Today we are going to compare the screw-holding feature of Wiha and Wera L-Keys. Each of them came up with a different solution to the problem, which I find is always quite interesting.
This review is going to mostly focus on a comparison of this particular feature and not necessarily a comparison of each set. However, I will point out certain features that one has over the other where applicable.
If we take a look at the catalog entry for each of these units they are essentially advertising the same feature with that it can hold on to a socket cap hex screw while being used on the ball end. This is very useful for extracting screws that are counter-bored that can be a real pain to get out sometimes.
As noted on both catalog entries, the three smallest sizes, 2.5mm, 2mm and 1.5mm do not have the holding feature and will be a standard ball end.
One thing to note is that the Wiha has a much larger variety of sets available. Currently, the only set available from Wera is a metric set with the color-coded sleeves and black finish. So if you are an exclusive SAE fastener user then the choice will be easy since only Wiha has an SAE set available with the holding feature.
Unboxing – Wera Set
In no particular order let’s unbox each of these and examine some of the features of each set. First up is the Wera set.
I don’t really see is any clear distinguishing markings on the box that indicates this set has the holding feature other than the picture on the front and the “holding function” mark in small print.
If you saw this box and the box for the regular set you probably wouldn’t be able to tell much difference between the two.
The Wera set comes in one of its standard holders, but with one difference in the color of the sliding latch. In this case a light blue color is used to indicate that this set has the folding function.
Another recent change they have made to these color-coded sets is the color of the 3mm hex key is now purple. Before it was a light yellow color that was extremely close to 4mm and made it difficult to tell them apart. Therefore purple is used twice but you should be able to tell the difference between the two purple ones which are 3mm and 8mm.
Getting a closer look, each of these keys looks extremely similar to the Wera standard black hex L-keys. The short ends contain the Hex-Plus profile and a ball-end on the longer end. The difference is that they have installed a spring-loaded ball bearing that is used to create friction against the walls of a socket-cap screw to hold it.
This would have required drilling a precision hole in each ball end, inserting a spring and press-fitting a ball bearing into the hole. This holding feature is similar in design to a spring-loaded ball on a ratchet drive. All of the keys with the holding function are also marked with the letters “HF” on the sleeve.
Unboxing – Wiha Set
Now onto the Wiha set.
Wiha has branded their holding feature as the “Magic Ring” which makes it sound a lot cooler than just holding feature.
After cutting through the packaging we get to the set. The first thing you will notice right away is the different and unique design of the holder, which contains a rotating mechanism that assists in removing individual hex keys.
Turning any of the L-Keys will cause all of them to turn. Since they are slightly offset in the holder on a tiered system, each key can be removed without inference from any other. Quite a nice feature.
Taking a closer look at this set, the first major difference is the surface finish, which is a matte chrome on the Wiha sets. Each of the hex keys is stamped with “Wiha 369R Crv Made in Germany” and the key size.
Taking an even closer look we can see how the holding feature was designed and manufactured. A groove was made into the ball end and a small clip was inserted. The size of the gap in the clip I believe to be a critical design parameter as it will allow the clip to compress and push against the edges of the socket cap screw.
Making this gap too small will not allow it to compress fully and could cause binding issues when removing it from the screw. Making the gap too large and you risk pulling the ring out of the groove.
Doing some simple head-to-head comparisons, the Wiha L-Keys are slightly longer than the Wera ones.
Measuring this 6mm key we can see that the Wiha is 4mm longer.
Taking some weight measurements of the same key, the Wera one is heavier coming in at 62 grams versus 50 grams for the Wiha. I believe the reason for the weight difference is the plastic sleeve and that the Wera one has a rounded shaft profile, which will occupy more area than a hex profile and hence more material.
To test the holding feature I’m going to just hold a M8 socket cap screw in a vise and then just use a hanging scale to see how much force it takes to lift it.
I know not the most scientific method, but it will let us know if there is a significant difference between the two. We also need to take into account the 12 grams difference in weight when comparing these values. I took several measurements of each, rotating it around the socket cap screw. The Wera one was coming out to around 210 grams of force to remove. The Wiha one was coming up around 205 grams of force. Factoring in the weight difference in the two the Wiha unit performed slightly better albeit probably statistically insignificant.
Another thing I want to note on the design is that at an angle I feel like the Wiha holds a bit more because of the additional surface contact with the screw. The Wera could be at an angle in winch the ball bearing hardly makes any contact with the screw which would lose the advantage of the holding feature.
I know what you are thinking, why don’t I just magnetize the end and use that as the holding feature. Well that doesn’t help you at all if you are dealing with stainless fasteners. But for other types of fasteners this seems like a valid solution so what I did is magnetize my Wera 6mm without the holding function and then measured the force it took to remove. I was getting readings of around only 80 grams force in this case, which would put the holding power of a magnetic end for this size at around 20 or so grams, around 130 grams less than the one with the holding feature.
If I had to pick a design that performed the best it would have to be the Wiha at this time.
There may be other factors such as durability, which could come into play so this might get a revisit after several years of use and we will see if the holding feature is still maintained through constant wear and tear. It does look like the ring could actually be replaced if necessary, but I don’t see any replacements being sold by Wiha at this time. The ball bearing on the Wera units isn’t going anywhere, but would require some sort of periodically lubrication to ensure that the spring inside doesn’t seize.
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