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Chuck keys

I recently spoke to a friend who’d just had a close encounter
of the OUCH!! kind with the chuck key of his high speed pedestal
drill. He had left the key in the Jacobs chuck, forgot it and
turned the machine on and got a thump on the jaw which drew
blood, for his thoughtlessness… But I think we’ve all
suffered from that at one time or another if we’ve been around
workshops for long. At a couple of machine shops with which I
was associated, if any of the blokes in the shop found a key in
a lathe, drill press or anything else, a great noise and fuss was
made of the fellow who left it, to make him feel as silly as
possible, and then he had to supply the entire workshop personnel
with afternoon tea and cream cakes! It cost me quite a packet

  • and I hadn’t much money at that stage. Now I keep my chuck
    and valve keys on a length of sink-plug chain, securely fastened
    at both ends.

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    / /| \ @John_Burgess2
    At sunny Nelson NZ

I recently spoke to a friend who'd just had  a close encounter
of the OUCH!! kind with the chuck key of his high speed pedestal

What I did was to make a chuck key holder with a loop of steel
strap (the type used for strapping box crates) and bolt that
loop onto one of the bolts on the drill press. Make it a habit
of returning the key to this holder after use. If the key is
not in the holder then it becomes the natural thing to do first
before operating the drill - a built in safety check.

I make holders for all my other mounted power tools. No more
missing or mixed up tool keys.

Kelvin Mok (

Home: (403) 463-4099 | Home FAX: (403) 430-7120

Hi John, Dunno that this will help for larger machinery, but with
my flexshaft I use a chuck key that’s set into a great big blue
handle from Rio Grande. It is better than palm sized, much easier
to use than the tiny lil regular ones and you can actually FIND
the darn thing at a glance. Not a chance that it’ll get left in
the chuck. Might be possible to find or manufacture something
similar for the heavier gauge chucks.


One suggestion on this thread that I haven’t seen yet. As a
machinest for G.M. for many years, all of the lathes I ever
worked on had an electrical limit switch for the chuck key. A
very simple on/off switch that required the key to be inserted
to start the machine. An inexpensive fail-safe device that
could save your life. Mike

One of the simplest and oldest methods of chuck key safety is
just to attach the key nest to the plug so it is very hard to use
without unplugging the tool.


G’day; now that is an elegant solution to a long-standing
problem, and you’re absolutely right, Mike. If you leave the
chuck key in the chuck, you can’t start the machine until you
remove it from the chuck, and having started it, you can’t put it
back! Now, all I have to do is to persuade NZ machine importers
to fit chuck-key switches to their equipment! One small
problem, however: my big wood-lathe has two different chucks
supplied by the manufacturer (They have more than one set of 4
jaws each). One chuck is operated by two simple removable
lever-rods and the other is a large version of a jacobs-type key
(you know, it engages in a gear) Cheers,

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 /  /__| \      @John_Burgess2

At sunny Nelson NZ