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What additional features can hexagon and torx keys have?

What additional features can hexagon and Torx keys have?

Shop for Hexagon and Torx keys
Hex keys, Ball end hex keys, Allen keys and Torx keys are available from Wonkee Donkee in sets and individually, with and without T handles. Some hex and Torx keys have additional features that make using the tools easier. For instance, there are features that aid location of the key into the fastener, improve turning and access to restricted fasteners, or prevent fasteners from dropping off the key when locating them in a workpiece.

Chamfered edges

Chamfered edges are found on the ends of better quality hex keys that don't have a ball end. Some hex and Torx keys have a chamfer (a small angled edge between two surfaces at a right angle to each other) on their edges. This aids location into the fastener head and also helps prevent damage to the corners of the key and fastener head. This feature is generally found on better quality hex and Torx keys and is only on ends that do not feature a ball end.

Ball end

Ball end hex keys allow you to gain access and turn fasteners in obstructed or confined spaces. Ball end hex and Torx keys can be placed into the fastener head at an angle from the vertical or horizontal, whilst still enabling you to turn the fastener. This can help you gain access to a fastener head in a confined or awkward space.
Some ball end hex keys can turn a fastener when positioned in the head at an angle of up to 30°.   Depending on the manufacturer, a ball end hex key can be used to turn a fastener at an angle of up to 30 degrees.
Ball end Torx keys can continue to turn a fastener at an angle of up to 25° Unlike hex keys ball ends Torx keys with a ball end feature can only turn a fastener at a maximum angle of 25 degrees.
The narrower the neck width of a ball end hex key the greater the angle it will be able to turn a fastener at although this will also make it weaker and more likely to break. However, the greater the angle the hex or Torx key can be used at, the narrower the neck of the ball end will be. This reduces its strength and increases the chance of it breaking.
Good quality ball end hex keys have sharp well defined corner edges. Whereas poor quality ball end hex keys have rounder corner edges. Poorer quality ball ends have rounder corner edges which can lead to them slipping in the fastener head, resulting in stripping of the head or rounding of the key.

Magnetic keys

Some hex keys are magnetised to help hold onto fasteners Some hex and Torx keys will be magnetised. This can help hold a fastener onto the key once it has been removed, or hold the fastener onto the key as it is positioned and screwed into a workpiece.
Wonkee Donkee says: "If you have a strong magnet you can magnetise ordinary hex and Torx keys yourself."

Shallow key design

Standard and stubby hex key showing the difference in length of their short arms. Hex and Torx keys with a shallow key or ‘stubby’ design have a shorter short arm than other keys.
The short arm of a stubby hex key is roughly half as long as the short arm of the same size standard hex key. The short arm of stubby keys is approximately half the length of the equivalent size standard hex or Torx key’s short arm.
Some fasteners may be in locations that only a stubby hex key is able to reach. They have a tighter inside radius, which is required to allow the maximum amount of the stubby end to locate into the fastener head. This stubby design enables them to fit in areas a standard key would not.

Non-magnetic fastener holdings

Non-magnetic fastener holders grip the inside of the female recess on the fastener head to hold the fastener to the hex key. Several companies have developed a non-magnetic means of holding a fastener onto the end of a hex or Torx key, with manufacturers often creating their own brand name for the feature. Some of the names used by manufacturers for this feature include Magic clip and ProHold.
Spring clip on the end of a ball end hex key

Spring clip non-magnetic fastener holder

The spring clip non-magnetic fastener holders use a ‘C’ shaped steel ring that is located in a groove at the end of the hex key. The steel ring is compressed when the hex key is placed into the head of a fastener and grips inside the fastener head with enough pressure to prevent the fastener from falling off the end of the hex key.

Non-magnetic fastener holders fitted to Torx keys have a spring clip and cover disc welded to the end of the key. Torx keys with a spring clip have the clip and a cover disc that are laser welded to the end of the key. As the key is pushed into the head of the Torx fastener the clip grips the inside of the fastener head holding onto it.
Ball bearing non-magnetic fastener holder gripping the inside of a fastener head recess

Ball bearing non-magnetic fastener holder

Ball bearing non-magnetic fastener holders work by having a small captivated spring-loaded ball bearing at their end. This ball bearing is depressed when the hex key is placed in the head of a fastener. The spring forces the ball bearing up against the inside of the fastener head’s hex recess, gripping it with enough pressure to prevent the fastener falling off the end of the hex or Torx key.

Metal shaving can be attracted to magnetic hex keys. The advantages of these designs over a magnetic key are that they can be used on fasteners that are non-magnetic, such as brass or plastic. Additionally, when used on fasteners that are attracted to magnets, they will not attract metal shavings or swarf, which could clog the threads or head of the fastener.

Twisted shafts

Twisted hex key shafts are claimed to flex less when you apply high torque loads to them. One manufacturer twists the shafts of its hex keys before they undergo the heat treating and tempering processes. It claims that this feature results in the hex key flexing less when high torque loads are applied to it, and so more of the torque is transferred to the fastener.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is brittle so shatters more easily than other materials used to make hex keys Stainless steel is an important feature to look for if you intend using stainless steel fasteners. However for most situations, stainless steel is not as well suited for making hex keys as other grades of steel, as it is more brittle.
Stainless steel set of hex keys designed for turning stainless steel fasteners. If you are using stainless steel fasteners then using a hex or Torx key that is not stainless steel could result in spots of rust forming on the fastener head. The spots of rust are caused by microscopic traces of steel left from the key that was used to tighten the fastener.
Using a stainless steel turning tool such as a hex key instead of a ferrous one prevents rust forming on stainless steel fasteners. These not only look unattractive, but can lead to more serious corrosion forming. By using a stainless steel hex or Torx key, any microscopic traces left behind will also be stainless steel, and so rust will not form on the fastener head.
Wonkee Donkee says: "Stainless steel hex and Torx keys should only be used on stainless steel fasteners, otherwise you may damage their coating and transfer rust from the other fasteners."

Locking folding keys

Locking buttons on the handle of some folding hex and Torx key sets release the keys from the locked position. Some folding hex and Torx key sets are now available with keys that lock into one of three positions when they are folded out. By locking the keys into position, you are less likely to catch your knuckles due to the handle altering position as you turn the hex key. The locking positions are at 90, 135 and 180 degrees from the handle. Pressing the button on the handle releases the key from this locked position.
Locking folding hex keys lock at 90°, 135°, and 180° With the key locked in at 90 degrees you can apply the maximum amount of torque, while with the key locked at 180 degrees you are able to turn the fastener the quickest. The 135 degree position is often used in situations where access may prevent you from using the 90 or 180 degree positions.

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