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Guide to Snaps

New to snaps? This page has all the basic information you'll need to get started.

 

Intro to Snaps

Do KAM snaps comply with CPSIA regulations?
KAM plastic snaps and other plastic products have been tested for harmful substances and comply with CPSIA regulations.  Click
here for more information. [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.  Our metal snaps are made from copper with various finishes made from chromium-plating & zinc-plating. [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.]

 

What do the different sizes of snaps mean?
(Size and length recommendations are provided in the sections following this one below.)

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.

Plastic Snaps

Size Cap Diameter Standard Prong Length Long Prong Length Short Prong Length
14 9.74mm 3.5mm 5.0mm n/a
16 10.7mm 4.2mm 5.2mm, 6.2mm, 7.2mm n/a
20 12.4mm 5.6mm 6.2mm 4.6mm
22 14.1mm 7.0mm n/a n/a
24 14.8mm 7.5mm n/a n/a


Metal Snaps

Size Cap Diameter Prong Length
14 9.74mm 3mm
16 10.7mm 3mm
20 12.4mm 5mm
24 15mm 5mm

[Back to top.]

 

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.

- Sizes 24 and 22 are for heavy duty applications requiring a firmer grip, such as tote bags, tarps, coats, and upholstery. Size 24 provides the firmest grip.

To make it even more interesting, you can also mix some sizes.  For example, you can use size 16 caps with size 20 sockets & studs.  This is what I personally do with most of my projects because my material layers tend to be thin which work better with the shorter size 16 caps, but I prefer the stronger grip and larger size of the size 20 sockets & studs.

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. 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.]

 

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. 

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.

 

Presses vs Pliers

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 and star plastic snaps

If you want to install any other kind of snap, such as metal snaps of any size, size 24 plastic snaps, or pronged studs, 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.]

 

What are the differences between using a snap press and snap pliers?
Snap pliers are a cheaper alternative to snap presses.  Our snap presses and pliers can both be used to attach plastic snaps. 

The benefits of the pliers are:

- More affordable.

- Works better than a press on thinner fabric (ie. 2 layers of PUL or t-shirt cotton).

- Extra dies for different sizes of plastic snaps can be purchased at an extremely low cost.

- Dies don't have to be changed for sockets vs studs.

- 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.

- 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 only be installed with a press because there is no corresponding dies for the pliers.  These include, but are not limited to, pronged studs for double-sided snaps and 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.

- Here's a quick video to give you an idea of how the press works:

[Back to top.]

 

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. 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. [Back to top.]

 

What are the differences between the 2 press models?
Both models will do an equally professional job of applying snaps.  Beyond the specifications listed below, ultimately which press you choose is just a matter of personal preference.  There is no "better" model but because of the lower price and wider clearance, many people opt for the DK-93.

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:

 

Weight

~13 lbs. ~20 lbs.

Price

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. Curved. Can be extended to increase leverage.
Dies Top dies are twist-in so there are no small pieces to worry about losing. Bottom die has a wide, smooth shank. There are more dies on the market that fit this model. Top dies are smooth and require an allen wrench and small screw to attach to press. Bottom die has a narrow, smooth shank.
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

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* * * * * 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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