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A Retractable Chuck Key

By Nicholas Kinsman

 

It is always annoying trying to find and then keep chuck keys handy for my drill chucks. I had a retractable lanyard for car keys lying around and found that attaching it to a drill chuck key and hanging it from my mill works great for keeping the key handy. The retractable chain does not get in the way of using the key and has enough tension to quickly retract up and out of the way when done.

I mounted mine on the pulley/drive area of the mill and can very quickly grab the key when needed. It has already saved me many minutes of looking around in the shop. It also eliminates the possibility of leaving the key in the chuck. When you pull your hand away from the chuck, the key has to go with it.

To attach the key, I used a piece of 3/16” diameter fuel line super glued to the key’s handle, then drilled a hole through the hose at the other end and threaded the existing chain loop through it. (Any reasonable sized tube that fits your key handle snugly would suffice.) A nice side effect of this mounting method is the fuel line tube provides a convenient cushion for the key handle when in use!

This method works well for drill presses and milling machine drill chuck keys. I believe it could also work on smaller lathe chuck keys, as long as the key is less in weight than the retractable capacity. Based on the feel of the retractable force for the model I have, I would guess it could handle up to 3/8” chuck keys.

The retractable lanyards I am using are available from McMaster-Carr in both clip-on and bolt-on versions. Search for “retractable key lanyards” on their website. The styles I am using are “A” (clip-on) and “D” (bolt-on).

 

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