What's the Proper Way to Use a Tap Extractor?
It is not uncommon to bust your taps when threading. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution for extracting a tap since many variables are at play. The metal type combined with how exactly the tap became stuck will determine which method you should use to try to remove it. For example using a tap extractor on cast iron is a completely different story than using it on steel. Because this process is so situational, if you find yourself in this situation it will be helpful to grab advice from someone with similar experience. No better place to ask around than the Practical Machinist forum.
But one thing is for sure, and that’s that patience is required. If you rush the process or pursue a makeshift option, chances are you will worsen the problem. There are many cases where a machinist will be overconfident and go at the tap without reading instructions or researching how to pull off the meticulous act. Then they will write off the tool they used like it is the tool’s fault. Whereas the machinist who finds patience and is thorough, could remove that same tap with success.
If you want to avoid this headache, it may be helpful to know WHY taps commonly break.
10 reasons taps break
1. Lack of experience
2. The hole was drilled too small
3. The tap is dull
4. The material you’re tapping is too hard
5. The tap is crookedly entering the hole
6. Tapping without oil or fluid
7. Slamming the bottom of a blind hole
8. Tapping with fragile taps (smaller ones)
9. Starting with a plug tap instead of a taper tap
10. Chips jamming during the tapping process
There are different ways to approach a broken tap. You can learn more about in our article 6 Effective Ways to Remove Broken Taps. However, in this article we will be focusing specifically on extracting broken taps with extractor tools.
A tap extractor can be a life saver. They allow you to remove broken taps without having to drill or use an EDM and can help you avoid significant damage to the threads (if used correctly). Tap extractors have fingers that slide down into the thread and grasp the tap so that the broken tap can then be pulled out. It is important to be thorough and taking your time during the tap extraction process.
How tap extractors work
The image below should make the steps of using a tap extractor a bit easier to visualize.
1. Insert the tap extractor into the flutes of the broken tap
2. Push the holder piece downward so that it touches the broken tap
3. Slide the sleeve down until it touches the workpiece.
4. Use a tap wrench to twist the end of the holder forward and backward to loosen and remove the broken tap.
If you’re going to invest in a tap extractor you will also need a tap wrench. They go hand in hand, and you will need them both to complete the job. Check out this video below to better understand just how a tap extractor functions.
Extractor tool tips
Removing broken taps with an extractor is not easy and can take some practice before officially mastering the craft. Like many things in machining, it comes down to having the right feel for the tool. Here are some tips that will help you successfully remove that broken tap with an extractor.
1. The fingers of the extractor must align with the flutes of the tap
2. Move slowly and be gentle
3. Clear any chips that could block the entry
4. Get the extractor fingers as deep into the hole as possible
Taking these precautions will increase the likelihood of having a successful removal. For example, a broken tap can be wedged out ¼ of the way and then gets stuck on a chip and becomes re-stuck. It is also important to note that there are situations where a tap extractor will not come to rescue. There are cases where the tap is too tightly buried in the for a tap extractor to salvage it.
Tap extractor and tap wrench models
Get the right tools. There are different tap extractor tools, but they ultimately function the same. These tap extractors dig in and grab onto the broken tap shank so you can twist it free. These tools are offered both in sets and individually. Please keep in mind that the size of the tap will influence which size extruder you can use which will also influence which wrench you should use. Check out the different extractor and wrench models offered below.
Walton Tools really paved the way with dedicated tools for extracting broken taps. They offer a variety of tap extractor sets. This one features extractors to support taps with a four-flute design and there are even replacement flutes available should they get damaged. This 13-piece set contains sizes #4 (3-flute), #5 (3-flute), #6 (3-flute) #8, #10, #12, 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 7/16″, 1/2″, 5/8″, 3/4″.
Maybe you don’t need an entire set, good thing you can order single extractor pieces. The hardened steel fingers of Walton Tap extractors fit in the flutes of a broken tap to back it out simply and safely. And when fingers of the extractor become bent or broken or are too short for further use, replacement fingers are available.
The T handle’s jaws conform to the tool being held, making it extra rigid and less apt to loosen its tight grip. The Starrett tap wrench has a sliding handle that is frictionally held, and it can be removed entirely or positioned so that leverage can be applied when working in close quarters.
This tap wrench set features self-centering hardened steel jaws and a knurled chuck sleeve to support a sturdy grip. This set even comes with a reference chart and fitted, foam lined plastic case for protection.
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