In this era of electronic locking, we still see a large number of mechanical keys come into our shop. What is the best way to identify keys for duplication?
Besides the obvious keys that we cut daily such as Kwikset and Schlage, there are a number of tools available to identify keys. First, there are manufacturers’ key blank identification guides, published by Jet, Ilco, JMA, and others. These are usually organized by brand and section. They usually consist of a line drawing of the blank with a silhouette of the blade below. If the key has a name on it, you can go to that section and compare the blank to the silhouette.
If the blank has a code number on it without a name, you can access your code program and see if any codes come up. You can access the code and compare it to the cuts on the key which will give you a positive identification of the blank. Popular programs are Genericode by Framon, Code source by HPC, and Blackhawk.
If the blank is an aftermarket blank like Curtis, ESP, Hillman, Axxess, etc., it usually has an identifying number on it. Most of the previously mentioned code programs have a key blank identification feature. Notably, Blackhawk has an online key blank identification program that is very robust and easy to use.
The biggest challenge locksmiths face are the large number of imported products and the keys that come with them. Your best bet is to do your detective work which usually consists of taking the customers key and looking through one of the aforementioned key blank identification guides and try to find a blank that may solve your customer’s needs. The positive side of keys of imports: their keyways are generally less refined, especially wafer locks, so that a key blank that looks close to the customer’s key may indeed fit and could be the only viable option for your customer.