Soon after key codes first appeared on locks a century ago, enterprising people in the security industry began measuring original keys and the next step was to make machines which could reproduce keys by the known measurements. One of my prized possessions is a Briggs & Stratton code machine dating from the early 1930s. That code machine uses a combination of precut spacing keys and a micrometer for setting the depth of cut.
Depth and space keys were probably the first origination system for many locksmiths. Accurate original keys can be made using depth/space keys. At one time a small group of depth/space key sets were all a locksmith needed. As an example, the Ilco key blank catalog currently shows over 6000 different key blanks with new keys appearing almost every month. As a result, cost factors and storage considerations of stocking hundreds of depth/space key sets makes the purchase of a code cutting machine a logical choice.
Mechanical code machines are available either as dedicated machines or universal machines. Blanks such as Best keys for IC core locks are not easily held in universal code machine jaws. As the key is tightened in the universal jaws, it tends to deform and be cut inaccurately. Dedicated machines such as the A-1 or Pro-Lok machines are designed to hold Best-style keys without deformation. Dedicated machines are also useful in an institutional setting where Best IC core locks are the only locks being serviced.
Universal code machines are most useful in a locksmith environment where almost every new key origination job involves a different lock manufacturer's product. Most mechanical code machines are designed to originate both single-sided and double-sided key blanks. A key machine such as the Framon 2 includes a depth/space book which shows the correct dimensioning to use. No other additional parts are required. Other machines use individual cards which contain markings for each depth and space used for cutting a specific key. Micrometer cards can be used to originate a key if the specific card is not available.
Electronic code machines use stepper motors for jaw movement. Depth and space information is usually contained in memory which simplifies the key cutting procedure. Some electronic machines also contain code information. Key cutting consists of inputting the required code number and the key machine automatically generates a new key by code.
Sidewinder (laser cut) automotive keys are becoming increasingly popular. Sidewinder keys are most often originated on specialized electronic code machines. Depth a space keys are time-consuming to use. For some internal sidewinder keys, it is difficult or almost impossible to originate keys by depth key sets.
There are many different code machines on the market. Your choice may depend on which model you favorite distributor stocks, recommendations from fellow locksmiths or none of the above. One fact for sure is that a good code machine is a necessity for every successful locksmith business. The following code machines are just a sampling of available machine types in the marketplace today.
A1 Mean Green Machine
The Mean Green Machine is fast, accurate and more versatile than the original Best combinator which was dearly loved by technicians everywhere. The Mean Green Machine features interchangeable vises allowing you to quickly change punching capability from standard SFIC to other specialty keyways. Its wide solid brass handle is comfortable yet provides more than adequate leverage for cutting nickel silver blanks. Because I/Core demands tighter tolerances, this product was designed to produce accurate depths of cut and to repeat that accuracy time after time. The side mounted depth knob requires far less rotation to achieve cuts 1-9 and the automatic key advance speeds up the cutting process without miscuts. Manufactured from tool steel, cast iron and brass, A1’s Mean Green Machine is built to last. Models cover A2, A3, A4, Arrow Flex, KeyMark and Premium keyways. Proprietary keyways can be accommodated.
The Framon #2 Code Machine continues to be a popular choice among locksmiths who need a rugged, dependable machine. The #2 comes with everything you need in one package - four cutters, six spacing blocks, Framon's Depth & Space Manual, dial calipers, and Genericode code software. Accurate to one-half thousandths of an inch (.0005"), the #2 utilizes a straight-in feed assuring a square cut on the bottom of the key. The machine can originate almost any cylinder key in use today including safety deposit box, padlock, utility, vehicle, Assa, Medeco, and even Tibbe keys (with optional vise).
Included with the Futura is a 10” touch -screen tablet; pre-loaded with an extensive database of key codes.
The convenient removable tablet stand allows the tablet to be placed on the counter. The Futura features WiFi enabled communication between tablet and machine. Updates are available via WiFi connectivity or USB port. In addition to the optimized functionality, the Futura includes many high end features as well as many new “user preferred” features with benefits that owners of the Futura will appreciate. Futura is designed and engineered to cut by code, decode and copy laser style high security, edge cut, dimple, and cruciform style keys… all on one machine!
Pro-Lok Blue Punch
Pro-Lok’s Blue Punch Key Machine is heavy duty and built to last. Each machine is a dedicated punch machine designed to provide factory original keys. Pro-Lok’s Blue Punch creates keys at the speed of a duplicator. The Blue Punch is fast, extremely accurate, and easy to use. The Blue Punch is set up at the factory to provide automatic spacing and depth. The Blue Punch is an ideal key machine for the commercial locksmith, hotels, schools, and other institutions. It is precision machined to the tightest tolerances. Portable and dependable, hand-operated, no electrical outlet needed.
Rapidkey Industries introduces its electronic key cutting machine, the Rapidkey 7000. Now sold in six countries, the Rapidkey 7000 operates on Android 4.1 platform with a 7" colorful capacitive touch screen and is able to cut a 6-pin key in four seconds with precision accuracy of +/- .001". Other features include: searchable, built-in automotive key codes, self calibration, ability to cut keys by code and duplicate, over 1600 internal manufacturer setup key cards, no need to switch cutters, interface with popular code programs, accepts Silca/HPC/ITL card numbers, over 100 user intuitive interface screens, software updates using USB drive or WI-FI, and more.
For More Information
For more information, contact your local locksmith distributor or the following manufacturers mentioned in this article.