Getting locked out of your house or car can be a real hassle. Having spare keys can prevent this problem and reduce stress if it happens. But it’s also possible to make a key copy without having the original in hand, which is helpful for things like sharing access with family members or house sitters.
Key duplication is an easy process, especially with a good quality key blank and the right technique. It can be done at home, in a locksmith’s shop, or even in some convenience stores and gas stations. But, if you do it incorrectly, it can cause problems in the future. It’s important to know the different methods of key duplication so you can choose which one is best for your situation.
The first method of key duplication is to cut a new key from a master key using a special machine. The machine is designed to use the original and new key as templates, cutting the key to match their dimensions. The process is fast and relatively cheap. However, it can cause some problems with lock function if the key copies are made too thick or with the wrong profile.
A second way to make a new key is to use a file to copy the existing one. This is the traditional way of making a spare key and is a bit more labor intensive. You will need a pippin file, a Dremel tool, or another small file to do this. It is a good idea to have a key to reference while doing this so that you don’t accidentally change the shape of the key. It is also important to note that this method works only with pin tumbler locks. It does not work on other types or models, and it is unlikely to work on key locks for cars or homes.
Finally, a third method of key duplication is to create a cast of the original key using clay or other molding materials. This is a time-consuming process and does not produce as accurate or durable of a key as the ones made with a machine, but it is inexpensive. It is best used for a spare key or to make a key for a padlock.
Recently, a team of engineers at MIT published a paper showing how they could make a new key by using an ordinary photo. They found that the depth of each cut in a key can be decoded by looking at the key from any angle. This information, combined with basic information about the key type and brand, is enough to recreate the key’s instructions for forming each cut. The researchers used MatLab, which is a computer programming language, to create this system. While they did not release their code, it shouldn’t be too hard for someone with a little knowledge of MatLab to make a similar program.