Drill Torque

What Chuck Size Do I Need? + The Ultimate Chuck Guide

Chuck Key

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In the town where I grew up, Chuck was the name of our local, geriatric weatherman.  He was always on top of the weather, and surprisingly both accurate and fun!

When buying a drill, it’s also important to get a good chuck, just like that hometown weatherman!  Something that will serve you well, and not leave you frustrated.

A good chuck will provide the value and durability you need it to, without costing you an arm and a leg!

Chuck Size

When looking at buying a drill, chuck size can be very important depending on what level of use and abuse you plan to use your drill for.  

Since everyone has different needs, let’s run down the different grades of chucks:

There are 2 major chuck sizes that most handheld drills have – 3/8″ or 1/2″.

If we crunch the numbers, we can see that a 1/2″ chuck is only 1/8″ larger than a 3/8″ chuck.

If you pull out your ruler, you’ll see that 1/8″ isn’t very big at all.

So why does it matter?

Drill Chuck Buying Guide

Spade bits can fit a 3/8″ chuck.
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It may not seem like much when you read the numbers on this webpage.  However, a small chuck size means 2 things for your future using your drill.

  • First, a 3/8″ chuck tends to only be a feature on less powerful and less durable drills.  So, it’s simply a marker that tells you, “hey, this may not be a professional-grade drill.”  It’s good to know going into a purchase that this is the case.  However, there are many quality drills that are more than tough enough for building furniture without this feature, so don’t knock it until you try it!  This drill is a great example.
  • Second, a 3/8″ chuck cannot hold bits larger than the 3/8″ size!  At surface level, it seems like not such a big deal because 3/8″ is so close to 1/2″.  However, most hole saws require a 1/2″ chuck size, requiring a more powerful drill.  Hole saws allow you to make holes as big as 4″ or more – Check out our hole saw guide here!

This draws us back to the first point.  If you need a highly powerful drill, you need to invest in something with a 1/2″ chuck, so you’re not disappointed later.  

Do your homework on what add-ons you plan to buy in the first couple years of drill ownership, and make your decision off of that.  Here’s a great drill that does have a 1/2″ chuck!

Don’t worry about buying the most powerful drill if you “might” need it, you can always upgrade later and sell your old drill at a yard sale or pawn shop for a reasonable price.  However, if you know you need a more powerful tool, don’t cheap out – you’ll just be disappointed!

Chuck Durability

Drill Chuck

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When it comes to buying a drill, chuck size isn’t the only thing you need to examine when looking at a chuck.

The durability of a chuck is a big deal too.  You see, there are all sorts of variations on chuck design out there.

Some are metal, some are plastic.

Some have 3 teeth that hold your bit, and some have more.  Sometimes the teeth are durable, and other times they get misaligned and broken easily.

We note drills with “problem chucks” in our reviews so that you go buy a drill with a good education on what you’re getting.  These problem chucks, though not totally useless, won’t hold bits steadily under high-pressure, and may wear out prematurely.

Thankfully, you can still get an affordable drill with a good chuck that will meet your needs, like the Genesis GCD18BK(Buy Now on Amazon).  Or, you can step up to the Hitachi DS18DSAL for a highly durable model!

A Note About Chuck Keys

Chuck Key

A keyed chuck!
Thanks to Jordonhill School D&T Department

If you have an old drill, or a drill press around, you know that a chuck key is a small tool that you use to change drill bits and accessories in a keyed chuck.

Today, most cordless and corded drills feature a keyless chuck, which enables you to quickly and easily change your drill bit without any tool other than your hands.

It works by rotating the keyless chuck with your hand until the bit is loose, than removing and switching the bit when you’ve got the chuck open wide enough for the new bit.  After that, you just tighten it down firmly and you are ready to work!

Most of the time, a keyless chuck is exactly what you need.  If you don’t know that you need a keyed chuck, necessary for extra heavy-duty circumstances, than you just need a keyless chuck.

It’s much easier and faster to use, and there’s no little tool to lose!

And…That’s All Folks!

With that, we conclude our Ultimate Chuck Guide.  I truly hope that you learned a lot, and that we were able to help you understand this part of the drill buying experience even more!

For more great information on how to buy a drill, check out our Drill Buying Guides Home, or even better yet, read our free ebook!  You can check that out below!


About the Author David