If you have ever assembled pre-fabricated furniture, or do any kind of DIY building or repair, you have likely used hex keys before. Hex keys (also known as Allen wrenches or Allen keys) are an essential tool in any toolkit. They let you drive bolts and screws with hexagonal sockets and come in handy when working on bikes, go-karts, repairing electronics, assembling furniture and for many other household projects.
If you regularly use hex keys, it is a great idea to buy a set that is comfortable to use and lasts longer than ordinary L-shaped Allen wrenches. This is where the Bondhus T-handle balldriver & hex set comes in. It is one of the best Allen wrench sets available and because I have been using it for a while now, I figured it was time for a review.
The Bondhus T-handle sets come in metric, SAE and Torx variants. I will review the metric ones. Aside from the color of the handle coating and the shape & size of the ballpoints and hex ends, the versions are basically identical. So most of this review can be applied to the SAE and torx sets as well.
Let’s take a closer look!
The box of the Bondhus 13189 metric set comes with the following:
- 8 T-handle metric Allen wrenches. Three with hex ends and five with ball ends.
- Sizes: 2mm hex, 2.5mm hex, 3mm hex, 4mm ballpoint, 5mm ballpoint, 6mm ballpoint, 8mm ballpoint, and 10mm ballpoint
- A stand with space for all 8 Allen keys.
- A plastic bag. You can use the bag to store the loose wrenches in a tool box, drawer, etc.
The Bondhus 13190 SAE set comes with:
- 10 T-handle SAE Allen wrenches. Four with hex ends and six with ball ends.
- Sizes: 3/32 hex, 7/64 hex, 1/8 hex, 9/64 hex, 5/32 ballpoint, 3/16 ballpoint, 7/32 ballpoint, 1/4 ballpoint, 5/16 ballpoint and 3/8″ ballpoint
- A stand with space for all 10 Allen keys.
- A plastic bag.
The box of the Bondhus 33034 torx set includes:
- 8 T-handle Torx Allen wrenches.
- Sizes: T9, T10, T15, T20, T25, T27, T30, and T40
- A stand with space for all 8 Allen keys.
- A plastic bag.
As you can see, the smaller Allen keys of the metric and SAE sets do not have ball ends, but come with hex ends instead. This is fairly common when it comes to small Allen wrenches and is done to prevent the ends from rounding off. This happens easily with ball ends that have a reduced diameter, because they tend to be weaker.
Let’s start with one of the most important factors to review, the comfort and ease of use of the Bondhus T-handle wrenches. I think we all have a pile of L-shaped hex keys somewhere that have damaged our hands and knuckles after using them a lot, but how do the Bondhus wrenches compare?
Bondhus claims that the cushioned T-handle is ergonomically shaped to make continuous use easier. I can confirm that they are indeed comfortable to use. Whether it is long sessions of driving machine screws or briefly applying a lot of torque to remove stuck bolts, I haven’t noticed any pain or discomfort.
Whenever I use L-shaped hex keys for a long time, my hands start to hurt to the point that my ability to apply torque decreases, but with these wrenches this has not been an issue.
The handles are welded to the hexagonal rods and have a heavy feel to them. Despite that, they are well balanced and you will find that these wrenches are easy to use and provide good leverage.
The Bondhus hex drivers are longer than your typical L-shaped Allen keys. Because of their longer reach, you can use them for accessing machine screws in hard to reach places, without having to first take things further apart. This is ideal when working on things like motorbikes and go-karts.
Of course, the larger size of the wrenches can be a downside as well. There might be times where you don’t have space for a long Allen wrench or a large handle. For that reason, a set like this can never fully replace a set of smaller L-shaped Allen keys. But, in my opinion, they are still worth getting for the 80-90% of jobs that they are suitable for.
As mentioned above, the larger hex keys of the metric and SAE sets come with ball ends. Invented by the Bondhus Corporation in 1964, ball ends let you use a hex key off-axis to the screw. This gives you access to fasteners that you might otherwise not reach.
The ball ends are rated to give 25 degrees of off-axis movement, which in practice means 12.5 degrees of movement in a single direction. I have found them to work at slightly higher angles without any problems.
The Bondhus T-handle wrenches are made with a proprietary steel called Protanium that (supposedly) is stronger than other steels. I had to look this up, but Protanium is typically used for applications like this, hex tools and sockets. It is claimed to have higher wear resistance, hardness and ductility than other steels used for these tools.
That’s nice and all, but how do the Allen wrenches hold up in practice?
I have no way of extensively testing the material, but so far it has held up under use. There is a bit of twisting on the smaller hex rods when applying a lot of torque, but this has not caused any issues. And despite using the wrenches a lot, the ends still have the exact same shape as when I got them.
Similarly, the wrenches come with a ProGuard Finish that is supposed to protect against rust. I have not had any problems with rust, but then again, I am not storing or using my tools in a humid environment. I have not been able to find any reviews with reports of rust issues however, so I can only assume that it works as advertised.
All Bondhus tools are made in the USA and come with a lifetime warranty. So if anything were ever to happen to one of your Bondhus Allen wrenches, you can have it replaced free of charge.
This is actually one of my main reasons for these wrenches being my go-to recommendation when it comes to Allen keys. Other manufacturers, like Craftsman, have outsourced a lot of their production to China and in some cases dropped the lifetime warranty. So if supporting an American company is important to you, this product lets you do so.
The included stand is one of the weaker points of the product. While it does a good job of holding and organizing the hex keys, it is not very practical. The stand is bulky and takes up a lot of space on a workbench.
Despite its size, it is not very stable. It is made from plastic and as a result it is lightweight and does not provide a solid base. This causes it to fall over more easily.
To be fair, the stand does have screw holes that you can use to mount it for a more stable result.
Most people probably won’t use the stand and instead hang the Allen keys on a pegboard or store them in a drawer. So maybe it doesn’t make sense for Bondhus to include a high-quality stand.
Some of the people that buy this product might fabricate their own DIY solution to hold or store the wrenches. I plan to do the same and 3D print a pegboard holder. Once I have done this I will link to it in this section.
I have found the drawbacks of this product to be mostly minor inconveniences.
- The length of the hex rods and size of the T-handles are too big for some purposes. Unfortunately, not much can be done about that. We can’t have it both ways. If you want comfort and long reach, these wrenches are ideal. For access to particularly narrow areas, you might want to keep a set of quality L shaped wrenches or sliding T handles (SAE / metric) within reach.
- The handles are not marked on both sides. The handles are clearly labeled with the size of the Allen key, but only on one side. This is a minor issue that can be impractical when looking for the right size wrench.
In practice, this is not that big of a problem. Over time, you will get an intuitive sense of which wrench you need to grab. They all have their own length, T-handle width and weight, so once you get used to them you can easily identify them, even without the label.
- The smaller wrenches do not come with balldriver ends. This is definitely a bit of a limitation, but understandable for durability reasons. Tiny ball ends round off (and even snap off) a lot easier. Perhaps Bondhus found that they would have to replace the small ball ends too often given the lifetime warranty of the product.
I am a big fan of tools that don’t impose any limitations on me or on my projects. These USA-made Bondhus T-handle wrenches are comfortable to use and allow me to apply a lot of torque at the same time, so they definitely fall into that category.
Despite being more expensive than cheaper sets, they give you excellent value. The build quality is great and you can expect them to last forever. If not, you always have the lifetime warranty that comes with it.
You can be assured that this Allen wrench set is one of the best options if you want something that is durable and does not have the tips round off over time. Or for when you simply want to move up from a collection of mismatched, low quality Allen keys.
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