When Chad from Northern Machining asked if I’d be interested in testing out their tap wrench, I jumped at the chance. Unique design? Check. Solves problems? Check. Made in the USA? Check. I couldn’t wait!
I’m not a machinist, but I do tap holes fairly often (mainly in aluminum and Delrin) – mostly by hand, but a few have been machine-assisted for pressure and alignment purposes. Let me tell you – it was a pain trying to find tap wrenches that could do everything I wanted.
In their words (italicized), this is what’s special about the Northern Machining tap wrench:
My father owns a machine shop and we found the need for a more capable tap wrench when hand tapping needs arise from time to time, so we designed and manufactured one.
This tap wrench was designed 100% by the staff at Northern Machining. It is like no other tap wrench on the market today. The uniqueness of our wrench comes from its ability to maintain center with the central position of the tap, which it is holding. With conventional tap wrenches, center alignment is always lost because only one jaw, which holds the tap, moves. With our self-centering tap wrench, both jaws move uniformly, thus keeping a central position no matter the size of the tap which it is holding.
Our wrench is a straight handle, with a centering stem that allows the wrench itself to be put into a collet or a chuck for maintaining axial center over a hole and supporting the tapping being done. This allows for both hands working the wrench and also can pull the spindle down when feeding the tap.
Both of the jaws are movable because of the unique design we incorporated. Everyone that has purchased, has been very impressed with our quality and the benefits.
It was nearly 2 years ago that I posted about my disappointing experience with new Starrett tap wrenches. I am happy to say that Northern Machining has given me nothing to complain about!
Adjusting the tap wrench is done in three steps. First, you rotate the handles to loosen pressure on the jaws. Then, you adjust the width of the jaws by rotating the thumbwheel. Size it to fit your tap, then lock down the handles.
I really, really like that thumbwheel adjustment design. There’s zero slop, meaning it locks up and grips taps tightly and securely.
Yes, adjusting this tap wrench is a little slower than how you would adjust an ordinary tap wrench, but not by much, and you do get better results. With the Northern Machining tap wrench, the tap is centered between the handles. This applies to any tap, small or large, up to its jaw capacity.
The Northern Machining tap wrench can fit taps from #0 to 1/2″ in size. In the image at the start of the post, it’s gripping a 1/4″ tap. Here, it’s gripping a #4 tap.
One the part I really like is how the stem has a 5/16″ diameter, which means it fits my machines!
I have a 10″ benchtop drill press that can fit the Northern Machining tap wrench, but my small Taig mill and even smaller Sherline lathe cannot easily accommodate tap wrenches or handles that are designed for larger machinery.
The length is around 9-1/2″ when clamped down onto a 1/4″ tap. At full capacity, it might not fit my small drill press.
I do wish that the handles could be removed or interchanged so that I can use this tap wrench to its full potential on my smaller equipment. Maybe that’s something Northern Machinery could consider for a later model. Or maybe I can find a way to improvise.
But for machinists with regularly sized equipment – you’re gonna love this. It’s a tap wrench designed for machinists (and other hand tappers) by machinists.
It doesn’t loosen up, except when you want or need it to. I also like that it has a plain finish with nothing to flake off. It’s made from 100% tool steel, with the jaws and body hardened for longer life. Northern Machining says that each component is fully replaceable, although I don’t foresee that ever being necessary.
Centering jaws, zero wobble, a secure grip, and the ability to use in a spindle or chuck for machine-assisted hand tapping – what more could one ask for? (Aside for my asking for a smaller version or one with shorter arms ?)
The Northern Machining tap wrench measures 10″ long x 1-1/8″ tall x 1-5/8″ wide. Here it is compared to one of my imported tap wrenches.
And this is my (USA-made) guiding tap wrench. It works with much of my equipment, but I really do like the Northern Machining one better.
The Northern Machining tap wrench is lower in profile, and also easier to turn. It can also accommodate a wider range of sizes – #0 to 1/2″, and not just 1/4″ to 1/2″ as with my T-handle.
One thing to point out is that my T-handle tap wrench comes with a built-in alignment guide with internal hole (threaded too) that can fit a center or alignment tool, and also a free-spinning attachment that increases how it can be used for machine-assisted hand tapping. If I find that I need or want something similar with the Northern Machining tap wrench, I’ll simply make one.
Price: $149 (shipped)
Although a little pricey, keep in mind that the Northern Machining tap wrench does the job of multiple tap wrenches. It’s a professional tool that feels as bulletproof as it looks.
Just to remind you, Northern Machining manufacturers their tap wrench in the USA. They’re based in Norfolk, NY, and offer a range of machining services.
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For all you machinists out there, what’s your take on the design?
Thank you to Northern Machining for providing the review sample unconditionally.