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)