If you do any serious automotive, restoration, or general repair work and you need a Tap & Die set. Like anything else, you can spend anywhere from $25 on a budget set, to a couple thousand or more on a professional machinist set, it’s really about what you need to do with them. If you’re a guy that taps a hand full of holes in a year, a budget set will probably suit you just fine, but if you’re in a professional, or even a hobby environment where threading is all part of the job on a regular basis, you’re going to want something a little more robust.
If that sounds like you, Mac Tools has just the set you’re looking for. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, specialty tool sets are one area where Mac really excels and the TD117COMBOS is no exception.
As the name should foretell, the TD117COMBOS is a 117 piece set which is an updated version of the previous 117 piece TDPLUS set. The primary updates to the COMBOS set are as follows:
All new, heavy duty, case with removable tray.
Upgraded canvas drill bit/extractor pouch (TDPLus was vinyl)
Mac stamping on every T&D (TDPlus had sizing only)
Molded sizes in the case for each T&D to speed up tool identification.
You can check out Mac’s promo video HERE
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the previous set, let’s talk about this one. I’m not about to bore you with each individual size and thread pitch, but the contents break down like this:
34 Taps (16 SAE, 16 Metric, 2 Pipe threads) ranging from 4-40 to 1/2″ and 3mm to 12mm in course and fine thread
34 Dies(16 SAE, 16 Metric, 2 Pipe threads) ranging from 4-40 to 1/2″ and 3mm to 12mm in course and fine thread
36 Piece HSS drill bit set which includes every bit needed for any of the included taps
5 Piece spiral extractor set
3 Tap Wrenches
2 Die Stocks
2 Thread Pitch Gauges
1 Mini Screwdriver
Right away you notice the the quality feel of the set. From the full polish die stocks to the shiny HSS drill bits, everything has a hefty feel to it. Everything is well laid out. The updates to this set really give it a user friendly nature. Whether you’re grabbing 1 piece for a quick repair or laying the whole set out on your cart for a bigger job, it’s easy to navigate.
The Finer Details
This set has a lot of positives going for it. Good quality, great selection, and while it may sound trivial, the drill bit set that comes with this thing is really the icing on the cake. I say this for 2 reasons. A: They are really nice bits, and B: It includes both letter and number bits, neither of which I had any of prior to getting this set. We’ve all been there. You’re trying to tap a hole and your chart calls for a # or L bit, you don’t have either. Now you’re scouring the internet looking for the fractional equivalent because your local shops don’t stock either. Not anymore! This is an entirely self contained set, so if you have the tap, you also have the right bit. This set get at least an extra 20 style points just for that.
The 5 piece extractor set is a nice touch on the set. I didn’t really need any more extractors, but I like the fact that they’re there as it adds to the “self-contained” appeal of the set.
If you’re familiar with T&D’s you know that they are made of either carbon steel or HSS. Carbon is for general purpose use threading and re-threading in common metals, while HSS is much harder and is needed for hardened steel. These are what Mac calls “High Performance Steel”. I won’t pretend to know what that means, so this is purely speculation, but my experience with T&D’s leads me to believe that the cheap sets like you find at Harbor Freight are the lower grade steel with a carbon content of less than .25%, while good carbon T&D’s such as these have a carbon content of somewhere closer to .50%. They aren’t HSS and aren’t going to be the choice for a pro machinist, but they are way better quality than the cheap sets, do not dull after a hand full of uses, and at around $450, they’re half the price of a comparable HSS set. Whatever they’re made of, they are nice quality and theres a good selection of them.
The COO listed for this set varies. T&D’s are USA, drill bits are Brazil, tap wrenches and die stocks are Taiwan, and if I correctly recall, the case is the only component made in China.
Part of my job as a tool writer is to inform the reader of any problems with the tool and offer constructive criticism to the manufacturer to help them improve future products. There is nothing wrong with this set. It’s good quality, of ample size, and generally pretty awesome, but I do have a couple of critiques. While the case is a drastic improvement over the TDPlus set, it’s big. At 16″ L, 11″ W, and around 4″ thick, it takes a deep toolbox drawer to house it. For some users that may not be an issue at all, but seeing how I had my T&D’s in a medium deep top chest drawer, it required some re-arranging. Now, you can’t house a set this size in cigar box, but there is some potential for added versatility.
The Die tray is removable and would easily fit in my old medium top drawer, but the Tap storage is embedded into the case. Why not have the tap tray removable just like the Die tray? This would allow the user to A: keep taps or dies (whichever he/she uses more) on top to speed up the job (I use taps WAY more that dies) , or B: discard the outer case altogether and simply place the trays in a smaller drawer. It’s a small critique, but it would go along way toward improving the versatility of the set, especially if you use taps more as they are currently confined to the bottom of the case.
My only other critique is the cheap, generic, mini-screwdriver, included in the set. It’s not an issue, and it’s sufficient for it’s purpose, but how cool would it be if that were a mini-Macsimizer or MacGrip driver? OK, I’m being petty, but it would be cool. I would also implore Mac to consider adding left handed drill bits to compliment the 5 extractors. They work wonders on a broken bolt and often remove it without even having to use the extractor.
All things considered, the TD117COMBOS is a great set. It has all the most common sizes and thread pitches, it’s well laid out, and the quality is great too. I love the self-contained functionality of it as well. If you have the TDPlus set, you’re not going to run out and buy this one just for the updates, but if you’re buying a set for the first time or simply looking to upgrade a lesser set, this one is certainly worth a look. The Mac retail site lists it @ $449. The set is pretty new, so 1st person retail data is limited, but I suspicion it could be had cheaper on the truck, especially if you already have a relationship with a driver. If you don’t know a Mac driver, you can submit a request through their online inquiry system HERE, or give them a call @ 1-800-MAC-TOOL to get connected with the distributer nearest you.
Stay tuned to TIA for more from Mac Tools!