Keys and sockets buying guide
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton59 guides
How are they differentiated?
Picking the right wrench, key or socket can be difficult with such a wide range available. This guide will help you to determine which one is best suited to your intended use. Common sizes for bolts range from 4mm to 10mm for small projects, from 10mm to about 23mm for routine work, and well beyond that for large scale work.
- Box wrenches have one or two forks, one on each end, each of a different size. For example, One fork might be 4 mm and the other fork 6 mm. Because of their small profile, they are ideal for nuts and bolts that you might have difficulty accessing with another tool. Essential in plumbing and mechanics.
- Eye wrenches, which, unlike the box wrenches, exert their force on the 6 sides of the nut. They now exist with ratchets, which are still compact on high-end models.
- Mixed wrenches that are represented with a box wrench on one side and a closed wrench on the other. Convenient!
- Adjustable wrenches are box wrenches whose fork width is adjustable by means of a screw. Very practical to cover several nut sizes or atypical sizes with one tool. They are heavier and cumbersome. The play of the jaw limits the clamping force.
- Lug wrenches are heavy duty and ‘L’ shaped. Think of a tire-iron and you’ll have the idea. The longer arm allows you to exert more force. You could also slip a pipe onto the end to extend the handle length and increase the torque even more.
- Pipe wrenches are similar the adjustable wrenches. Rather than a smooth adjustable fork, pipe wrenches often include teeth to help with gripping a pipe. These wrenches come in a wide range of sizes depending on the scale of your project and can quickly become very heavy. To help improve torque, some models will include a second handle at the top of the wrench so you can more easily use two hands.
- Socket wrenches work on all six sides of a nut or bolt similar to a eye wrench. Rather than working perpendicular to the nut or bolt, like most wrenches do, socket wrenches are tube shaped and fit over the top. Tightening a bolt is easy, but when tightening a nut you must account for the length of bolt that is revealed. Sockets of different lengths are available to accommodate smaller or shorter bolts. These sockets can often be attached to electric screwdrivers or drills.
Torx and Allen keys
Allen keys, hexagonal male, also known as hexagonal or BTR, and Torx keys (star-shaped) are found more and more in furnishing or mechanics, for example on bicycles. Their L-shape allows access to a deep screw and/or to exert a greater clamping force. The usual Allen key sizes range from 4mm to 10mm and the Torx from 10mm to 50mm.0mm and the Torx from 10mm to 50mm.
Why take all the sides of the hexagon?
There are 6-sided wrenches to apply heavy force without damaging the nut or 12-sided to reposition the tool more quickly and easily. Some wrenches offer a mix of both.
You said ratchet?
Will it be enough to disassemble everything?
It’s important to understand that one cannot use brute force or hammer a fluted nut with a ratchet The pro brands hold quite well, however, a tube wrench is better suited. Also, a bushing mounted on a ratchet does not make it possible to work on the bolts which are not easily accessible. Fortunately, many accessories are available to help you. Like the sockets, the accessories are fixed by a square box locked by a ball mounted on a spring. The most common nesting sizes, expressed in inches, are 1/4, 3/8 or 1/2. We can find 3/4 or even 1 inch for XXL sleeves.
Focus on accessories
- Extension: allows you to reach a bolt located in a tight spot or to avoid obstacles that would hamper the stroke of the key.
- Cardan: offers the possibility of operating on a bolt whose screwing axis is not strictly perpendicular to the plane in which the key is manipulated.
- Reducer: for mounting a small fixing sleeve on a larger one, or vice versa, eg from 3/8 to 1/2. They are very practical for mixing different sets of sleeves.
- Tip Holder: For mounting any hexagonal tail screwdriver directly on a socket wrench or using the above accessories
If I understand correctly, there is no ratchet for flat keys?
If I push it hard, will it be able to stand the force?
What are torque wrenches used for?
How do you find yourself in the middle of it all?
For do-it-yourselfers who are curious about their craftsmanship and are keen on choosing accessories and tools related to screwdriver bits, follow the advice of our editors and discover their guides:
- How to choose your pliers, tongs, and wrenches
- How to choose your tool storage
- How to choose your clamps
- How to choose your screws
And to work safely:
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton 59 guides écrits
From a very young age, I was always fascinated by manual and technical work, especially woodworking. When I got my very first flat, it became my own personal DIY playground. I rewired some of the electricity (remember, safety first!) to better supply all my computers and gadgets. I also built partition walls and did some decorating with my wife. We worked on some made-to-measure furniture and came up with little tricks to optimise the space, keeping the original charm of the building in mind. When the little one arrived, I started building bits and pieces for him as well.
We don't have a lot of space, so I don't have a permanent workshop or certain tools I've always dreamed of owning. But with my IT background, I already know a lot about DIY, and I love helping others troubleshoot their ideas!
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