Updated: Oct 12, 2016

Hex Key and Allen Key Reviews:

Choosing the Best Hex Keys and Allen Keys - If you've ever bought a set of shelves, a table, or other item that you had to assemble, you have probably used a hex key, or allen key. They are the little keys or wrenches that have a ninety-degree bend at the end that often come with self-assembled products. They fit screws that have a hexagonal cut-out, and one of the main advantages of using them is that they make contact with each side of the screw or bolt, which helps you tighten and loosen it more effectively. A good set of hex keys can come in handy for any number of projects around the house. This guide will look at the many benefits of having these keys or wrenches in your tool box, as well as which are the best for your money.
hex keys

What is a Hex Key? - Or is it an allen key? Or allen wrench? Or zeta wrench? The hex key is a jack-of-all-trades, and it has a number of aliases. Whatever you call it, however, there is no denying that the L-shaped key is versatile. In a variety of standard and metric sizes, the hex key works with a wider variety of screws and bolts compared to other types of wrenches. You can tighten or loosen recessed screw heads, headless screws, and high-profile screw heads. They are a great choice when there is no room around the bolt for a standard wrench, when the space is narrow or recessed, when screws are exposed, and when a very small screw is called for. They are most often used to fix furniture and bikes, in-home auto repair, and to pick locks - your own locks when you lock yourself out, that is.

For tight spaces, the short side of the L inserts into the top of the bolt, while you apply pressure with the longer side for better torque. For remote spots, flip it and use the long end for the bolt and the short end for torque. Another great feature of allen keys is their price. They are inexpensive to produce - which is why you will get them with bikes, exercise equipment, furniture, electronics, and other products. They are readily available, and there's no reason why you shouldn't have a good set.

Choosing Your Hex Keys - The best way to purchase your allen wrenches is in sets; this guarantees you will have a wide range of sizes available, and since many sets come in a jack-knife style, you won't lose any. Because the one you've lost is always the one you need.

Ball hex wrench. These have a ball-shaped head, surprisingly enough, in addition to the typical L-shape. These are used when you need access to nuts and bolts that are at tighter angles. These would otherwise be inaccessible, so the ball hex wrench does make itself useful. But because the shaft thins at the point where the ball end is created, the metal there is weakened. This limits the amount you can torque it, and they are generally less sturdy than the straight-shaft versions. Like all other allen wrenches, these are made in a wide variety of sizes.

T-handle allen key. These have a T-shaped handle. They don't play any games with their product names, do they? The T design allows you to turn the allen key very easily and are often used in automotive applications. They are also used in industrial, construction, and military applications, especially when there is a tight fit that standard wrenches will not handle. If you want the T-handle wrenches, it is worth paying a little more. Since you apply a great deal of pressure at the handle, cheap metal will not hold up.

L-shaped hex wrench. Steel, strong L's, these work very well in tight spaces when you use the shorter side, and in hard-to-reach spots with the longer side.

You can browse the best selling hex key sets here.

Best Hex Key Sets:

While hex sets tend to be relatively inexpensive, you can find higher quality sets for a little more. If you plan on using your set frequently or you are an enthusiastic do-it-yourselfer, look for high-tolerance, heat-treated steel. Many tool owners prefer that they be made in the US: this is because these sets tend to use higher quality steel for a more durable tool. The trade-off is the price. They will cost a little more. If you want an allen key set for what-ifs around the house, a cheaper set will likely do just fine. One other tip before we get on to the best allen wrench sets: make sure you get the right set for your needs. They have both metric and standard sets, and you can often find sets with both.

Consumers and experts agree: when you want quality hex wrench sets, choose Bondhus. This company created the original ball hex key and today their sets are still preferred. The 16937 Set of 13 Balldriver L-wrenches, for instance, allows for tight angle entry up to 25 degrees and includes .050, 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, 7/64, 1/8, 9/64, 5/32, 3/16, 7/32, 1/4, 5/16, and 3/8 inch wrenches. The ball hex wrenches are made of Bondhus's proprietary Protanium steel. The made-in-the-USA tools are up to 20 percent stronger than the competition. The Bondhus allen wrenches are made to read "remote and blind locations." And one last stroke of genius: the BriteGuard premium chrome-like finish gives the tools a sharp, professional appearance. Bondhus guarantees the wrenches for a lifetime and will replace the tools free of charge. That makes the relatively high price of $22 well worth it. Their line of L and T handle allen wrenches is equally well-made. See all Bondhus hex keys here.

For the best T-handle hex wrenches, try the Allen Metric Ball End T-thru Handle Set. These review very well with consumers who appreciate the durability and quality of these allen keys. The 8-piece metric set has wrenches in sizes 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm, and 10mm. These have a ball end and a non-slip grip. If you are planning on heavy-duty usage, go with Bondhus. For applications like fixing your bike or doing household projects, these will be a good choice. They cost $20.

If you're interested in a folding allen wrench set - whether for their compact convenience, infrequent use, or so you don't lose any - try the 14PC Folding Allen Hex Key Wrench Set by 4137.com. One of the consumer comments that is repeated often is "this tool does the job." With both metric and standard measurements of 1.5,2,2.5,3,4,5,6mm, 1/6", 5/64", 3/32", 1/8", 5/32", 3/16", and 7/32"), the tool is handy. If you are a professional builder or mechanic, you likely want a set with separate wrenches. For homeowners, those who like to tinker on machines, and those who like to be prepared just in case, this is a great set. The wrenches have heat-treated chrome vanadium steel construction with a durable black oxide finish. This fits into a corner of your tool or glove box or even your pocket. Under $7 makes it a very handy tool indeed.

There is a tremendous selection of hex, or allen, wrenches available here. You can be assured you'll be finding endless uses for them soon enough.