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Allen Keys: The Flat Packer's Best Friends

Updated on October 29, 2015

the allen: photogenic as well!

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The famous pair.  Allen key and screw, or boltshowing ball ends on somekeysa delicate female hand on her flat packanother form of allen driver...there are hundredsIn al its glory, the Hagen: Disneyworld for birds, but try to convince them!
The famous pair.  Allen key and screw, or bolt
The famous pair. Allen key and screw, or bolt
showing ball ends on somekeys
showing ball ends on somekeys
a delicate female hand on her flat pack
a delicate female hand on her flat pack
another form of allen driver...there are hundreds
another form of allen driver...there are hundreds
In al its glory, the Hagen: Disneyworld for birds, but try to convince them!
In al its glory, the Hagen: Disneyworld for birds, but try to convince them!

Allen Keys: The Flat-Packer's Best Friend.

Do you ever pause when opening the kitchen drawer - the one that you stick all the odds and ends in - or if you're a bit tidier, the tool box, and suddenly wonder why are so many bits of "L" shaped metal in there?

This happened to your buddy, Bob, yesterday and I thought it was time to seek empathy...or perhaps therapy.

Of course I recognized them as the ubiquitous Allen Keys, about the most simple and effective tools of all - but why do they seem to by multiplying and, like cuckoos, crowding the other tools out of the box?

Any of the readers with minds like steel traps got the answer yet?

If you said "Flat Pack" you either read the title, or hit the hexagonal screw right on the head: the awful proliferation of this generally cheap furniture and all the rest., is the reason the perhaps less well-endowed amongst us (money I mean... stop that Will, for shame!) having bird-nests of allen keys cluttering up the tool department as each DIY order arrives with its own little tool.

I refuse to put flat-packed anything together. No, I buy it, I'm as cheap as the rest of you, but I always get a reluctant friend or a paid handyman to put it together. I did try once in the past, but the TV stand I think it was lasted 24 hours before collapsing along with a heavy old sony TV on top of the cat, Sheba She always walked a bit lopsided after that, refused to watch TV again, and never fully forgave me.

I even ordered a flat pack Hagen bird cage last week and I defy any lesser mortal than Bill Gates to understand the instructions. For hours, I thought it was in Danish! I swear these companies employ sadists who compose these bewildering guides. The bloody cage cost £38 quid on Ebay and the handyman £40 to put it together!

I adopted my flat-pack helper mode as usual. Making encouraging, anxious or threatening sounds as required to the slave, er, employee, struggling to slot bars A into base B before the blood reached his shirt. What happened to dungerees? You'd think a jobbing handyman was really on the board of a local bank or similar...driving a bloody Beemer..gold embossed business cards!

Along with the cage, there was, of course, another Allen Key...I had already laid out 20 of them in different sizes, not noticing the one in the packet.

Anyhoo, when I came back from a weekend at the coast, the chap nearly had the cage finished...several neighbours complained about the profanity Surly bastard, he didn't even wish me well, or blow a kiss at Sky and Andy who were pecking the dried blood off the water container when he left! (Talk about cheep cheep!).

The budgies now hate me as well, as the 'Hagen is half the size of their previous cage. Well, what do you do after a couple of years when the cage is really starting to get filthy and filled with seed husks and crap? Discard it, or course, and get a new one. Same philosophy with girl-friends.

But this article isn't about birds, cages or even lazy ageing old farts: let's get back to the star, the Allen Key.

It's not a reach to liken the Allen Key method to sex! It's a bit of a fiddle to get it in, but once embedded then you can screw on to your heart's content. This is the advantage of allen tools over conventional screws and bolts; we've all sworn as the conventional screwdriver slips out of that hard-to-reach screw.. Also, with the female and male part hidden, there's no fastener heads to catch on clothing or cause injury

The Allen, or Hex Key, as it is more commonly known in the US, has been around for a long time. In fact, people were experimenting with the male and female drive since the end of the 19th. Century. But Allen Muraf of Hartford Conneticut finally got the patent and the name that stuck. (Now owned by Apex Tool Co).

Allen keys were a logical progression from the old square headed bolt and the various shapes of screws.

The idea took a while to catch on as users seemed to have a love/hate with the tool in the beginning, mainly to do with loosing the keys or not having the right size to hand. But the, the hexagonal screw system called the Allen spread like wildfire within the military on subs, tanks and weapons, as well as civilian aircraft, boats, bikes and, of late, the Flat Pack industry, which has swept the globe; container ships of flat packed everything sailing from China to all points.

Every country now uses Hex Keys for something or other: they are Inbus - (or Imbus) in Germany and Brugola in Italy, for example, and available in Imperial (sae) or Metric (ansi/asme in the US). Standard sizes go from 7/64 to a huge 3/4 inch key...maybe the gorilla cage! And special applications are even larger.

I should add that both ends of the tools can be used: before doing this hub, I had wondered why some of the keys had a little ball on the end of the long shank. Well, would you ever?... that is to use in an off-centered application...I had though good old Allen had merely added a decoration!

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    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      BTW, Bob, the pic of a wrench and a bolt labeled "The famous pair. Allen key and screw, or bolt" is actually a torx bolt and wrench, and the pin in the bolt makes it a security torx bolt requiring the torx wrench with a hole in it as pictured.

      Most flat packer assembly guys also have a kajillion torx wrenches, none of which fit the bolts you need to tighten this time.

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 2 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Still chuckling, Will. Is there no end to your qualities? I wonder if anyone has an Allen Wrench collection, there must be millions around.

      Wringing a hub from them was easy, I began as a joke

      Bob

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I am a flat-packer genius and the one friends, neighbors and relatives all call when they reach a dead end. As result, I possess an estimated 2 million allen wrenches (wrenches, as we say here in the state so as not to confuse a tool with Allen Keyes, an eccentric American politician).

      I just put together a playhouse using plans created by a sadistic Chinaman. I spent the last 30 years as a construction superintendent in charge of building very large department stores that involved literally reams of blueprints, so if it confuses someone like me, it is indeed the creation of an evil madman.

      BTW, there were two allen keys, both the same size. I now have 2 million and 2 wrenches.

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 2 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Genna: I suppose it could have been boring! Thanks for visit and heart warming comments

      Bob

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      This may sound like reverse sexism but I have always considered those odd-shaped thingamajigs in the tool box to be "guy thing," like plumbing. But I am getting more and more curious as to how they all work, so perhaps there is hope for me yet. I had to giggle at this because I so agree: "I even ordered a flat pack Hagen bird cage last week and I defy any lesser mortal than Bill Gates to understand the instructions. For hours, I thought it was in Danish! I swear these companies employ sadists who compose these bewildering guides." And that's without the magnifying glass we need to read the ant-tracks -- a.k.a. instructions -- that seem to get tinier with each passing year. Or is it my eyesight? :-( This is a delightful read, Bob.

    working

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