What Is an Allen Key?

What is an Allen Key and Why is it called that?

If you’ve ever assembled furniture or worked on a bicycle, you’ve likely encountered a small, L-shaped tool that fits into hexagonal sockets. But what is an Allen key, and why has it become such an indispensable part of our toolboxes? Let’s dive into the world of this versatile and essential instrument.


What Is an Allen Key and How Does It Work?

An Allen key, also known as a hex key or Allen wrench, is a simple tool used to drive bolts and screws with hexagonal sockets in their heads. Its distinctive L-shape provides two advantages:

  1. The short end offers high torque for tightening or loosening stubborn fasteners.
  2. The long end provides reach for accessing recessed screws.

These tools are typically made from a single piece of hexagonal rod bent into a right angle, creating the characteristic L-shape. They come in various sizes to fit different screw heads, with both metric and imperial measurements available.

alloy steel allen keys

Why Are They Called Allen Keys?

The story behind the name “Allen key” is a fascinating piece of industrial history. The term originates from the Allen Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, founded by William G. Allen.

In 1910, Allen patented a method for cold-forming screw heads around a hexagonal die. This innovative process led to the creation of the “Allen safety set screw,” which featured an internal hexagonal socket. To complement these new screws, Allen developed a simple L-shaped tool that could easily fit into the hexagonal socket.

Due to the Allen Manufacturing Company’s early dominance in the market and the widespread adoption of their hexagonal socket design, the term “Allen key” became commonly used for all hex keys, regardless of the manufacturer. This is a classic example of a brand name becoming genericized, similar to how “Kleenex” is often used for all facial tissues.

allen wrench set

The Advantages of Allen Keys

Allen keys quickly gained popularity due to several key advantages:

  1. Compact Design: Their simple L-shape allows them to fit into tight spaces where other tools can’t reach.
  2. Increased Torque: The hexagonal shape provides six points of contact, allowing for greater torque application compared to slotted or Phillips head screws.
  3. Safety: The internal socket design of the screws means there are no protruding heads, reducing the risk of injury or snagging.
  4. Versatility: Allen keys come in a wide range of sizes, suitable for everything from tiny electronics to large machinery.

Common Uses for Allen Keys

Today, Allen keys are used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Assembling furniture (especially flat-pack designs)
  • Bicycle maintenance and repair
  • Automotive work
  • Installing and adjusting door hardware
  • Assembling and maintaining exercise equipment
  • Working on electronics and small appliancesallen key being used to assemble furniture

Types of Allen Keys

While the basic L-shaped design is most common, Allen keys come in several variations:

  1. Standard L-shaped keys: The classic design, available in both inch and metric sizes.
  2. T-handle Allen wrenches: Provide more leverage and comfort for high-torque applications.
  3. Folding sets: Compact and convenient for carrying multiple sizes.
  4. Ball-end Allen keys: Allow for angled entry into the screw head, useful in tight spaces.

Choosing the Right Allen Key

Selecting the appropriate Allen key is crucial for avoiding damage to screws and ensuring proper tightening. Factors to consider include:

  • Size (both in terms of the hex key itself and the screws you’ll be working with)
  • Material (common options include steel, chrome vanadium, and titanium)
  • Finish (such as black oxide for corrosion resistance)
  • Set vs. individual keys (depending on your needs and frequency of use)

For a wide selection of high-quality Allen keys and related products, check out our Allen key collection at AlbanyCountyFasteners.com. We offer everything from individual keys to complete sets, ensuring you’ll find the perfect tool for your project.


Allen keys, despite their simple appearance, are a testament to innovative engineering. From their invention in the early 20th century to their ubiquitous presence in toolboxes worldwide, these humble tools have revolutionized the way we work with certain types of fasteners.

Understanding what an Allen key is, why it’s called that, and how to use it properly can make a significant difference in your DIY projects or professional work. Whether you’re assembling furniture, maintaining a bicycle, or working on complex machinery, the right Allen key can make your task much easier.

Next time you pick up one of these L-shaped wrenches, you’ll appreciate not just its functionality, but also its rich history. And remember, for all your Allen key needs, from the smallest precision tool to heavy-duty industrial sizes, AlbanyCountyFasteners.com has you covered with our extensive selection of high-quality tools and fasteners.

21 Nut Types Everyone Should Know

AlbanyCountyFasteners.com has been in the industry for a while. This means we’ve encountered countless customers seeking guidance on selecting the right nut for their projects. It’s not just about choosing any threaded fastener – each nut type serves a specific purpose. Understanding the 21 nut types everyone should know is crucial for both professional and personal projects. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down these essential nut varieties you might encounter in your work.

We’ve created a handy reference guide to help you visualize these different nut types. The image below showcases each of the 21 nut types everyone should know, along with a brief description. The guide is also available in a printable PDF.  Feel free to save or print this guide for quick reference in your workshop or on job sites.


21 Nut Types Everyone Should Know - Visual Guide

Fastener Nut Types Guide (PDF)


Now, let’s explore each of these nut types further, diving into their unique features and common applications.

Common Varieties

  1. Hex Finish Nut: This standard six-sided nut is the most common type for general-purpose fastening. Its shape allows for easy tightening with a wrench.
  2. Acorn (Cap) Nut: Also known as a cap nut, it features a domed top that adds a finished look while protecting the bolt threads from damage and exposure.
  3. Flange Nut: This nut comes with a built-in washer flange, which distributes the load over a larger area and eliminates the need for a separate washer.

Specialized Types

  1. Coupling Nut: Designed with internal threads, this long nut joins two male-threaded rods or bolts, allowing for extended length connections.
  2. T-Nut: Featuring a pronged body, T-nuts embed into wood or soft materials, creating a strong threaded insert for receiving bolts or screws.
  3. Wing Nut: Recognizable by its “wings,” this nut allows for easy hand-tightening, making it ideal for applications requiring frequent assembly and disassembly.

Security-Focused Nuts

  1. Castle Nut: With slots cut into its top, this nut is designed to work with a cotter pin, preventing loosening in critical applications.
  2. Nylon Insert Lock Nut: This nut contains a nylon insert that grips the bolt threads, effectively preventing loosening due to vibration.
  3. Tri-Groove Nut: Featuring a tapered diameter with three grooves, this nut requires a special tool for installation, enhancing security in sensitive applications.

High-Strength Options

  1. Heavy Hex Nut: Larger and thicker than a standard hex nut, this type is designed for high-strength applications where standard nuts may not suffice.
  2. Structural Hex Nut: These extra-thick, high-strength nuts are specifically designed for use in critical steel-to-steel structural connections.

Space-Saving Solutions

  1. Hex Jam Nut: Thinner than standard hex nuts, jam nuts are ideal for locking nuts in place or for use in applications with limited space.
  2. Nylon Insert Jam Lock Nut: This low-profile nut combines the space-saving design of a jam nut with the locking capabilities of a nylon insert.

Efficiency-Enhancing Types

  1. Keps (K-Lock) Nut: This nut comes with an attached, free-spinning lock washer, streamlining assembly processes by combining two components.
  2. Knurled Thumb Nut: Featuring a textured edge, this nut is designed for easy hand-tightening in applications where tool use is impractical.

Industrial Varieties

  1. Hex Machine Screw Nut: Smaller than standard hex nuts, these are specifically designed for use with machine screws under 1/4″ diameter.
  2. Weld Nut: As the name suggests, this nut is designed to be welded to a surface, creating a permanent threaded attachment point.
  3. Prevailing Torque Lock Nut (Stover): This all-metal locking nut is suitable for high-temperature applications where nylon inserts would fail.

Unique Designs

  1. Square Nut: They have four sides instead of six. Square nuts provide greater surface contact and resistance to loosening in certain applications.
  2. Slotted Hex Nut: They are similar to castle nuts but with a lower profile. These nuts have slots for use with cotter pins in securing connections.
  3. Break Away (Shear) Nut: Engineered to shear at a specific torque, these nuts provide tamper-resistance after installation.

At AlbanyCountyFasteners.com, we understand that selecting the appropriate nut is crucial for the integrity and safety of any fastening application. The right choice can mean the difference between a secure connection and potential failure.

We’ve been assisting professionals across various industries in finding the perfect fastener solutions for their projects. Whether you’re working on construction, manufacturing, or specialized applications, we have the expertise and inventory to meet your fastening needs.

If you find yourself unsure about which nut type best suits your project requirements, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team at AlbanyCountyFasteners.com is always ready to provide expert advice and help you make informed decisions.

Remember, the right nut isn’t just about holding things together – it’s about ensuring safety, efficiency, and longevity in your work. Trust in our experience to guide you to the best fastening solutions for your projects.

Don’t forget to keep our visual guide handy! it’s a great quick reference when you’re in the field or discussing projects with colleagues. And of course, for any questions or specialized fastener needs, AlbanyCountyFasteners.com is just a click or call away.

Top 5 Common mistakes to avoid when using washers

Top 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Washers

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Using Washers


Washers, though small, play a crucial role in fastening systems by distributing load and protecting surfaces. Unfortunately, their proper use is often overlooked, leading to potential issues in various applications. Here, we’ll explore the top five Common mistakes to avoid when using washers to ensure your fastening projects are both secure and efficient.


1. Selecting the Incorrect Type of Washer

Different washers serve different purposes, and using the wrong type can

jeopardize your assembly’s integrity. It’s akin to wearing a raincoat in the desert—you’re prepared, but for the wrong situation!

  • Flat Washers: Ideal for distributing load and protecting surfaces, particularly
  •  useful in woodworking or with softer materials due to their wide bearing surface.
  • Spring Washers: Best suited for applications requiring maintained tension, such as in automotive or machinery environments, to prevent loosening from vibrations.
  • Lock Washers: Specifically designed to secure nuts and bolts in vibrating settings, like in appliances or heavy machinery.

Tip: Always match the washer type to your specific application. For a comprehensive selection, check our Washers Category Page.

2. Using the Wrong Size Washer

An improperly sized washer can cause uneven load distribution, leading to

damage or failure. It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole—inefficient and awkward!

  • Too Small: May sink into the material, failing to provide the needed load distribution.
  • Too Large: Might not fit properly within the space and can interfere with the assembly.

Example: When fastening a 1/4″ bolt, ensure the washer’s inner diameter matches this size to distribute the load effectively without slipping through.

Tip: Measure the bolt or screw size accurately and choose a washer that fits snugly.

3. Over-Tightening the Fasteners

Over-tightening can deform both the washer and the material it’s meant to


protect, thus reducing its effectiveness. It’s like shaking hands with a bear—too much force can be disastrous!

  • Effect: Deformed washers fail to distribute load evenly, potentially leading to
  •  joint failure.
  • Prevention: Use a torque wrench to apply the correct amount of force.

Example: When installing metal roofing, over-tightening the washers can damage the roof panels and reduce weather resistance. Always adhere to torque specifications.

Tip: Refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for the appropriate torque settings to avoid over-tightening.

4. Reusing Old Washers

Washers can wear out over time, losing their effectiveness. Reusing old washers

is like using a worn-out toothbrush—it’s no longer effective!

  • Effect: Worn-out washers may not provide the necessary tension or load distribution, leading to loose fasteners.
  • Prevention: Always use new washers for critical applications.

Example: In plumbing, reusing washers can lead to leaks and water damage. Always opt for new washers to ensure a tight seal.

Tip: Inspect washers for signs of wear and replace them as necessary to maintain the integrity of your assembly.

5. Neglecting Environmental Factors

Environmental conditions can impact washer performance. Corrosion,

410 Stainless Steel External Tooth Lock Washer

temperature fluctuations, and chemical exposure can degrade specific washers.

Ignoring these factors is like wearing flip-flops in the snow—not ideal for the conditions!

  • Material Choice: Select washers made from materials that can withstand your specific environmental conditions (e.g., stainless steel for corrosion resistance).
  • Protection: In harsh environments, consider washers with additional coatings or treatments.

Example: For outdoor construction exposed to the elements, stainless steel or galvanized washers resist rust and corrosion, ensuring longevity.

Tip: Choose washers designed for your specific environmental conditions to ensure long-term performance. Check out our variety of washers suitable for different environments here.


By taking note of these common mistakes to avoid when using washers, you can significantly improve the performance and longevity of your fastening systems. Select the appropriate washer type and size, avoid over-tightening, refrain from reusing old washers, and consider environmental factors to ensure a secure and efficient assembly.

For a wide selection of high-quality washers tailored to your needs, visit our Washers Category Page. Happy fastening!

Top 5 DIYs for July 4th: Patriotic Projects with Fasteners

Top 5 DIYs for July 4th (and Exclusive 4th of July Deals!)

Top 5 DIYs of July

Ready to show your patriotic spirit with the top 5 DIYs for July 4th? At AlbanyCountyFasteners.com, we’re celebrating Independence Day with the Top 5 DIYs for July 4th that will transform your home into a red, white, and blue paradise. These projects combine your DIY skills with our top-quality fasteners, creating unforgettable decorations that will make your celebration truly special.

Our Top 5 DIYs for July 4th are designed to be fun, easy, and impressive. Whether you’re a seasoned crafter or just starting out, these projects will help you create unique decorations that showcase your patriotic pride. And the best part? We’re offering amazing deals on all the fasteners you’ll need, so you can stock up for these Top 5 DIYs for July 4th and future projects too!

Let’s dive into these star-spangled creations that are sure to make your home shine this Independence Day. From rustic flags to illuminated lanterns, we’ve got step-by-step instructions that will help you craft the perfect July 4th atmosphere.

Top 5 DIYs for July 4th

1. Stars and Stripes Wind Chime: A Melody of Freedom

4th of july wind chime

Create a harmonious tribute to Old Glory that’ll have your neighbors saluting. This patriotic wind chime is easy to make and perfect for outdoor 4th of July decorations.

What you’ll need:
  • Red, white, and blue painted wooden stars
  • Circular wooden base
  • Thin metal rods
  • Assorted nuts and washers (check out our 4th of July deal on fastener variety packs!)
  • Eye Screws
  • Fishing line
  1. Drill holes in the wooden stars. (Careful, don’t drill through to 1776!)
  2. Thread stars onto metal rods using nuts and washers as spacers. (Alternative: You could even choose to forgo the metal rods all together like we did!)
  3. Hang rods at different lengths from a circular wooden base using eye screws and fishing line.
  4. Hang your chime and listen to the sweet sounds of liberty!

2. Rustic American Flag Wall Art: A Pledge to Great Decor

American flag DIY Wall Art


Transform your space with this eye-catching wooden flag. It’s a perfect indoor 4th of July decoration that’ll last long after the fireworks fade.

You’ll need:
  • Wooden planks
  • Red, white, and blue paint
  • Star-shaped wood pieces
  • Wood screws (don’t miss our 4th of July savings on premium wood screws!)
  1. Arrange planks in a rectangle.
  2. Secure planks with our wood screws.
  3. Paint alternating planks red and white, leaving one section blue. (feel free to leave the some of the planks unpainted to give it that rustic look!)
  4. Arrange star pieces on the blue section.
  5. Secure stars with our precision wood screws.
  6. Mount your masterpiece and practice your salute!

3. Illuminated Liberty Lanterns: Let Freedom Glow!patriotic mason jar DIY

Light up your 4th of July night with these beautiful patriotic lanterns. They’re perfect for patios, porches, or anywhere you want to add a touch of sparkle to your celebrations.

You’ll Need:
  • Mason jars (because what’s more American than preserving stuff?)
  • Battery-operated tea lights (real candles are so 1776)
  • Red, white, and blue translucent paper
  • Glass glue
  • Thin wire
  • Small nuts (part of our 4th of July deals!)
  1. Cut star shapes from the colored paper. No need for perfect symmetry – we’re going for rustic charm here!
  2. Attach the stars to the inside of the jars using the glass glue.
  3. Create wire handles for the jars.
  4. Add with nuts for a cool decoration!
  5. Pop in a tea light (or 2!). Congratulations, you’ve brought enlightenment to your decor!

4. All-American Cornhole Game: May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

all-american cornhole game

Get the 4th of July party started with this classic backyard game. It’s a great way to entertain guests and show off your DIY skills!

You’ll need:
  • Plywood sheets
  • 2×4 lumber (to give your game some backbone)
  • Our carriage bolts, washers, and wing nuts (all on sale for 4th of July!)
  • Red, white, and blue paint or vinyl wrap
  1. Cut your plywood and 2x4s to size. (Measure twice, cut once, bandage fingers as needed.)
  2. Assemble the frame and attach the plywood top.
  3. Secure everything with our carriage bolts, washers, and wing nuts.
  4. Paint or wrap your design. Abstract expressionism is totally fine if your lines aren’t straight or you want to add in a random washer or design.
  5. Marvel at your creation. You’re basically the Thomas Jefferson of backyard games now.

5. Patriotic Pallet Planter: Make America Grow Again!

Turn an old pallet into a stars-and-stripes garden feature. It’s a great way to add some patriotic flair to your outdoor space and show off your green thumb.

Collect these materials:
  • Wooden pallet (store-bought or “liberated” from behind the grocery store – we won’t tell)
  • Red, white, and blue paint (let’s hope you have some left from the other projects)
  • Landscaping fabric (to keep your soil from making a great escape)
  • Staples and a staple gun (not to be confused with your office supplies)
  • Various sizes of our screws (because one size doesn’t fit all in DIY or democracy)
  • Flowers or small plants (red geraniums, white petunias, and blue lobelias, anyone?)


  1. Paint your pallet in a flag design. Remember, 13 stripes and 50 stars… or thereabouts.
  2. Secure landscaping fabric to the back using staples. It’s like giving your pallet a raincoat.
  3. Attach small shelves inside the pallet using our screws. Think of it as building tiny apartments for your plants.
  4. Plant your red, white, and blue flowers. Congratulations, you’ve just created a living, breathing tribute to the nation!

Fasten Your 4th of July Celebrations with AlbanyCountyFasteners.com

Ready to start your patriotic DIY adventure? Don’t miss out on our spectacular 4th of July deals! We’re offering red-hot savings on all the fasteners and tools you need for these projects and more.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of our 4th of July savings:

  • up to 20% off all Fasteners (including wood screws and bolts!)
  • A special 4th of July Deal on our best selling Kit
  • Free shipping on orders over $100

Remember, these 4th of July deals won’t last forever, so stock up now and be ready for all your summer DIY projects!

From all of us at AlbanyCountyFasteners.com, have a safe, happy, and screwloose (in a good way) Independence Day. May your crafts be sturdy, your barbecue well-fastened, and your patriotism as strong as our bolts!

Want more DIY inspiration? Check out our blog for year-round project ideas and fastener tips. And don’t forget to share your patriotic creations with us on social media – we’d love to see how you’ve put our 4th of July deal to good use!

What’s the Difference between Bolts and Screws?

What's the Difference between Bolts and Screws


When it comes to fasteners, one of the most common questions is, “What’s the difference between bolts and screws?” While bolts and screws may look similar, there are distinct differences that set them apart. In this article, we’ll explore the bolt vs screw and screw vs bolt debate to help you understand when to use each type of fastener.

Bolts Vs. Screws




A bolt is a type of fastener with external threads and a head designed to be used with a nut. The primary characteristic of a bolt is that it relies on the nut to provide the necessary clamping force to hold assembled parts together securely. Bolts are not intended to create their own mating threads or hold themselves in place. Instead, they must protrude through the materials being fastened to allow the nut to engage the threads. Bolts are frequently used with washers to distribute the clamping force over a larger area.




Screws are threaded fasteners that can have a head or be headless (e.g., set screws). Unlike bolts, screws are designed to create their own mating threads in a pre-drilled hole or, in some cases, to create their own hole as they are driven into the material. Screws do not require a nut to fasten securely; they rely on the engagement of their threads with the surrounding material to hold themselves in place. Screws are typically tightened until they are fully seated in the material and are not intended to protrude through to the opposite side, although there are exceptions.


Bolt vs Screw and Screw vs Bolt:

When deciding between a bolt vs screw or screw vs bolt, consider the following:

  • Bolts are used when a nut is required to secure the fastener and when access to both sides of the assembly is available.
  • Screws are used when the fastener needs to create its own mating threads and when access to only one side of the assembly is available.
  • Bolts are more often used with washers to distribute the clamping force, while screws are less frequently used with washers, except for finishing purposes.

Terminology Clarification:

At AlbanyCountyFasteners.com, we understand that the terms “bolt” and “screw” are sometimes used interchangeably in industry jargon. To help our customers find the products they need more easily, we may use these terms interchangeably on our website. However, it’s essential to understand the technical differences between bolts and screws when selecting the appropriate fastener for your project.


Key Takeaways:

  • Bolts are designed to be used with a nut and require access to both sides of the assembly.
  • Screws create their own mating threads and do not require a nut to fasten securely.
  • While bolts and screws have distinct differences, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably in industry jargon.
  • Albany County Fasteners uses both terms to help customers find the products they need more easily.


Now that you understand the difference between bolts and screws, as well as the bolt vs screw and screw vs bolt debate, you can make an informed decision when choosing fasteners for your projects. Whether you need bolts, screws, or other fastening solutions, AlbanyCountyFasteners.com has a wide range of high-quality products to meet your needs. Visit our website to explore our extensive inventory and find the perfect fasteners for your next project.

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