January 21, 2007

What’s Ikea’s deal with hex keys?

Filed under: Tools — marcstober @ 8:36 pm

I’m someone who believes you should use the right tools to do a job, and take advantage of the best tools available. Which is why, even though just about every piece of Ikea furniture I’ve bought comes with a little hex key that is arguably the right tool, I’d much rather use my cordless drill-driver than drive a couple dozen screws by hand. Now, this would be really easy if they just used ordinary Phillips screws but not so much when you need a hex key – a metric one at that.

(Actually, I have an interesting history with hex keys. The summer before my junior year in college I worked at the Holo-Krome factory in West Hartford, assembling sets of Sears Craftsman Hex Keys. 10 hours a day, but I earned enough to buy a used car by fall. When I left, the manager advised my to stay in school – as if assembling thousands of identical hex keys sets wasn’t enought to convince me to seek better opportunities.)

Anyhow, I really lucked out and found a set with metric hex bits in the bargain tool bin at National Lumber this afternoon. (It turns out that Ikea’s Trofast uses 3mm hex screws, in case anyone wants to know.) Of course, the set also includes the same Phillips bits I already have several of. So, why doesn’t Ikea just use Phillips screws in the first place? The product had Phillips screws, too, and they expected you to have your own screwdriver for this; wouldn’t it be cheaper not to include a hex key at all? We’re not assembling precision aircraft parts. Or couldn’t Ikea at least sell the bits? I suppose everyone else puts together Ikea furniture without complaining, but I think there are some design aspects that could be improved.
(As a disclaimer: use the above advice at your own risk and when in doubt, follow manufacturer’s directions over mine!)