Guide to Snaps
Tools: Presses vs Pliers
- What tool do I need to install snaps?
- What do I need to install metal snaps?
- What are the differences between using a press and pliers?
- Should I get a snap press or pliers?
- What are the differences between the 2 hand-held pliers models, K1 and K2?
- What are the differences between the 2 table-top press models, Dk93 and DK98?
- Can I use a tool I already own to install your snaps or other products?
Intro to Snaps
- 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?
- Do KAM snaps comply with CPSIA regulations?
- What are KAM snaps made of?
- Are plastic snaps as secure as metal snaps?
- Can plastic snaps be microwaved?
For plastic snaps:
• If you want to start basic, all you need are pliers and plastic snaps. Most people start with the starter bundle listed here. If you're unsure of what size you need, go for the size sampler pack listed here.
• For heavier duty applications, you can opt for a table press. Aside from the press, you will also need snaps and dies. If using size 20 plastic snaps snaps, a complete press bundle with all 3 products is available here.
Please continue reading below for the benefits of pliers vs press and to help determine which would be best for you.
• For open-ring grip/crimper style metal snaps, you can use our KX6 multi-functional heavy duty pliers. These pliers come standard with the required dies for both size 14 and 16. They also come standard with dies to install a variety of plastic snap sizes as well as to remove plastic snaps. You will need to add the snaps separately to your shopping cart.
• To install a larger variety of metal snaps, you need the snaps, a table-top press, and press dies that correspond to the specific snaps you are using. You must purchase all 3 items through our store to ensure compatibility as our products are not compatible with other brands.
• First, determine the size and style of metal snaps you want to purchase.
• Then, add the DK93* table-top press.
• Finally, add DK93* press dies that are labeled for the size/style of your metal snaps.
*Note: If you own the DK98 model press, just substitute with DK98 dies.
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 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.
- Not recommended for size 14 standard length plastic 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 be used to attach any of our plastic snaps, metal snaps, or grommets. At this time, there are no such corresponding dies for the pliers.
- 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.
- 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 or grommets, then you'll need the table-top snap press and corresponding dies. Our KAM snap pliers do not work with metal snaps or grommets. The DK93 press model is recommended for metal snaps and grommets. [Back to top.]
What are the differences between the 2 hand-held pliers models, K1 and K2?
Both models are intended for home use only and not for commercial applications. Most new users are happy with whichever model they choose, though we do suggest that you stick to the model you are familiar with if you need to replace yours as there may be a learning curve if you switch.
We recommend the K2 because it generally does a more consistent job of installing size 20 snaps, the most popular size, but there are pros and cons to both models. You should base your decision on which size snaps you plan to use most often. If you cannot decide, rest assured that for most users, it's not going to make much of a difference which model you choose.
|Amount of pressure required||Has a shorter metal shank so requires a bit more pressure to securely install a snap. However, the rubber piece at the end of the shank is more pliable, making it a little easier to squeeze.||Has a longer metal shank so requires a bit less pressure to securely install a snap, making it a little easier on arthritic hands. The rubber piece at the end of the shank is denser, which makes it a little harder to squeeze, but which will last longer and better ensure enough pressure is applied to properly install each snap. A K1 small rubber head can be purchased separately and interchanged with the existing K2 rubber head if desired.|
|Consistency of results||Has a slightly higher rate of the center prong of size 20 snaps being flattened unevenly. Usually this is just cosmetic but can ocassionally cause functional issues.||Size 20 snaps tend to be centered better.|
|Ease of use||Easy to use.||Easy to use.|
|Quality appearance & feel||Has more of a "quality" appearance and feel. Handle is molded to fit the curves of your fingers, though most people don't notice any significant benefit to this. Pliers can sometimes squeak.||The Plain Jane of pliers. Simplified appearance, not as visually appealing as the K1. Pliers can sometimes squeak.|
|Parts||Parts will need to be replaced periodically.||Parts will need to be replaced periodically.|
|Size 20 compatibility||Compatible.||Compatible. Does a superior job of installing size 20 snaps compared to K1.|
|Size 14 & 16 compatibility||Compatible. Does a superior job of installing size 14 & 16 snaps compared to K2.||Compatible.|
|Size 22 compatibility||Compatible.||Compatible.|
|Size 24 compatibility||NOT compatible.||Compatible.|
|Pronged stud (for double-sided snaps) compatibility||Compatibile. Does a superior job of installing pronged studs compared to K2. There is slightly more spacing between the dies so it is easier to fit a pronged stud.||Compatible. Slightly less spacing between the dies make it more cumbersome to place a pronged stud in the pliers.|
|Butterfly, flower, heart, star compatibility||Compatible. Butterfly, flower, and heart snaps use the same die as round size 20 snaps, but stars require the size 22 die.||Compatible. All shapes use the same die as round size 20 snaps.|
What are the differences between the 2 table-top press models, DK93 and DK98?
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. Most metal snap dies for this model will be discontinued once we sell out; plastic snap dies will still be available.|
|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.|
|Wear & Tear||Minimal wear & tear over time.||The handle may need to be replaced periodically because of wear & tear at the point where it hits the vertical black bar. Screws holding in the dies may eventually strip, requiring replacement.|
|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 size 20 plastic snaps, then most likely they will be compatible with size 20 KAM plastic snaps. Other sizes may not work so well.
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.
Intro to Snaps
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/male or socket/female. 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/females and studs/males each have a center hole. The prong is poked through the fabric and then comes up through the center 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|
Most people start with size 20 plastic snaps. If you really have no idea or just want to experiment with different sizes, plastic snap size sampler packs of different sizes/lengths are available.
We are unable to provide specific snap recommendations due to the number of variables, such as your particular project, the fabric you are using, the number of layers you have, and your own personal preference. The following information is a general 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 standard length 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 20 long-prong length is most commonly used for really thick fabric such as prefolds or 2 layers of marine vinyl.
- Size 16 standard length is most commonly used for baby/toddler clothing and multiple layers of grosgrain ribbon. Size 16 is recommended for stretchy fabric or fabric prone to tearing such as knits and onesies because size 16 sockets and studs have a gentler grip compared to size 20 sockets and studs. However, the grip is still very secure so any fabric prone to tearing should be reinforced with more durable material at the point where the snaps are installed.
- Other sizes and lengths are also available for less common applications requiring shorter/longer or smaller/larger snaps.
What cap prong length should I use?
Your fabric thickness & density, the prong length of your snap, and how hard you press down all contribute to whether your snaps are installed successfully or not. Snaps that are too long for your fabric will not close properly. Snaps that are too short will fall off.
Our KAM plastic snaps come in variety of lengths to accommodate varying thicknesses of fabric. Most people use size 20 standard length, but if you want to go into detail:
- 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 or 2 layers of marine vinyl. [Back to top.]
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. KAM plastic snaps are BPA-free. Our metal snaps are made from copper with various finishes (ie. chromium, nickel, zinc, etc). [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 successfully microwave the snaps, but we recommend testing yourself under your specific conditions. The factory recommends heat less than 40 degrees C (about 104 F).
* * * * * 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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