A comprehensive set of Allen keys is almost mandatory for any toolbox, given that they are one of the most practical and versatile tools ever created as well as being relatively inexpensive. However, there are a number of variations in Allen keys and it is very important that users understand the different types of Allen keys before they try to make use of them.
The L-shaped Allen key, so named because the key looks like the letter L, is the most popular and most common Allen key type on the market. These keys are also usually the cheapest such keys as well as being the lightest and smallest. They come in diameters that range from a millimetre to ten millimetres in diameter and are extremely convenient and simple to use.
If there is an issue with the L-shaped Allen key it is that when used for long periods are on particularly difficult jobs handling them can become somewhat uncomfortable.
The comfort issue with L-shaped Allen keys is addressed with the T-handle hex key on account of its T-shaped design that allows users to get an easier and stronger hold on the tool. These types of hex keys are available in just as many different sizes and specs as with the L-shaped Allen keys, although their shape may make them unsuitable for some applications and they are also more expensive.
This tool comes with hex keys of various sizes that are fixed onto protruding arms. These arms cannot be folded but have either a plastic or metallic grip to the centre.
A folding Allen key is the ultimate in practical convenience. Folding keys are portable, practical and ideal for light-duty operations, often able to pack a complete key set into an extremely compact tool. However there are some problems with folding Allen keys in that they also have very limited leverage and clearance that makes them ill-suited to working in tight spaces or the performing of heavy duty tasks.
Ratchet keys on the other hand are practically designed to be used on heavy duty tasks, and also happen to be compatible with the great majority of drills and powered drivers. This makes it an even simpler task to drive bits, bolts and screws correctly into place.
Screwdriver-type hex keys are superb value for money and offer fantastic practicality, combining an Allen key head with the familiar style of a screwdriver. Sizes are as varied as the majority of other Allen keys, ranging from one millimetre up to ten millimetres in diameter, with different varieties also able to be found for use with more specialist applications.
Screwdrivers and Allen keys with balldriver ends allow bolts to be driven in and out at an angle, which can come in handy when trying to get to less accessible screws and bolts, though less traction or torque is provided than with standard hex keys. It is important to understand and choose the highest quality types of Allen keys to ensure the best results. For a wide range of Allen Keys visit RS Components.