What are the Different Chuck Types on Drills?

If you are thinking about buying a cordless drill/driver and need some advice on the drill chuck, then the information that we provide here, will really help you out. Tool manufacturers often use highly technical language and that can be confusing for people who realistically are not buying tools everyday.

We get behind those technical details and explain what they mean in more simple terms.

Different Types of Chuck

There are 5 different types which are:

  1. A keyed chuck
  2. A double sleeveless chuck
  3. A single sleeveless chuck
  4. An SDS chuck
  5. Hex Connection

Keyed Chucks Explained

chuck key for a drill

When you place any type of bit into the chuck of your drill, you then need to tighten the chuck to hold the bit firmly in place. With a keyed chuck, you use a key, as shown to the left.

The grooves on the key then engage with the grooves on the chuck of your drill, allowing you either tighten or loosen the chuck.

These are very good for making a very tight connection that will not slip. However the biggest problem with these is that they can easily get lost. That renders your drill useless unless you buy a replacement key. You will find this is still the favoured method for corded drills.

Double Sleeve Keyless Chucks Explained

There is no actual key required. You change bits by grasping one part of the chuck with one hand, and twisting the other part of the chuck with your other hand. That means to change a bit, both hands are required.

Single Sleeve Keyless Chucks Explained

Again, there is no actual key required. This is a much better and preferred chuck type as you can change bits using just one hand. That will make your life easier as you can use your other hand for holding material or whatever else you are working on.

SDS Chuck

To take advantage of an SDS chuck, you need to own an SDS drill and also own SDS drill bits. The bits simply push in and lock to the SDS chuck. If you plan on using your existing drill bits, then you will need to buy an SDS+ adapter.

A HEX Connection

You don't really find these on drills or drill/drivers. Most cordless screwdrivers do use a hexagonal magnetic connection. This is six sided or hexagonal and hence the name HEX.

You can also see these on cordless impact drivers, and on these you pulls the chuck forwards, insert the bit, and release to secure the bit.

Drill Chuck Sizes

There are only two different sizes of drill chuck.

  • 3/8" - (shown as 10 mm)
  • 1/2" - (either shown as 12mm or 13 mm)

When referring to size in a drill chuck, the tool manufacturer is referring to the maximum diameter of the bit that the chuck can take. The most popular size is the 3/8" (10mm) and is used in the majority of cordless drill/drivers.

drill diameter

In the image above, you can see the drill diameter. Some drill bits will have much smaller diameters so will fit into either a 3/8" or a 1/2" chuck. However, for heavier duty drilling some drill bits will have a 1/2" diameter, and those will not fit into a 3/8" chuck. Just be aware of that if you plan on using any large drill bits.

Drilling Larger Holes with a Drill

The vast majority of drill bits will easily fit into any drill chuck. It is only when you need to do heavy duty drilling that you may need to use drill bits with a 1/2" diameter. However, you can still drill larger holes. Many drill bit manufacturers have designed drill bits with a larger flute size and rill point diameter, but keep the shank diameter smaller.

That allows bigger drilling hole capacity, but still allows the drill bit to fit into a standard 3/8" or 1/2" chuck. 

What is a Jacob's Chuck

Jacob's chucks are mainly used by machinists or woodworkers. They are used used in either the headstock spindle or in the tailstock for holding straight–shank drills, taps, reamers or small diameter workpieces. The typical home owner or even tradesman will never have to worry about using a Jacob's chuck. They are available in keyed and keyless.

How do Drill Chucks Work?

For anyone who really likes to understand something, then this is a very good video on how a drill chuck actually works.

Drill Chuck Summary

The vast majority of drill/driver owners will most likely have a 3/8" sized chuck. On the cheaper models of drills they will have a double sleeve keyless chuck, and on the slightly better models will have a single sleeve keyless chuck.

About the author cordy

I am a retired construction worker and I also happen to love power tools. I have used hundreds over the years and offer my opinions on them here.

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