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Locksmithing 101 | How To Calibrate A Key Machine

Have you ever had the uneasy feeling that your binding machine is out of calibration? Allow me to demonstrate a quick and straightforward method of checking. First, it goes without saying that if you have a calibration kit for your key machine, you should use it. However, if you're on the job and don't have it with you or have a key machine for which you don't have a calibration kit, I hope you'll find this method extremely helpful. What you want to do now is grab two blank keys. I prefer to use SC1 or KW1, but you must ensure the same manufacturer manufactures them. Hopefully, they've included it in the same box as well.


After that, you want to place one key on each side and align them. Now, the first thing we're going to check is the actual spacing and determine if it's incorrect. How are we going to accomplish that? We're going to align it on the shoulder with the gauge, power up the machine, and bring it up, which will cause us to do something we don't want to do when duplicating keys: we're going to hit the shoulder right here. Thus, we're going to bring this up, and I'm going to position it this way, and then I'm going to bring it back and incorporate it into this.


I'm going to be looking for two things. One, I'm going to see if it makes a bunch of noise and cuts some of the keys off here; we know that we have a spacing issue.

At the same time, while I have it up here like this, I'm going to be looking to see if I can see any space between it because if I can, that's also going to tell us that we're going to have some spacing issues. So, let's go ahead, turn the machine on, and we'll bring it up and observe if there will be any noise.

Since we didn't hear any noise, it means that it's good as far as the spacing goes.


Let’s go ahead, and I'm going to go down here to look. And as I can see, there's like no spacing between it. So, since there's no spacing between them, it's safe to say that the spacing is fine.

Now that we know the spacing is fine, we can move on to the actual depth. Now, we're going to use this same setup right here, and as what we're going to do is simple, we're just going to turn the machine on, and I'm going to bring it up here, and I'm just going to drag it down like you would duplicate a regular key.


In my experiences, what I found is that there should be like half of this key here should have just like the slightest little cut mark on it. And for my experience, that means that it's perfectly calibrated.

If we go ahead and put it up here and drag it across, we don't see any marks at all whatsoever. Typically, we're going to have to do a little bit of adjusting, same as if I put it up here and I start cutting it down like this, and I start tracing it down. It's beginning to take a bunch off the key, which's also going to tell us that we're out of calibration.

Let's go ahead and let's see how this machine is. So, I'm just going to bring it up just like this, and I'm just going to---as you see, that's a perfect little noise so far and let's go ahead and drag it across there. Notice here, that noise ever so slightly; I'll do it one more time, that tells me that it's probably going to look perfect when you look at the key, so I just did that a couple of times here.


Let's take a look. All right, and that's just perfect. Take a moment at this key, and you can see what it should look like. So that's how we know that this key machine is in calibration, both spacing, and depth.

As I said, if you ended up or did this and saw that it took quite a bit off, well, that's when you're going to want to adjust your tracer back some so you can get it and repeat the process to where you can get it, to where it looks good. Now at the same time, if it's not taking enough off, you're going to want to adjust the tracer down to get it to the spot where it looks just like this key. But I'm curious if you guys use this method before. Do you have any other tips or tricks as far as calibrating your key machine on the fly? I'd love to hear about them; put them in the comments below. Thank you, guys, and we'll see you next time!

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