How Key Duplication Machines Work

July 22, 2020

If you’ve ever needed a replacement key for your home, car or office, there’s a 99% chance that you had your original key duplicated using a key duplication machine.

These machines are some of the most useful tools a locksmith can own. They allow keys of any size, shape or appearance to be copied, producing an exact replica that can be used in exactly the same way as the original. A key can be duplicated an exhaustive number of times - no matter how many duplicates you need, a key duplication machine can handle it.

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Let’s break down the process of how exactly a key duplication machine works.


1. The original key is placed inside the machine

A key duplication machine can’t work without the original key. This key is placed into a vice on one side of the machine. It is lined up with the blade, which is used to cut the new key.


2. A key blank is placed inside the machine

On the other side of the machine, a key blank is placed ready for cutting. This side of the machine contains an alignment tool, which is the component that ensures both the new key and the original key are exact duplicates of one another.


3. The machine is switched on

When the key duplicator is switched on, it moves both keys across the blade. The blade then uses the original key as a template, cutting the blank key into the desired shape.


4. The locksmith finishes the job

When the new key has been produced, the locksmith will sand the key down to get rid of any rough edges and create the smoothest finish. And that’s it - the key is ready to be returned to the customer.

The key cutting process takes a matter of five minutes, though it can be longer than this if the key in question is particularly old-fashioned or unusual. Timing may also vary depending on where you get your key cut. An experienced locksmith is likely to be much quicker and nimbler than a locksmith with less experience.


Duplicating a “do not duplicate” key

If you’ve ever come across a “do not duplicate” key, you’ve probably wondered whether you’ll get into legal trouble if you genuinely need to duplicate the key. The answer is no, it’s not illegal to duplicate such a key - though some locksmiths may be hesitant to duplicate the key for you.

Some keys have “do not duplicate” written on them as a deterrent to prevent a locksmith from duplicating the key without going back to the original manufacturer or locksmith for the go-ahead. It may be stamped onto keys that have a particularly important role, such as keys that protect a dangerous or out-of-bounds area of public or private property.

While you may still be able to get your “do not duplicate” key duplicated, it might be worth morally considering whether it’s the right thing to do. If copying the key could pose a security risk, you may want to rethink the idea.


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