Allen Key Buyer’s Guide – Everything You Need to Know

A comprehensive set of Allen keys – also known as Hex keys – is essential for every tool box. They are among the most practical and versatile hand tools ever created and are also inexpensive.

There are a number of types of Allen keys available from RS Components and it is important to understand the differences between them.

Allen keys and torx keys

Many people can become confused by the number of keys out there and wonder if Allen keys and torx keys are the same. The answer is no – an Allen key is not the same as a torx key, although they are used for mostly the same purpose.

Allen keys have a hexagonal shape, while torx keys feature an asterisk or star-shaped cross-section.

Key types

Most Allen and torx keys are designed for the same purpose, with the only difference being the tool’s design and shape, which can make it easier or more difficult to work with the likes of bolts, fastenings and screws in particular locations.

The primary types of these keys are L-shaped Allen keys, T-handle hex keys, P-handle torx keys, multi-way hex keys, Folding Allen keys, ratchet keys and screwdriver-style keys.

L-shaped Allen keys

The most popular and common form of hex wrench, these keys are so named because they resemble a capital L. Usually the lightest, most inexpensive and smallest keys, they can be found in diameters from just 1mm to 10mm. These keys are very convenient and simple to use, though using them for a long period of time or for particularly difficult jobs can become uncomfortable.

T-handle hex keys

These keys offer an improvement on the comfort provided by standard hex keys and come with a T-shaped design that allows the user to gain a more comfortable and stronger grip on the tool. There is an equally varied range of T-shaped handle wrenches in terms of specifications and sizes, though their shape precludes them from use with every application and they are also more expensive.

P-handle torx keys

This indispensible tool is vital for all workshops and garages. They combine the versatile and practical nature of standard hex wrenches with the T-wrench’s increased comfort and grip. They are particularly useful in circumstances where it is necessary to screw something in as powerfully as possible.

Multi-way hex keys                                                                

A generic tool that comes with multiple hex keys of different sizes fixed on protruding arms. This tool is not foldable but has the multiple keys fixed in various directions, with a metal or plastic grip to the centre.

Folding Allen keys

The ultimate convenient and practical tool, these can pack whole sets of keys into compact tool. Practical, portable and ideal for light-duties, these keys do however have limited leverage and clearance and are unsuitable for use in tight spaces or heavy duty work.

Ratchet keys

Ratchet keys are ideal for heavy-duty work and are also compatible with the majority of powered drivers and drills.

Screwdriver-style keys

Superb value for money and very practical, these keys combine an Allen key head with a familiar screwdriver, varying from 1mm to 10mm in diameter.

When choosing your hex key it is important to not compromise on quality and ensure they are made with the best quality materials from a trusted manufacturer.

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