Sidewinder Machines, Then And Now

June 4, 2012
Framon's SD2 now provides an economical solution for both duplicating and originating most popular sidewinder keys.

Sidewinder keys were first used by Mercedes in the late 1970s. However, Bell and Dudley both made locks which used sidewinder keys back in the 1930s.  Ilco still offers a 1033F blank to keep those old Bell locks usable - now mostly seen only on slot machines.  Bell and Dudley keys were never called sidewinders, but the interaction of the tumblers with the key grooves operated in the same way as some modern sidewinder auto locks do today.

We sometimes tend to take the excellent locksmith equipment available today for granted. The antiquated leather belt-driven Bell key duplicating machines such as the one shown here is no match for the new Framon SD2 sidewinder machine. This Framon machine has no equal since it is the only available manual key machine which can duplicate sidewinder keys and also has attachments for originating sidewinder keys. Until the Framon SD2 was introduced, locksmith choices were limited to several manual duplicators plus a few expensive electronic machines which could originate sidewinder keys The Framon SD2 now provides an economical, made in USA solution for both duplicating and originating most popular sidewinder keys.

The availability of the Framon SD2 machine could not have come at a better time. Almost every automotive manufacturer now has a sidewinder locking system. Exotic motorcycles such as Ducati and Aprilia are using sidewinder lock systems. Cabinet lock companies are also contemplating the introduction of sidewinder lock systems. The reasons are simple: sidewinder locks are more pick resistant than other types of wafer locks and key duplication can be controlled since non-professional key cutters don't have either the training or equipment to do the job.

Sidewinder key designs are not all the same. Internal sidewinder keys have cuts along the center of the blank. External sidewinder keys have cuts along the edge of the blank.  External sidewinder keys can have cuts on all for edges (4-track) or cuts either on the left or right side of the blank (2-track). Blank thicknesses can vary between approximately .102 and .138.  The depth of material to be removed from the side of the blank can vary between .025 and .045. 

With so many variable blank sizes and shapes, vise jaw design becomes critical. The Framon SD2 machine contains an easily convertible vise jaw system. One side of the jaw is designed for cutting most 4-track and internal cut sidewinder keys. When the jaws are flipped over, the opposite side of the jaw is specifically designed to hold external 2-track keys.  An additional jaw is available specifically for holding VW/Porsche/Audi 4-track keys.

Two different cutter blades and corresponding cutter guides are furnished the Framon SD2; a 3/32" and a 5/32" blade. Most external duplicating can be done with the 5/32" diameter cutter blade. The 3/32" diameter cutter blade is recommended for keys having internal cuts.

The general steps for setting up the Framon SD2 machine for sidewinder duplication and origination will be outlined here, but Framon has more definitive instruction on their excellent website which includes key machine video training. Visit and click on "Check out the Framon YouTube Channel."  Two videos, SD2 Part 1 & SD2 Part 2, show complete instructions for operating the SD2 machine.  Instruction videos are also available on YouTube for every other Framon key machine.    


All procedures prior to actual key cutting is done with the machine turned off.  If the blade and guide have been changed for the key being duplicated, adjustment is required so the guide and blade are at the same height.  The second step is to choose the correct jaw to hold the keys. Insert the operating key in the left jaw and align the key by the shoulder or tip stop as necessary and tighten the key into place.  Use the spindle lever to move the cutter downward until it touches any cut portion of the original key.  Use the cutter head clamp to tighten the cutter in position. Finally, insert a key blank in the right jaw and align the key by the shoulder or tip as necessary and tighten the blank in place.

When viewed from above, the cutter blade rotates clockwise. When duplicating a key, always move the cutter along the key blade in a direction which allows the sharp edges of the cutter to cut into the key blank. As example: Begin cutting a 4-track key starting on the right side at the bow. Move the cutter towards the key tip, then continue cutting around the tip continuing on the left side of the blank back towards the bow to complete the duplication.


Code cutting is accomplished with space and depth rods.  Each set of rods is specially machined with grooves and dimple cuts. The space rod is installed on the front of the SD2 machine and the depth rod is installed on the side. Instructions on the Framon videos show the steps required to install 

Setup keys are also included which correlate with each space/depth rod set. Once the rods are installed, the setup key is used to prepare the height adjustment. The process is similar to the one used for key duplication.

Setup keys are also precut with required clearance portions. Before originating a new key, clearance portions must be duplicated onto the new key blank using the setup key as a guide.  

Space and depth rods are designed to make a laser cut pattern on the key. This requires you to think one cut ahead. If the next cut is shallower than the one just cut, first turn the depth rod to the next key, and then turn the space rod to complete the cut. If the next cut is deeper than the one just cut, first turn the space rod to the next depth, and then turn the depth rod to complete the cut. 

Hyundai, Kia and Lexus sidewinder keys use internal cuts.  Certain key combinations require a different cutting procedure. A special cutter is used for Hyundai, Kia and Lexus keys. Instead of cutting laterally, this cutter is used to make cuts at each space position by lowering the cutter into the key each time similar to using a drill press motion.

The base of the Framon SD2 occupies a space only six inches wide on your work bench.  The SD2 can be ordered with either a 110, 220 or 12 volt motor.  Additional space and depth rods  are available for most popular auto sidewinder key systems. For more information, contact Framon Mfg. at: 989-354-5623 or

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