4 Ways to Improvise an Allen Wrench

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The Allen wrench is a bit of a confusing tool because frankly, it doesn't look like any other wrench with its distinct and somewhat bizarre L shape. And since many DIYers don't happen to keep an Allen wrench handy in their toolkits, it's a common problem to find oneself standing around looking for ways to improvise an Allen wrench in a pinch.

Allen wrenches have an L -shape that doesn't match many other tools, which can make it feel immediately a little off-putting. That's why you might find yourself at a bit of a loss when you're looking for ways to improvise an Allen wrench in order to complete a DIY task.

What Is An Allen Wrench?

Allen wrenches are otherwise known as hex keys and they're used specifically on hex screws. Allen wrenches are a registered trademark design created by the Allen Manufacturing Company.

In the battle of Allen wrenches vs. hex keys, there is no battle because they are the same tool. Since Allen wrench is a proprietary name, hex keys are made by other toolmakers that don’t have the rights to the name but create a very similar wrench.

Most Allen wrenches have a flat end that allows the wrench to fit inside a screw head or hut. Some Allen wrenches have a ball-end design that allows you to work on a screw when you're at an angle.

There are many reasons why you might need an Allen wrench...which means that if you don't already have one of these tools, you're going to have to find an Allen wrench substitution for one of these tools. Luckily, there are ways to improvise an Allen wrench when you can’t stop your project to go buy new tools.

How to Improvise an Allen Wrench

Need to know how to remove an Allen screw without an Allen key? What should you do if you don't have an Allen wrench handy to use for the job at hand?

It can be very stressful when you don't have the right tool for the job. And of course, you should always use the tool for the job it's made for…in a perfect world.

After all, you know you shouldn't try to drive a nail into the wall with a screwdriver. But when it comes to Allen wrenches, hex keys, there are some household items and tools you can use instead of this wrench.

You may not know it, but you probably have more than one Allen wrench alternative laying around the house. Because after all, you don’t always have the right tool for the job so sometimes, you have to get a bit creative.

Other Tools

There are some other tools you might have around the house, even if you haven't got an Allen wrench. Torx keys have a very similar L shape to Allen wrenches and clearly can work as an Allen wrench substitute in some cases.

Torque wrenches can also work in a pinch because these tools give you great control over fasteners like screws. They provide a lot of grip, so you can use them in some cases to muscle Allen screws when needed.

Wondering how to use a screwdriver as an Allen wrench? Where is it possible to use a screwdriver on an Allen screw?

Sometimes you can use small types of flathead screwdrivers as a hex wrench by putting the end in the socket so that the two edges of the screwdriver work as leverage in the hole to turn it and loosen the screw. The wider the socket on the bolt or nut, the wider the flathead screwdriver you will want to use.

The objective here is to wedge the screwdriver into the hex of the bolt to create torque so it can be unscrewed. Combination wrenches or open-ended wrenches can give you leverage and grip on screws, so they can be effective at loosening Allen screws when you can't get your hands on an Allen wrench.

Sometimes, you can even use a socket wrench to grip onto an Allen screw and unscrew it or tighten it down as needed. Play around with the different tools you do have available and try out a few different once to find out what's going to work.

Household Items

You probably have items laying around the house right now that will work beautifully as an Allen wrench alternative in a pinch. If you're working with a small Allen screw, reach for a pair of tweezers.

The flat edges of the tweezers are perfect for smaller Allen screws and the design gives you gripping control even on these smaller screws. It can be a bit awkward to work with tweezers this way but once you get a good grip, you should be able to get the screw loosened or tightened as needed.

You can also find great improvised Allen wrench-type devices in your kitchen cupboard or in the silverware drawers. Flat-tipped and strong paring knives could potentially work, depending on the gauge and depth of the hex screw's hole.

You can even use a coin, sometimes, or two coins to get into the head of an Allen screw and loosen or tighten it. Start looking around with your creative DIY eye and you might find all kinds of little items that work well as an Allen wrench when you're in a hurry.

Nuts and Bolts

Some Allen wrench screws are actually bolts and have a nut on the reverse side. In this case, you can use pliers to remove the nut and it will come free.

If you do not have access to a pair of pliers, then you can use two butter knives as leverage and place them tightly on either side of the nut to create your own Allen wrench substitute. You might need another set of hands when you're using common items like this as a wrench substitute, because the steadier you can keep your work and the improved tools the more control you will have.

Apply pressure and torque on these tools as you spin them about and they can help to work the nut off. If you have a friend helping, they can hold a wedged tool in the hex to keep it from spinning while you turn the nut on the backside.

Creative Solutions

There are some other, more outside-the-box solutions you can use as an Allen wrench substitute as well. How do you loosen a bolt without an Allen wrench?

How about duct tape? This is the go-to DIY solution for any number of problems, including an Allen screw when there's no Allen wrench around.

Tear a piece of duct tape to make two strips and stick one strip to the back of the screw or nut. Use the other strip to wrap around the tape and pull the duct tape to loosen the fastener.

You can do something similar with a zip tie by tying it around the top of a screw or bolt and creating your own Allen wrench substitute. Use the zip tie to get leverage on the screw and pull on it to loosen and unscrew it.

How Do You Unscrew A Screw Without An Allen Key?

There are many ways to learn how to make an Allen key at home, and many different ways you can create your own Allen wrench alternative.

What can you use instead of a wrench and what other tools can be used to loosen a bolt or screw without an Allen wrench? Whether you need a small Allen wrench or a bigger one, there are substitutions you can make and many different ways you use other tools or household items to complete the task you're trying to perform.

However, in the future, it's smart to invest in an Allen wrench set. Even if you get a cheap Allen key set, it's better than nothing at all and it will be put to use more times than you might expect.

Allen screws and tools will appear in DIY projects, so you want to invest in an Allen key set that's going to make it possible for you to work with them.

Improvise an Allen Wrench FAQ

How do you get an Allen screw out without an Allen wrench?

If you find yourself facing an Allen screw with no Allen wrench in sight, don't panic. There are a number of substitutions you can make to serve as a makeshift Allen wrench so you can at least get the screw out.

The classic rubber band trick using a more standard screwdriver, channel-locks, and a screw extractor will all work to loosen up an Allen screw when there is no Allen wrench.

Do star bits work as Allen wrenches?

Torx wrenches and bits are sometimes called star bits or star wrenches because of the distinct star-shaped pattern. The unique six-point design was created by Camcar Textron.

Because that six-pointed head is somewhat fragile, it's not a good idea to attempt to use a Torx wrench on an Allen screw. Doing so threatens damage to the tool itself, which means you will need to purchase a new Torx wrench in addition to an Allen wrench.

What is the difference between an Allen key and a screwdriver?

Allen keys are technically a type of screwdriver because they are used to tighten and loosen Allen screws. However, Allen keys have a unique, L-shaped shape that doesn't look like any other screwdriver.

Other screwdrivers have straight handles, rather than this unique L shape.

Do you need Allen wrenches?

Allen wrenches are not an extremely common tool, like flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers. It is not often that you will run into Allen screws during your usual DIY projects.

However, you may find yourself facing an Allen screw at some point. If you plan to do a lot of varied DIY projects, it is a good idea to add an Allen wrench to your toolbox when you have the chance.

Why is an Allen wrench called Allen?

Allen wrenches were first created in the 1900s by a Connecticut-based company Allen Manufacturing. The company had the idea to create a proprietary hex key, which became known as an Allen wrench.

What can I use if I don't have an Allen wrench?

If you haven't got an Allen wrench but you have a DIY jo that needs an Allen wrench, that's okay. There are many tools, household items, and even some outside-the-box solutions that can work to loosen an Allen screw or bolt as needed, including everything as simple as a butter knife to a pair of small pliers.

What can I use instead of a wrench?

There are many different tools that perform similar functions. If you haven't got the right wrench, another type of wrench can work just as well.

Allen wrenches, for example, can be substituted with combination wrenches and Torx wrenches.

How to make Allen key at home?

If you haven't got an Allen wrench, also known as a hex key and an Allen key, grab a different kind of wrench, some duct tape, or maybe a couple of knives and you can create your own Allen wrench without too much trouble. In the future, you'll want to get your own Allen wrenches but for now, this will work just fine for most situations.

How to use an Allen wrench?

The strange shape of an Allen wrench makes it look rather confusing, since it doesn’t really resemble other wrenches. So do you use the Allen wrench?

To use an Allen wrench, insert the tip of wrench into the head of the screw and twist. Once you get a feel for it, you won’t have any trouble.

Further Reading

A Simple Guide to Flathead Screwdriver Sizes

Alternatives to 10 Traditional Tools

Alternatives to a Screwdriver in a Pinch

DIY Tools Everyone Should Have

How to Buy Used Tools

How to Convert Your Everyday Tools into Bits For Your Power Drill

Nails and Screws 101

Storing and Organizing Your Tools Like a Pro

Time-Saving Tools for Carpentry