What Is a Drill Chuck?

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A drill chuck is a type of clamp used to hold bits and other drilling implements.

Chucks are used to hold tools that are roughly cylindrical in shape. On a drill, the chuck attaches to the mandrel. Different drill bits can be inserted into the chuck, allowing the same base tool to be used for many different purposes.

Drill chucks are usually made from steel or stainless steel.

Drill Chuck Parts

Some of the important drill chuck parts you should know are jaws, collets, gear teeth, and mounting systems.


Most drill chucks have three jaws that loosen and tighten in sync, automatically centering the bit. The jaws of a drill chuck are what hold the bit in place. Three-jawed drill chucks are sometimes referred to as ‘universal’ chucks.


Some drill chucks have collets. Collets are small circles that can be expanded or contracted, tightly holding whatever is inserted into them.

Gear Teeth

Gear teeth are only seen on certain models of keyed drill chuck. The key has a matching set of interlocking teeth. Using the key on the drill chuck turns the gear to tighten or loosen the chuck.

Mounting System

There are three possible mounting systems for a drill chuck. They are: integral, tapered, and threaded. Each type of drill chuck is only intended to be used with drills that have the corresponding mounting system.

Integral Mounted Drill Chucks

A drill chuck with an integral shank attaches to the body of the drill with a metal bar called an arbor. One end of the arbor is built into the drill chuck; they cannot be disconnected. The other end of the arbor attaches to the drill’s spindle.

Taper Mounted Drill Chucks

Also referred to as ‘Jacobs’ or ‘Jacobs Taper/JT’ drill chucks, a taper-mounted drill chuck has an arbor split into two halves. One half is built into the drill, and the other is built into the drill chuck. The part on the drill chuck is tapered for insertion into the part inside the drill.

Thread Mounted Drill Chucks

Thread-mounted drill chucks can only be used on drills with threaded spindles. The inside of the drill chuck and the spindle are both threaded, allowing the drill chuck to be screwed onto the spindle, similar to a nut being screwed onto a bolt.

Types of Drill Chuck

There are three main types of drill chuck; keyed, keyless, and hybrid.


To change the bit on a keyed drill chuck, you must insert a special tool called the chuck key. While these chucks require a bit more effort, they make up for it by providing additional torque, reducing the likelihood of bit slippage.

If the drill is turned on while the key is in place, it can become a dangerous projectile. Some machine shops have self-ejecting keys to avoid this hazard.

Today, keyed drill chucks are usually found in machine shops and other industrial settings. Most electric handheld drills do not require a key. These smaller drills usually contain plain bearings, while larger industrial drills generally have ball bearings.


Changing the bit on a keyless drill chuck does not require a special tool. Instead, the chuck is loosened and tightened manually. Keyless drill chucks are much more convenient when you are switching back and forth between bits of various sizes, such as when drilling and enlarging a pilot hole.


Hybrid drill chucks can be tightened by hand, but they can also be locked into place using a key.


SDS is an abbreviation for ‘slotted drive system’. SDS drills not only drill into the material, but they also hammer it. They are often used to drill into masonry or concrete.

An SDS chuck contains two bearings. SDS-compatible bits have small indentations on the sides, allowing them to nestle between the bearings while still swinging freely back and forth.

SDS chucks can only be installed on SDS drills. They are not compatible with normal electric drills. In their original state, they cannot accept normal drill bits.

To use regular drill bits in an SDS drill chuck, you will need to use a chuck adapter.

Drill Chuck Size

Drill chucks for home use come in three standard sizes; ¼ inch, ⅜ inch, and ½ inch.

  • For large or heavy bits, a ½ inch drill chuck is required.
  • Smaller chucks, such as the ¼ inch drill chuck, are best for accepting very thin bits. There is also a device called a ‘pin chuck’, which is designed to hold very small bits and can be inserted into a larger chuck.
  • A ⅜ inch drill chuck can hold most of the bits an average homeowner would need.


Drill chucks are an essential part of the drill. They are operated with a key or by hand, and their purpose is to hold drill bits in place. The size of the drill chuck determines what bits it can accept.

Moreover, some drill bits are only compatible with certain chucks.

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.