To my surprise, PB Swiss recently came out with new rainbow color-coded ball hex keys in inch sizes. They already have color-coded metric hex wrenches, and for the longest time I assumed the company had no plans to produce similar inch-sized key wrenches.
The inch set comes with 12 sizes from 0.050″ to 5/16″. The wrenches feature ball-shaped hex tips on the long end, and straight hex tips on the short end. This is so you can do final tightening or break fasteners free with the stronger straight tip, and spin loose fasteners with the easy-access ball tip.
PB Swiss products are somewhat pricey, so this set isn’t ideal for the once-a-month weekend warrior; they’re more for folks who will use them much more often.
The 12-piece set is priced at around $90 USD. You can also purchase all of the inch wrench sizes individually
Buy Now(via Count on Tools)
Tool Lady doesn’t have the set listed on the site yet, but you can email them for the latest pricing.
I love these wrenches. I have been using the rainbow metric version for over a decade now at work- and nothing else comes close to working as well (I have used every- EVERY other brand). The color coding may look like a gimmick, but after a few weeks wrenching with them you don’t even have to think about picking up the proper wrench. When all of your tools are in a pile in some dark corner of someone else’s workshop you can still tell the 2.5mm from 3mm at a glance.
The tips wear better than most everything else- but the paint does chip and scratch off pretty easily, so they will not look that pretty for long. It would take quite a jump to get me to use another brand of hex key anytime soon- glad to see they have the colors in inch sizing now.
ps- the other upshot of these wrenches is they don’t get stolen (easily, anyway). It is pretty hard for someone else to claim that the purple hex wrench in their tool bag was not just taken from your kit, and it makes sorting out the tools back to their owners at the end of the day much easier.
Harbor Freight used to sell sets of SAE and Metric T-Handled hex wrenches. They weren’t the highest quality of course but they also weren’t the worst. Yet at $7 per set they were a fantastic value – I have never had one break, though I don’t use them everyday like some.
Similar to Matt’s comment, the color coding makes them so much easier to distinguish; especially when you are working on a project and have three or four wrench sizes going you don’t fiddle around grabbing the wrong one or lose one in the chaos of your workbench.
I actually wrote letters to several USA made hex wrench manufacturers requesting they develop their own line of color coded T-Handeled hex wrenches; Even going so far as to note that while the HF versions cost me $7, I would happily pay a few times that amount for a quality made US set. As you may have guessed, I got absolutely no response and to my knowledge there has been no USA made color coded T-Handled hex wrenches introduced (let me know if there is). Sad that something so simple and effective is also so vastly overlooked by our manufacturers.
As awesome as these are… $90 is really steep for a 12 piece set. I’m sure it is worth it with lifetime warranty? Does that cover normal wear of the hex heads?
Are these worth $90? That all depends: I do not have PB in my home shop- I do not use them enough to justify the cost- and if one of my home wrenches breaks I simply go out and buy another (or borrow from a friend).
At work- that is a different story. If I fly half way around the world to work at a plant in the middle of a jungle I REALLY don’t want my tools to fail. A single failure can mean days of downtime for both me and the customer. This can mean a loss of lots of money for both parties. So $90 is fairly cheap for a tool I use and rely on every single day.
Matt (who uses were and wiha and bondhus at home!)
Bondhus makes an excellent color coded set for $30. You can get an SAE and a metric set for less than $60.
Yes, they’re nice, but working in the field so much I prefer the sets that come like a pocket knife. You can carry both English and metric in a small space, you don’t end up losing ONE wrench and they’re always in the right order so sizes are easy to find. About the only disadvantage is working in tight spaces or where you need a very long reach.
Way back when the earth was new, I used fingernail polish to color code my tools. Color coding is a good ideal, but I don’t know if it’s worth $90. My father thought the whole color coding was silly. He was color blind.
“He was color blind.”
I was just thinking that the first time I saw that they have no numbers written on them.
Although I am not full color blind (have not really bothered to get diagnosed) I cannot see the difference between light (similar colors i.e. light blue light purple) colors…heck I bought a pink folding knife (only color they had left) for cheap and I was wearing it at work. I was using it all proud and clipping it to my back pocket till someone mentioned that it was pink…I painted it the next day…lol
For what it’s worth…regarding tools growing legs at work…I put my initials in all my tools with an alectric metal engraving tool like this…http://www.amazon.com/Electric-Engraver-Carbide-Variable-Strokes/sim/B003I16U8E/2…trust me…will save you from having to argue with coworkers. Although it won’t stop 100% tools from disappearing, at least, they will know you mark your tools so chances of them using it at work with you are very slim unless you want to get blamed if caught.
These might still have engraved sizes. All PB Swiss tools have serial numbers, so why wouldn’t they have size markings as well?
As for engraving initials into tools, how do you engrave a 1/8″ hex key?
Same way they engrave all tools these days, with a laser. The ability to engrave stuff with a laser is amazing and can be done so small that you would need a microscope to see it. I know that doesn’t help a guy squinting at a small tool but hey you can buy a lit magnifying glass or maybe your workplace has dazor lights?
At work, I use Bondus and Wiha. I’ve used a coworker’s PB Swiss wrenches occasionally. In my opinion, PB Swiss are superior, but not by much. Bondhus and Wiha both make a seriously high quality wrench.
I’ve been thinking about picking up the the metric PB Swiss set, but I’m not about to buy a $90 set of SAE hex wrenches that doesn’t come with a 3/8″. PB Swiss needs to do more market research, it seems.
As a sign of my nerdiness, I could never buy this set; the colors are all wrong. Violet should be the shortest/smallest and Red needs to be the largest. R-O-Y-G-B-I-V. Just like light. Violet is the shortest wavelength, Red is the longest. I find this set painfully annoying.
Actually, my first thought [concerning the color scheme] was to wonder why the smallest wrenches have the least visible colors? I hear what you are saying about the color order but I would prefer red to be on the smallest and violet on the largest (or black/white).
An excellent point! I’m still lobbying for at least keeping the colors in proper order relative to each other though…
I know it looks more “rainbow” like to have the colors gradually move across the spectrum as the size changes, but it would seem better to me if there was more of a randomness to the colors, so that no two wrenches close in size would have similar colors.
If the whole point of the color coding is to make the sizes easy to differentiate from each other, why would anyone want wrenches that are close in size to be close in color? Set the hunters orange between dark gray and lime green or something like that. And better still use fluorescent dyes in all these colors.
Wera also makes a color coded set(not the green ones ) of these as well.(Hex Plus) I own a pair and really like them.
I don’t know about others, but hex (Allen) wrenches don’t seem to get much use in my house. When you buy a piece of furniture that uses them, the manufacturer often includes the correct size hex wrench to put the item together. I’ve used them on Delta kitchen and bathroom faucets, our Polaris pool cleaner, on a CB antenna to attach the antenna whip and mount the base in my car’s trunk, plus a few other items over my lifetime. I’ve used them on Torx screws, too, in the days before anyone knew what a Torx screw was, let alone had a set of the wrenches. Torx seem to have more uses these days, especially on items from Europe and China.