Like most woodworkers, we here at Popular Woodworking are fond of our cordless drill/drivers. So when two officials from Jacobs Chuck Manufacturing Co. showed up in our offices last week to show off a new aftermarket keyless chuck, they had our complete attention.
And it didn’t hurt that the Jacobs officials also turned their little demonstration into a contest among the editors. First a bit about the new SoftGrip chucks, then I’ll tell you about the contest.
The SoftGrip chuck replaces your stock chuck on your cordless drill, no matter if it’s a 3/8″ or 1/2″ chuck, single-sleeve or double-sleeve. There are a number of advantages to the SoftGrip that are both obvious and unexpected.
The chuck is noticeably easier to close than a hard metal or smooth plastic chuck. And that’s thanks to its soft, nubby, almost gummy-worm-like feel. You can really get a grip on the chuck to close it on the bit, which is great for anyone who suffers from arthritis or anything else that reduces his or her grip.
The soft grip isn’t just something molded onto the outside of the chuck. It’s integrated into the structure of the chuck using a proprietary double-injection molding process, according to Mike Goodson, the core products development manager for Jacobs.
What that means for you and me is that the soft surface isn’t going to peel off in use.
The SoftGrip can be lighter in weight than your stock chuck. For example, our stock Makita chuck weighs 9.2 ounces and the SoftGrip 3000 series chuck for that drill weighs 5.6 ounces. That weight difference is noticeable when you hold the drill and can also increase your drill’s run-time by about 10 percent, according to James Hou, the product marketing manager.
However, the weight savings are mostly in the SoftGrip 3000 series of chucks, which uses more aluminum in its construction. The industrial version of the SoftGrip, the 6000 series, has more steel in its construction, which of course adds weight. Our stock Hitachi chuck weighs 9.3 ounces. The SoftGrip 6000 replacement weighs 10.2 ounces.
The only other consideration with the SoftGrip is that you have to get your old chuck off. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it is not, as I found out as I replaced the chucks on several drills. Here’s the drill (sorry ’bout that): Remove the screw inside the chuck that secures it to the drill motor. It’s a reverse-thread screw, so it’s righty-loosey. Then you chuck a large Allen wrench into the jaws of the drill and knock the Allen wrench with a hammer to spin the chuck counterclockwise. This loosens the chuck and you then unscrew it off. Adding the SoftGrip is even easier (instructions are included).
Clamping the drill to the bench made it much easier for one editor to remove the chuck.
I had no problems replacing the chuck on our Milwaukee and Hitachi drills. Our Makitas gave us a little bit of a fight, but after a few love taps the chuck came loose. But the Ridgid drill simply refused. Everyone tried it last week (we even fetched former Senior Editor David Thiel , a brute , to try it). This morning Senior Editor Robert W. Lang and I gave it another try.
We got the chuck off, along with the drill’s clutch assembly, spilling ball bearings everywhere. Not good. Perhaps our chuck was torqued on by a particularly sprightly robot. Who knows? So do take care when removing your chuck.
Now about that contest: The Jacobs officials had each editor tighten a stock chuck and measured how much input torque he or she managed to apply to the chuck. Then each editor did the same test with a SoftGrip chuck and measured the input torque, which was much higher. That means the SoftGrip gives you a better grip for the same amount of work. Here are the before-and-after numbers , though I’ve changed the names to protect the editors’ identities:
1. Editor with Ponytail: Stock chuck: 83.7 in./lbs. SoftGrip: 88 in./lbs.
2. Editor with Gloves On: Stock chuck: 83.1 in./lbs. SoftGrip: 175.2 in./lbs.
3. Editor with Fiery Hair and Temper: Stock chuck: 47 in./lbs. SoftGrip: 69.4 in./lbs.
4. Editor with “Little Girl Hands:” Stock chuck: 89.5 in./lbs. SoftGrip: 176.1 in./lbs.
Bottom line: We like these chucks and are now testing them for durability in the shop. The chucks are now available from Home Depot and Lowe’s for about $25 to $32, depending on the model.