job. Without the usual grooves the tap is extremely strong. For large threads the torque will be higher than a cutting tap, but for the small threads I usually do, the torque is actually less. The wear rate is also extremely low, in fact I've yet to need a replacement on any "Thredfloer" I've purchased.

The size of the tap drill is very important, and cannot be obtained from the usual table. As an example, the drill size for a normal #4-40 tap is a #43, or .089". The drill size for a #4-40 "Thredfloer" is a #38, or 0.101".

When you inspect the thread, it will have a double peak. This is normal and expected. In fact, you can judge the thread percentage and evaluate the tap drill size from the appearance of the peaks.

The only downside is that these taps are about $13 instead of the couple bucks for a short-lived regular tap. I've tried to save a bit by buying cheaper imported thread rolling taps, but they can't compete with the patented Balax design. You only save a buck or so, the torque is higher and the finish rougher. Get the good ones!

Contact Balax at (414) 966-2355 or fax at (800) 342-2529 to find your nearest distributor and get a catalog.