So much more than just beautiful colours.
Tuning, setting and maintaining are important aspects of keeping our beloved machine and tool collection in good working order. And installing and adjusting hardware is also a part of the woodworking and DIY craft we all know and love. The heads on many of these different types of bolts and other machined hardware have internal hexagonal recessed heads and require L-keys to adjust them.
These types of tools are also called Allen keys / wrenches. The name Allen comes from the manufacturer that first produced them. Today, the L-key and the Allen key / wrench names are used interchangeably.
Wera produces some of the best machine tools around. I checked out a metric set of their L-keys, but the same set is available in Imperial. In fact, Wera has a wide selection of options when it comes to sets. The sets are available in BlackLaser or stainless steel, Imperial or metric sizes, a few different carrying / storage cases, different lengths and many more options. The BlackLaser finish is what I’ve been using. This finish protects the L-keys from corrosion.
The most striking feature of this set is what Wera calls “Take It Easy” tool finding. This refers to the colour-coded sleeves permanently fixed to the body of each tool. I’m a sucker for pretty colours, but this feature offers more than just great looks. With many L-keys so similar in size, the bold (and beautiful) colours make the right tool much easier and quicker to locate. I find the sleeves also make the tools easier to grasp and manipulate. This is especially true with the smaller L-keys. Fumbling with a 2mm L-key is a thing of the past. The “Take It Easy” tool-finding feature will also make it a lot easier to grasp and use these tools in cold weather, as they will insulate the cold steel from the user’s hands.
A unique feature on these L-keys is what Wera calls “Hex-Plus”. This refers to the tips of the tools, and how the six faces that make up the hexagonal shape have been machined slightly concave. Wera says this reduces wear on the fasteners and provides a larger contact zone between the tool and the hardware, reducing any deformation of the inner surface of the hardware head. I’ve had a number of heads strip from L-key use in years past, so I’m hoping this is beneficial in the long-term.
Speaking of the tips of these L-keys, Wera uses the term “Holding Function” to describe the inset ball bearings on the long end of all keys above 2.5mm. These bearings minimize accidental tip removal during use. Also focusing on the business ends of these tools, the bodies of these L-keys are made from larger diameter material, then the tips are machined down to size. This creates a stronger tool overall, and one that’s more easily handled.
The end of the longer arm has a spherical tip, allowing users to swivel the axis they’re using the tool on in relation to the piece of hardware. This feature allows easier access to hard-to-reach places, especially when there’s an obstruction in front of the piece of hardware.
I find the supplied carrying clip is helpful, though still a bit on the rigid side. The L-keys don’t slide in and out of the clip super easily, though they’re certainly not impossible to remove. I’m sure this will ease up over time as the clip becomes a bit more supple from use. On the other hand, I think this clip and its locking mechanism is well built and will be durable. To be honest, I may end up hanging this set on my shop wall, as the tools will be even easier to grasp. If I were bringing these tools to a jobsite, I’d leave them in their clip to keep them together.
I’d describe this L-key set two ways. The practical woodworker in me calls it functional, and my artistic side says beautiful. Maybe the term “beautifully functional” is best. Either way, this Wera set is a joy to use (and look at) and you’ll thank yourself for grabbing one.
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