Allen Wrenches versus Hex Keys

The terms Allen wrench and hex key are used synonymously – with good reason. They are precisely the same thing; Allen is simply a brand name of hex keys.

Allen keys are named after the person who patented the tool in the early 1900s, William G. Allen of Allen Manufacturing. While Allen patented the design, it quickly became known as the hex key because it fits into hexagonal screw heads.

Whether you call it a hex key, Allen wrench, hex wrench, or something else entirely, it's a handy tool that will make any job more manageable.

Different Types of Hex Keys

Hex keys come in different shapes and lengths, so you'll want to grab the right type to help you get the job done.


The L-shape helps applying force.

L-shaped is the most common type of hex key, and they often come in a set, so you'll always have the right size on hand! This shape is convenient for both the avid DIYer and one-off project maker. They range from 1.5 mm to 10 mm in size, though you can get sets with fewer or more options based on your needs.

You can even get a ball at the end of some hex wrenches for added flexibility based on your needs.

Some Allen wrenches even come in the shape of a pocket knife, folding out to use as needed.

A sturdier solution.

You can also get handles on your hex keys, completely changing how you grip your tool. T-handle and P-handle give you a more comfortable grip for maximum leverage. Allen screwdrivers use the same hexagonal heads as a hex key and can be used in tight spaces.

Choose the shape based on the job and your preference for best results. In theory, all will tighten a screw, but not every shape hex key will work for every job.


Longer Allen wrenches may be easier to hold, while shorter ones may fit in tighter spaces. Assess your job and pick the right size hex key accordingly. The last thing you want to do is have a tool that doesn't fit the work you're doing, so set yourself up for success from the start.

What Can Hex Keys Do?

Hex keys are multi-functional tools that can make a huge difference in many projects. Two of the most common uses are repairing something or putting something together. Let's look at how hex keys can make your job easier.


Hex keys are used to repair many different things, including bicycles, cars, and motorcycles. You can even fix a lot of other tools themselves with an Allen wrench if they have fastenings as part of them.

Many of the screws used in these items are hexagonal, so you'll want to keep Allen wrenches on hand. In some cases, the T-handle Allen wrenches are the easiest to use, helping you get the maximum leverage and a good grip as you crank the screws without stripping them.

Many shapes and sizes for all kinds of DIY purposes.


Many furniture kits come with Allen wrenches included to help you get the job done. It's the same with many electronics, especially if you're looking to mount them on the wall. The hex keys allow you to tighten small screws in place, securing your item with ease. Don't throw the Allen wrenches out once you're done putting them together! You can keep them on hand for the next job.

The Final Say on Allen Wrench and Hex Keys

Allen wrenches are handy tools that fit into hexagonal screws, helping you tighten them with ease because it gives you a better grip. You can turn the screw more efficiently, thanks to the leverage you'll get when using the hex key. As a bonus, it's much harder to strip the screw if you're using the right size Allen wrench.

Whatever you call an Allen wrench, you'll thank yourself later if you have these on hand for your next DIY job. Pick them up at most home improvement stores and big-box retailers. They're affordable and will make any job that uses hexagonal screws a breeze.

Posted by Melissa Jackson

Melissa is passionate about all things home and garden, helping others to fashion their dream home one space at a time. An avid reader, when she’s not writing, you can find her nose deep in a book, cuddling with her two dogs.