It wasn’t always this way, but nowadays cutting keys is quite a high-tech affair.
In the olden days, keys would have been cut by hand, with a file. (Cutting mortice keys with a file is still part of the Master Locksmith Association exam.) These days, a great many keys are not only cut on electronic machines, but are cut using computerised machines and software.
Most key-cutters use at least two different machines in their shops to copy most standard house keys. At Metrolocks, we have seven different machines, of which two are plugged into a computer.
Our machines can:
- copy mortice keys
- copy Yale keys
- make Yale keys to a code number
- make ABUS Plus keys to a code number
- copy tubular keys
- copy dimple keys
- make dimple keys to a code number
Below, we’ll cover three of our machines, so you can see how they work and what they can do.
Silca Rekord 2000
This is the basic cylinder key copying machine. It’s quite simple: you put the original key in the clamp on the left and a key blank on the right. The tracer slides over the cuts in the original, while the cutter then exactly duplicates those cuts. (On the right you can see our Rekord prepared for cutting with a key and key blank.)
We have a Silca Lancer machine that does more or less the same thing for Chubb keys: it traces over the existing cuts in the original key to make a duplicate.
While the machine looks fairly idiot-proof, there’s actually some skill involved in the copying process. The first step is simply identifying the correct key blank. This often takes a keen eye.
The next bit is to make sure the original and the blank are aligned properly. Most of the time this is easy, though some keys don’t lend themselves very well to this. To get around this, you often need to apply some skilful trickery to get ‘unwilling’ keys to sit tight in the clamp.
Silca UnoCode 299
The UnoCode is a computerised cylinder key-cutting machine. It can cut the same sorts of key that the aforementioned Rekord can, except that the UnoCode does them from a code number, rather than copying them from an original key.
This is particularly handy. Imagine, for instance, that you’ve lost your original key. This is very common with, say, desk locks. Your predecessor at work might have accidentally taken the desk keys with them when they left. You have no original key to copy from.
If you have a UnoCode, though, the answer is hakuna-matata (it means “no worries” 😉 ). Find the code number marked on the keyhole to your desk lock, tell us using our online enquiry form, and then we can make it from the code number.
But office furniture isn’t the only thing that has key codes. All kinds of keys have code numbers on that we can make remotely, without needing to see your original key and without you needing to come to our workshop.
To find out more about getting office furniture keys cut, click here.
Silca Triax e-Code
By this point in the article, it’s probably worth mentioning who Silca is, since four out of our seven machines are made by them.
Silca is an Italian firm that manufactures key blanks, key machines, key-cutting software and other key-cutting paraphernalia. They’re the market leader and make excellent quality machines. They’re owned by dormakaba, one of the lock industry’s titans, based in Switzerland.
The Triax is a lovely machine that can make dimple and laser keys to code.
Dimple keys are more common in continental Europe than in the UK, but you’ve still probably come across them at some point. Instead of having cuts along the side edge, like a Yale key, they have dimples (essentially holes) drilled onto the surface.
Laser keys are keys with a ‘track’ bored along them. Car keys are a good example of laser keys. Another type of laser key (which is also a dimple key!) is the Yale Superior key (pictured right). This has both dimples and a laser track. They’re not my favourite keys to cut—even if the Triax does all the heavy lifting of the cutting process for me—but they certainly look cool.