If there’s one type of hand tool category I am especially particular about, it’s hex tools, including drivers, L-keys, P- and T-handle wrenches, and any other hex-tipped fastener driver.
Update: This post was originally published on 8/18/2015 and republished on 4/21/2020.
My first self-introduction to quality hex keys was with Bondhus ball-tip screwdrivers. I ordered them from McMaster Carr and was so pleased with the Bondhus quality that I bought a bunch more Bondhus drivers, and then T-handle drivers, and a couple of L-wrench sets.
Before that, all I had known were generic Allen-style L-wrenches. My father had two kinds of L-key sets, one where the tools were straight hex shafts that pivoted out from a folding base, and the other where individual L-keys were attached to a large keyring. Sorry Dad, but your hex keys sucked. They were enough, at the time, but I’ve moved on to better tools.
Here’s a look of all the unique or strongly recommended hex tools that I previously wrote about:
PB Swiss Rainbow Colored Ball Hex Key Set
Although pricey, PB Swiss’s are my absolute favorite hex keys. If my budget ever allows for it, I’ll add a metric set to complement my fractional hex key set.
Bondhus ColorGuard Hex Keys
Wera makes color-coded hex keys too.
Park Tool P-Handle Hex Wrenches
One of these days I’ve got to update my post on Park Tool’s excellent Bondhus-made hex wrenches. I’ve got a bunch of Beta P/T-handle ball hex drivers like this too, and am still undecided as to which is better.
Who knew that Klein would come out with excellent P/T-handle ball hex drivers? They’re comfortable to use and precise. Plus they come with a handy bench stand.
Allen Ball Hex Set
This Allen set that I reviewed is rather unremarkable, and it jumped up a little in price since the review went up, but they’re okay tools at a decent value.
Stubby PB Swiss Hex Keys
I pieced together this PB Swiss low profile hex key set back when Amazon was clearing them out at great prices. I would buy a replacement set at full price, in an instant, if needed. I really wish PB Swiss made these in fractional sizes as well, and not just metric.
Anex Low Profile Hex Drivers
I ended up buying a set of these Anex slim hex wrenches after posting about them. I’ve used them a couple of times, and like my PB Swiss stubby drivers, they’re handy problem solvers.
I paid $22 for my 4-piece set, right now they’re $12.91 at Amazon, by 2 “Fulfilled by Amazon” 3rd party suppliers. Please snatch them up so that I’m not tempted to buy them myself – Amazon link.
Flex-Head Hex Keys
While far from what being must-haves, these Hex Pro flex-head hex keys can be convenient to have around. If you have enough clearance, the pivoting head allows you to swing them over after a turn, instead of having to remove, rotate, and re-engage the tool.
Wiha MagicRing Ball Hex Key Set
I’ve tried Wiha and Bondhus’s fastener-retention ball hex designs, and find that I prefer Wiha’s a lot more. I tend to use my Wiha sets more often than just when I need fastener retention because of their better storage cases. Easy in, easy out.
Hex Bit Sockets
The SK hex bit sockets are nice, except for how the tool bits arrived from SK pre-rusted. Sockets are a great option when you need more torque, and can be used with different drive tools, such as ratchets, breaker bars, T-handles, or spinners, depending on the application needs.
PB Swiss Hex Sockets
I love, love, LOVE these one-piece PB Swiss hex bit sockets. I own exactly two of them. One of these days I’m buying more, and I hope that PB Swiss comes to their senses and comes out with similar sockets but in fractional sizes.
Bondhus Ball Hex
This is an itty bitty set that I received for free from Carbide Processors, but the tools aren’t any different from Bondhus’s regular drivers, aside from the smaller size.
Bondhus hex drivers are strong, precise, convenient, easy to clean, made in the USA, and affordable. One of these days I have GOT to post more about my Bondhus tools.
I should point out that Carbide Processor now has the fractional-sized mini GoldGuard hex key set as their current registration and ordering free gift option.
Mayhew Twisted hex
These twisted Mayhew hex drivers are among the most unusual take son hex keys that I’ve seen or written about thus far.
Astro Pneumatic Multi-Use Hex Keys
These Astro Pneumatic hex keys can handle fasteners with internal hex sockets or external hex profiles.
Kobalt Hex Key Handle
I keep meaning to try this out – it looks like the handle can be used with other hex keys, right? I only want the handle for use with my other hex tools, but I suppose it’s not too much of a waste to have extra set of ball hex drivers to keep around. Maybe as spare or loaner tools so that I can keep the good stuff to myself and in my main toolbox?
Note (4/21/20): It looks like these Kobalt drivers are no longer available.
What Do You Recommend?
Do you use some great hex keys not on this list? Let’s hear those recommendations!