Best Hex Key Set
A hex key set might just be my most used tool nowadays and I am regularly impressed by how well a set can stand up to the abuse inflicted upon it. For these lists I found the best balance of durability and price in the right range of sizes. Each hex key set on these lists will stand up to abuse and function beautifully for years to come thanks to careful designing and high quality materials.
Best Hex Key Set Overall:
While hex keys aren’t all that exciting a tool, and not what most people would even think of writing a review on, they are without a doubt a necessary tool in anyone’s tool box. There are times when nothing else will do what you need but a hex key.
These tools have come a long way in their design, adding ball ends and T handles. But they've also come a long way in their usage as you'll find a lot more uses for a good set of hex key wrenches today, than you did 20 years ago. Manufacturers are finding that the smaller head on a socket head cap screw makes their designs easier, especially when they have to put fasteners in tight spaces.
While some would argue that a hex key is a hex key is a hex key, I’d have to differ with their opinion. Just as with any other type of tool, there are good hex keys, and there are mediocre ones. In this list, we’ve tried to pick out the best of the best. How did we pick them? We looked for hex key sets that met the following criterion:
- Hex keys that are connected together, as in those which are mounted in a pocket knife style handle, or on a key ring cause problems. Invariably, the rest of the hex keys get in the way when you are trying to use one key.
- Long arm keys are much better than short arm keys; allowing you to reach hard to get to socket screws without tearing your hands up.
- Ball end hex keys give you the flexibility to remove a hex screw, even if you can only get at it from an angle.
- Hex keys with a T handle, as opposed to standard right angle Allen wrenches give you the ability to apply more torque to the screw, without hurting your hand.
- A stand is handy for keeping your tools organized and ready at hand. All of these sets come with stands. While that may not be perfect for portability, it's ideal on the workbench.
Just as with any tool, make sure your hex key is firmly seated in the socket head of the screw before applying any torque. Poorly seated hex keys are likely to slip, damaging the screw and possibly even the hex key.
A good set of hex key wrenches, properly used, should last you a lifetime. These tools make excellent contact with the socket of the fasteners they are being used with so unless you're sloppy, there's really no chance for the slippage that damages most screwdriver blades, wrenches and sockets. With the ball ends, you should even have a good positive contact when things aren't aligned well.
Although not an automotive set of hex keys, these have to be the best ones I’ve ever seen. Not only are they ball end and have a P handle, but they’ve got spinners which allow you to remove long hex screws quickly. Read Full Review
What a great set. If you need lots of hex keys, this set’s got everything, both metric and SAE. They’re T handle and ball end, and everything even comes in a nice display stand. Read Full Review
Well known for their quality electrical and electronics tools, Klein designed this set with the electronic technican in mind. The rubberized handles provide protection from electrical shock. Read Full Review
Of all the sets I’ve looked at, these seem to be the highest quality. They are the only chrome plated set I’ve seen, a detail that’s normally ignored for hex keys. The rubberized handles give you a great grip when you need that extra bit of oomph. Read Full Review
Best Budget Hex Key Set:
When most people think of hex keys, or allen wrenches, they don’t think of much. I mean, there’s really not much to them, or at least the average allen wrench, especially the average budget allen wrench doesn’t seem to have much to it. All one pictures when thinking of an allen wrench is a “L” shaped piece of hexagonal steel rod.
In its simplest form, that’s all a hex key is, but I’d like to propose to you that the simplest form of a hex key isn’t necessarily the best one for you to use. Granted, it might be the cheapest, but cheapest is seldom best. In this listing, I’m going to show you some economical hex keys which will give you much better service.
So, what makes the difference between a good budget hex key, and a run of the mill hex key?
- Handle – When you’ve got a stubborn socket head screw to get loose, it’s amazing how nice it is to have a handle on that hex key
- Organized storage rack – How many times have you dug through a set of hex keys, trying to read that tiny stamping on the side to know what size they are?
- Ball end – Ball ends allow you to use the tool, even if you can’t get at the screw head straight on. This is something normally only found on more expensive hex keys, but one of the sets I’ve chosen actually has ball end wrenches and still qualifies as a budget set.
- Individual wrenches – Maybe having all your hex keys attached together in a pocket knife type handle helps keep from losing them, same for having them all on a key ring; but the rest of those wrenches can sure get in the way in tight places.
Hex keys are used mostly with socket head cap screws and set screws. While this used to mean that one rarely used their hex keys, they were still one of those things that every toolbox needed. However, in more recent times, more and more equipment is being made with socket head cap screws. That has made this tool much more important.
Bicycles are pretty much totally assembled with socket head cap screws, as well as a lot of exercise equipment; even some automotive parts are being installed with them. Another place you find them fairly commonly is in furniture assembly because they have a smaller head and need less clearance to tighten. If you don't have good tools, these can be hard to assemble. A long arm set is better, as it allows you to apply more leverage when tightening or loosening screws.
This set takes the top spot for versatility and ease of use. Eighteen ball pointed, T-handled, hex keys in both metric and SAE are mounted in a stand, This kit meets all the criterion I established for the higher priced units, but it's got a budget price. Read Full Review
A slightly smaller set, this one still comes with T handles and its own stand. The manufacturer has molded the handles in two colors, making it easy to tell which are SAE and which are metric. Read Full Review
This last set of T handle wrenches only gives you SAE sizes. But if you need metric ones, the company makes a separate set for them. Put the two together and you've got a nice, complete set of all the standard sizes. Read Full Review
Now we're moving out of the T handle wrenches but even so, there are still good wrenches out there. This set comes with a compact plastic wallet, allowing you to keep track of your tools. Read Full Review
Another combination set, with both metric and SAE although the metric ones are a bit shorter which helps with identification. With everything stored in an index case, it's convenient for taking with you on the go. Read Full Review