You probably have half a dozen of these tools at home, in your desk drawer, toolbox, or multi-tool

You probably have half a dozen of these tools at home, in your desk drawer, toolbox, or multi-tool: metal hex prisms a few inches long, usually bent into an L shape. Hex keys, officially known as hex keys, are the workhorse modern fasteners and are used to assemble everything from cheap chipboard furniture to expensive car engines. Especially thanks to IKEA, millions of people who have never struck a hammer with a nail have turned a hex key.
But where do the ubiquitous tools come from? The history of the hex wrench begins with its companion, the humble bolt, which emerged from the industrial revolution as part of a globally standardized set of components that could be produced anywhere on earth.
CHF 61 ($66): The cost of purchasing the official nine-page Global Hex Key Standard document.
8000: IKEA products come with a hex key, according to an IKEA spokesperson in an interview with Quartz.
The first bolts were made by hand as early as the 15th century, but mass production began during the Industrial Revolution with the advent of the steam engine, power loom, and cotton gin. By the late 1800s, metal bolts were common, but their square heads posed a danger to factory workers—the corners tended to snag on clothing, causing accidents. Round outside fasteners don’t stick, so the inventors hid the sharp angle needed to safely turn the bolt inward, accessible only with a hex wrench. William J. Allen patented the idea in the United States in 1909, and his company of the same name became synonymous with the wrench needed for his security screws.
Hex nuts and wrenches became the main fastening method after World War II when the Allies realized the importance of having interchangeable fasteners. The International Organization for Standardization was established in 1947, and one of its first tasks was to establish standard screw sizes. Hex bolts and wrenches are now used all over the world. IKEA first started using a hex wrench in the 1960s and told Quartz that this simple tool embodies the “you do your part” concept. We do our part. Let’s save together. ”
As for Allen Manufacturing, it was first acquired by Apex Tool Group, a global manufacturer that was later acquired by Bain Capital in 2013. The company stopped using the Allen brand because its ubiquity rendered it a useless marketing tool. But the hex wrench itself is more useful than ever when you have a bike seat to adjust or a Lagkapten to assemble.
How common are hex keys? The reporter ransacked his home and found dozens (and figured he would probably throw out most of them). However, their days of dominance are coming to an end. An IKEA spokesperson told Quartz: “Our goal is to move towards a simpler, tool-free solution that will reduce assembly time and make the furniture assembly process enjoyable.”
1818: Blacksmith Micah Rugg opens the first dedicated bolt manufacturing center in the United States, producing 500 bolts a day by 1840.
1909: William J. Allen files the first patent for a hex-driven safety screw, although the idea may have been around for decades.
1964: John Bondhus invents the “screwdriver”, a rounded tip used in a hex wrench that twists a fastener at an angle.
The hex wrench was created through precision engineering, allowing the mass production of interchangeable parts to replace non-standard fasteners.
British engineer Henry Maudslay is credited with inventing one of the first precision screw-cutting machines in 1800, and his screw-cutting lathe allowed nearly identical fasteners to be mass-produced. A child prodigy, Moseley at the age of 19 headed the workshop. He also built the first micrometer that allowed him to measure parts as small as 1/1000 of an inch, which he called “The Great Judge” because it represented the final decision on whether a product met his standards. Today, screws are not cut to shape, but molded from wire.
“Hex Key” is a proprietary synonym that cannot be registered as a trademark due to its ubiquity, just like Kleenex, Xerox and Velcro. Professionals call it “genocide”.
Which hex wrench is best for your home? Wirecutter’s consumer product experts have tested a variety of hex wrenches, and if you enjoy discussing fastener entry angles and handle ergonomics, check out their authoritative reviews. Plus: it has all the tools you need to make IKEA furniture.
In a Moments poll last week, 43% said they were ready to build a sustainable supply chain with Frito-Lay, 39% chose Taylor Swift, and 18% preferred a deal with HBO Max.
Today’s email was written by Tim Fernholz (who found the experience harrowing) and edited by Susan Howson (who likes to take things apart) and Annalize Griffin (the hex key to our hearts).
The correct answer to the quiz is D., the Lincoln Bolt we came up with. But the rest are real bolts!

Post time: May-30-2023