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Useful object. Useful object lesson

August 31, 2014


Hex keys, or Allen wrenches as some people still call them, should be part of a cyclist’s traveling tool kit. Everything from the little bolts that attach a bike rack or bottle cage to the frame, to the crank and head set, are tightened with one or another size hex key.

One of the most compact configurations for hex keys is pocket knife-style. I’ve had several of this kind of hex key set over the years. I’ve had one particular set for maybe 15 years — it was in my pocket when I became homeless in 2004.

As handy as it is though, it can never quite be handy enough. It can never be the last hex key set a person will ever need.

The key to human problem solving in a nutshell

The design of the set is simplicity itself. The keys are lengths of forged steel curled on one end around one of two threaded  bolts. These bolts hold the keys and hold together the thick aluminum side plate handles.That’s all there is to it really.

The problem with the set isn’t that the bolts loosen over time and periodically need to be tightened (you can tell when you need to do this because the hex keys start to swing very loosely on the bolts).

The problem is simply that the bolts that hold the hex keys together and periodically need to be tightened are themselves hex bolts.

That’s human ingenuity in a nutshell — or in a hex key set — every solution creates its own problem. Click the image to enlarge it.

From → Bicycles

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