Locksmiths originate keys using different types of code machines, both manual and electric. These include motorized micrometer machines, “Card Type” and computerized models that originate commercial, residential, utility keys, automotive, etc. They originate the keys by making use of space and depth of cut information as well as knowing the specific bittings required. Depending upon the code machine, one or more cutters may be required to create the flat or radius and the included angle.
For the purpose of this article, we will discuss key origination machines designed for cylindrical keys.
A pioneering patented key origination machine is the Ilco Universal motorized key-cutting machine, also known as the “Disc Machine.” Patent number 1,750,218 was granted to Morris Falk on March 11, 1930. This key origination machine uses detachable and removable discs, one for the depths and one for the spaces. Each disc has a series of holes that are numbered to match the lock manufacturer’s specifications. Space and depth keys were provided to set the spacing and depth of cut prior to originating keys. Over the years, more than 150 sets of discs were available for the Universal Code Machine. Ilco discontinued the Universal Code Machine when more efficient methods were developed for originating keys, including electronic code machines and the Universal II Code Machine.
Additional key origination machines are manufactured by Bianchi, CodePro Manufacturing, Framon, ITL and Laser Key Products. Lock manufacturers such as Medeco and Mul-T-Lock also offer key originating.
When you purchase a key origination machine, you must stay with the cutters for that machine. On the Framon machine, insert the key blank from the right. For the Ilco , insert the blank from the left. This results in the asymmetrical cutters being machine specific.
To properly cut the keys, different shaped cutters were and are used today on the non-computerized key origination machines. The correct cutter is essential for originating keys that are within tolerances of the original equipment. For computerized key machines, a single cutter can make different width flats as part of the programming. ITL key origination machines normally use only one cutter. The cutter has a minimal flat of approximately 0.010”. The fully automatic machines make the flat adjustments for each manufacturer’s locks. ITL950 Series semi-automatic machines have a crank handle for spacing. The crank handle moves the key blanks from the bow (head) to the tip, cutting the flats as the blade is being cut.
For manual key origination machines, two techniques are employed. The first is to choose the correct cutter. The overall shape, included angle, cutter thickness, and flat dimension determine the keys that can be originated. Varying sized cutters are available to originate keys to lock manufacturers’ specifications.
Carbide cutters are available for some key originating machines. Carbide cutters maintain their sharpness for a longer time versus tool steel cutters. However, carbide cutters are susceptible to teeth breaking from the key blank contacting the rotating cutter wheel too fast. For more information, ask your locksmith distributor for their recommendations on your specific key code machine.
Lock manufacturers provide specifications including the included angle of the cuts and the width of the flat. Some key origination machine companies have a standard cylinder or large diameter pin tumbler symmetrical cutter that has a 90-100-degree included angle and an approximate 0.045” wide flat. This cutter can be used to originate keys that have a radiused or tipped bottom pin. For Kwikset locks, the spacing wheel must be widened in both directions to increase the width of the flat to at least 0.088” to accommodate the flat chamfered bottom pins. The cutter must match the shape of the bottom pins.
An additional asymmetrical cutter has a narrower side for automotive work.