key-cutting guide

Key cutting is an art, but many homeowners try to do the task on their own. It is not entirely difficult when you have the proper tools, knowledge, and determination. Once the bits are assembled, you should just ensure that you can make precise grinding – and perhaps even good eyesight. In reality, DIY key cutting has a high failure rate, especially for beginners and untrained people.

Why You Need to Cut Keys

Homeowners and car owners already know how important it is to keep keys safe. But it is easy to lose keys. It’s why spare keys are necessary; otherwise, you may have to break into your house or car, which no one would want to do. If you lose the original keys, you do not have to worry much because you have a spare.

People opt to have their keys cut, rather than buy new ones and have their door locks changed completely. Those that consider changing their locks end up realising that it is not only is the process tedious, but it can also be expensive. With key cutting, the service is easier, faster and cheaper.

Another reason why you may want to have spare keys through a key cutting service is to maintain the original keys. Using them every day can increase wear and tear. When you have a spare, you can switch the keys you use to prevent damage to the original.

Key cutting services are beneficial if you had some accidental lockouts in the past. Lockouts can happen to anyone. It only needs a quick moment of absent-mindedness, and you can be stranded outside your house or office.

Finally, if your key has snapped, the easiest way to replace it is not to go to your nearest store to buy a new one. You can go to a key cutter in your area to get the situation fixed. You may not have the original key back, but you will have the same copy.

Keys can break easily because they are not intended to withstand the strain you put in on them with regular use. Sometimes, the keys may not function like they used to. You can take them to a key cutter before they break.

key being cut professional

What to Do Before Cutting Keys

Cutting keys seems like a straightforward task. It is why many untrained people attempt to DIY the process, especially with a key cutting machine. If you wish to do it yourself, here are a few essential tips:

  • Use the original key if possible.

    If you haven’t lost the original key, you may be in luck. You can get better results when you have the original in hand. It is because you can follow the original key for cutting, which presents the highest accuracy. On the other hand, using a duplicate key to make another spare key will only create differences. These differences, no matter how minute, can render the key ineffective.

  • Know the type of key you are working on.

    There are two main types of keys, regular and high-security keys. In most cases, you can have a regular key cut anywhere, including your home or shop. These regular keys include mortise (Chubb) and cylinder (Yale) locks.

    Meanwhile, high-security keys are more complex. They are used in circumstances where high security is required, as the name suggests. Often, these keys are installed in houses, commercial spaces and warehouses, among others.

    Cutting a high-security key on your own is not simple. You need to have a code number from the card where you purchased the key. Some keys, though, can be cut even when you do not have another key to duplicate.

  • Make sure you have the correct blank.

    Residential keys can be easy to copy if you have the right blank. Most DIYers, however, do not have different key blanks to choose from. They just go with whatever they can find, which reduces the accuracy of the duplicate.

    Do not forget to test the key after cutting. You may think that the key works because it looks the same as the key you wanted to copy. Try the duplicate several times, especially if you plan to leave the house and use the new key from now on. You do not want to get locked out because of your failed attempt to duplicate the old key.

Why You Should Never Cut Keys on Your Own

DIY key-cutting does save money. But this task is best left to the professionals. You need a background in key cutting; otherwise, you will end up wasting more time and money. What you will get instead is frustration because the keys you cut did not work. Therefore, you have to keep re-cutting to solve the issue.

There is always an explanation for the keys failing to work. A locksmith can give you the details you need and maybe even provide some recommendations. This way, when you cut other keys again, you will know what you should do. Save your sanity and make everything simpler by going to a trusted locksmith. “Why,” you ask? Here are the reasons:

    • Locksmiths work faster.

      Locksmiths know exactly what they need to do when cutting keys. They had years of training so that you can expect the new key available in just a few minutes. Simple household keys can even be finished cutting in a few seconds. You cannot obtain the same mastery unless you learn the ways of proper locksmithing.

      For a more complicated key, the process can take 25 minutes to an hour. If you do this task by yourself, it could take you more than a day. You will waste not only time but also key blanks. Instead of trying to save money through DIY, go straight to a professional locksmith.

    • DIY key cutting has a high error rate.

      The quality of the result will depend on the person who does the key cutting. If you DIY, you need to have the original copy to use as a base. Locksmiths already have plenty of experience in key cutting. It is why they can still cut keys even when you do not have the original key.

      A code cutter may be used, which will help determine the groove depths of the door lock’s key code. It will allow the locksmith to identify the type of key and how it should be cut.

    • Mistakes can happen when you choose to cut the key yourself.

      One huge mistake is making a copy of a copy (of a copy). It is not easy to create a duplicate of a worn-down key, particularly if you will DIY the task. Daily use of keys can lead to wear and tear, which can affect the key cutting result.

      Locksmiths know how to handle any key cutting situation, including having a broken or worn key. They have the necessary tools to determine the depths of the key and gauge them to create the exact copy.

      DIY key cutting, even with a machine, can still end in errors. Some locks require a more meticulous cutting. Non-professional cutters may not even know that the device they are using is out of alignment. It is why they always have to redo the process because the key does not work correctly.

selection of keys ready for key-cutting

  • Locksmiths are specialists.

    Key cutting requires specific knowledge and experience, which includes learning not just about the keys but the locks, too. The locksmith will observe the lock to see how the keys work in it.

    For instance, if the lock is of a pin tumbler type, there are some rules to follow to get the best result. One is to avoid using a thin universal key to create the profile. It can quickly lead to having a loose key, which also ends in damage. Another problem is that the small keys can increase the risk of the top pins falling into the barrel chamber, which can mean a seized lock. It is why the correct key blank should be used. Only professional locksmiths have a range of blanks in stock.

  • Locksmiths know about legal considerations.

    Copying keys is not against the law. However, there are specific rules to follow, even for those who are duplicating their own keys. Some homeowners do not want to go to a locksmith for fear that their security will be compromised. After all, they will give their key to a stranger and have it copied.

    One common concern is whether or not it will be the only copy out there. What if the locksmith makes another copy of the key and sells it to another person? The good news is that locksmithing services are all confidential. When you go to a reputable locksmith, your identity and your key cutting requirements will be protected. All records of your systems are maintained within the premises and will be stored in the most secure conditions. The public can never access the information or view it.

Instead of cutting keys on your own, go to an experienced locksmith. It is a more convenient and affordable option, rather than having your locks and keys replaced.

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