I like my Wiha MagicRing ball hex keys, reviewed here, I really do. But they sure pissed me off today.
There’s an adage about how it’s better to have and not need something than to need it and hot have it. Well, that doesn’t work here.
I have been meaning to build a rack in the basement, to hold a couple of dozen Quantum dividable containers. I have my 80/20 aluminum in, and ordered some different types of materials to play around with as support rails. The idea is that the containers will slide in on the rails, allowing for easy spacing adjustments, at the least.
I spent a few hours clearing things up, to make space for the rack. My T-handle hex drivers and favored L wrenches were upstairs. Feeling lazy, I thought I could make do with my set of Wiha MagicRing ball end hex keys.
Wiha MagicRing hex keys have retainer clips that help to keep fasteners from slipping off during installation or removal.
I usually love using these tools, because they do help prevent fasteners from dropping to the floor in certain situations. And when that feature isn’t needed, they still work pretty good.
But for the 80/20 anchor fasteners I’m using, you really need an angled approach, and cannot engage the fasteners at too shallow of an angle.
I just couldn’t get the hex keys to bite. After taking twice as long to move forward by half a step, I decided to take a lunch break and share my frustration with you.
One thing I like about this example is that good tools might not always invoke good feelings. That’s why online reviews sometimes need to be taken with a grain of salt. If I bought these tools for this project, I would have had to return them. And if that happened 10 years ago, just before I started ToolGuyd, I might have had negative things to say about the tools.
A few years ago, when first introduced to Zero Tolerance, I bought one of their knives, possibly with a media discount – sorry I don’t remember. It was the 0560. A lot of people raved about this knife, and others fiercely complained about it. To me, the 0560 is a good knife that I absolutely don’t like. But that’s okay if it’s not well suited for me.
The same is true here. Those Wiha hex keys are good, and I’d like to think that they would be suitable for any type of work that regular ball end hex keys could or would be used for.
But they can’t. They don’t slip into socket head screws very easily at the steeper angle I need to use them at, and when they do, they don’t turn easily or confidently.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go grab a PB Swiss 1/4″ ball hex key and my Bondhus T-handle hex key and head back down there.
I had seen these before online, and I always thought the holding ring was rubber, not metal. I wonder if that would work, or how long it would take to tear apart.
Stuey, wonder what your thoughts are on these Weras with holding function.
I haven’t tried those, but I have tried Bondhus’s ProHold drivers, which have a little yellow plastic pin embedded in the ball section.
I think those work a little closer to non-holding ball drivers, but these Wiha might have a little better retention.
I have Bondhus ProHold in screwdriver-style drivers, and haven’t felt compelled to buy the other kind. I have the inch without, and metric with. But then again, I also don’t use the screwdrivers as often.
I use ball hex drivers with regular screwdriver handles on the end, that way I have less chance to overpower them. If I do need more torque, I grab an L hex driver.
Second place I’ve seen PB Swiss mentioned.
What is it about them that makes them superior?
Well, they are vastly more expensive than a nice low cost set from say, US made Bondhus. According to this report, the PB Swiss (sample size of 1) came in quite a bit lower in size from the nominal 5mm… https://www.bikeradar.com/us/gear/article/bike-allen-keys-42917/
And by “quite a bit lower”, I mean in relation to the other manufacturers they measured.
That chart was super interesting, really glad someone put that together. I work on bicycles often with aluminum and titanium fasteners. I have sets of pb swiss, wera, wiha, beta and snap-on hex bits, keys and handles (yeah, I have a problem). Anyways, the tightest fitting hex tools I have are definitely the bondhus and snap-on, there’s basically 0 play at all when the tool is inserted into the fastener.
However, I’ve switched entirely over to Wera for their hex-plus design (except for the wiha chrome thru-handle T wrenches I also really like for less delicate work). I found on aluminum fasteners in particular it didn’t matter if the tool fit the fastener basically perfectly, the standard hex design still imparted more wear on the fastener than the hex-plus tools.
I’m sure this isn’t nearly as important when working with steel fasteners, but of all the hex tools I own I’m personally most disappointed with pb swiss due to the cost, worse fitment and at least from my small collection basically no better fit/finish than tools that cost anywhere from less to considerably less.
Curious as to whether you have PB Swiss hex keys or PB Swiss hex bits. I have PB Swiss power bits and to be honest they are about the same as Felo power bits I have while costing way more. I also have a bunch of PB Swiss screwdrivers and those things are higher quality than the Felo Ergonics I have as you can torque screws even further before they cam out.
I’ve heard others say before that PB Swiss bits really aren’t anything super special vs other well made German bits. Not sure how their actual L-keys are though.
I have a mix of just about everything they make. Power bits, hex sockets, hex keys and screwdrivers (swissgrip). I agree their 1/4 bits aren’t anything amazing, they look great and work well but the cost is pretty high and they are difficult to purchase in small quantity due to shipping costs from the few places that carry them.
Their L key sets are nice looking but fitment is just average. I suppose that is on purpose to ease insertion into a wide range of varying quality fasteners. I’m just far more concerned with perfect fitment due to dealing with so many fasteners made of more fragile materials like aluminum or titanium, often in sizes as low as 1.5mm and often torqued down shockingly tight for such a small fastener. This is where I lean on Wera hex-plus and a small company called MIP for the extremely small sizes, nobody matches their fitment in the 1.5-3mm range.
The swissgrip screwdrivers are very nice and I use them for a lot of electronics work but in my personal anecdotal experience there is no perfect screwdriver, every manufacturer seems to have a slightly different interpretation of what the driver side should be and there is enough variance in screws that I’ll reach for another driver if the fitment isn’t perfect with the one I’m currently working with. I consistently reach for snap-on instinct drivers first for more demanding work followed by the pb swiss, wiha and nepros.
Top-notch tool quality, excellent fastener fitment, very strong, very good. But also very pricey.
I like PB Swiss tools in general. I bought a lot of mine when Amazon clearanced them out.
I bought a lot more last year, and again this year, during the Black Friday sales. One of these days I’m going to end up having a month-long PB Swiss review marathon. I’ve been using everything the best I could, to help me determine if which are most worth the upgrade.
I don’t own a set of these but I did buy a single driver for a different purpose. I bought a bunch of E-Z Lok Threaded Hex-Flanged Inserts, and then bought the corresponding Wiha MagicRing power bit to drive them into wood. Seems to work.
Stuart, Early in the Wiha Ball end hex driver article you mentioned the 80/20 aluminum extrusion.
Check out CREFORM products at CREFORM.com Pricey but very good.
Thanks! That looks like an interesting system, although completely unsuitable for anything I have ever used 80/20 for.
What don’t you like about the 0560 knife?
The jimping on the back of the knife handle is really rough when you flip it open. The way the ball detent gives, my finger hits it every time. I tried changing how I flipped it open, but the changes never stuck.
It’s okay if you have to use it once a day, but more than that and it gets painfully uncomfortable to open.
How does one know if a hex key’s tolerance is up to par vs the cheap fasterner itself or even perhaps the quality of metal uses in the production of he fastener? So much low quality screws and such coming in from overseas. Ex: I was installing two handles on a piece of hardwood yesterday and used a hinge tool to semi-predrill the holes. Using my 12v impact on “low” carefully drove the “included” screws in but half of the 8 screws rounded out. Had enough grip to remove them all and re install easily with Nut driver screws no problem! My point is that so many pre-packing included” screws are just junk and this includes hex head fasteners also!
That’s why I spend so much time at a Portlandia “institution” called General Threaded. I replace at least 75% of suppled screws/nit/bolts with higher spec versions. And usually Stainless Steel as they better match the 26D finish on most of my Hardware.
“Nit”? Nope. I’d never replace a nit. I meant “Nut”! Dang Siri.
Cheap overseas phillips screws plus impact driver spells “cam out of doom!” I was putting up cheap blinds awhile back and thought I could get away with just finessing the Makita impact driver into wood… nope. A few of them would round out the screw head awfully quick. I have no doubt that if I had used aftermarket quality screws (torx or robertson) that they would have driven into the wood rather than just stripping the screw head.
I just bought a couple sets and the Gorilla Folding sets from Bondhus.