5 Fast Facts About Hex Keys

Not all fasteners require the use of a traditional Phillips head screwdriver. Some require other tools to tighten or loosen the fastener. Hex screws, for example, are characterized by a unique hexagonal shape that requires the use of a hex key. Using a hex key, you can easily tighten or loosen a hex screw. Today, we’re going to reveal five interesting facts about hex keys.

#1) They Use Six Points of Contact

They are called “hex keys” because they use six points of contact. In other words, a hex key touches a half-dozen difference surfaces of the hex screw. The use of six points of contact allows the hex key to easily grab the hex key. If a tool uses five or fewer points of contact, it isn’t considered a hex key.

#2) They Are Also Known as Allen Wrenches

Hex keys are also known as Allen wrenches. In the early 1900s, the Connecticut-based Allen Manufacturing Company launched its own branded hex key, naming it the “Allen wrench.” Today, hex keys are often referred to as Allen wrenches.

#3) They’ve Been Around Since the 1800s

It’s unknown when hex keys were first invented, though evidence suggests that hex screws, as well as their corresponding six-point tools, have been around since the mid- to late 1800s. In the 1860s, for example, several patents appeared in the United States for hexagonal-shaped tools featuring six points of contact. Of course, it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century when hex keys became commonplace. Since then, hex keys have found their way into countless commercial and consumer applications.

#4) They Create Torque When Used

Hex keys create significant torque when used, which is how they are able to easily tighten and loosen hex screws. As shown in the image above, hex keys resemble the shape of the letter L. To use a hex key, you grab the long arm and twist it. This twisting motion creates torque that either tightens or loosens the hex screw depending on the direction in which it’s turned.

#5) They Can Fit Into Small and Compact Spaces

Hex keys are able to fit into small and compact spaces where larger tools, such as traditional screwdrivers or socket wrenches, isn’t possible. Furniture, for example, is often sold with one or more hex keys. When assembling the furniture, owners use the hex keys to install fasteners and connect the various pieces together. The small and crammed spaces of furniture allow hex keys to easily fit inside and turn the fasteners.

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