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The 4 Most Common Types of Key Blanks

A key that is not made to a precise bitting is a key blank. The particular cross-sectional profile of the blank must match a corresponding lock cylinder's keyway. The large, flat end of the key bow is often indicative of a particular manufacturer. Manufacturers can stamp key blanks with an end-user logo, name, or phrase. The most common phrase is 'Do not duplicate.' Locksmiths stock key blanks for duplicating keys.

The Facts Surrounding Key Duplication

Keys imprinted with information regarding the illegality of duplication or instructions not to duplicate are quite legal to copy with few exceptions. In California, locksmiths cannot duplicate keys marked 'Unlawful to Duplicate' or 'Do Not Duplicate' unless they include the key manufacturer's name and telephone number on the duplicated copy. Some key blank manufacturers make only a small amount of blanks that are not broadly available to regulate the duplication of keys.

Identifying Key Blanks

Because of the multitude of locks and locking devices currently in use, to duplicate a key accurately you need the ability to identify key blanks correctly. The four most commonly available residential key blanks are the bit, flat, cylinder, and barrel. Understanding the purpose of each is critical to choose the best key blanks for duplication.

  1. Bit. The key bit is what engages with the locking mechanism of a lock. A coding system of today's new keys describes a precise geometry, also known as the bitting. The bitting directs a locksmith how to replace a lost key, make an additional copy, or cut a new key. A skeleton key is also referred to as a bit. Today, locks and bit keys are more decorative than useful.
  2. Barrel. A barrel key is similar in design to a bit key. A significant contrast between the two is that the tip of a barrel key has a hole drilled in it that fits over a post in the lock. Popular types of locks that utilize barrel keys include handcuffs, clocks, luggage, and furniture.
  3. Cylinder. The most popular key in use today is the cylinder type of key blank. Over 150 years ago, the Yale pin tumbler cylinder was invented to provide significantly higher security than other locks available at that time. It used a much smaller key than other locks. Today, cylinder keys are used in nearly every type of manufactured lock today, such as quality padlocks, office equipment locks, automobile locks, and door locks.
  4. Flat. Flat keys are obviously completely flat and except for locks on safe deposit boxes and safe, the types of lock utilizing flat keys are very insecure. Other common uses for flat key locks include luggage, cash boxes, mail boxes, and lockers.

Learning how to identify key blanks is crucial for a professional locksmith. It is also essential to have the appropriate locksmith supplies on hand to accommodate clients’ needs.

Identifying Key Blanks

Identifying key blanks begins with understanding the basic key parts. A head is usually unique to a particular lock manufacturer. The shoulder stop and grooves control how the key enters a lock and aligns in the locking device. The blades and tips allow for tracing and cutting. The easiest method to identify key blanks is to use the identification number on the key, if there is one. That number will determine the lock manufacturer and identify other key blanks acceptable for duplication purposes. With the absence of identification numbers, you can cross-reference the key design by comparing the shape and size of the blank. If the manufacturer name is imprinted on the key, use that information to locate keys with a similar bow. CLK Supplies provides premium locksmith supplies and the best key blanks.

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