As I mentioned the other day, I bought myself a small Taig milling machine. I followed that purchase with a couple of orders for tooling and accessories, but I also decided to upgrade a couple of frequently used machinist tools.
Perhaps a bit too conveniently, I misplaced my tap wrenches. They were generic import models, one T-handle and one straight, but they served me well for a couple of years now. Enco had a reasonably good sale (20% off + free shipping), so I decided to splurge and order a couple of Starrett tap wrenches to replace them with.
I ordered a 93A small T-handle tap wrench, and #174, 91A, and 91B straight-style tap wrenches. I figured that these tap wrenches would be the last I ever had to buy. Since I don’t use large taps often, I figure I could always buy another generic import if the need arises.
The 93A and 174 tap wrenches are smooth and relatively easy to operate. The threads of the 174 are smooth to turn, and while the 93A could use a little initial cleaning it otherwise turns smoothly.
The 91A and 91B tap wrenches, on the other hand, are almost atrocious. I gave them a quick twist each, and the threads felt like they were seizing up. Curious to see what the cause was, I loosened and unthreaded both tap handles all the way. What did I find? Dirty threads and small lumps of gunky metal shavings.
Seriously? A $58 tap wrench should NOT have metal shavings fouling up the threads and internal plunger. After I removed the biggest accumulation it turned a little easier, but it looks like I will need to clean out the threads with an old toothbrush and maybe a few pointed swabs.
The knurled sections are rough and flake off little bits of metal, but that’s a minor concern compared to small metal shaving gunk pockets trapped between threads and an internal plunger system.
There is no information about country of origin, anywhere. Not on the boxes, not on the tools, nowhere. Maybe this is done so that they can move production of more tools to China with the hope that noone notices. Regardless of where the tools are made, even if in the USA, it seems that corners are being cut during manufacturing.
It is worth noting that I had to return a Starrett automatic center punch this week for the same quality issue – hard to turn threads. With the center punch, I figured it was a random defect with the mechanism. But since both of the larger tap wrenches have the same problem I thought to take a quick look inside.
I haven’t decided what to do yet, but might return them to Enco. Why pay more for Starrett if the quality is way below expectations?! Even if I put in the time and effort to clean up the threads, who knows where else Starrett cut corners. Towards the end of this practical machinist thread, there are complaints about soft unhardened jaws.
As you can tell, I am quite disappointed. On the bright side, the non-movable sides of the tap wrenches are quite nicely finished.
I don’t like to buy used or vintage tools, but I think that’s the only way I’ll ever buy another Starrett tool that’s priced over $20.
Starrett Tap Wrenches (via Amazon)
I have both a small and a larger Starrett center punch and I agree about the quality seeming to be lacking at times. My small center punch is fine, but the larger one seems to catch at times. As far as tap wrenches like yours my 93A, B, and C are all great. There have been complaints about their newer calipers and the usage of plastic for the dial. Starrett tools have always been solid products in the past, however they do seem to be sacrificing quality lately.
I was hesitant to get the small center punch because of a few online reports complaining about build quality. I figured the larger one would hold up better against metals, but the spring tension was too high and I couldn’t back it up with the knurled and threaded knob.
Stuart–Your problems with Starrett tap wrenches reminded me of looking at their newer models of calipers. I went on Amazon and found that the lower-end models that used to be made here are now made in China. The dial housing is now made of plastic, instead of the traditional metal. I don’t have enough use to justify buying one, so I passed on the purchase when I read that. Brown and Sharpe also makes many of the same tools that Starrett produces; you might check them out to see what their products are like. You might also look at Mitutoyo; they are Japanese, so the build quality is probably better than ROC goods. To get the quality you want at a reasonable price may require you to seek out used/vintage tools on E-bay or other sources. Like purchasing Craftsman tools made here, you may have to look for “new old stock” on retailers’ shelves, or scour internet sites for those treasured items. As you know, Harry Epstein has a lot of that kind of stuff; give them a try, too. Good luck.
I’m a Mitutoyo fan myself. I have heard quite a few complaints about some of Starrett’s measuring tools in the past few years, so I’ve stayed away.
I have a couple of Starrett tools that are quite good, and a small hand vise is on the way. But I feel that my faith in their quality has been shattered.
Harry Epstein was the first place I checked before ordering the tap wrenches from Amazon and Enco.
In this day and age companies need to be held accountable. Good for you. I would be interested in what your outcome is.
I think the Internet can be the life line for high quality companies but they need to live up to their reputations of quality.
If a company has a line of tools they import at a low price point, they need to make that known. For their own good if no other reason.
While country of origin is important to me, I would rather have a great quality tool that’s made overseas, than a lousy quality one that’s made in the USA.
The tap wrenches are hopefully not beyond a little sprucing up, but it’s really not something I should have to do, especially with how much they cost.
You know, I’m happy to hear a negative review. The site is great, but it seems like 99% of the items here get a positive review. That makes it a little hard to really determine whether I should get one item over another….Or if drill “A” realy is good/better than drill “B”
Stay away from this item, gotcha, ty for the tip!
When brands want to send product samples for testing, I typically refuse the ones I know I won’t have anything good to say about. Sometimes I will accept a product sample, and if I don’t like it I won’t use or test it enough, and the review ends up backburnered.
Generally, I don’t like writing negative reviews. Even with tools I don’t like, I try to be more objectively informative than subjective.
I try to avoid A vs. B comparisons, especially with power tools, because there are so many contributing factors that it’s hard to produce fair conclusions about one product being better than another.
But in this case, I am just plain mad and unhappy, and couldn’t maintain my usual editorial reserve. It’s like being sent a bottle of brake cleaner and disposable shop towel samples for Secret Santa (yes, that really happened to me 2 years ago).
Ah Starrett, at point that was an exceptional company and most, if not all their products were 100% American made. I’ve known people owned several American made Starrett products that were passed down by Grandfathers, to Fathers and then to their children. That being said, at one point there products were built to last a lifetime.
About a year ago I was in the market for buying a tap wrench myself and assuming (at the time) Starrett produced most of their products in USA, but I would soon quickly learn that a large amount of their products are no longer made in USA anymore.
I went on eBay and bought my self a old stock American made Vermont American tap wrench on eBay for less than $15. I hate to say this Stuart, but given the amount of money you spent, I’d say the quality of Starrett’s products have tanked.
Sadly, these days if you want a Starrett product that is built to last, may be American made, typically you would have to buy these on auction sites such as eBay or if you are lucky, pawn shops, garage sales or depending on the item, Harry J Epstein.
I know this is offtopic but can you make a 4th of july deals article? I really like those.
Harry J Epstein’s is having their annual Eptein’s day on July 4th and believe me, there are some amazing deals that day.
Just to clarify, I don’t work for Harry J Epstein nor do I receive anything for making this post. Harry J Epstein, namely Steve, Ken, Jori and all the Epstein’s staff have always treated me well and they actually care about American jobs and their main focus is selling American made tools.
I had the exact same experience with a Starrett tap wrench. I can’t remember the model # but it’s the smaller one you have pictured at the top that I orded after borrowing an older one from the machine shop at my work. That one was perfect so I was expecting the one I ordered to be pure butter. Instead I was appalled by how gritty the threads were. I disassembled it and noticed a a lot of debris in the threads so I blew it out with some air and oiled it was some CLP. I then reassembled and disassembled it again. Still more stuff. I had to repeat this with an oiled q-tip a few times until it was fairly smooth but still not what I expected from Starrett. I can say I will not be ordering any new stock tap wrenches from them to completed my set. Instead I’ll be looking on eBay and other sites for older models.
Send them back. Like you say, for Starrett prices, there should be zero issues. These aren’t Harbor Freight items which you expect to have to tune up.
If you don’t send them back, you’re giving them the green light to lower their standards, while maintaining their prices, for all consumers.
Sad to hear this.
Did they come with a QC paper – saying who had inspected the tool? Maybe a note to Starrett will shake them up.
I have 5 Starrett Tap wrenches (91c and 91D, plus 93A, 93b and 93C) all purchased and put into use in the 1970’s – and all operate smooth as silk. At that time – Starrett were the best quality precision tools bar-none – and the tap wrenches were fine compliments to my Greenfield “Little Acorn” and OK – Jr. tap sets.
No QC paper or anything of the sort.
The two straight T-handles are going back to Enco, and I’m keeping the small tap wrench. I have to pay return shipping, but that’s okay.
It’s a real shame, too. The fixed end of the handles are really, really nice, and I do like the general designs. They’re not just tap wrenches, they’re well thought out tap wrenches that draw upon decades of feedback and experience. But it bugs me so strongly that the threaded area is so gunked up. Great design, horrible execution.
While I’d like to buy a 93B to match the 93A I’m keeping, I don’t know if I can trust Starrett. Maybe I will order it from Amazon. It will cost more, but they have an easier return policy.
Once I receive my refund, I’ll a few generic-branded straight handles from Enco.
I know Greenfield wrenches were good, but based on forum feedback they’re not as good as they used to be.
Maybe I’ll turn my attention to ebay or forums to see if anyone has any “smooth as silk” older Starrett tap wrenches they’d be willing to part with.
Greenfield was once one of the US’s premier tap and die makers (of which there were many – like Chicago-Latrobe).
Some years ago I believe that they were acquired and became part of a Chinese conglomerate – Top Eastern Group. I can no longer speak to their current quality – but the range of their offerings seems to have been reduced. When you bought a set of Greenfield taps and dies in the 1970’s they came in a very nicely made and fitted metal or wooden box . Their Little Giant series and OK Jr. series commanded high prices for their day- and still show up on eBay. Their acorn dies and holders were super adjustable . This being said – the tap wrenches provided with their sets – were of only OK quality – hence my purchase of the Starrett products.
That’s something I started looking into yesterday. I had no idea that companies like Cleveland and Chicago-Latrobe, and their Greenfield Industries parent company were now owned by a Chinese company.
They’ll own us all before it’s over. They are buying Smithfield foods, 25% of our pork production.
So we have state owned industries, thanks to capitalism. How’s that for irony ?
Allen: Sad but very true. Used to be that we manufactured more products locally instead of globally, but sadly, I foresee a future where virtually nothing is American made.
Greenfield Industries was another well another company and also produced high quality American made tools, but those days have long been over since they were bought out.
I kid you not, every time I walk into a big box store such as Home Depot, Sears, Lowes and even Ace, it’s incredibly shocking to see the lack of American made products these days. Granted these places mostly cater to homeowners and contractors, but you’d think more people would be concerned about the fact more and more work is being shipped overseas.
Now and days if I want an American made item that can’t be found commonly such as American made drill bits, I buy from Harry J Epstein, Grainger and eBay as well. Fact of the matter is, out of every store, Harry J Epstein in my opinion is the best I and only wish I could buy all my items from them.
I just hope the day never comes that were are no longer officially the United States of America but rather the United States of China. Or if this day does come, I hope I am not here to see that.
Thats too bad,I love my starrett tap wrenches. I use them everyday. Alot of Starrett stuff that used to be nice althou overly expensive arent as good anymore.
I also love my gearwrench ratcheting tap handles.
I ordered my Starrett tap handles from Amazon.
I’m afraid this is how most american tool companies will have to go- cheapen some of their products to be price competitive with some of the cheap junk out there, and then tarnish their image and reputation by doing so.
I spent much of my grad school in the university machine shop, which was filled with a lot of ex military, proud american type guys. Most of their tools were Starrett, and they were not ashamed to tell you how much those US made calipers or dial gauges cost. But in those instances where you needed a 12in caliper instead of a 8 inch caliper, they would pull out a Japanese Mitutoyo from a drawer and say “The starrett caliper this size are just too expensive, and honestly, the Mitutoyo is maybe even better quality.”
For what it’s worth, I just purchased brand new “factory defect” Starrett
tap handles. The 91a and 91b. I have no idea as to why they were factory rejects.
They look flawless to me. Head and heels above any other tap handle I’ve ever seen. I’ll never touch another import handle again, that’s for sure…
I did buy a pair of their import calipers and will say that they are simply not worth owning. I sold them to a coworker and bought their 123a (usa) offering
and have been very happy with those..
I would love for you to review our tap wrench. My father owns a machine shop and we found the need for a more capable tap wrench with hand tapping comes up from time to time, so we designed and have manufactured and sold some. 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. I would love to take you to a link but will not post here.
EMILIO E GONZALEZ
I own many Starrett Tools. But most are older or vintage. They are so much better.
I have no problem buying used older USA Starrett Tools.
I got a Starrett 93c tap handle. What a joke. Threads were a mess, it required re-tightening 3 times per hole, and it simply couldn’t hold the tap straight.