Allen Keys Everything You Need To Know

Allen Keys: Everything You Need To Know

If you have ever put together a piece of flat pack furniture, then you will probably be familiar with an Allen key.

Allen keys are commonly distributed with flat packs, and flat pack furniture tends to be designed to be put together with an Allen key.

This is because by doing this, companies are making their flat pack furniture accessible to those who don’t have any tools in their house. 

However, the sole purpose of an Allen key isn’t for putting together flat pack furniture.

In fact, Allen keys can be used for a variety of different tasks. In this guide, we’ll be telling you everything that you need to know about Allen keys.

So keep on reading to find out more about this useful hand tool! 

What Is An Allen Key?

First things first, let’s take a look at what an Allen key is. An Allen key is a name most commonly associated with a hex key.

Hex keys are a tool that you will often find in your tool box, and they also often come packaged with flat pack furniture pieces, such as IKEA furniture. In their most basic form, Allen keys are simple drivers that can be used for both screws and bolts.

In order for you to use an Allen key with a screw or bolt, it must have a hexagonal recess for the bottom of the Allen key to slot into.

If the simple tool does not fit into the bolt head while still affording a comfortable grip, then the allen wrench will not work.

As we mentioned earlier, Allen keys are most commonly associated with flat pack furniture. For basic flat pack furniture, often all you will need to put it together is an Allen key.

Allen keys are very versatile even though they are very basic in comparison to some other types of tools like an electric drill driver or other power tools. 

There are a couple of different types of Allen keys that exist, but they are all formed of a single piece of metal, usually steel, and they are usually an l shaped tool, which explains why some refer to it as an L key.

This steel has a hexagonal rod at the bottom, and a 90 degree bend at the top, this 90 degree is important because it allows you to grip the Allen key even when working in tight spots.

However, in some models of Allen key, the “handle” is a little different, we’ll take a look at this a little later on.

Why Do They Call It An Allen Key?

As we said earlier, the name “Allen key” is a name that is commonly used for something known as a hex-key.

So if it is called a hex-key, why is it more commonly known as an Allen key? That’s a good question, so let’s find out! 

Allen keys have become known by this name because of a company that famously manufactured hexagonal screw sets and wrenches.

The Allen Manufacturing Company was traditionally one of the main manufacturers of hex-keys, and so people began to call hex-keys, Allen keys.

Over the years, the name “Allen key” has stuck, and the name hex-key has become less common, along with names like allen wrenches or hex wrenches.

Even though a number of the “Allen keys” used today aren’t actually produced by the Allen Manufacturing Company. 

This is something that is common across a number of different products, and the Allen key is known as this in many countries across the world. Including the USA, the UK, and Australia.

You may also hear it referred to as an Allen wrench in America too, where it is used amongst other tools to provide balanced weight with delicate components when building flat pack funriture.

How Many Types Of Allen Keys Are There?

Shortly, we’ll take a look at a couple of different types of Allen key. This is just a handful of the different types out there because there are a lot of different types out there.

Allen keys can differ in size, but generally the only difference in shape that will occur is the shape of the handle. This is because all Allen keys are designed to have a hexagonal bottom.

However, some have unique t handles, a ball end, or even a different grip for more leverage and more torque.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the different types of Allen key that you may find yourself using. 

The Different Types Of Allen Keys

Here are just a handful of the different types of Allen keys that you might encounter in a DIY capacity. 


Let’s kick this off with the L-shaped Allen key. When it comes to Allen keys, it is the L-shaped design that you will be most familiar with.

This is the classic Allen key shape, and it is the one that is most commonly used. If you purchase flat pack furniture that comes with an Allen key, it will likely be an L-shaped Allen key in the box. 

L-shaped Allen keys have the classic 90-degree angle bend that we spoke of earlier. This 90 degree bend is what gives the L-shaped Allen key its L shape.

Some people knock classic designs, but in our opinion, you really can’t beat the classic L-shaped Allen key.

It is a quality tool of compact size, but one that makes it much easier to reach tight spaces, and provide easy access to enough leverage and makes it easy to wrench quickly.

If you could only have one type of Allen key for the rest of your life, we would recommend opting for an L-shape design.

You can use an L-shaped Allen key to do most jobs, and the chances are that you already have one lying about your house, making them always a good value purchase.

Some variations on the allen wrench actually make use of a ballet end, which allows you to work in tighter spots, and at more awkward angles to wrench in screws without the need for any kind of multi tool or even an allen key set.


Another fairly popular type of Allen key is a T-handle Allen key. Just like L-shaped Allen keys, T-handle Allen keys are solely made out of metal.

They are usually designed to a similar thickness as L-shaped Allen keys, but they have one key difference, and that is the t handles. 

Unlike L-shaped Allen keys, T-handle Allen keys do not have a single 90-degree angle in their design. Instead they have two.

As the name suggests, a T-handle Allen key is designed for the Allen key to have a handle in the shape of a “T”.

Essentially, this handle gives the user better control over the Allen key, as they are able to twist it to wrench in some awkward bolts that an ordinary hex wrench could not possible reach!


Sticking to the theme of Allen keys named after a letter, the next type of Allen key that we want to speak about is the P-handle Allen key.

P handle Allen keys are different to the last two that we have looked at as they are not solely made of metal. Instead, P-handle Allen keys tend to have plastic in their handles.

P-handle Allen keys are most commonly used in a professional capacity, so if you only complete DIY projects, it is likely that you won’t have encountered one.

But P-handle Allen keys essentially combine the best bits of an L-shaped and a T-handle Allen key. So, if you haven’t used one yet, you should get to know them. 

The plastic handle makes it easier to screw in a hex socket than a standard allen key, as it ensures a comfortable grip and balanced weight that helps it to compete against even the best torque wrenches.


Finally, we want to talk about fold-up, or foldaway, Allen keys and folding hex keys. This style of Allen key, often referred to as a folding hex key is a great one to consider purchasing if you regularly use an Allen key.

Especially if you regularly need to use Allen keys of different sizes like an l shaped hex, or even t handle hex keys. 

A fold-up Allen key is a bit like a “Swiss Army Knife” of Allen keys. It contains multiple Allen keys that can all be folded out individually when you need to use them.

While fold-up Allen keys aren’t the best choice for professional jobs, they are a great choice for your tool box at home, as the key sets are fully fleshed out with all kinds of hex bits that can be used for bicycle repair, initial loosening, or many other tasks, and negates the need to lug around heavy tools!


In this guide we have told you everything that you need to know about Allen keys, including what an Allen key is, why it is known by this name, and how many different types of Allen keys there are.

We’ve also taken a look at some of the main types of Allen keys that exist, such as the ball end allen wrench. 

Thank you for reading!


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