How to Use an Allen Wrench: PM Tool TipsAn Allen wrench (known also as a hex wrench or hex key) has a hexagonal cross section to fit screw heads with hexagonal recesses, common in bicycles, motorcycle engines and, increasingly, build-it-yourself furniture.
A 10-piece set will cover your needs—the challenge is finding a set design that's both ergonomic and easily organized. With motorcycles, Allen fastener heads allow an engine cover to be mounted flush to an engine case without protruding bolt heads. It's difficult to say what sizes are common when assembling furniture, because as anyone with experience at that job knows, those little L-shaped keys tend to disappear immediately. Unlike the Phillips heads briefly used in mid-'80s Japanese bikes, the Allen bolts can actually be removed—as long as you have the right size for the job.


But as long as you're working with an L-shaped tool shorter than a broken pencil, you're always going to have a little stub of metal gouging your palm with each torque.
The better bet is to find a tool with some actual thought put into its design, like the plethora of hex wrenches available at Park Tool. They have a traditional foldup style, in which the wrenches pull out like pocketknives from a nicely sized handle.
They also have unusual three-way wrenches, which arrange common sizes on an easy-to-grip disk shaped like a Chinese throwing star. If you really want to get fancy (and save serious time and effort), consider investing in Garrett Wade's ratcheting Allen wrench.


But if you're a traditionalist, and you insist on losing tools, Park sells a loose set as well.What do you think?



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