Anderson Lock employees must pass a locksmith test within the first couple of weeks of their employment. One section of that test features images of classic key blanks which new hires are expected match with names of popular lock manufacturers. Almost everyone knows Schlage keys’ familiar shape, but, quick! Which one is Kwikset?
The ability to identify key blanks is fundamental for professional locksmiths. Still, it may seem daunting to ask new hires to name that key while also being quizzed on requirements of the State of Illinois Locksmith Act, Life Safety Regulations, ADA Guidelines, and policies related to key records.
Keys that are not cut to a precise “bitting” are called “blanks.” Anderson Lock stocks key blanks for duplicating virtually every residential and commercial door lock key that is brought into our showroom.
At first glance, the thousands of key blanks hanging on hooks behind our front counter may seem to all look alike. Closer inspection reveals that some are brass, or nickel plated brass, some are nickel silver, others are steel. Some are shorter 5-pin blanks, some are longer to operate 6-pin cylinders. Some are “originals,” with the authorized original lock manufacturer’s logos or designs. Others are manufactured to look just like “originals”, without the brand name. Kaba Ilco Corporation, the largest key blank manufacturer in the United States, creates LookAlikes® in standard keyways to operate brand name locks when appropriately cut.
Although there are dozens of different kinds of keys, including barrel, bit, skeleton, flat, tubular, automotive, and wafer, the keys pictured on the locksmith test are cylinder keys. Cylinder keys are used in nearly every type of mechanical door lock made today.
Identifying Key Blanks
Distinguishing characteristics of popular lock cylinder keys, from long-established lock manufacturers, are the focus of this blog. Many brands maintain a particular, recognizable shape for the head, or bow, of the keys that operate their locks, and have invented their own set of keyways. [Keyways are the specific grooves on the key blade (the part that goes into the lock cylinder.) Unique keyways give an extra level of security, and are the subject of a future blog.]
Key collectors, and Anderson Lock walk-in customers, frequently ask our lock techs for assistance identifying keys. Clues, like letters and numbers stamped on the bow, point to traditional manufacturers, however, for the locksmith test, new employees are only required to learn the top ten popular profiles. The following heads-up tips may remove some guesswork for locksmith trade trainees.
The most familiar lock brand in our region is Schlage. It seems that everyone is familiar with the Schlage key shape. The most common Schlage keyway is indicated by the letter C. However, Schlage has several other keyways, including E, F, G and L, and therefore we have many hooks holding Schlage key blanks.
High security keys, like Schlage Primus®, shown at left, and Medeco, shown at right, introduce additional configurations, which are patented, and require written authorization for duplication. High security locks and keys provide the highest level of mechanical key control, and resistance to picking and bump attack. Additionally, the key blanks for high security keys are only available from authorized distributors. High security key blanks are kept locked away, with only Manager’s access, and are not hanging on hooks in our showroom.
This is an original Best Lock interchangeable core key blank, identifiable by the “DUPLICATION PROHIBITED” warning, surrounded by tiny stars. Anderson Lock will not duplicate these, or other keys stamped “Do Not Duplicate” without a Letter of Authorization accompanying it, or on file with us. Anderson Lock’s rule of thumb is, “It’s not illegal, but is considered immoral, to cut DND keys. That’s our standard.” Stamping a key “Do Not Copy” does not protect it under law, it is just an honor system that reputable locksmiths follow.
However, if you want assurance that no one can make a copy of your keys, you should choose one of the patented, controlled, high security brands like the ones named above.
The head, or bow, of the original, old style Arrow Lock key appears to signify the letter A. You may also note the tiny letters and numbers stamped on the blank to help identify its keyway.
Corbin Lock merged with Russwin Lock Company years ago, and the newer Corbin Russwin key blanks feature recognizable components of both brands. The old style Corbin blank, shown on the left, has sloped straight sides, as compared to the rounded sides of the newer Corbin Russwin blanks, shown on the right. Note how the new keyhole combines elements of both Corbin and Russwin old style key blanks.
The Kwikset key blank is remembered by picturing a capital letter K, lying on its back at the top of the key. Kwikset is an American lock manufacturer founded in 1946. Its name relates to the company’s first locks which introduced a relatively fast-installation tubular lock design. Kwikset locks are primarily used for residential locksets, and their KW1 key blanks are available at almost every location where keys can be made.
This Master Lock key blank is smaller than typical residential house keys, and is used for padlocks and locker locks. It features a round head with a half-round keyhole and is similar to Yale wafer lock keys, shown on the right, which have a round keyhole.
The smaller Yale keys, above, are primarily used for cabinets, cam locks and drawers. The larger Yale blank, shown on the left, is cut for residential Yale Locks. Yale is one of the world’s oldest lock manufacturers and its familiar round logo echoes the round head and round keyhole of its original key blanks.
Sargent’s key blank features a rounded trapezoid-shaped head, with a rounded triangular hole. The James Sargent Lock Company was founded in 1857, and vintage Sargent door knobs and backplates are highly ornate and collectible. The Sargent key shape is recognizable to locksmiths because, like Schlage, Sargent is a popular brand
Even in this era of key cards, smart keys and other types of electronic access control, there are still a huge number of brass and nickel silver keys cut every day at Anderson Lock. We believe there will be a need for a conventional way to enter for years to come.
Whether or not you can “name that key,” if you need a duplicate, bring it in. Our cutting edge lock experts will find a key blank with a matching head shape and keyway and make you a new one!