Growing up, if I needed a hex key for something, my father would hand me two folding hex key sets and a ring of L-keys. As infrequently as we used hex keys, those simple tools were enough.
But these days I work with hex fasteners quite frequently and have a range of hex drivers and wrenches in my toolbox. My set of Wiha MagicRing hex keys has been seeing a lot more action recently, and so it felt like a good time to give them a proper review.
MagicRing Ball Hex Ends
The MagicRing is a C-shaped loop of metal that follows a groove in the driver’s ball hex tips. There is a tiny gap between the ends of the loop, allowing it to be compressed when the tip is inserted into a hex fastener. The loop, most likely made from a spring steel alloy, then exerts a slight outwards pressure to provide just enough friction to keep the fastener secured to the tip.
Fastener retention is strongest when the tip is inserted from a straight angle. Pivoting the ball hex tip will greatly loosen the MagicRing’s hold.
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I am quite fond of Wiha’s MagicRing design, at least as far as hex fastener retention mechanisms go. Bondhus also offers similar functionality with their ProHold drivers, but I believe Wiha’s design to be more durable and secure.
The purpose of the MagicRing is to help keep hex fasteners attached to the ball tips for easier installation. Because of this, fastener fit feels a little tighter than with ordinary ball hex tools.
Ball hex tips allow for a range of access angles, compared to straight hex tip drivers, but should not subjected to high torque. That’s why L-keys like these have ball tips on the long ends and straight tips on the short ends. Final tightening or breaking free of fasteners should be done with the straight tips.
I own several Wiha MagicRing hex drivers, and have come to prefer them for certain tasks. In addition to inch and metric L-keys, I have a small set of inch T-handle drivers, several individual screwdriver-handled drivers, and a set of metric and inch 2″ power bits.
For the most part, the MagicRing function works quite well, but there are times when I prefer for a looser fit to be able to more quickly move the tool from fastener to fastener.
Wiha 22pc Hex Key Set
The 22pc set, model 66992, comes with separate inch and metric holds.
9 Metric sizes: 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, 6.0, 8.0, 10mm
13 Inch sizes: .050, 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, 7/64, 1/8, 9/64, 5/32, 3/16, 7/32, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8 in.
The MagicRing feature is only found on larger sizes, starting at 3.0mm and 1/8″. Smaller sizes have regular ball ends.
My metric set is inaccessible at the moment, so only the inch set is shown in the photos. There aren’t any differences, other than the metric holder being a little smaller with fewer sizes.
With other L-key sets, removing a hex wrench is not quick or easy. With one-piece holders, you will often have to twist larger over-hanging drivers out the way before you can pull up a specific size.
With these holders, you slide the top part to the right, grab the hex size you need, angle it away from the holder, and pull it out.
I really didn’t think I would care as much for the ProStar holders as I do, but they do shave off a lot of time and effort when it comes to tool retrieval. Supposedly Wiha’s new ErgoStar auto-opening holders offer even quicker and easier tool retrieval, but I haven’t seen or tried them yet.
- Clear markings on holders and engravings on L-wrenches
- Edges and corners of the straight tips are eased and beveled for easier insertion
- Satin finish is easy on the fingers and hands and easy to clean
- Long lengths are easier to work with (but your opinions might differ)
I am quite fond of Wiha’s MagicRing hex key set, and would definitely recommend it. The hex wrenches are well designed and great to use, and I am particularly fond of the thought and engineering that went into the holder design.
You might not like them – I certainly didn’t at first – but they get better once you get used to them. What I did was try out the MagicRing feature with individual driver sizes that I needed anyways, and then picked up this set when I caught it on sale.
The 22pc set is currently priced at slightly over $65 via Amazon. I did not pay this much when I bought two sets on sale 2 years ago, and I don’t think I would buy a set at today’s pricing.
Bondhus’s ProHold L-keys offer similar functionality, although in my experience they don’t work as well, for less than half the price. (Inch and metric set via Amazon).
The tools featured in this review were purchased at retail pricing from Sears.