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Key Blank Identification

As we’ve discussed a bit about keys in the locks introduction, we’re now going to continue about how keys are being identified even if they’ve not been cut to a certain bitting and this is where key blank identification comes in.

A key blank is a key that’s called “blank” because it still doesn’t have a specific cross-sectional profile that matches the keyway in a corresponding lock cylinder. Therefore it’s also the keys used by locksmiths to duplicate keys for their services. Common appearances of key blanks are having the manufacturer name, end-user logo or with the phrase saying “Do not duplicate”. However according to the Wikipedia, some of those key blanks with do not duplicate stamps are perfectly legal to duplicate but some may also restrict the sale of their own blanks because there are key blanks that are only offered in a small volume and not widely available.

How To Determine A Key Blank?

Locksmiths determine the right key blanks for their customers by firstly starting with the parts of the key.

  • The top part consists of the Head or Bow as well as the shoulder. The head or bow is often how most of us determine how keys appear different through the lock brand as it’s always located at the top. Additionally, all key heads have various key holes for attachment to a key fob or chain which overtime you’ll easily get familiar with. Next is the Key Shoulder which is the most important part of a key. It’s essential because it not only control how much key blade should enter a lock, it also aligns the key blank for instance into the key machine once you go through the cutting and tracing process when you duplicate one. Therefore here you have to make sure that the shoulder stop of your key blank matches the shoulder stop of your customer to prevent miscuts.
  • In the middle part, there are the Millings or Grooves as well as the Blade. The millings are the most unique area of the key and the part that allow the key to fit into a particular key cylinder. So when duplicating customer keys, locksmiths look at the length of both the customer key and the key blanks’ millings to determine which fits in the best for duplication. On the other hand, the blade is the part from the shoulder stop to the tip. Again, the length of the blade should match with the customer’s key blade like what’s mentioned with the millings or grooves and once it fits, it’s the right key blank for duplication.
  • Last part is called the Tip. As the name states, it’s the bottom part of the key. It’s mostly useful for keys that don’t have shoulder stop wherein the key tip is used to align a key and key blank in a key machine to start the cutting and tracing process during duplication.

Major Types Of Keys

After identifying the key parts, let’s go back to the types of keys discussed earlier so you’ll know how the keys look like when they’re created or duplicated.

  • Bit Key – the oldest type of key that was once common to open front doors. However, some of you living in old houses may still have bit keys for other interior doors including cabinets, basement doors, closets and the attic as well. Best thing to identify if it’s a bit key if it looks like a skeleton, so as it’s common name “skeleton key”.
  • Barrel Key – the innovation of Bit Key which is also quite old-fashioned and so it’s seldom used anymore. To determine them, you’ll notice it’s round and hollowed at the end and it’s commonly used to open older padlocks, china closets and interior doors.
  • Tubular Key – this is the innovation of Barrel Key this time which are short, round and hollowed out like the barrel key but this one functions differently as this is commonly used to open locks in coin operated laundry machines, computers and also vending machines.
  • Lever Key – this is made up of thin, flat pieces of steel which have no grooves. They’re completely smooth on both sides and therefore used for small padlocks and safe deposit boxes.
  • Cylinder Key – this is the most common type of key which has the basic parts (e.g. bow, shoulder, bitting and tip)
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Thus, to make a new duplicate, make sure to match the length, width, thickness, share and groove pattern between the key blank and the customer’s key to fit the lock by looking after the parts and the types of the keys presented to you. Again, this one’s covered in every locksmith training so you don’t need to worry once you’re there.

2 Responses so far.

  1. [...] Are Lock Functions? (Part 1) We’ve tackled around lock introductions as well as key blank identification so what’s next? Well after identifying how keys look like, what are their parts and how can they [...]

  2. [...] Blanks – these are discussed in the previous article where these keys are used for duplication [...]

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