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Plastic snap attachment
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d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Plastic snap attachment on 01/29/2011 11:05:15 MST Print View

I recently purchased these plastic snaps: and then realized I needed setting tools so had a machinist friend make some after Roger C's design (shown in However, my friend says that the tool doesn't seem to be working that well, only about 1 out of 3 are holding and I'm wondering if there is a trick to it (heating the tool? doing something other than just hitting it with a mallet?) or if there are other brands of snaps that work better. Basically the little prong in the middle just gets bent over to the side, rather than spreading out. Is that what's supposed to happen?


Paul Nanian
(PaulNanian) - F
try kamsnap on 01/29/2011 11:18:10 MST Print View

Plastic snaps work best in a press as opposed to metal snaps which work just fine with a mallet. At least I could never get them to work with a mallet: YMMV.

The kamsnap plastic snap tools are inexpensive and work well. See (no affiliation other than as a customer). They have the large presses which are great, but their handheld tool also works well and is modestly priced.

You can use 3rd party die components in kamsnap presses as long as you get the one that is either threaded or non-threaded to match your die.

Edited by PaulNanian on 01/29/2011 11:21:19 MST.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
kamsnaps - what size? on 01/29/2011 12:28:37 MST Print View

The Kamsnaps look like a good deal with the pliers, thanks for the link. For use on silnylon, what size would you recommend?

(edit: Hmm, now that I'm looking at the site's recommendations for sizing, I'm thinking that the size 20 snaps I used may not be collapsing the prong in tests because he's testing without fabric) Can size 20 snaps be used on silnylon successfully?

Edited by dkramalc on 01/29/2011 13:49:37 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Plastic snap attachment on 01/29/2011 14:05:24 MST Print View

Hi Debbie

Plastic snaps need to be set with a press, not a mallet. The press MUST keep the die aligned with the base, or the prong will collapsed to the side as you have found. I can't imagine a mallet ever working.

You may be able to use a drill press for this if you put the setting tool in the drill chuck and bolt the base bit down to the drill table. Not a lot of force is required, but the correct alignment is crucial. Alternately you could use a commercial plier set or something similar.

As to size - I have been using size 16 with good success on silnylon. You could use size 20, but I doubt you should need to. For heavy stuff like 500 denier Cordura I only use the largest metal snaps I can find.


Edited by rcaffin on 01/29/2011 14:31:45 MST.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Thanks, Roger - one more question on 01/29/2011 14:48:01 MST Print View

I guess my experience with metal snaps long ago when making shirts doesn't translate! (my mom and I used a wooden spool and a mallet as our only tools)

So the prong on the size 20 wouldn't be a problem with being too long for silnylon? I ask about size 20 because the pliers offered by Kamsnaps come with lots of free size 20 snaps. If the smaller sizes are necessary, I might as well order them now since I get free shipping with the pliers. I'll hold off on ordering for now until I hear back.

Edited by dkramalc on 01/29/2011 19:29:17 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Thanks, Roger - one more question on 01/29/2011 20:14:11 MST Print View

Hi Deborah

Have a look at the tech data on the Kamsnaps pages. They reckon the size 16 with a short prong should be suitable for thin layers. I have used size 16 with a long prong (~5 mm) on reinforced silnylon, so it is not super critical - and a bit of reinforcing is always a smart trick with UL fabrics anyhow. To my mind, size 20 might be a bit large, but ymmv.

Maybe they will swap the size 20s for some size 16? You could always ask.

Btw - those pliers of theirs look rather cute. I was tempted to buy a set myself, except that I already have enough tooling.


d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
snap reinforcement? on 01/29/2011 20:30:17 MST Print View

OK, I have sent them an email asking about swapping; good idea. They do include 100 size 16 as well in the deal, so if they don't swap I'll just add another 100 to the order in case the 20s don't work at all for me.

Of course, your post prompts me to ask one more question: what do you recommend reinforcing silnyon with (for instance, on your mountain poncho, or on a tent door if I used them for that), other than a double layer of silnylon?

Tim Marshall
(MarshLaw303) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota
Re: snap reinforcement? on 01/29/2011 21:05:48 MST Print View

there is nothing wrong with the size 20 for ul projects. I have a lot of size 20 and size 16 and find myself using the 20 more often, a little more to grab onto. The weight between the 2 is basically null as it would take a lot of snaps to make much of a dent. The prong gets crushed by the pliers so it doesn't matter if it starts out long. I use them in gross grain and no-see-um and they are perfect.


tyler marlow

Locale: UTAH
On the subject of snaps... on 01/29/2011 21:28:40 MST Print View

Slight thread drift but is there any reason to use zippers over snaps?

It seems that every piece of UL gear always has zippers!
A few exceptions I've seen would be Steve Evans AllWet and a few pieces of MYOG clothing.

There are some things that are obviously better suited to zippers, like a bivy.

So is there any real advantage to zippers?

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
to Tim re: snaps on 01/29/2011 21:35:20 MST Print View

Have you used the size 20 on silnylon yourself? If so, what did you reinforce with (if anything)? I can see that grosgrain plus netting would have a little thickness to it, but I'm not as sure about a double silnylon layer. If it's worked for someone, I'll be happy enough to use the 20; I was thinking myself that it would be a little more to grab onto, especially with cold fingers.

Sorry to be so anal about this!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: snap reinforcement? on 01/30/2011 02:09:50 MST Print View

> what do you recommend reinforcing silnyon with
Good question.
At the minimum I use a full hem of silnylon, so the snap goes through 3 layers. Some of those snaps are tough beggars, especially in the cold. Sew at inner and outer folds.

Sometimes I use a hem enclosing a strip of something like 210 denier coated nylon, sewn at the inner and outer folds. The weight of a strip of 210 denier nylon is not great, but it adds greatly to the life of the item. Note: use coated nylon cut with scissors for this: no melted edges. In the long term the melted edges on nylon fabric are highly abrasive on their surrounds! Uncoated nylon would be silly here.

If putting snaps on netting - eg tent doors, I reinforce both sides of the netting with silnylon so the load goes on the sil rather than on the netting. I KNOW that netting is not strong enough. Don't ask how. :-)

Yes, you can surely use size 20 instead of size 16. Given the chance at a fair price, I would stock both sizes. You would be surprised where you can use them around the house as well.

Now, when would you use a zip rather than some snaps? I would always use a zip rather than solo snaps when I have to block serious weather - rain or snow. That's on tent doors for instance. I thought about using a zip on the ponchos and didn't - but note that I have both snaps and Velcro on the storm flap there. The snaps are not 'solo'. On a pack I might use a zip as well.


Tim Marshall
(MarshLaw303) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota
Re: to Tim re: snaps on 01/30/2011 06:21:01 MST Print View

i haven't used it on sil, but i have on no-see-um. Not with the gg reinforcing it just in the mesh. I do as Roger suggests and put the snaps on the hem or in my case on a seam. this gives enough strength to not tear out. I am using them on a hammock i am designing and their purpose is to fail before the fabric rips. The snaps attach the shockcorded side pull outs that pull the mesh away from your face. I want them to pop off when over loaded instead of stressing the mesh. so far they are working great. I have been testing them by overloading and they pop right off just like i want with no damage to the material. I assume they will so the same with sil, but if possible i agree with putting them on a hem or seam. Any of the KAM snaps size 20 or smaller will work the same but as you get smaller the stems get shorter which is why i use size 20 as i use them for lots of things and didn't want to stock all sizes. (stem length will only become an issue with multiple layers of thick fabric in a seam or insulated materials. the shortest one would work for 1 or 2 layers of the UL fabrics we use or a few layers of gross grain. if using heavier webbing get the longest stem you can)


John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Kamsnaps on 01/30/2011 07:09:44 MST Print View

From the Kamsnaps website here is the table that shows the prong length for all their sizes of plastic snaps including the size 24 that I currently am using.

Size Cap Diameter Standard Prong Length Long Prong Length
14 9.74mm 3.5mm 5.0mm
16 10.7mm 4.2mm 5.2mm, 6.2mm, 7.2mm
20 12.4mm 5.6mm 6.2mm
24 15mm 7.5mm n/a

Here is the link to the web page with the above table on it and a lot more information .

I also use the pliers. The size 24 slides around a little and needs to be centered while using the pliers to flatten the prong. I ordered the standard length prong and had just a little trouble getting the snaps to stay put in some of my applications. I need to add that this only happened when I was installing the snaps through a combination of 2 layers of grosgrain, 2 layers of .9 oz ripstop with some 3.7 oz Climashield Combat insulation all sandwiched together. ;-)

I chose the size 24 because I believed them to be stronger in their holding power and in my application I wanted the most holding power that the plastic snaps had to offer. In retrospect I probably could have used the size 16 or 20 but I had been disappointed by the holding power of some cheap generic metal snaps.

Party On,


d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
thanks, all on 01/30/2011 10:18:51 MST Print View

Lots of good info from you all - thanks a bunch! I've ordered the pliers along with the included 300 size 20 and 100 size 16, plus another 100 size 16 for $5. That should be a lifetime supply, I'd think...

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
re: Plastic snap attachment on 01/30/2011 10:25:59 MST Print View

Debbie, I think I'm going to follow your lead. Did you stick with the standard prong lengths?

size 16 = 4.2 mm
size 20 = 5.6 mm

To all...any reason to deviate from this for 3-4 layers silnylon or 2 layers of this grosgrain.

Thanks, Jamie

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
to Jamie on 01/30/2011 11:04:38 MST Print View

Yes, I stuck with the standard prong lengths.