What Is The Difference Between An Allen Wrench And A Hex Key

What Is The Difference Between An Allen Wrench And A Hex Key?

Have you ever put furniture together? Or do you frequently spend time in your garage? So you most certainly used these tools.

They go by the names of an Allen wrench and a hex key. 

These tools have been in use for more than a century, and are widely used by many people throughout the world, including professional mechanics.

They are both affordable and well-liked. However, in short, there is no difference between the two tools. Both of these names are acceptable and used interchangeably for each other. 

In this article, we will discuss more about the Allen wrench and hex key to discover if there are any differences between the two. 

What Is an Allen Wrench/Hex Key?

The name of this instrument is derived from the Greek word hex, which means six. In essence, these instruments are six-sided L-shaped wrenches.

Both “hex wrench” and “Allen wrench” relate to the same tool that is used to drive and fit bolts and screws with hexagonal sockets on their heads.

Why Are Hex Keys Referred To As Allen Wrenches?

Hex keys and Allen wrenches are interchangeable terms. Simply put, “Allen” is a brand name.

The tool design was patented by William G. Allen, who was the head of Allen Manufacturing, sometime in the early 1900s.

Hex key was the name given to the tool, since it was designed to slot into screws with a hexagonal screw head.

Therefore, the hex key is the generic phrase, while the Allen wrench is considered a brand instead.

Despite the fact that other businesses now make the item, most people still call them Allen wrenches.

Additionally, this tool has also been referred to as the following names as well.

  • Hexagon Key,
  • Hex Key Wrench,
  • Hex Wrench

Whatever name you give them, they were all made with the same intent.

Purpose Of Hex Keys And Allen Wrenches

A hex head bolt is designed to work with an Allen wrench. 

Regular screws only have 2 or 4 pressure points, however a hexagon socket has 6. As a result, your tool can grip the head easier, and you are able to turn the tool more easily as well.

This results in increased productivity and decreased tiredness when assembling things. This effectiveness is increased by a hex key.

It offers leverage in addition to properly fitting the screw. The screw is now even simpler to turn as a result. 

A hexagonal screw has the extra benefit of being more difficult to strip when compared to other shapes. They can be stripped, it’s not impossible.

However, as long as you use the right size of key, then you should be fine.

Uses For A Hex Key/Allen Wrench

Any object with a hex screw requires the use of a hex key. Hex keys are widely used in the following areas:

Repairing Your Bicycle

Bicycle makers frequently use a folding hex wrench, which folds into a compact design. Hex keys are thus the answer to the majority of bicycle maintenance.

If you ride your bike a lot, be sure you always have a folding hex key on hand for emergencies.

Car And Motorcycle Repairs

Hex screws can be found in your car. The glove box and underneath the seats are two of the most frequent locations.

Hex keys with a T-handle work well for these maintenance situations.

Building Furniture 

Additionally common among furniture builders are hex screws. They are little and hence simple to incorporate into the project.

What Is The Difference Between An Allen Wrench And A Hex Key (1)

You may need a set of hex keys that are various sizes  to assemble certain pieces of furniture. Also, you may need to use a hex key to tighten the furniture after it has been used.

Machine And Tool Repairs

To repair tools, you actually need tools. A hex key is necessary to make some changes to a number of heavy-duty tools and equipment.


Hex screws are useful for electronics manufacturers because of their small size.

Due to their varying sizes, you will always be able to find a hex key to fit your smaller or larger electronic components.

Different Types Of Hex Keys/Allen Wrenches

There are various types of hex keys or Allen wrenches that you can use for different projects.

The following are some of the more common types that you can come across.

L Shaped Hex Key – Hex keys typically have a “L” form. This enables you to get into small locations and provide enough power to the hex bolt. There are two forms of L-shaped wrenches – short arm hex keys and long arm hex keys.

T Handle Hex Key –  Instead of a “L,” the handle is shaped like a “T.” This shape is frequently used when a hexagonal bolt head requires both force and speed.

P Handle Hex Key – The handle resembles a “P”. They usually offer a pleasant grip and are often larger than conventional hex keys. P-handle hex keys are frequently seen in various professional workshops.

Foldable – You can purchase a set of hex keys that resembles a Swiss Army knife. This tool can put the keys in your pocket because they are foldable.

These are useful for on-the-go tasks like tightening something while riding a bike.

Although convenient, these keys are not L-shaped; they are straight. Thus, you can’t thus apply as much pressure on them.

Ball End Hex Keys – In essence, these are long hex wrenches with balls at the ends. Hex keys with a ball end give you the mobility you need to access confined spaces.

What Should You Look For In Your Hex Key Set?

When it comes to sizes, this will vary depending on your needs. 

A basic set of Allen wrenches should be enough if all you wish to use them for is basic household repairs, such as moving furniture.

However, you might wish to get a set with extra sizes if you run a workshop, a mechanic shop, or require them for another job. You’ll also need to choose the best hex key type, such as an L-shape or T-handle.

As previously established, various uses frequently call for or benefit from various hex key types.

Hex Key And Allen Wrench Sizes 

It’s important to understand that sets are available in both metric and SAE sizes. The most widely used metric wrenches are available in diameters from 1.5 mm to 10 mm.

In some SAE sets the following sizes will be included (in inches):  7/32, 3/32, 7/64, 5/32, 3/16, and 14 inches. With a minimum size of ⅛ inches included.

It’s vital to look around to find what you need because certain sets are available with lesser or even more sizes.

Final Thoughts

Now, you should understand that there is in fact no difference between a hex key and an Allen wrench. They are both the same tool.

Instead, Allen wrenches are just a brand name. As a result, Allen wrenches are just normal hex keys, so you can use the name interchangeably.

We hope this article has been informative, and you have a clearer understanding of hex keys and Allen wrenches.


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