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Types of Key Cutting Machines

Keys are one of the most commonly produced items in the world with almost every person owning at least one set of keys.

They have been around for quite some time and were first used in Babylon and Egypt some 6000 years ago, the same time that locks first appeared.

They are used for opening locks and safeguarding physical properties such as homes, buildings, cars, and security safes.

Along with being so common the world over, keys are also one of the most commonly misplaced items with nearly 37% of homeowners in the UK losing at least one set of keys in their lifetime.

Additionally, due to their ability to access protected assets, they are also prone to being stolen, and their compact size adds to them being susceptible to theft and easily getting lost.

That being said, what would you do if you lost the keys to your home? Or the keys to your security safe? Or any important keys, for that matter? Or what if the keys broke?

You would lose access privileges and might have to resort to breaking in, which might cause you more damage than good.

Luckily, there’s a way around it and it’s called key cutting. Read on to find out all there is to know about key cutting and the different types of key cutting machines used to get the job done:

WHAT IS KEY CUTTING?

Key cutting is a very popular method used across the country to make keys. It can be done by either making a duplicate of an existing key or making a new one altogether.

Key cutting services may be required for several reasons that include:

Back-up keys

We’re all human and sometimes we can be careless. And in that carelessness, we can sometimes lose the keys to our homes, doors, cars, and safes.

Imagine coming back home from work only to realise that your keys aren’t with you. And for the life of you, you can’t remember where or how you lost them. What follows are moments of pure panic and helplessness.

To prevent that from happening, it’s always smart to have back-up spare keys made. They can come in handy during such situations, provided that you keep them safe and protected, and not in common spots such as under the mat or a flowerpot, where burglars can easily find them.

Preventing damage

As is with everything tangible, keys tend to wear out over time. They are made of brass or a nickel and brass mixture and can get damaged due to prolonged usage.

Damaged keys may get stuck in the lock due to breakage and cause lockouts, therefore, it is good practice to keep a check on your key health, have a spare one for emergencies, and alternate between keys to make them last significantly longer.

Giving access to others

You might need to get a key cut and duplicated if you wish to grant access to other people. Say, for instance, you live with three other adult and responsible family members.

Quite obviously, you would all have different routines and schedules and you won’t be around to open and lock the house door for them every time they come and leave.

For that reason, it is best to create spare keys to distribute among people sharing access. Just make sure they keep their keys safe and understand how losing them could jeopardise the security of the entire house.

TYPES OF KEY CUTTING MACHINES

Key cutting machines come in several types and are used to make new keys or duplicates of an existing one. When used properly, they are safe, effective, and accurate devices that produce keys in a matter of minutes.

There are different styles of key cutting machines, each one addressing a specific type of key: house keys, safe keys, car keys, etc. Some of the common ones used in the UK are:

  • Manual key cutting machines
  • Automatic key cutting machines
  • Laser key cutting machines
  • Tubular key cutting machines
  • Cylinder key cutting machines
  • Mortice key cutting machines
  • Dual key cutting machines

Manual key cutting machines, as the name suggests, are operated manually and are the least accurate type. They work by the operator securing the template key and the key to be cut on top of each other, after which the machine manually traces the profile on the duplicate key to get an identical shape.

In contrast, automatic and semi-automatic machines don’t require manual labour, as such, and do most of the work themselves. The two keys are placed inside the machine where a stylus traces the shape of the template key and simultaneously cuts the duplicate.

After the duplicate key is created, the finishing touches are done by brushing to remove any metal spurs from the freshly cut edges. As is obvious, automatic key cutting machines are faster and more expensive than their semi-automatic counterparts.

Laser key cutting machines work in the same way as the automatic ones, except that instead of using blades to cut the keys, they use, you guessed it right: lasers. They offer much precision and are used for many high-security key systems.

Keys come in various shapes and sizes; some are tube-shaped, some are cylindrical having a bow and long blade, and some require a pocket to be cut in to (mortice). There are different types of machines to help duplicate these specifically shaped keys: tubular, cylindrical, and mortice key cutting machines, respectively.

In recent times, dual key cutting machines have become more popular in the UK, with many professional mobile locksmiths carrying them.

Since cylinder and mortice keys are both the most common types of keys used in the country, these dual machines enable locksmiths to cut both types of keys using the same machine.

TIME REQUIRED AND ESTIMATED COSTS

There are different types of keys used for opening various types of locks. There are house and window keys, patio door keys, garage door keys, office/locker keys, filing cabinet keys, safe keys, and security keys.

Some are small and simpler to duplicate, hence costing less, whereas others are a bit more technical and might require longer to get the replica.

Out of these, window keys are the cheapest to cut, and safe keys, especially double-bitted ones, are the most expensive.

House keys for doors and windows are also the fastest to be cut, whereas security keys require the longest wait.

When keys are copied using an existing pattern, we say they are cut to pattern, and the process is quicker as compared to being cut to code for when there is no original key to copy, and it generally takes longer.

On average, a standard Yale type key, which is smaller in size, takes no longer than a minute to cut and costs around £4.

Larger mortice keys can take up to 5 minutes to cut since they require different machines and it is difficult to find the right blank. The cost to have them cut starts from about £5.

Safe keys are a little difficult to cut and may take around 20 to 25 minutes. They usually require some final finishing touches done by hand and the cutting costs start from approximately £15. Double-bitted keys are even more complicated than standard safe keys and can take longer to cut.

WHY YOU SHOULD HIRE A LOCKSMITH FOR KEY CUTTING

You might be tempted to cut your keys yourself but, while it is a very doable thing, the efficiency and effectiveness with which it will be done may raise some huge questions.

Key cutting requires background knowledge and experience and, if you mess it up, you might end up spending more time and money than you intended to save. Since keys are a major part of security, it is best to leave key cutting to the professionals.

Locksmiths have the required expertise, skill, and specific knowledge used in key cutting. They aren’t just specialists in dealing with keys, but also their corresponding locks.

As discussed above, there are various types of keys and key cutting machines, and locksmiths are trained to operate of all of them using their standard procedures.

Due to their vast experience and years of training, they know exactly what to do and can cut keys in the least possible time.

Key cutting, if not done correctly, has a very high error rate and there are certain things you must be careful about when doing it, such as making sure that the machine’s cutters are properly aligned and not making copies of copies.

The quality of the finished product is highly dependent on the finesse with which it has been done, which can only be achieved by someone who is an expert i.e., a professional locksmith.

Since keys are an extremely personal possession, you need to be sure that the place you’re getting your key cut is trustworthy and won’t sell copies of your keys further.

If you opt for the services from a random place, there will be no guarantees to the level of confidentiality and you will always be worried about some stranger illegally possessing your keys.

Luckily, professional locksmiths are certified and take such legalities into account, making sure your keys remain safe and that your identity remains protected too.

RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL LOCKSMITHS

Keys and locks for residential properties can be different from the ones used in commercial properties and, for that reason, there are different types of professional locksmiths for each industry.

Residential locksmiths are professionals who specialise in home locks, keys, and security. They are trained to work on residential properties, understand the nature of risks and threats that they face, and give recommendations accordingly.

They do so much more than just cut keys and install locks on the doors of your house. They help assess your security needs and provide tips on how to protect your home from unauthorised access.

Commercial locksmiths are professionals who work on larger commercial properties such as buildings, offices, schools, hotels, warehouses, and factories. They can cater to small residential properties as well and have specialised skills to provide solutions for commercial properties on a large scale.

They not only cut keys and open and change locks, but also help with a variety of other services that include installing and servicing electronic and digital locks, and master keying.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT KEY CUTTING

Here are a few FAQs and their answers related to key cutting:

Can a key be cut without a template key?

This is probably the most common question asked and the answer to it is yes. Experienced locksmiths have the skills and experience to cut a key from scratch without using a template.

They can cut a key to fit a lock by hand but that, depending on the situation, might not be the most economical solution and it would be better to have the locks replaced or rekeyed instead.

Can a key be cut without the original key?

Yes, it can be done but it isn’t recommended. When it comes to key cutting, the original key provides the most precise template and, if you use a copy to make another copy, the quality will deteriorate with each duplicate made.

Can a key be cut using a broken key?

As long as the key isn’t too damaged and the important parts, albeit broken, are available, a professional locksmith will be able to cut a new key to be used in the existing lock.

If the key is too damaged, the process will have to be done without using a template, by making a key to fit the lock.

What if the key breaks in the lock?

This is a very common issue faced by many professional locksmiths. They will remove all the broken parts and use a key cutting machine to make a new key.

What is a restricted key?

A restricted key provides extra security and control to the owners and is made to prevent duplicates from being made. Keys with patents are truly restricted and cannot be duplicated without authorisation from the registered keepers.

CONTACT CALDER SECURITY

Keys are an important security feature, which is why you must hire a professional to get them cut whilst maintaining the integrity of your door security.

At Calder Security, we have professional locksmiths catering to both residential and commercial security who can work on a wide range of keys and locking mechanisms.

We are members of the Master Locksmith Association (MLA) since 1976 and can cut any type of keys including cylinder keys, mortice keys, dimple keys, Mul-T-Lock keys, padlock keys, locker keys, and safe keys.

We possess the skill required in key cutting and our state-of-the-art digital key cutting equipment allows us to cut virtually any domestic and commercial key to a high degree of accuracy in just a few minutes.

We can cut keys from existing keys, codes, and security cards, and thanks to our expert locksmiths and digital machinery, the copies are cut to the original key quality.

We have a Lock and Safe Shop in Wakefield where we offer key cutting services while you wait, in addition to safe and lock sales.

Other than key cutting services, our professional locksmiths are also able to work with a vast range of locking systems.

We are specialists in wooden, UPVC, and aluminium doors and the official suppliers for leading lock brands including Chubb, Yale, Securikey, and Garrison.

In addition to installation services, our professional locksmiths also offer repair services for when the locks become damaged or develop faults, and are also fully conversant in business master key systems.

Our qualified locksmiths have an in-depth knowledge of all kinds of locks and can often repair them on site. We can also access locks that have become jammed, including safes, and can respond to your calls quickly which can be very useful if you’ve locked yourself out.

Contact us here or call us at 0800 612 9799 to talk to our professional locksmiths right away!

Photo by Samantha Lam on Unsplash