Raise your hand if you hate swapping bits and drivers in a cordless drill. I sure do. When I'm putting in screws, I'm always going back and forth, tightening and loosening that darn chuck. Hey, I've even gone to the extreme of buying a second drill just to avoid this hassle. There's got to be a better, and cheaper, answer. Let me introduce you to the new style of quick-change chuck. It's a simple device that fits into any drill and costs less than $15. With one flick of the wrist, you can swap any hex-shank bit or driver in seconds. I know, you're going to say you've already tried one of these chucks and the bit wobbled all over. I had one of those earlier models, too, and threw it away. But quick-change chucks have changed. To research this story, I went out and bought 12 different quick-change chucks—just about every one on the market. Two of the chucks are really terrific. They hold a bit so tightly that it hardly wiggles at all.
The two chucks I like—MLCS?Insty-Lok Quick-Change Chuck and Bosch Clic-Change Chuck—make it really easy to change bits (see Sources, page 43). With these models, you only need to use one hand. Sweet! I don't know about you, but I like to keep one hand on my drill's handle when I'm switching from drilling to driving. My other hand is free to pick up a bit and pop it in. The chuck's barrel automatically snaps into position, locking the bit in place, and I'm ready to go. To remove the bit, I just pull the barrel forward to the unlocked position. It clicks into place, and the bit's loose. I don't have to put the drill down, cradle it in my arm, squeeze it between my legs or go through any of the other contortions I had to do with other quick-change chucks that generally required two hands to use.
Bits and Drivers Any bit or driver with a 1/4-in. hex shank can fit into a quick-change chuck, including twist bits, spade bits, countersink combination bits, self-centering bits, magnetic tip holders and nut drivers. Twist bits for quick-change chucks come in two different styles. In the one-piece bit (about $4 each), the shank is hex-shaped rather than round. (One advantage of a hex shank is that the bit isn't free to rotate in the chuck and develop nasty burrs.) A fancier type involves a regular round-shank drill bit fitting into a router-like collet that has a hex shank. If you break or dull a bit, you stick a new one in the collet. Each collet costs about $3, without the bit. Collets are available for many standard diameters but,unfortunately, not in every 1/64-in. increment. The collet-type is slightly more expensive than a one-piece bit, but it's my favorite. I figure it'll pay for itself down the road. I usually keep on hand a half-dozen inexpensive twist bits of the same diameter. With the collet system, I always have a sharp bit ready to go.
Plain old screwed-and-glued butt joints are one of the fastest, easiest ways to join boards together. The only thing that slows you down is going back and forth among three different bits and drivers, but the quick-change chuck really greases the skids. Bing, bang, done! I use a twist bit for the clearance hole in the outer board, a combination countersink bit with a stop collar for the pilot hole in the inner board and a square-drive tip to run in the screws.
MLCS, (800) 533-9298, www.mlcswoodworking.com, Insty-Lok Quick-Change Chuck, #9563, $14
7 Corners Hardware, (651) 224-4859, www.7corners.com, Bosch Clic-Change Chuck #CC2100, $13.
McFeely's, (800) 443-7937, www.mcfeelys.com, Snappy Hex-Shank Drill Bit Holders, various sizes, drill bit not included, about $3 each.
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