If you’ve ever lost your keys, or needed a duplicate key made for someone else, you know that having an extra one is not only convenient but can also save you from a stressful situation. In the worst case scenario, you could be locked out of your house without a spare and find yourself having to break the lock or smash a window. Having a spare key can prevent this from happening, and is an easy process to get done.
The main difference between a copy and a duplicate is that in order to make a duplicate, you need the original key. This means that you need a duplicate key that is an exact copy, or identical reproduction of the original key, in both its appearance and function. The duplicate key needs to have the same grooves, or cuts, that were cut into the original key. This is done using a machine that “traces” the original key, allowing it to be used as a template for cutting the blank key. This is typically what locksmiths use, and most big-box stores now have these machines available to customers.
This is what is referred to as key duplication, and there are a variety of different ways that it can be done. Some keys, such as car keys, have special features that cannot be copied using a standard key cutter, and must be replaced with a new key from the dealer. This is because they contain a transponder chip, which requires a special machine to read. This is why it’s important to only trust your car keys to a certified dealership, or your local locksmith who will have the proper equipment.
You can get your own key duplication machine at home for a reasonable price, but it is generally not cost-effective unless you plan on cutting many keys each year. Most duplicator machines can cost up to $500, and you would need to cut a large number of keys to even begin to break even on the purchase. A much more affordable option is to head to your local hardware store and have the key copied by a staff member, which generally costs no more than $10 for a normal key.
Some keys are marked “DO NOT DUPLICATE”, and this engraved advice is generally just a suggestion. A good locksmith will still be able to make a duplicate of these, though they may not be as efficient and will probably not work as well in the lock. You should never attempt to make a copy of a restricted key yourself as it is against the law, and can result in a fine.
Having a duplicate key is not only useful in the event of losing your original, but it can also be handy when giving access to friends or family members for things like house sitting or cleaning services. It can also come in handy if you need to give access to your house in the event that you are away for a long period of time, but don’t want to pay an emergency locksmith.