CNC & Machining Woodworking Workshop
Retracting Key Ring Corrals Chuck Key


ringNoticed this write-in tip from Matthew Hakeman in the most recent issue of The Family Handyman. Googling discovered the title image in a thread over at, from user evintho. Looks like he’s put a metal strap around the key between the handle and the teeth. The illustration to right is from, and shows an alternate method for attaching the key ring to the chuck key using a short wooden dowel.

I like this tip a lot, and I happened to have one of those retracting spring-reel key rings lying around, so I tried it on my own small drill press, as shown in the picture below. I was able to use a small split ring to secure the chuck key at the end of the chain. Figuring out how to get the split ring in place without taking the chuck key apart is left as a homework assignment/tavern puzzle.


14 thoughts on “Retracting Key Ring Corrals Chuck Key

  1. This is the first thing i did to my drill press. I used a retractor that was meant to be used on an id card, like what you would see around a doctors office. It has lasted for years, and i never have to hunt for the chuck.

    Why haven’t the tool companies have never built this in as a feature?

    1. We have a keyring just like this at i3 Detroit, and it’s great. People don’t leave the key in the chuck because it’s very hard to balance that against the pulling!

      I’ve been wanting to build an actual “enable” switch that will only allow the tool to operate once the chuck key has been returned to its nest. Mostly for the lathe, whose chuck key is many times larger and heavier, but also for the drill press. THAT’s a feature I’m surprised doesn’t come from the factory.

  2. But if you forget to take the key out and turn the drill press on – you wind the chain around the chuck. (And don’t say you’d never do that. 30 years experience as a toolmaker says otherwise…)

    1. Interesting point.  Like Greg, my key has the spring-loaded pin so you can’t leave it in place.  But even if it didn’t, and I accidentally did, mightn’t it still be better to have the key on a tether than flying loose around the shop?  I don’t claim to know the answer.  But it’s a thought.

  3. I have been using this technique on my drill press for many years.  Haven’t loss the chuck key yet.  My key has the spring loaded center so it doesn’t stay in the chuck.  So far I haven’t wound it around the chuck yet, but Murphy does live in everyone’s shop.

     I also use a foot pedal switch so I am not reaching in, in case of trouble.

  4. Interesting idea but every drill press I’ve used has a hole in the table for the chuck key to reside in.  Maybe it’s only a problem in a place with more than one drill press.  

Comments are closed.


I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan