Standard SAE and metric measurements can be a pain when working on your car, truck, or motorcycle. International manufacturing has led to a seemingly random application of these measurement standards, which means some drawers in your toolbox have to double in size to hold all the wrenches, sockets, and keys you might need. (Don’t even get us started on British Standard Whitworth.) Even an American brand like Harley-Davidson uses both SAE and metric Allen bolts on their bikes, sometimes leading to frustration in the garage.
Enter the Eklind Hex-L Key Set, a 22-piece tempered alloy-steel set of hexagonal (Allen) wrenches. The set is divided into two sections: a 13-piece SAE collection, and a nine-piece metric collection, each in its own hard-plastic sheath.
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Founded in 1923, Eklind Tool Company has been making hex keys in Franklin Park, Illinois, since 1948. Although Eklind isn’t a household name like Snap-On, Craftsman, or even Amazon Basics, they claim to dominate the fold-up hex-key segment. They have been making these particular keys since 1991.
Unboxing the Eklind Hex-L Key Set
The Eklind set came in a cardboard-backed blister pack designed for a retail hanging rack display. The keys are secured in two hard-plastic sheaths. One is red with white lettering, holding a standard SAE set of 13 keys, while the other is blue with white lettering, holding nine metric keys. The inch set is sized from 3/8 inch down to 0.050 inch, and the metric set goes from 10 millimeter down to 1.5 mm. The blister pack was simple to open with a pair of scissors. The packaging doesn’t have a whole lot of information printed on it — no instructions, specifications, or warranty card enclosed — so it went right into the recycling bin.
Eklind’s SAE hex key set.
Getting After It With the Eklind Hex-L Key Set
- Good: A quality hex-key set, well made and sturdy.
- Bad: While it has a nice variety of keys, certain metric sizes are not included.
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Here at The Drive, we always put products to work in the garage during the review process. I am in the process of fixing up a teardrop trailer for sale, so I took the opportunity to apply the hex-key set to every Allen bolt on the trailer. I loosened every fastener with any corrosion, lubricated the fasteners, and retightened. I checked the bolts all over the trailer and discovered that I had a mix of SAE and metric hardware. It was a good thing the Eklind kit came with keys for both.
In contrast with some key sets I’ve used, the Eklind set does not have chamfered edges. This makes for a very tight match with the bolt heads but does require approaching the bolt from a perfectly straight orientation in order to fit the key in the slot.
What’s Good About the Eklind Hex-L Key Set
Since the Eklind key set is made in the U.S., it must meet or exceed all applicable standards from ANSI, ASME, RoHS, REACH, California Prop. 65, and Dodd-Frank Conflict Minerals Legislation, in case you care about such things. The keys and their plastic holders all have a solid, quality feel. The keys fit smoothly yet securely in the slots in their respective holders and won’t slip out, even when the holder is held upside-down and shaken — vigorously, even maniacally.
The markings on the plastic are printed but feel like they’ll last a good long time, at least until you lose the set and have to replace it anyway. Each key is engraved with its size on the side of a long leg. You’ll need a magnifying glass to read the markings on the smallest keys, depending on how old your eyes are, but the markings are there.
Eklind’s metric hex key set.
What’s Not Great About the Eklind Hex-L Key Set
While there’s merit to the precision of crisp-edged heads on the hex keys, chamfered edges offer a little forgiveness. Sometimes the precision can lead to frustration, as you must match the Elkind keys exactly to the bolt slots in order to get them to engage. In a situation where you’re not sure if you’re trying to wrench on a metric or inch bolt and have to use the old trial-and-error method to find the right key, this can be the proverbial pain in the pants.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that you must have every key size on Earth in every set, but I did find the metric set a little lacking. The sizes in the metric set are 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, and 1.5 mm. Notice any significant gaps? I came across a few 7-mm bolt heads that sent me for an alternate key set, and I’m almost positive I have used 9-mm bolts in the recent past.
The overall Eklind set has a solid feel, but I could bend the smallest 3.0-inch keys (0.050, 1/16, and 5/64 inch) with my fingers, which I could not do on a competitive set from Tekton.
The Eklind Hex-L Key Set is a little pricier than its Chinese-made competitors at full retail but sells at a competitive price at major discount retailers.
Our Verdict on the Eklind Hex-L Key Set
There’s a reason Eklind has been able to stay in the hex-key-making business for so long. These are very good, in a simple presentation, and they do the job. This set is not the cheapest or most comprehensive one you can buy, but it is a solid competitive buy and worth having in your toolbox.
There’s a reason Eklind has been able to stay in the hex-key-making business for so long.
FAQs About the Eklind Hex-L Key Set
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. Where is Eklind made?
A. These United States.
Q. Is hex key the same as Allen key?
A. Yes. The Allen Manufacturing Company was the first maker of hex keys, and the name has become a generic moniker for the hexagonal wrench — or hex key.
Q. Is a hex key the same as a star key?
A. No, a hex key has hexagonal (six-sided) heads, while a star key is designed to fit a different kind of bolt with a star-shaped slot. The two tools are very similar, but they are not interchangeable.
Q. Why are hex keys called Allen keys?
A. Allen Manufacturing Company originally produced set screws with hexagonal heads and made Allen wrenches (or Allen keys) to drive and loosen the screws. Hexagonal screw heads and hex keys are now made by many companies around the world, and the term Allen head has become a catchall description.
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