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Thread: Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench

  1. #1
    Paul Jones's Avatar
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    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench

    I recently saw an ad for a tap wrench bubble level and thought these would be very useful and easy to make for the shop. The bubble levels are used to ensure the tap is starting square to the part and staying in alignment to the pilot hole during taping. The alignment process assumes the part is already level.

    I used T6-6061 aluminum 0.750” and 1.0” diameter rods to make the bubble level cases. The 0.545” diameter by 0.33” thick bubble levels are available through (14mm Circular Bubble Spirit Levels) and eBay. I checked the bubble levels on my level surface plate and these were indeed level and the thickness of the levels are exactly the same all the way around. This is important because the levels fit against the machined inside bottoms of their cases and parallel to the case bottoms. I made two bubble level cases with slip fits over the ends of a small (0 to #8 tap) and a larger (#4 to ¼”) T-handle tap wrench. In addition, I made one of the bubble level cases with a rare earth magnet on the back. This allows the level to be used in many applications in the shop.

    I included the plans, photos of the tap wrench bubble levels, and an example of the level guiding a tap wrench. These plans are kept in a spiral bound grid paper notebook that I use for sketching tool ideas.

    Close-up view of tap wrench bubble levels with and without magnets
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-tap-wrench-bubble-level-cases-without-magnetic-backing.jpg

    T-handle tap wrench without bubble level
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-tap-wrench-without-bubble-level.jpg

    T-handle tap wrench with bubble level
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-tap-wrench-bubble-level-attachment.jpg

    Level case ready to install bubble level and secure with Loctite 680
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-ready-install-bubble-level-loctite-680.jpg

    Large and small cases for T-handle tap wrench bubble levels
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-large-small-tap-wrench-bubble-level-cases.jpg

    Machining and boring the T6-6061 aluminum cases to 0.547” dia. to exactly fit bubble levels
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-machining-bubble-level-cases-t6-6061-aluminum.jpg

    Plans to make the T-handle tap wrench bubble level attachment
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-plans-make-tap-wrench-bubble-levels.jpg

    As you can see from the photos, these are very useful and easy to make. I am sure the one with the magnetic backing will be useful in other leveling applications around the shop.

    Thanks for looking, Paul Jones
    Last edited by Paul Jones; 05-08-2018 at 11:10 AM.

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  3. #2
    Content Editor DIYer's Avatar
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    Thanks Paul! We've added your Tap Handle Bubble Level to our Tapping and Threading category, as well as to your builder page: Paul Jones' Homemade Tools. Your receipt:

  4. #3
    mklotz mklotz's Avatar
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    Very clever idea, Paul. May I add that, if possible, sticking/gluing one to the back or top of one's cordless drill will help in drilling perpendicular holes.

    Most tap breakage arises from unwanted side forces on the tap during tapping so I do most of my tapping in the mill right after drilling and using a tap holder with a guide pin held in the chuck. Many modelmakers use a so-called tapping machine that mimics what I do on the mill.

    Oldtimers had two methods for keeping the tool vertical. One was a tapping guide block. They're still made and sold...

    Robot Check

    but it's easy to make one's own. They are handy if you have to tap into a vertical or inclined surface where a level won't work.

    The other method was to set a mirror vertically behind the tool. By aligning the tool with its image in the mirror one can keep it vertical in one axis. I suppose it would take two mirrors to guarantee true verticality.

    Regardless, your approach is superior to both of these methods. The tapping block can get in the way of part features and the mirror(s) trick is just too fussy. Your method is compact and provides a vertical reference in all directions.
    Regards, Marv

    Home Shop Freeware

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  6. #4
    Paul Jones's Avatar
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    Marv, these are all great suggestions depending on the situation. I have made several taping blocks for taps #10 and smaller but my favorite I use most of the time, as you suggested, is the V-TapGuide. I have making a tapping machine on my "to do" list. I needed the bubble levels for taping a part on my pool equipment in a very cramped location (always the case for pool equipment) but did the tapping free hand without blocks or bubble levels but can use the levels next time. Thanks, Paul

  7. #5
    Toolmaker51's Avatar
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    Bubble levels! Ingenious, and convertible. It seems like I'm hand tapping in place frequently now; see levels and a block are going to the top of my list. Once weldments are assembled, they sure aren't going in any machine I can visualize. Breaking taps in machine frames is NOT how you win popularity contests.
    Probably need a drill-bushing plate along with them...
    ...we'll learn more by wandering than searching...

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  9. #6

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    Mr. Jones, very slick! Thanks.

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    Paul Jones (11-22-2017)

  11. #7
    NortonDommi's Avatar
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    Toolmaker51, I had a chuckle at "Breaking taps in machine frames is NOT how you win popularity contests." At one job I used to arrive and one of the day shift blokes would skive off to the showers. I used to hope the burning sensation in his ears kept him awake at night as at least once a week my day was buggered fixing his stuff-ups, stripped threads and broken bolts were one thing but taps were a real pain, always in the worst most inaccessible place plus I had to get my personal stuff out to clean up afterwards. Same bloke was the one who liked to "do a bolt up tight then give it a little tweak until I feel it give".

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  13. #8
    jimfols's Avatar
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    All good tips. I also like to place a DVD over the hole I am drilling or tapping.
    It improves the sighting a lot.


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  15. #9
    Paul Jones's Avatar
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    That is a great tip about using the mirror-like reflecting surface of a DVD for a 360 degree view of the perpendicularity when tapping and drilling. We should add this tip to the Tool Tip section of HMT.

    Thank you for the advice,

  16. #10

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    Thanks @Paul Jones!
    Great tip! Just added a bullseye to my drill. (These pix are a re-staging since I'm using the bubble so much. I thought I'd share.)

    First pic shows "milling" a "flat". Chucked a 3/8" (headless) bolt into drill chuck and 3-jaw mounted to the tailstock of my shopsmith 10ER. Used a re-purposed 3/4" spade bit as the end mill.
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-milling.jpg

    REALLY should have shortened the shank! As there was a little chatter there were a few candidates for the desired flat. :-) I reused the setup to find the optimal one.

    I set the 3-jaw on my bench with another bullseye on the face and matched the one on the drill to it as I epoxied.
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-bubble-set.jpg
    Bubble Level Attachment For T-handle Tap Wrench-bubble-check.jpg

    Last edited by saintrain; 06-26-2018 at 10:06 PM.

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