Unlock Convenience and Versatility with This 20-Piece Hex Key Set

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This Family Handyman Approved hex key set is up for any task.

Hex keys, Allen keys or Allen wrenches all refer to the same six-sided tool included with every piece of ready-to-assemble furniture from Walmart, Target, IKEA or Wayfair.

The name Allen derives from the Allen Manufacturing Company, which made a six-sided hex bolt and wrench as early as 1910. Eventually, the term Allen wrench became as common a reference for any hex key as Kleenex for facial tissue and Sawzall for a reciprocating saw.

More relevant than the tool’s name is its shape. Hex keys have the familiar L-shape for a reason. You insert the short leg of the “L” into its appropriate fastener, then apply the torque by turning the long leg. Hex keys can apply much more torque than a screwdriver with a much lower profile, so it can fit into and tighten fasteners in places a screwdriver can’t access.

But therein lies the problem. What if you need to reach deep between components of your car or motorcycle engine to loosen a hex bolt? That requires an adapter for your drill or a separate set of T-handle hex keys.

Mindful of this dilemma, Craftsman created the Craftsman 20-piece L-to-T Hex Key Set, which includes a T-handle adapter for quick and easy conversion from an L-to-T hex key. I had some mountain bike maintenance to do and a pergola kit that needed assembly, so I decided to pick up a set at my local home store and give it a try.

What is the Craftsman 20-Piece L-to-T Hex Key Set?

Craftsman’s 20-Piece L-to-T Hex Key Set consists of two 10-piece sets. One is metric, with hex keys ranging from 1.5- to 10-mm. The other is standard, ranging from 1/16- to 3/8-inch.

The black oxide coated steel hex key set comes neatly packaged in a hinged storage rack. A T-handle adapter nestles between the folded rows of hex keys. In just a few seconds, an L hex key can be converted to a T-handle by placing it in its corresponding sized opening and snapping the handle closed.

Craftsman’s Hex Key Set looks and feels strong and durable. The hinged tool racks — black for standard and red for metric — help you quickly identify the right sets when you’re searching through your toolbox.

How We Tested It

craftsman 20 Piece L To T Hex Key Set testEthan O'Donnell for Family Handyman

Rather than going with the cheap three-inch hex key provided with the aluminum pergola kit, I decided to try a few from the Craftsman 20-Piece L-to-T Hex Key Set. The pergola kit had more than 150 hex bolts. I intended to only use the Craftsman 20-Piece L-to-T Hex Key Set. But after hand turning more than 50 fasteners, I chucked a drill with the right-sized bits to expedite the project.

If I’m building a ready-to-assemble product, I always loosely drive all the bolts first to align everything, then tighten them all at the end. While I didn’t use the Craftsman Hex Key Set to drive every thread of every bolt. I did hand-drive more than 50 of the bolts, and did a final torque-down on them all.

As expected, the Craftsman Hex Key Set performed well. Each hex key fit snugly and without slop in all pergola bolt heads. The T-handle adapter is a clever idea that works well. A slight amount of play exists inside the T-handle adapter, but nothing that would cause problems.

As for the fat-tire and mountain bikes, I had to grease the seat posts and remove handlebar components to narrow the handle bars for tight singletrack trails. You should use a torque wrench to tighten the bike’s lightweight alloy components. But the Craftsman Hex Key Set worked perfectly to remove them.

It’s fortunate the Craftsman Hex Key Set includes all the common standard and metric hex keys, since I seem to use nearly every one when I’m working on my bikes.

Pros

  • No need for two sets of hex keys;
  • Easy to transport and store;
  • Well made;
  • Easy to use.

Cons

  • A little play in the T-handle adapter.

FAQ


Q: Does each key have a stamp indicating its size on it?

A: Yes.

Q: What is the “ball” end on the hex key for?

A: A ball end makes it easier to insert the key into the receiving hex slot. In blind or difficult-to-reach areas, or in situations where the bolt is close to an obstruction, a ball end lets you to reach the needed wrenching position at an unnatural angle.

What Others Had To Say

Verified purchaser Manuel writes in his five-star Amazon review: “It’s hard to overstate the functionality and versatility of these tools. Having the ability to turn them into a T-handle makes every job a breeze.”  

BumbuliKid had this to say on a lowes.com review: “The Craftsman hex key set has two advantages. First, the holder is well marked and keeps the keys organized. Second, they have an ingenious T-handle built into the set that you can use to get a good grip on tightening the hex-head screw or bolt.”

Final Verdict

Every homeowner should have a hex key set, and this Craftsman 20-Piece L-to-T Hex Key Set is one of the finest. It’s precisely made of quality materials, easy to use and transport, and effortlessly switches into a T-handle style in no time. Mandatory for any toolbox.

Where to Buy

The Craftsman 20-Piece L-to-T Hex Key Set is available from Lowe’s and Amazon.com.

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Ethan O'Donnell
Ethan is Family Handyman’s go-to editor for finding and testing the latest and greatest products, tools, and gear in the DIY space. Ethan has experience building custom woodwork, sets, props, and exhibits. Over the course of his career, he has completed projects for several Fortune 500 companies as well as for the United States Park Service. During his spare time, he likes to ride anything on two wheels, read, draw, or spend time with friends discussing recent Formula 1 events.