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The God of Smiths ..and chuck keys

Hi Pat, you reminded me that there is, well not exactly a God of
smiths but there is a patron saint of jewelers and silversmiths,
Saint Dunstan, that’s all I know of him really… except when I was
an apprentice I would blame him when that chuck key I had just a
second ago in my hand had disappeared. On another note I am always
losing mine in the mess that is my bench (oh its neat when I’m not
working). So has anyone come up with one of those little flashing red
light thingys (very small) that could be attached to it? I suppose I
could always paint it luminous orange but that’s too low tech hehehe.

Ed Dawson
Maine Master Models

So has anyone come up with one of those little flashing red light
thingys (very small) that could be attached to it? 

No flashy red light thingy, but how about tying the important things
to helium balloons? Might make for some interesting conversation
around the shop. Not serious, just thought I would contribute to the
brainstorming. OR, contact some high tech company that makes locator
chips and see just how small they are making these things and see if
you can apply a couple to your tools.

From what I hear, some of these locator chips have been reduced to
the size of .4 mm, and they (the govt.) are considering including
some in clothing. Now, ain’t that a swell idea!!?

Ed, what I always do with my chuck key is tie it, with a length of
cord, to the power cord. (or, if the power cord is not in an
appropriate place, find something else that is.) margaret

Ah, the ever elusive chuck key… The chuck key is one of those
work stopping tools, you can’t work without it. So, I created a habit
of putting my chuck key in the same place after use. Of course, the
best intentions will often go awry and since I really have a fond,
bordering on obsessive, relationship with my chuck key I found a
solution to my problem. I decided to attach my chuck key to the
stand that holds my flex shaft by looping a series of heavy rubber
bands together. The stretch in the rubber bands gives me the
flexibility I need when changing over bits and they don’t tangle. The
only problem I have run into is heat does break down the rubber so I
need to change the rubber bands periodically. I also wanted to comment
on the God of Smiths…My god comes in the form of my husband…my
husband loves to find things…he is a metal detector enthusiast. So
when he is home and I drop something in the studio he gets out his
shop light, (I betcha you thought I was going to say metal
detector…he hasn’t gone that far yet…) plugs it in and then gets
on his hands and knees while listening to the poor description of the
piece I just dropped. He has a great record on finding the dropped
item plus others that I had forgotten about. So I suggest to all those
who have not yet hooked up with a spouse or partner to add to the list
of prerequisites someone who loves to find lost items…and doesn’t
mind getting on their hands and knees to do so.

Linda Crawford
Linda Crawford Designs
Willits, CA
"Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it."

    Ed, what I always do with my chuck key is tie it, with a length
of cord, to the power cord. 

G’day; This reminds me. Many years ago when using a large machine
workshop in Sheffield, if anyone found a chuck key left in a lathe,
drilling machine or anything that whizzes around, a great shout went
up, echoed by everyone in the shop and the criminal had to buy the
whole shop cream cakes for afternoon tea break.

I personally use light sink plug type chain bolted to the key and
some part on the machine. Power tool chucks are clipped into spring
clips wired securely on to power cables. Then I forget where I left
the key instead of immediately replacing it in it’s holder after use.
– Cheers now,

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

I suppose I could always paint it luminous orange but that's too
low tech hehehe 

Ed, I happen to like orange but that’s beside the point. I think the
gremlins have trouble with larger items. I was in school and learned
to modify my chuck key by cutting off the handles with a cut-off disc
(follow ususal safey procedures) then bore out a standard file handle
(wood) with a large drill bit (same size as the key) and hammer the
key into the handle with a little glue. It’s easier (for me) to use in
the flex shaft and a larger target is alway easier for me to find. I
never thought about painting it orange though…

Happy hunting!

So has anyone come up with one of those little flashing red light
thingys (very small) that could be attached to it? (the chuck key)
I suppose I could always paint it luminous orange but that's too low
tech hehehe.  

Ed, I solved my wandering chuck key problem by installing one of
those boards with double magnetic strips above my workbench . The
chuck key always goes on the far right end of it, and it STICKS
there. No hunting, no fishing, just reach up and there it is.
Now the only catch is…you’ve gotta remember to stick it there as
soon as you finish using it… Dee

Ed and other chuck key users, Sharon has a great idea for modifying
the chuck key. I once found a chuck key that was mounted in a red
not orange plastic handle. The size and color of the handle makes it
hard to loose but not impossible. But the best thing about the
handle is that it makes the use of the chuck so much faster. You put
a little pressure on the end of the handle as the key is inserted in
the chuck and twist it with your fingers. No more dropping the key
or fumbling with it. Might want to try the modification. It would be
well worth the time spent. Try it you will like it. I tie a cord to
the chuck key I have in my rock cutting area. That works well but
not as easily as the handle modification. Good luck Lee

Back when I worked in a store with several other jewelers, I had as
much of a problem dealing with gremlins as I did dealing with other
smithies borrowing my tools, especially my chuck key and my loupe.
So to make my two prized possessions from disappearing, I tied a
convenient length of string to them and nailed the string to my
bench. To my amazement, not only did I stop my tools from being
borrowed, but made it much more difficult for gremlins to take said
tools to the “jeweler’s black hole.” I have kept these tools
tethered to my bench ever since. Larry Seiger

I have the reputation of using shop things and then dropping them
wherever…I’m working on that. But until I am cured, we attach a
chuck key at every bench flex shaft with one of those eyeglass
leashes. They have a rubber loop on each end that fits perfect over
the chuck on one end and can be attached into the bench at the best
spo at the other. That way I can just drop it and find it swinging by
my right leg every time! Now if I could only keep track of errant
tube set diamonds as they fly off the flex shaft while 'carefully’
cutting them off. Any tips or ideas?


I learned a little chuck key trick while studying at the Revere
Academy and since Alan hasn’t had time to mention it I’ll do it for
him. (Several other good ideas have already been presented that are
worth trying, depending on your work preferences).

Saw or grind the little rods off the central chuck key shaft. You
should be left with a key that looks something like this:

Measure the shaft’s diameter and drill a hole of that size into the
end of a wooden file handle. Epoxy the key’s shaft into the hole in
the file handle and let it dry thoroughly before use. I flattened
one side of the handle to keep the thing from rolling off the bench.
I find it easier and quicker to tighten the chuck securely using this
arrangement and the key with handle is big enough not to get lost on
the bench among the other tools between uses. Paint the handle a
bright color if that helps. It works for me.

Hi Gang,

I learned a little chuck key trick while studying at the Revere
Academy and since Alan hasn't had time to mention it I'll do it for
him.  (Several other good ideas have already been presented that
are worth trying, depending on your work preferences). Saw or grind
the little rods off the central chuck key shaft.  You should be left
with a key that looks something like this:  

It really isn’t necessary to’saw the ends of the chuck key. The
handles (part that protrudes from each sise) can easily be driven out
with a hammer.

Place the chuck key in a vise so the handle is vertical. Close the
vise until it just touches the handle. A sharp blow or 2 with a
hammer will drive the handle through the key. That way if you want,
the key can be restored.


Here is my two cents on chuck keys and how you can know where they
are at all times.

How to make a retracting chuck key leash.

1) Chuck key
2) 5/8" dowel (2" to 3" long)
3) Lead weight (about 6 ounces)
4) 2 Screw eyes
5) 18 gauge brass sheet (1" x 1/2")
6) A length of good strong string or cord

1) Drive out the chuck key pin with a hammer.
2) Drill a 9/32" hole in each end of the brass sheet.
3) Round off the ends.
4) Drill a 9/32" hole in the end of the dowel to accept the chuck key.
5) Drill a 5/32" hole in the dowel for the pin, 5/8" from the end.
6) Pass the chuck key through one of the holes in the brass sheet and into
 the hole in the dowel.
7) Drive the pin back into place.
8) Attach the string using the other hole in the brass sheet.
9) Install two screw eyes at the side of your bench, one in the front and
 one in the back.
10) Feed the string through the screw eyes and attach the lead weight so
 that it is just above the floor when the key is in it's home position.

Note: Measurements may vary depending on the chuck key.

Timothy A. Hansen
TAH Handcrafted Jewelry

t.lee, I use a tube cutting jig rather than a flex shaft to cut my
tube set stones. It allows me the option of cutting multiple bezels
to the exact same length. It has many other uses in addition to
keeping bezels from becoming shrapnel. I got mine from Frei and
Borel (product # 030.500), but I believe that Gesswein also carries
them. I modified mine by wrapping rubber bands around the handle
just below the metal base and securing them around the lever that
holds the metal in place. This helps avoid the awkward positioning
of the hand holding the jig and relieves fatigue of the thumb if you
have to use it for an extended period of time. They are made for
right handed people but this modification, if you can call it that,
helps make the jig a little more useful for lefties.

Hope this helps
Larry Seiger

I’m reminded of losing my ring mandrel years ago. I have no idea how
I lost it, it was just gone. My studio is very small and we’re talking
a foot long ring mandrel here, not a small part. I looked high and low
and even called in another person to look with me in case my eye
somehow kept skipping over it. No luck. I gave up and bought a new one
a few weeks later. Months later the old mandrel shows up in its normal
spot. I’m a one person shop, no employees. Very twilight zone-ish. I
personally thought my deceased grandfather was playing a joke on me.

Chuck keys: I have a strong magnet attached to the steel pole
supporting the flex shaft on my bench. It’s a perfect eye level. I’ve
recently determined to always put things back as soon as I’m finished
with them. It’s working so far.


Hello Lee, Mounting a magnet to corral the chuck key has potential
for lots of other tools. If anyone is looking for an
inexpensive/free magnet, take apart an old speaker… they contain a
very strong magnet. I got a speaker from a junked car. Just be
careful (use gloves and goggles) in case you inadvertently break it.
The pieces are sharp! But it’s a heck of a strong magnet.

Judy in Kansas
Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936

I kind of picked up on this thread a little late. Why are you all
still using chuck keys? There are plenty of handpieces available out
there that don’t require chuck keys. We haven’t had (or needed to
worry about losing ) a chuck key in our shop in over 15 years.
Besides not losing the chuck keys you save an immense amount of time
not having to use one. The amount of time and labor you save with the
quick release devices more than makes up for any added expense.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

They got me too (the gods). I had been working on a complicated gold
piece for weeks. It was to be duplicated and used link-fashion with
other pieces. I finally got it perfect. A little final polish (can
we say spit shine here?) and it was a completed masterpiece, ready
for a mold. I have two swing-arm lamps on my bench; one incandescent
and one circular fluorescent w/ magnifying lens in the center. Well,
my little treasure flew from my hand, glanced off the overhead
fluorescent lamp, and disappeared. We’re not talking little gem
here. This is a piece at least 1/2 inch long X 3/8" X 1/4". I spent
the next couple of hours in the “jeweler’s position” with the
flashlight, moving the cabinets, searching the pockets, the bra, the
hair. How can it be gone when you know it’s in the room? I got up
the next morning and went through the same routine, knowing it was
there, somewhere.

It finally occurred to me that the gods wanted to be acknowledged and
consulted. I lay on my back on the floor in the middle of the room,
arms over my head as if I were going to make a snow angel. If you
really want to communicate with the gods, you do much better in a
vulnerable position. Any animal can tell you this. Besides, it’s
good entertainment for those passing by. I closed my eyes and did
some deep breathing, and centered my entire being on that missing
piece of gold. I flattered the gods for their cleverness, and
promised to share my story with you as proof of their existence, and
finally they complied. They told me that if I heard it hit the lamp,
and then it disappeared, how about looking in the lamp…duh.
Well, I had looked, but there was no place for it to hide. I removed
the flimsy plastic lens, and there was no place for it to be, but it
did rattle when I moved it. Sure enough, I dismantled the lamp, and
there it was. The only orifice in the lamp was smaller than my gold
piece. A mouse can get through a hole seemingly smaller than itself,
but a hunk of metal? The gods put it there. No doubt whatsoever.

So next time you need to consult them, instead of the old jewelers
position, you might try the snow angel pose. Worked for me. Wasn’t
only the gods who got a chuckle, either.

Good luck now, Tess Headley


I too use a quick release handpiece most of the time. As you know they
only accept one size of shank. Thus the necessity for a standard hand
piece as well. Another thing is that an AllSet tool will only fit a
standardhand piece.

Timothy A. Hansen

TAH Handcrafted Jewelry

Why are you all still using chuck keys?  There are plenty of
handpieces >available out >there that don't require chuck keys. 

I can only speak for myself, Daniel, but the quick-change Faro-style
handpieces I’ve seen accept only 3/32" shafts. I frequently use
tools with 1/8" shafts for wax and gem-carving and lots of other
applications. I own an early version of the Foredom 7-D quick-change
that’s wonderful for 3/32" use when it works but it breaks down
frequently. I like the old #30 Foredom for many tasks because it
runs cooler in sustained operation than other handpieces I’ve used.
If I were doing pure jewelry bench work all the time I’d want a Faro
type. Are there any Foredom 18D users out there? They’re cheaper
than Faros and I’d appreciate a report card on them.