Barring support for older tools why are keyed chucks still manufactured? Hopefully not just in my own ignorance but I view keyless chucks as just a useful equivalent without being tethered to the need for a key.

A recent question I asked had a link to http://www.jacobschuck.com/ which hosts this image on their main page:

pictures of a keyed and a keyless chuck

They both look beautifully manufactured but why bother getting a keyed chuck? Is it a matter of what the tool supports? Seems unlikely, to me, since I would have expected both chucks to be similar in design, in that respect, to be attachable to the same tools.

Either save me from my ignorance or enlighten me as to what I am missing by favoring keyless?

  • 1
    Has anyone seen a greater incidence of the jaws getting stuck (either in the open or closed position) with a keyless chuck as opposed to a keyed chuck. Seems there is more on the internet on how to unstick a keyless chuck, and how to replace a keyless chuck with a keyed one, than there is vice-versa.
    – Quiggley
    Mar 27, 2017 at 17:24
  • @Quiggley my wheel braces has a very old keyless chuck and that sticks open quite often -- does that count?
    – Chris H
    Apr 7, 2017 at 12:26
  • This is not a bad question, but it seems like a better fit for DIY.SE.
    – user5572
    Aug 18, 2021 at 12:43
  • I've got an older 18v cordless tool with my countersink bit stuck in its keyless chuck. No amount of effort on my part has allowed me to extricate the bit. I've given it to my FIL who worked as a machinist and tool designer for a major US auto manufacturer for 30 years. He hasn't been able to extricate it either. The only redeeming value is that counter sink bits are that expensive and the tool uses an older style battery that is ridiculously expensive to replace, so I don't have any functional batteries for it any more.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 19, 2021 at 13:44

6 Answers 6


Keyed chucks still get a better grip on any bit. I'm willing to use keyless on my portable drill -- though mine will take a key too, and there are times when I use it. I wouldn't trust keyless on a drill press.

  • Hmm. Ok. I have never seen a keyless chuck on drill press I suppose. And in theory a keyed chuck wont become loose during operation.
    – Matt
    Feb 24, 2016 at 13:16
  • 3
    Also hammer drills for masonry -- my decent cordless has hammer and a keyless chuck and needs frequent tightening. It would be even worse if I didn't have flats on my masonry bits.
    – Chris H
    Feb 24, 2016 at 16:59
  • 2
    Ever try one of those cheap black and decker keyless chucks? Anything harder than drywall, and the bit slips. Utter junk, and injured me as well when a spade bit came loose and was ejected at speed from the cheap chuck. I don't trust anything but keyed chucks now. Have a Milwaukee corder 1/2" chuck drill now that's lasted 6 years with no issues or injuries, and happy to have it.
    – Cloud
    Feb 25, 2016 at 4:32
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    @DogbertThat's a issue with that model, that sample, or how you're using it. The keyless chuck on my Porter-Cable works fine for what I ask of yhat tool, and the retrofit for my old B&D (a rubbef ring stretchedover the key chuck) also worked fine as long as you kept your fingers awsy from the still-exposed chuck tedth.
    – keshlam
    Feb 25, 2016 at 15:58
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    I can't imagine tightening a keyless chuck on a drill press without eventually loosing to skin. You can feather the trigger on a drill to tighten the chuck, but not so much on a drill press. Mar 28, 2017 at 10:28

As @keshlam pointed out. My drill presses both have keyed chucks and it allows much greater torque to put a stronger clamp on the bit.

This is really important for larger bits when you get over 1 1/2" say for keyhole saws or large Forstner bits. There can be a lot of resistance and I don't think most keyless chucks can do the job. Even there I've had a keyhole come loose.

  • 2
    +1 for the larger bits. No way I'd trust a large Forstner bit to a keyless chuck with the torques involved.
    – grfrazee
    Feb 24, 2016 at 14:50
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    Lately, I have been seeing recommendations to tighten all three holes in the chuck, especially for the high torque applications.
    – Ast Pace
    Feb 24, 2016 at 23:28
  • 1
    @AstPace I've always done that, each hole seems to give a different leverage point and can tighten a little more.
    – bowlturner
    Feb 25, 2016 at 0:45
  • @AstPace - My father taught me that, probably 50 years ago. I’ve done it ever since.
    – Mark
    Mar 1, 2018 at 1:37
  • Interesting, @AstPace, I don't recall ever hearing that, but I'll take it into consideration, especially for larger bits. Not too worried about the 1/4" bit...
    – FreeMan
    Aug 19, 2021 at 13:46

Self-tightening keyless chuck have similar clamping capabilities as keyed chucks, but the price premium on those types of chucks are significant.

For example from the Jacobs site linked, the cheapest 1/2inch self-tightening keyless chucks are $185.

Other than cost, one disadvantage of the keyless self-tightening chucks is that after some extreme high torque drilling, you might need a wrench to unscrew the chuck.

  • 1
    My Powermatic 2800B drill press came with the keyless chuck. Works ok until you put in the big forstner bits. Strap wrench is required to remove the bit after use
    – Chuck S
    Feb 28, 2018 at 13:59
  • A friend of mine went through this ordeal ("you might need a wrench to unscrew the chuck") Mar 24, 2018 at 0:51

As far as the historical side of the question, the two have been in concurrent use for a very long time. Arthur Irving Jacobs invented the keyed drill chuck in 1902 but bit braces and drills were using a form of keyless chuck long before that. The question might just as well have been 'why didn't the keyed chuck replace keyless?' Part of the answer is, like most things, that every situation is unique and there are advantages and disadvantages to different designs.

Among the considerations are:

-Rapidity of action (keyless excels) versus holding strength (higher in keyed)

-Resolving a jam (difficult with keyless)

-Balance of manufacturing costs, quality, patent issues, user preference etc.


My cheapie light-duty drill press, which cost less than a good cordless drill, has not only a keyed chuck but a much larger one at that. The key is scaled up in all ways relative to the hand-drill's.

My corded drill also has a keyed chuck just like my father's did 40 years ago. Maybe that's cheaper? Maybe people using a corded drill now are wanting unlimited power, higher reliability, and unquestioning grip on the bit or exotic thingie being chucked.

I also note that the keyed chuck is smaller around, and can fit in tight places where the keyless chuck does not, like drilling half an inch from a wall or post.

  • 4
    I also note that the keyed chuck is smaller around.... I've more than once been stymied by the beefy keyless chuck on my power drill. Highly annoying.
    – hBy2Py
    Feb 25, 2016 at 3:41
  • 1
    I hadn't thought of this point, but now that it's pointed out, I notice that I've sometimes had to resort to my Dremel (which has a keyed collet, in addition to the small body) to drill things that I can't reach with my wife's keyless chuck hand drill. (Off topic, I seem to have lost both my regular drill and my hammer drill, which both had keyed chucks.)
    – Steve
    Nov 17, 2017 at 2:45

I have an accessory made by Skil called a "Bit Click" which allows a normal chuck to hold a drill bit, and have a 1/4-inch hex socket bit added quickly.

This combination allows one to drill a pilot hole, click on the end, and drive a screw without using the key to change bits.

This fitting uses three bearing-balls which are sprung loaded. The balls lock into the three recesses that a chuck-key uses; without them this adapter is just a big screwdriver handle.

I've even done this change one-handed up a ladder.

Skil Bit Click adapter new in box

The only downside is the stackup gets quite long and can be hard to fit into tighter/shorter spaces.

The modern equivalent might be a drill bit with a 1/4 inch hex, but they're not very robust and tend to be pricy.

  • 1
    I had (or at least have seen used) a similar device from 20+ years ago. It was a drill bit that slipped over a driver bit. Drill the hole, slip the drill bit part off, drive the screw. That said, this is borderline spam, though I know you from Bicycles well enough to believe that's not the case here. ;) While this is a solution to the potential pain/inconvenience of a keyed chuck, it doesn't really answer the question... And the true modern solution is 2 tools - one to drill, one to drive (and yes, I've been up a ladder with 2 cordless tools for exactly this situation).
    – FreeMan
    Aug 19, 2021 at 13:51
  • @FreeMan thanks - can't be spam cos I've been looking for a spare of these for ages, they're not available any more :-\ However this is the reason I downgraded (upgraded?) a drill from keyless to keyed chuck, which directly answers OP's question.
    – Criggie
    Aug 19, 2021 at 20:31

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