Your best protection against lockout is having a pair or two of spare keys. Leave these keys with someone you trust or a family member. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you have a backup in case of emergency. If you get locked out, you’ll know that you will still be able to access your property. If your key happens to break in your lock you should be able to remove it. The key will still need to be replaced though. Key duplication can be done in different ways and key machines do the best job out of all. Depending on what you need, different methods will help better than others.
A key duplicator can make a copy of whatever key you have on hand. It isn’t illegal to own your own key duplicator because you can only copy a key that you have, not someone else’s. Some places consider key duplicators as lock picking tools, but they really aren’t. These machines will help you copy whatever keys you like. Just make sure to wear proper protection. Small pieces of metal fly around dangerously when a key is being cut.
On one side of the machine goes the key you want to copy; on the other, the key blank for the new key. The key blank should be positioned on the cutting side of the machine, and the key you want to duplicate should line up with the machine’s alignment tool. Your key duplicator may have an alignment bar that ensures both keys are evenly positioned. This shouldn’t be confused with the alignment tool, which is a piece of metal that regulates the cutting blade.
Check your machine’s calibration before starting the process. Put an even piece of metal across the key holder on the machine. Make sure that both the cutting blade and the leading edge of the alignment tool are even. You can then fasten the keys in place with vice grips. The keys’ position can be adjusted so they properly line up with the cutter and alignment tool.
Once the process begins the keys will move along the machine until the cutting is finished. You will wind up with two keys cut identically in the end. You should sand your new key to remove any residual metal burrs. After the burrs are gone, both keys should fit in the original lock.
A code cutter is necessary to cut a key without its original. In this case you should call on the help of a professional locksmith. They’ll have the resources necessary to find out the machine’s corresponding groove depths. This method is used for keys that have been lost or broken. Sometimes you can find the key code on the lock or on the original key. The code on your key will match one on your locksmith’s list. Then, your locksmith will know how to cut your new key.
Doing this for a car key is different. Contact your car dealership and use your car’s identification number (VIN) to find your code. The code, along with other basic information on your car will help you get a brand new key. The process of duplicating a key in this way used to be done by hand but machines take care of it now. Just enter the right code into the key cutter and the key will automatically be cut as specified. You will then have a physical car key but you’ll need to take it further if it needs a new key fob or transponder programming.
The keys are cut by either getting ground down or cut with a punch machine. A punch machine will specify the depth and width of the cut before the blade hits the key. Code cutters can be manual or electronic. When cut with a punch machine, the key won’t need to be sanded for burrs.
Laser cutting machines can look a lot like a key duplicator or a code cutter. These machines router out the key’s thickness instead of cutting the grooves with a blade. Car keys made after 1990 have likely been laser cut. A key cut with this method will look a bit like a serrated blade. These keys are meant to defend against bump keys and tryout keys.
Contrary to the namesake, laser cutters don’t use lasers during the cutting process. The cuts are actually made by a bit that works fast to router the key. The bit used is often covered in titanium to give them a longer useful life. Code cutters and key duplicators are essentially the same. For a key duplicator you’ll need the original key. For a code cutter, you’ll need the key code.
There are many different types of key cutting machines. If you want to use one of these methods to cut a key, safety comes first. Key duplication can be illegal if you don’t have the right credentials. The laws will really depend on where you live, so do your research and find what the best method for you is. As long as everything is legal, have a go at it. Getting good at key duplication is a part of locksmithing that you’ll need to practice to get better at.
Keep your wits about you when working with key duplication tools. Take good care of the materials and learn from your failures in order to get better. Soon enough, you’ll be making quality keys that you can use as spare keys. These keys will protect you from lockouts but the more keys you have, the more liable you can be to theft. Make sure that you leave your spare keys with people you can really trust. They better be responsible!