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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An 'extra' key can be made from a code machine if you know the cuts of the original. Rather than a duplicate key, this actually becomes an original key by code. Code machines have the feature of being versatile and the advantage of repeatable accuracy. The benefit is that you can generate a key to factory specifications every time.

NOTE: A code cut key is usually cut to the original equipment manufacturer's specifications. A duplicated key is cut to the depths of the pattern key.


While in a somewhat separate category, punch machines are non-motorized code cutters. These bench top machines are powered by pressing down on a handle. This Z-motion forces a punch through the key blade at a depth controlled by a dial or slide. Code clippers are also hand powered by squeezing two handles similar to a pair of pliers. Punch machines use a fixed punch profile to cut keys. Punches can be dedicated to cut one brand of key or may be flexible, allowing you to interchange brand-specific components.

Punches are lightweight and very portable. The benefit is that you can carry it anywhere and create a code key in seconds without electricity.


Tubular machines are made specifically for tubular keys and can fall into the duplicating or code cutting category. Tubular keys come in different diameters and pin positions. Standard tubular keys are .137" in diameter and utilize seven pins in a circular format. The pins are centered or offset from the 12 o'clock position of the tab. Offset left and offset right are still considered standard. Standard tubular duplicators should duplicate left, center and right keys. Other tubular machines may be required to handle other key diameters. Tubular code cutters can be motorized or hand cranked.


Milling machines are available as duplicators and as key originators. Duplicators will usually have a controllable carriage. This can be set to a fixed Z depth position while allowing a free-floating X and Y-axis. Center milled or side milled keys are duplicated by controlling the carriage movement with the joystick. Using the machine similar to a drill press duplicates dimple keys.

Key originating milling machine are usually electronic and quite expensive. These machines are designed for the higher security, mainly automotive market. Several of the key originating milling machines have many of the key codes already programmed into the on-board computer.

Milling machines use a variety of different cutter bits depending on the key being cut.


Following is an overview of key machine manufacturers in alphabetical order and the types of machines they produce. Not every different model from each manufacturer is listed. At the end of each listing is the contact information for that manufacturer:


A1 Security Manufacturing offers punch and tubular key machines in addition to other related locksmith tools and equipment. The Mean Green Machine is designed to cut Best/Falcon type interchangeable core keys for the A2/A3/A4 BEST systems and features available interchangeable vises for cutting Medeco Keymark and Arrow Flexcore. (Pictured on p.10) The side-mounted depth knob and automatic key advance speed up the cutting process without missing cuts.

The Herty Gerty is a hand-operated code cutter for standard #137 tubular blanks. It will also cut offset left & right keys and will cut pin within a pin when used with the accessory cutter. The popular Model 3T PAK-A-PUNCH uses an interchangeable punch and die to punch all angles of cuts. (Photo 2) It can be used for foreign and domestic automotive, Kwikset, Schlage, Master and I/Core keys. A variety of packaged sets and accessories are available.

For more information on A1 Security Manufacturing key machines and tools, call (877) 725-2121 or visit


Barnes Distribution, formerly Curtis Industries, offers six key cutting machines: the BD Laser™, PC+®, 3100, 2200, 1100 Key Duplicators, and the Curtis No. 15 Code Cutter. The BD Laser (pictured on p.11) is a fully automatic, computerized code cutter and duplicator for high security keys. This password-protected, microprocessor controlled key machine originates high security keys by code, decodes and originates keys to factory specifications, plus duplicates keys with minimal instruction.

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