Things to Consider When Buying a Key Machine

Locksmith's need a variety of tools to cut today's keys.


Locksmiths use a variety of tools and equipment on a daily basis. Some of this equipment is generic in nature such as drills, bits, screwdrivers, chisels and hammers. Other pieces are specific to our trade. These items include follow tools, picks, shims and lockout tools. One piece of equipment...


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Locksmiths use a variety of tools and equipment on a daily basis. Some of this equipment is generic in nature such as drills, bits, screwdrivers, chisels and hammers. Other pieces are specific to our trade. These items include follow tools, picks, shims and lockout tools.

One piece of equipment is considered to be a 'must have' for any locksmith or security professional… the key machine. Whether your primary business is providing duplicate house keys for customers, generating large master key systems, servicing vending machine customers or specializing in automotive work, you need an accurate key machine. In fact, you probably need several key machines.

Locksmiths who have been in the business for decades will admit that it used to be possible to get by with one dependable duplicator and not much else. A manual key machine could duplicate keys and usually originate keys using space and depth key sets as the pattern keys.

To cut a full variety of today's keys, locksmiths need a mix of duplicators, code cutters, punches, tubular cutters and milling machines. There are major differences in these types of machines and their intended application will dictate their usefulness to your specific locksmith business.

KEY MACHINE TYPES

Key machines operate in three dimensions referred to as X, Y and Z-axis. X-axis is the left-to-right motion. Y-axis is moving in and out, while the Z-axis is up and down.

DUPLICATORS

Duplicators are the most common type of key machine. Manual duplicators allow you to control all functions of copying a cylindrical key. After clamping the original and key blank in the jaws, you apply the Y force against the cutter and the X motion. Different people will use different amounts of Y force, resulting in inconsistent key duplication. A large person usually exerts more pressure (Y force) than a small person.

For partially this reason, the semi-automatic machines have become the standard of the industry. These key duplicators allow you to clamp the keys and release the carriage toward the cutter. After that, a spring keeps a consistent Y force pressure against the cutter. You still control the X movement. Most of us will run through this left-to-right process twice out of habit. This assures us that a thick key with deep cuts is fully duplicated or as the cutter begins to wear, the key will be duplicated to the proper depths.

Fully automatic duplicator machines used to be found mainly in hardware stores either being leased or provided for little or no charge as long as a specific number of keys were cut every month. Many lock shops have them, and they have their place in your lineup. These machines have a fully controlled X motion and Y force. After clamping, a lever or button is pushed, allowing the machine to begin copying. A spring-fed carriage applies the blank against the cutter and a screw or shaft begins the X movement. These machines are usually rather slow and some run through two cycles to be sure the key is fully cut to depth. Some thick keys may need the process repeated.

Duplicators usually use a fixed cutter wheel depending on the application. A milling cutter for duplication of standard keys will be different than one intended to cut slots in flat steel or corrugated keys used for safe deposit boxes or warded padlocks.

Semi-automatic duplicators have the feature of being quick and the advantage of consistency regardless of who is using them. The benefit is that your customer gets a dependable duplicate key time after time.

CODE MACHINES

Code machines may be motor-driven or hand-powered. Computerized code machines have simplified the entire process of generating a first key. Code machines will cut a key to a specific set of cuts, usually provided by an external or internal code source or master key system chart. Code machines can use interchangeable cutter wheels with different profiles or angles, or may use a single cutter that controls cut width and shape by computer.

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