Guide to Snaps
Intro to Snaps
- Do KAM snaps comply with CPSIA regulations?
- What are KAM snaps made of?
- What is a complete snap set?
- How are snaps attached to fabric?
- What do the different sizes of snaps mean?
- What size snap should I use?
- What cap prong length should I use?
- Are plastic snaps as secure as metal snaps?
- Can plastic snaps be microwaved?
- Presses vs Pliers
Intro to Snaps
What are KAM snaps made of?
KAM plastic snaps are made from polyacetal resin, a type of plastic that is stronger and more durable than other types of plastic. Our metal snaps are made from copper with various finishes (ie. chromium, nickel, zinc, etc). [Back to top.]
What is a complete snap set?
A complete plastic snap set has 4 components: 2 caps, 1 stud (also called male), and 1 socket (also called female). Each cap is adhered to a stud or socket. The socket and stud are what snap into each other, while the cap is what holds the socket and stud in your fabric. For a video intro to plastic snaps, click here.
Some styles of metal snaps have a post instead of a 2nd cap. The cap is adhered to the socket, and the post is adhered to the stud.
A complete snap set means all 4 components noted above to make 1 complete set. [Back to top.]
How are snaps attached to fabric?
The caps (and posts) have a long prong that stick out, while the sockets and studs each have a center hole. The prong is poked through the fabric and then comes up through the hole of a socket or stud. A tool is then used (either a press or pliers) to flatten the prong. When the prong is flattened, it forms a pancake-like barrier which holds the socket or stud in place.
Cap prong poked through fabric
Socket or stud is placed over the fabric
Prong is flattened so that it forms a barrier to prevent the socket or stud from slipping through
Problems arise when the length of the prong is inappropriate for the fabric it is being used on. If the prong is too short, it will not form a big enough barrier when flattened, which means the socket or stud will slide right off. If the prong is too long, then the barrier formed when flattened will be too large and will prevent the socket and stud from clicking closed properly. [Back to top.]
It is industry standard to refer to snaps by “size" or "line" according to their cap diameter. However, this “size” does not correspond to any actual measurements. For example, size 20 snaps have a cap diameter of 12.4mm. It is important never to confuse a snap’s “size” with their actual measurements.
Please note the "size" standard pertains to the cap diameter only. Actual measurements for sockets, studs, and posts may vary between brands and styles, which is why it is important to never mix brands or styles.
**Note that sizes 14 plastic sockets & studs are identical to size 16 studs and sockets--only the caps are different.
To convert mm to inches, please refer to this chart: http://mdmetric.com/tech/cvtcht.htm.
|Size||Cap Diameter||Standard Prong Length||Long Prong Length||Short Prong Length|
|16||10.7mm||4.2mm||5.2mm, 6.2mm, 7.2mm||n/a|
|Size||Cap Diameter||Prong Length|
|20||12.4mm||5mm & up|
|24||15mm||5mm & up|
What size snap should I use?
This is somewhat of a loaded question because what size is right for you depends on your particular project, the fabric you are using, the number of layers you have, and your own personal preference. Note that there is usually some flexibility in which size can be used.
We are unable to provide specific snap recommendations due to the number of variables, but the information following is a guide. Please note, it is just a general guide and may not necessarily apply to every single case. In some cases, it may just be a matter of testing it out first:
- Size 20 is most commonly used for general applications, including baby diapers, clothing, and household projects. This is the most popular size of plastic snaps and is a good size to start with for most projects.
- Size 16 is most commonly used for baby and toddler clothing, mama pads, and multiple layers of grosgrain ribbon. Since size 16 sockets and studs are smaller compared to size 20 sockets and studs, they have a slightly less firm (though still firm) grip, which makes them more appropriate for delicate fabric that tear more easily as a result of repeated snapping & unsnapping over time, such as stretch cotton.
- Size 14 has very short prongs and should only be used for very thin material like a single layer of grosgrain ribbon or doll clothing. Generally, size 14 caps are so short that they're best for a single layer of thin material. Please note however that your material may be more proned to ripping over time if you are only using a single layer. Size 14 long prong caps would be more appropriate for multiple layers. Size 14 sockets and studs are identical to size 16 sockets and studs.
- Size 22 is slightly larger than the most common size 20, yet it has a somewhat softer grip, making it easier to open compared to size 20.
- Size 24 is for seriously heavy duty applications requiring a very firm grip, such as tote bags, tarps, coats, and upholstery.
This can all be overwhelming to the new user not familiar with snaps or how they exactly work. Good sizes to start with for most applications are size 20 and size 16. Sampler packs of 10 different sizes/lengths are available. You can play around with each size as well as mix & match them to see what best suit your needs and preferences. [Back to top.]
The following is mentioned above but bears repeating:
Problems arise when the length of the prong is inappropriate for the fabric it is being used on. When the pointy prong of the cap piece is flattened, the resulting barrier "pancake" has to be neither too small nor too large.
- If the prong is too short, it will not form a big enough barrier when flattened. This will usually result in the socket or stud sliding right off your fabric. In this case, you will need snaps with longer prongs. Sometimes the same thing will happen if your prong is too long as well. Read the note below for more info.
- If the prong is too long, then the barrier formed when flattened will be too large and will get in the way when you try to click the socket and stud closed. In this case, you can use snaps with shorter prongs or increase the thickness of the fabric by adding some hidden layers at the point where the snaps attach to the fabric.
- NOTE: If you are using size 20 standard length snaps and only 2 thin layes of material such as PUL, cotton, or a thin fleece, then you may experience a problem of your prong being too long. Not everybody has this problem since it is also dependent on how strong their grip is when squeezing the pliers or how strong their press is if using a table-top press.
Our KAM plastic snaps come in variety of lengths to accommodate varying thicknesses of fabric:
- 3.5mm prong length: These are very short prongs on the standard #14 caps and are appropriate only for single layers of a thin material such as grosgrain ribbon or cotton. Note however that we recommend using at least 2 layers to better avoid tearing of your fabric over time.
- 4.2mm to 4.6mm prong length: These are the prongs on #16 standard and #20 short caps. They are great when working with just a couple of layers of a thin fabric, such as PUL or t-shirt cotton.
- 5.0mm to 5.6mm prong length: These are the prongs on #14 long, #16 long, and #20 standard caps. As an example, this range might be ideal for 3-5 layers of t-shirt cotton.
- 6.2mm and longer prongs: These are the prongs on #16 long, #20 long, #22, and #24 caps. They are suited only for very thick material, such as prefold diapers. [Back to top.]
Are plastic snaps as secure as metal snaps? Do you recommend plastic snaps for baby/toddler clothing and diapers?
Yes, if attached properly, our plastic snaps are just as, if not even more secure than, metal snaps. We recommend plastic snaps for baby/toddler clothing and diapers over metal snaps for a number of reasons:
- Plastic snaps are more light-weight than metal snaps and will not weigh the clothing or diaper down.
- Plastic snaps will not interfere with x-rays as metal snaps would. Our plastic snaps are commonly used on hospital gowns.
- Some metal snaps, such as open-ring grip styles, have very sharp teeth, which means if they were to fall off due to improper attachment, they can pose a hazard to your child.
- Plastic snaps will never rust and can endure repeated washing and drying. That's one of the reasons why virtually every commercially made cloth diaper utilizes plastic snaps instead of metal.
- Plastic snaps cool faster than metal snaps once out of the dryer, a benefit for little ones with sensitive skin.
- KAM plastic snaps have been tested for harmful substances and comply with CPSIA safety regulations.
- Some children are allergic to metal.
- Plastic snaps are significantly cheaper than metal snaps.
- There are considerably more color variatians offered in plastic snaps compared to metal snaps. [Back to top.]
Can KAM plastic snaps be microwaved?
They can be microwaved but extreme heat may cause the snaps to expand slightly, which in turn may result in them not closing properly. Some users do sucessfully microwave the snaps, but we recommend testing yourself under your specific conditions. The factory recommends heat less than 40 degrees C (about 104 F).
What tool do I need to install snaps?
It depends on what kind of snaps you want to use. Our KAM pliers will work on the following plastic snaps (and only these snaps):
- sizes 14, 16, 20, and 22 plastic snaps
- heart, flower, and star plastic snaps
- pronged studs to make double sided snaps
If you want to install any other kind of snap, such as metal snaps of any size or size 24 plastic snaps, or grommets, you must use a table-top press with corresponding dies. Please continue reading below for the benefits of each tool and to help determine which would be best for you. [Back to top.]
The benefits of the pliers are:
- More affordable.
- Extra dies for different sizes of plastic snaps can be purchased at an extremely low cost.
- Compatible with different brands of plastic snaps.
- Portable so they can be used to apply snaps to large items which cannot be moved.
- Convenient for travel.
- Do not take up a lot of space.
- Do not require as much arm or shoulder strength as the press.
The limitations of the pliers include:
- Cannot install size 24 plastic snaps.
- Cannot install metal snaps or grommets.
- Significantly smaller clearance for fabric so you are limited to installing snaps closer to the edge of your fabric.
- May not always result in a uniform professional appearance of the snaps.
- Tedious when installing a large quantity of snaps.
Here's a quick video to give you an idea of how the pliers work:
The benefits of a press are:
- With the appropriate dies, the press can also be used to attach metal snaps and grommets. At this time, there are no such corresponding dies for the pliers.
- There are some plastic snaps that can only be installed with a press because there is no corresponding dies for the pliers. These include but may not be not limited to size 24 snaps.
- The press results in a more uniform/even and professional appearance.
- With the pliers, you only have enough clearance to attach snaps to an area close to the edge of your fabric. The press offers a greater amount of clearance for your fabric so that you can attach snaps farther away from the edge. The press also provides a wider clearance for thicker/bulkier materials.
- If you are attaching a lot of snaps, the press will speed your work up a great deal, and can be converted into a foot press.
- Does not require as much hand or grip strength as pliers.
The limitations of a press include:
- More expensive start-up cost. Different dies are needed for each size, type, and style of snap.
- Heavy so more difficult to move.
- Top dies need to be changed to accommodate sockets/females and studs/males (unless you have 2 presses).
Here's a quick video to give you an idea of how the press works:
Should I get a snap press or snap pliers?
For plastic snaps, we suggest investing in hand-held KAM snap pliers first, along with a couple of different sizes to start with, sizes 16 and 20 being the most popular or try our size sampler set. This is an inexpensive way to test out a number of different size snaps. Once you figure out what size you want/need, you can upgrade to a table-top KAM snap press if you choose and just buy the corresponding die set for the particular size you end up deciding on. The cost of press dies can quickly add up, so in this way you don't have to buy a bunch of different press dies just to figure out which size you actually need. Most people who upgrade to a press still end up using their pliers quite often.
If you want to work with metal snaps, then you'll need the table-top snap press and corresponding dies. Our KAM snap pliers do not work with metal snaps. The DK93 press model is recommended for metal snaps. [Back to top.]
What are the differences between the 2 press models?
Which is the "better" model? Both models will do an equally professional job of applying plastic snaps, but there are more limitations to the DK98 model. We recommend the DK93 for its greater versatility, functionality, and value. The DK93 does everything the DK98 can and more, at a more economical price. The only reason we offer the DK98 is that some snappers already own that model or have used only that model and prefer to stick to what they know.
Dies are specific to each model, so you must always specify which model you have when purchasing dies. Here are some of the differences between the DK-98 and DK-93:
|~13 lbs.||~20 lbs.|
|Lower price due to lighter weight.||Heavier weight translates to slightly higher cost.|
|Handle||Straight & long to provide better leverage to more easily press down. Edges are less smooth so not as comfortable to grip. Can be padded to provide more comfort.||Curved so less leverage and slightly more difficult to press down hard enough. Can be extended to increase leverage. Smoother edges so more comfortable to grip.|
|Dies||Top dies are twist-in so there are no small pieces to worry about losing. There are more dies on the market that fit this model, giving it more versatility to install a wider range of snaps, grommets, and potentially other products.||Top dies are smooth and require an allen wrench and small screw to attach to press. Screw will strip over time and require replacing. Fewer die options so cannot install as wide a range of snaps. Recommended only for plastic snaps--metal snap dies for this model will be discontinued once we sell out.|
|Fabric Clearance||~4" from die base to body of press to accommodate bigger projects and to allow snap installation farther from fabric edge.||~2 3/4" from die base to body of press, sufficient for most projects.|
|Foot Kick Conversion||Can be converted to foot kick press||
Can be converted to foot kick press
Can I use a tool I already own to install your snaps or other products?
Pliers: If you have hand pliers that can install plastic snaps, then most likely they will be compatible with KAM plastic snaps.
Table press: Unless your press is one of the 2 KAM brand presses pictured above, it is unlikely our dies will fit your press. Without our dies, you won't be able to use our snaps since the dies are perfectly molded to fit our snaps. Dimensions of our dies are provided here.
* * * * * If you have questions not answered here, please send us an email and we'll be happy to answer them for you. We also invite you to check out our Tutorials section, located on the top menu bar, where you'll not only find instructions for the presses and pliers but also tutes and templates for converting aplix on diapers to snaps, adding snaps to prefolds, making fabric-covered snaps, pacifier clips and lots more!
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