This Stanley Hex Key Set Speaks Two Languages: Review

This bilingual toolset won’t leave you hexed.

Stanley Allen Set
Chris Tracy

For weeks, I eagerly awaited the delivery of a set of cargo crossbars for our 2017 Chevrolet Suburban, and I planned to get to work on them with a Stanley hex-key set. The SUV didn’t come with crossbars when I bought it, and since I needed to put the set to the test, it seemed like the perfect project. I patiently waited to demolish this no-brainer automotive project, and yet when the crossbars showed up, it was with Torx bolts. (#fml)

While wracking my brain for other automotive-themed projects to accomplish with the Stanley hex keys, I remembered my daughter’s crib. It’s the only thing in our house that uses Allen-head bolts, although it’s hardly a car-related task. As I sat there, I laid out the Suburban crossbars and looked at the rest of the hardware — just to gaze at my mess.

Chris Tracy

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The crossbars came in three pieces. The ends of the crossbars connect to the Suburban side rails with Torx bolts, which have heads with a six-pointed star pattern. The middle of the crossbars, however, attaches to the crossbar ends with Allen-head, or hex-head, bolts with a hexagonal drive. The Yakima Skybox then sits on top of the crossbars with no screws. My saving grace. 

Let’s get to work.

The Stanley set in its packaging.
Chris Tracy

The packaging.

Unboxing the Stanley Hex-Key Set

The Stanley Hex-Key Set, with SAE and metric tools, arrived in a cardboard box from Amazon undented and surprisingly dry for the amount of rain that had fallen recently. 

The Stanley set was encased in ultra-tough and rigid plastic blister packaging. It’s the type of hard plastic that, once you cut it, is liable to cut you. I traced around the set with a razor and flipped the packaging over — and everything fell onto my bench. 

Getting After It With the Stanley Hex Key Set

  • Good: The cases open to get a key out but still solidly hold each in place.
  • Bad: The sizes of the keys on the cases are in a minuscule font.
  • Check Latest Price ($24.10, at the time of writing on Amazon)

With the addition of a few Torx keys I had, I set off adding the rack to my Suburban. That’s when I made my first mistake. It had nothing to do with the Stanley set and everything to do with a lack of logical progression. 

Instead of inspecting the supplied bolts and finding the correct key to fit them while still on my workbench, I waited until I had everything on top of the SUV. My second mistake was tightening the ends of the crossbars and leaving the rack on the roof, making the entire process of trying to find the right key for the job even more difficult. I also should have taken the entire metric hex set with me on top of the Suburban. Please, learn from my mistakes.

Once I had the crossbars finger tight, I used the Stanley keys to tighten the heads and eliminate any vibration in the crossbars. Stanley’s long-arm hex tool allowed me to tighten the bolts and really shore up the whole project nicely. 

I also put together my daughter’s crib, which the set handled beautifully.

The Stanley set on the carpet.
Chris Tracy

A solid selection and long arms. 

What’s Good About Stanley Hex-Key Set

Between the SAE and metric sets, there are few jobs you won’t be able to tackle with these tools. I also discovered while using the set that the long-arm design allowed me to get a better grip and apply appropriate torque to each of the bolts. It helped me hold pressure against the tool and bolt while tightening the rack’s crossbars in place.

The hard-plastic sheaths for the individual Stanley sets open like a book to allow you to remove any key without much interference, other than the next larger key. Once the tool is removed, there’s nothing stopping you from completing your task. 

I have other hex-key sets that are mounted to a folding-style holder, and they can be difficult to use in cramped situations, especially when the keys you’re not using start to open and get in the way of the tool in use. 

The Stanley set on the carpet.
Chris Tracy

Are those blurry or am I old?

What’s Not Great About the Stanley Hex-Key Set

The only downside is more of a gripe about me than the actual tool. Specifically, I’m talking about the individual hex-key size labels. Their raised printing is the same color as the case, making them difficult to read. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it also wasn’t written in an incredibly small font. My 40-year-old eyes were struggling, even with glasses on. 

While I like the long handles for extra torque, I can see how they might be a hindrance in tight spaces. I didn’t run into anything of the sort using the tools this time, but the tightness of an engine bay, behind a firewall, or in a cramped space under a table might be an issue.

Our Verdict on Stanley Hex-Key Set 

If you’ve got boatloads of projects requiring Allen/hex keys, who are you, and what do you do? We must talk. In general, though, I’d definitely recommend the Stanley hex-key set. Not only did they help get my Suburban crossbars in place, but I can also vouch for them in the disassembly and reassembly of my daughter’s crib. 

I was able to eliminate a loose wiggle in her crib that she caused by continuously singing and dancing to “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.” So, I get my roof rack and I’ll sleep more soundly knowing her crib is secure. The price of the set is also reasonable, coming in at just $24.10 at the time of writing on Amazon. They’re more than worth your consideration.

TL;DR Review
Stanley Hex-Key Set

Reasonably priced and fully complete. What more could you want? If you're looking for a comprehensive hex key set, you've found it.

FAQs About the Stanley Hex-Key Set

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q. Do the containers for the hex-key sets have a clasp or latch?

A. No, there is nothing but the friction of the cases that holds the two sides together.

Q. How many hex keys are included in the set?

A. There are 22 keys with 11 each of SAE and metric keys.

Q. Other than automotive, which application uses more hex-head hardware?

A. Electronics is where you’ll find more hex-head screws and bolts.

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