Craftsman has come out with new Extreme Grip ball hex key sets. There’s an 8pc inch set, and an 8pc metric set. So what makes these new hex key sets deserving of Craftsman’s Extreme Grip branding? Diamond-coated ball hex tips.
That’s right, diamond-coated ball hex tips.
Both Craftsman Extreme Grip hex key sets are fold-out designs, with each key being able to lock in place at 90° and 180° positions. This means you can lock in a driver size and grip the entire tool like you would a screwdriver, or as a T-handle driver for greater torque.
Craftsman says that these drivers provide up to 1.9 times the gripping power compared to standard black oxide ball end hex keys. The diamond coating is meant to help reduce cam-out and slippage on fasteners, and to allow for removal of stripped screws.
If you haven’t used ball end hex keys before, you don’t know what you’re missing! The ball end allows for angled access, and so you don’t have to engage a fastener from a completely straight head-on position.
The downside to ball hex tips is that they aren’t great for higher torque applications, as you can shear a ball head right off, leaving it stuck inside a fastener. Because of this, a lot of brands only offer smaller hex keys and hex drivers with straight hex ends.
- Inch Sizes: 1/4, 7/32, 3/16, 5/32, 9/64, 1/8, 7/64, 3/32 inch
- Metric Sizes: 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 mm
Price: $20 each, “regular price” is said to be $30 each
Although a lot rare (in my experience) than Phillips-head screws, hex-socket fasteners can strip out a little bit. Do you know what I use when I come across a hex fastener that cannot be properly engaged with a ball hex end? I flip the tool around, or reach for a double-ended hex L-wrench, and use the straight hex end. Or I find a socket. Or I reduce the angle a little bit.
I work with hex fasteners a LOT, in my own fabrications and projects, when assembling furniture, and when maintaining or adjusting various types of equipment.
For removal of stripped fasteners? Yes, I can definitely see how these could be useful. These Craftsman Extreme Grip diamond-coated ball end hex keys might be the only tools I have seen that could potentially remove lightly stripped hex socket fasteners from an angle.
But for reducing cam-out and fastener slippage? I’m sorry if this sounds a little judgemental, but if you’re damaging a hex socket fastener and slipping with a ball hex driver, you’re using the wrong tool. Ball hex for access, straight hex for torque. If you need angled access and torque, get some nice stubby hex keys.
I find myself with two thoughts. One is that these Craftsman Extreme Grip ball end hex key sets could be useful tools for intermediate and advanced users who might just need to extract partially stripped or damaged hex keys at an angle. The other is that these are aimed at gift-buyers, homeowners, and whoa that’s really cool impulse tool buyers.
They seem a little gimmicky, but that doesn’t change the fact that I really want to try them out.
What I’m worried about is that the diamond coating won’t be very effective on the smaller sizes, which is where I have run into fastener damage in the past.
Thinking about it more, I really wish Craftsman would have made these as L-key sets, rather than a fold-out. Fold-out hex key sets are convenient and portable, but can be easily defeated when working on tight spaces.
What do you think? Problem-solver or gimmick?
I don’t think I have ever seen diamond-coated ball end or straight end hex tools before. Have you?
Somewhat related, have you ever wondered what diamond grit looks like? Here are super high magnification images of high quality diamond abrasives, and images of “economy” quality diamond, taken by yours truly. Here’s a taste: