Keys are cut with a machine called a key duplicator. Your original key is placed in a vice on one side of the key duplicator, lined up with the cutting tool (or blade), and a blank key is placed in a vice on the side of the machine that contains the alignment tool.
The alignment tool is a piece of metal that is even with the blade. The key guide, or alignment bar, on your key duplicator, ensures the keys are even with one another.
The key duplicator is then turned on, and as the original and blank keys move horizontally across the machine, the blade cuts into the blank key, using the original as a sort of template. Afterward, the lock tech will sand the duplicate key for a smooth finish. The final product is a duplicate key that matches the original.
Make sure the correct key blank is used.
For residential keys, selecting the correct key blank is typically easy. At Anderson Lock, we have about a million different key blanks. We try to choose one that is as similar to the original as possible to ensure accuracy and quality.
In the photo, the Ilco key with the blue plastic insert shows rounded cuts and years of wear. However, the old key is still easily identifiable as a Schlage C lookalike.
Tim Lankford, the lock tech shown, could have cut a new key on a matching “lookalike” blank, but he chose to use a Schlage original brass key blank to assure accuracy.
Don’t make a copy of a copy of a copy.
How accurate is the key that needs to be copied? When keys are worn down, they should be decoded before copies are cut. The key gauge was used to determine the depth of the original cuts. In general, however, one should not make a duplicate key without the original on hand.
After decoding the key, Tim chose to use the “Blue Punch” key clipper. He moved the guide to choose the cut depth, then clipped the key, one cut at a time. This standard locksmith machine is easy to use, accurate, and dependable.
How long does it take to cut a key?
A professional locksmith can accurately duplicate a standard key in just a few minutes. Duplicating a more complicated key can take up to 25 minutes. How long it takes to get a key copied could depend on where you go to get your key copied.
Where can I get keys copied?
While self-service key cutting kiosks are increasingly popping up in big box chains and hardware stores, these machines aren’t necessarily reliable over time. While they likely work well when new, there is no guarantee that they’re regularly recalibrated or well-maintained in the long run.
Anderson Lock keeps over a dozen key machines carefully calibrated, and if cutting wheels become dull, they are changed to maintain flawless cuts. Many of our machines are computerized to eliminate human error.