Adjusting an HPC 1200 SERIES MACHINE

Dec. 1, 2007
Listen to what your key machine is saying. A higher than normal sound during cutting or hard to remove shavings on finished keys are indications that the cutter wheel needs replacing.

Think of an item of locksmith equipment you cannot do without and most of us would probably put our code machine near the top of the list. For the last 30-plus years, the name HPC has been synonymous with one of the most popular code machines on the market. The latest version is called the Blitz 1200CMB, but there are still thousands of plain old 1200CM machines in the field functioning just like the day they were made.

Every mechanical item requires a little periodic maintenance in order to stay in tip-top shape. Locksmith Ledger recently took a trip to the HPC factory in Schiller Park , IL , and asked the factory experts how they check the adjustments on these machines.

Note: Always disconnect the power cord before doing any adjustment work on any key machine.  

The first advice from HPC is to listen to what your 1200 is saying. A higher than normal sound from the machine during cutting or hard to remove shavings on finished keys are indications that the cutter wheel needs replacing.

The official policy at HPC is to always use new cutters as replacements. Several different cutters are needed depending on the key type being originated. New cutters will have identical diameters which provide the best dimensional consistency. HPC furnishes flat, stamped steel wrenches for installing cutter wheels. A busy shop may want to use more sturdy forged tools. An open end 1/2” wrench can be used to hold the shaft and a 3/4” socket wrench can be used to tighten the shaft nut. When changing blades, be aware that the nut has reverse threads.          

A dial caliper should be an essential tool for every locksmith and will prove to be very helpful during adjustment of any key machine. HPC has two key decoders, either with mechanical readings (SKM-1), or with an easy to see digital readout (SKM-2). These decoders can be used to readily check on the cutting accuracy of your machine.

If a new cutter wheel does not solve accuracy issues, it is time to dig deeper into the cause. HPC suggests a series of three steps. Start by checking tip stop spacing. Then check shoulder stop spacing, and finally check depth accuracy.

One of the most popular tip stop key systems is Best . If you do not have a Best key with original cuts, any popular double-cut, tip stop auto key with original cuts can be used. Insert the Best or double-cut auto key into the proper vise jaw and align the key against the black (horseshoe) tip stop. Install the blue HPC card and cutter blade designated for that key system.

Turn the spacing wheel until the space dial is set at the key cut closest to the bow. Move the carriage inward until the cutter blade is almost touching the key cut. Check to see that the ‘V' cutter blade is centered within the original key cut. Sometimes the black ‘U' shaped gauge (HPC CM1054R) may become loose. This affects proper space positioning. Pliers can be used to slightly squeeze the two arms together and solidify the gauge in the vise jaw. To preclude breakage, use very little force while squeezing.

Four Allen head set screws are located at the base of the carriage unit. When these screws are loosened, the carriage can be moved left or right on the shaft to adjust the tip stop spacing. Align the dial at the first space on the code card, then move the carriage until the cutter is centered with the first cut on the original key. Finally, retighten the four Allen screws.       

Tip stop spacing should rarely be a problem unless the internal gear drive system is worn or damaged. Replacement of primary internal parts is best left to the professionals. The HPC key machine department can either answer questions about HPC key machines by phone or you can send your machine to them for rebuilding or repair. Machines are usually returned within a 5 day period. Call HPC at 847-671-6280 either for questions or for scheduling repairs.

Once tip stop spacing is verified, the next step is to check shoulder stop spacing. The HPC key machine department recommends using Schlage original keys for this procedure. Insert a Schlage key with original cuts into jaw ‘A'. Use the Schlage C45 code card and a 14MC cutter blade. Move the spacing dial to the cut nearest the bow. Move the carriage inward until the cutter blade is almost touching the key cut. Check to see if the cutter blade is exactly centered in the key cut.

If the cutter blade is not centered in the key cut, loosen the Schlage key and move it in the vise jaw until the key cut is properly aligned with the first cut, then retighten the vise jaw. Next, loosen the Allen screw which retains the shoulder gauge shaft. The shaft is threaded. Once loosened, the shaft can be rotated to move the shoulder gauge left or right as needed. When in correct alignment, the shoulder gauge should barely touch the key shoulder as it is swung into position. When complete, retighten the Allen head screw onto the shaft.

The final step is depth adjusting. Start with an uncut key blank.   A Schlage key blank is normally used at HPC for this procedure. Using the correct C45 code card, move the carriage to the space nearest the bow and cut a “5” depth. A Schlage “5” depth is .260, which is very easy to determine when using a caliper or key decoder. Two large diameter rods extend from the right side of the vise carriage. The top rod is used for depth adjusting. This rod is milled on an eccentric. When looking at the end of the shaft from the right side of the machine, clockwise rotation will provide a deeper reading, while counterclockwise rotation will provide a shallower reading.

The shaft offset allows a 90-degree movement in either direction which provides an adjustment of   either +.015 or -.015. Therefore if the “5” Schlage cut on your machine was .255 or .265, a shaft rotation of approximately 30 degrees will bring the machine to a .260 depth. This may take some experimentation and several cuts on the key, but should be accomplished very quickly. Retighten the shaft Allen screw when finished.

HPC also has a calibration kit (CMB-CK) which includes a smooth blade disc plus a calibration card and key. Instructions are included for checking machine accuracy.    

There are many new jaws, tip stops, cutters and other accessories available to make your HPC 1200 series code machine even more important to your daily business. Check with your local locksmith distributor or contact HPC on the internet at