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?

  • 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 '17 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 '17 at 12:26

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 '16 at 13:16
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    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 '16 at 16:59
  • @ChrisH my Bosch hammer drill has a keyed chuck and still loosens up from time to time with masonry bits, especially on the larger ones. If you are consistently drilling holes in concrete, a drill with a SDS chuck will be much better. They are designed to never loosen up. – Jason Hutchinson Feb 24 '16 at 17:35
  • @JasonHutchinson my Bosch mains/keyed hammer drill loosens infrequently compared to my Hitachi cordless/keyless on masonry. The Bosch stays in its press because between the cordless and my (rarely used) SDS I don't need it handheld. The SDS is too much for mortar and aerated block, so I use the cordless there, but it's great for brick/concrete. – Chris H Feb 24 '16 at 17:40
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    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 '16 at 4:32

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.

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    +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 '16 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 '16 at 23:28
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    @AstPace I've always done that, each hole seems to give a different leverage point and can tighten a little more. – bowlturner Feb 25 '16 at 0:45
  • @AstPace - My father taught me that, probably 50 years ago. I’ve done it ever since. – Mark Mar 1 '18 at 1:37

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.

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    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 '18 at 13:59
  • A friend of mine went through this ordeal ("you might need a wrench to unscrew the chuck") – Andrei Rînea Mar 24 '18 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.

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    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 '16 at 3:41
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    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 '17 at 2:45

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