Your Ultimate Guide to Finding the Right Key Cutting Machine
What key cutting machine should I buy? It’s an important question! In this guide I will walk you through the options, explain the pro’s and con’s and by the end you will be able to make a great decision.
There are 2 main questions we must address. The first is do you want to duplicate or originate (cut by code) keys and the second question is do you want to cut edge style keys (such as SC1, KW1, H75, and Y11) or high security style keys (like HO01, LEX90, and B119). When you answer both of these questions it starts to get clear on which type of machine you need. Now, if you answered yes to both questions then you want a machine that does it “all”! I get it…. But it’s a bit more complicated than that and you will want to get a few different types of machines. You see, an origination machine is very, very time consuming to duplicate a key and a duplicating machine does not have the ability to originate a key. So, at minimum you will want 2 machines. As I go through, I will let you know which machines can do both (duplicating and originating) well and which ones don’t.
In this guide we'll go over the following topics to help you make the best decision for your Locksmith Business:
- Why jaws on a key machine are important
- Key cutting adaptors
- Duplicating key machine for edge style keys
- Originating key machines for edge style keys
- High security key cutting machines
- Key cutting tips and course
I want to take a moment and go over something that gets overlooked when looking for a new key machine; Jaws. The jaw on a key machine is the part that holds the keys securely when duplicating. 20+ years ago duplicating machines came with what is called 2-way jaws, which means the jaw has 2 different “slots” or “groves” to line the key up. This is helpful because the keyway grooves on a key are all different and you need to find the side of the jaw that the keys sits flat in before you can duplicate. The problem is, today, keyway grooves are much more “advanced” or “severe” than they were 20+ years ago so 2-sided jaws are too limited. Many key duplicating machine manufacturers recognized this issue and started coming out with 4-Way jaws which allow 4 different opportunities to get a key to sit flat and it worked! Make sure you are buying a machine with 4-way jaws, if you don’t you will not be able to cut all the different types of Edge styles keys on the market today! We only recommend machines with 4-way jaws. We also have some tips if a key won't sit flat even with 4-way jaws.
What if you already have a machine with 2-Way jaws or still struggle duplicating keys with 4-Way jaws? I have good news for you! Key cutting adapters are little pieces of metal specifically designed for certain keyways to ensure the key sits flat and secure while duplicating. Adapters are available for the GM keys B106, B111 key (by far the most popular adapter), TR47 Toyota Keys, and the GM 10 Cut keys like B86, B89, B91, B92, B93.
Edge style keys are the most popular by far. House, Apartments, Mailboxes, and many Auto’s use Edge Style keys. You have 3 main styles of key cutting machines to choose from Manual, Semi-Automatic, and Automatic. The machines below that I’m going to recommend and proven machines, they are made by Reputable Industry Manufacturers, have good warranties, and you can buy replacement parts for them like cutter wheels, tracers, and belts.
Manual Key Duplicating Machines
Manual key machines require you to manually move the keys along the key tracer and cutter wheel. It’s not hard to do but it will require your full attention. The JMA Nomad, Silca Flash, and Silca 045 machines are all a great choice in this category.
Semi-Automatic Key Duplicating Machines for Edge Style Keys
Semi-Auto machines still require a bit of manual work like the manual key machines but have a few distinct differences. The first is that the carriage (the part the holds the keys) is spring loaded and presses itself up against the tracer and cutter so you don’t have to. It also has a lever handle that you move to trace the key. The biggest advantage to a Semi-Automatic key machine is that you can duplicate keys much faster than a manual machine and it does not take as much attention when doing so! The Rytan RY200 and Silca 044 are great Semi-Automatic Key Machines.
Automatic Key Duplicating Machines for Edge Style Keys
Automatic machines are well, automatic! Unlike manual and semi-auto machines that automatic machines does everything. It holds the carriage up tight against the tracer and cutter and moves the carriage from side to side. The main advantage here is that you don’t have to pay much attention while the key is being cut, meaning once you have enough experience cutting keys you will be able to hit the start button and walk away knowing the key is going to be cut correctly. The Silca 040 machine is currently the best Automatic Key Machine available.
Originating means cutting a blank key to a certain key bitting, in this situation you don’t have an existing key to duplicate. There are 3 types of Originating key machines, Manual, Automatic, and Punch. Let’s dive in.
Manual Originating Key Machines for Edge Style Keys
A Manual Originating machine still uses electric, you just have to manually “dial” in the depths. Meaning you literally turn a dial to change the space and depth position. It’s really not that hard and once you get the hang of it you will find you can breeze through most keys. The most appealing part of these machines is that they don’t require a computer to operate, and these machines have been around for decades.
The Framon 2 is the most accurate and stable manual Originating key cutting machine on the market today, you will hear crazy stories about it falling off a work bench to the ground and still being 100% accurate. That’s quite impressive if you ask me! The other machine is the HPC 1200 machines, these machines use something called “code cards” to speed up the process when cutting keys.
Automatic Originating Key Machines for Edge Style Keys
Welcome to the 21st Century! The Automatic Originating machines use some of the latest technology to cut keys, they are computer driven. Unlike manual machines, you spend 99% of your time in the software program the machine comes with to tell it what to cut. These machines have 2 main benefits, One is the low technical skill required. If you can play angry birds or post of facebook you can use one of these machines. The second is that they are highly accurate and you can walk away while the machine cuts the key. The Silca Futura Edge and Pro machines are highly popular and do a great job originating keys. The Laser Key Products 3D Extreme is also another great choice. An important note is that these machine CAN also duplicate Edge Style keys as well, now they do it very slowly compared to a duplicating machines but if you are 80% Originate and 20% Duplicate you can get away with just having an Automatic Originating machine.
Punch Machines for Originating
Punch machines are a great option if you need to cut a high volume of a particular key like KW1, SC1, or any SFIC key. Punch machines are very accurate, quick, and easy to operate and are a great choice for high volume operations. The leader in punch machines is Pro-Lok Blue Punches. The Schlage Blue Punch, Kwikset Blue Punch, and SFIC Blue Punch are the staple machine for many key cutting operations. The Rytan 2000 Machines for Kwikset, Schalge, and SFIC are also well respected. Rytan even makes Dual punches so you can have 2 manufacturers on 1 machine!
Alright, that sums up Duplicating and Originating Edge Keys. Let’s move on to High Security Keys.
High Security keys are commonly and mostly found on Automobiles. For the sake of simplicity I will be focusing on Automotive key cutting machines for High Security keys. Unlike Edge style keys the best way to duplicate and originate High Security keys is to use an Automatic Electronic Key Cutting Machine. You might be asking yourself why automatic not manual? The answer has two parts:
- The amount of time it takes to manually duplicate a High Security Key is typically longer (2x-3x longer) than cutting the key automatically.
- High security keys wear down in a way that makes them difficult to trace with a manual machine which leads to everything looking “okay” but the keys does not work because it is difficult to trace properly.
Manual High Security Duplicating Key Cutting Machines
Just like Edge Manual machines, you are going to manually trace the key (depth and space) These machines do have a learning curve and it is very important to take your time learning how to cut the High Security keys. The best machines on the market is the Silca Matrix and Silca Swift High Security Duplicator.
Automatic High Security Originating Key Cutting Machines
Not only will these machines originate by code but they are great for duplicating existing keys. Just like for the Edge style keys, the machine will do all the work you just need to operate the software and tell it what to do! The Silca Futura Auto and Futura Pro are great options as well as the Keyline Gymkana and Laser Key Products 3D Extreme.
A quick note about Automatic Electronic Originating Machines. Machines like the Futura Pro and Laser Key Products 3D Extreme will duplicate and originate Edge and High Security Style keys and are a great option if the pricing fits into your budget.
Automatic high security key machines are built to cut any brass key but can be difficult to use on hard metal keys. Fortunately, we put together an article showcasing a better way to cut hard metal keys.
We want you to succeed, so we’ve put together some video’s on key cutting tips. These video’s will show you practical ways to make key cutting easier!
We have developed a online course How to Duplicate Keys & Make Money. If you are wanting to learn the skill of key duplicating from scratch or want to expand your knowledge than this course is for you! With over 20 plus videos and 2.5+ hours on instructional content you will not only know how to duplicate keys but also have the confidence you need! The course also includes a chapter on How to Make Money (you can also purchase this separately if you already know how to duplicate keys). How much do you charge for keys? Should you cut customer provided keys? How do you build your key cutting business? All of these questions plus more are answered in this course! You will love it.
I hope by now you have a great understanding of all the types of Key Cutting Machines on the market today, please feel free to email us at email@example.com or call us at 800-848-6989 to discuss any specific questions you have or give recommendations based on your situation.
Once you make your new key machine purchase, don't forget to check out our article on How To Calibrate A Key Machine.