Keys on a yellow background

Guide to Key Cutting

Posted on 08/10/2018

How many times have you reached into your bag only to find that your keys aren’t there? Or, even worse, how many times have you gone to turn your key in the lock only to find that it no longer works? If you’re lucky, someone close by will have a spare key - but that won’t replace your key - it looks like you’re going to have get your keys cut.

Key cutting can be a bit of a pain, where do you go? What key do you get? How many keys do you get cut? If you’re willing to get this done yourself then read the tips below to learn everything you need to know but if you’re looking for a more professional touch, find a local locksmith near you with Local Heroes.

Where to get your keys cut

There’s a good chance you’ll find a key cutter on any local high street, they often double up as shoe repair and leather goods shops, so keep an eye out for those too.

High street locksmiths often double up as shoe repair and leather goods stores

If you can’t find a key cutter close by, most major hardware and DIY retailers will offer key cutting; make sure to check their websites for details as offers may differ from location to location.

While these are the two predominant locations you’ll look to for key cutting, how do you know which is the right one for you?

Quality

The quality of the key cutting result very much depends on the person doing it and the key you give them as a base. To combat this, make sure you look for reviews or check to see if they are a registered member of the Guild of Master Locksmiths, like Local Heroes.

As key cutting involves making a direct copy of the key it’s important that you use the original key where possible. After all, if you’re making a copy of a copy then the quality will inevitably be lost with each subsequent iteration . With this in mind, you should keep the original as your spare and the duplicate as your main key.

Keeping your original key as your spare can ensure more accurate copies should you need

That said, even a copy of the original key, if cut by a less experienced locksmith, can result in an inferior quality of key so be sure to meet both criteria for an optimal experience.

Picture of a man cutting keys Cuttiny keys is a skill, and some locksmiths are better than others

The different types of keys

When you’ve decided on the key you’re going to cut and where you’re getting it cut, there’s one other piece of information you need to consider, is your key a regular key or a high security key?

This may not seem like a big deal - a key is a key, right? However, there are a few important details that separate the two. Regular keys, as the name suggests, are standard keys, they’re yours and you won’t need any extra permissions to have duplicates made.

High security keys differ slightly as they cannot be reproduced unless you as a customer have proof that you are authorised to replicate the key in question. To prove you own the relevant key/lock you’ll need to produce a document showing the key is registered to you or your business and the unique serial number found on the lock.

High security keys cannot be reproduced without proof of authorisation or ownership.

High security keys are named so because they have unique details imprinted on the body of the key which correspond to a specific lock. Furthermore, each key will have a unique code, that corresponds to the code found on the lock, which can only be read by a professional key cutter.

It’s best to make sure you know whether your key is high security or normal so you can prepare the necessary documentation. If you don’t know that your key is high security, consider if it is to a communal lock – an office building or block of flats – as these often are high security keys. Conversely, keys to your house are unlikely to be high security.

Keys to communal buildings - offices, flats etc. - are likely to be high security keys

What to do if you’ve lost your keys

If you’ve lost the original key and you only have a weak copy or no copy exists, you’ll have to call a locksmith and either have the lock replaced (which Local Heroes advises) or have them produce an alternative key.

Local Heroes advises replacing the entire lock in the event of a lost original key

Producing a spare key and having it copied may be simpler but having a new lock installed ensures that every key for the lock will be accounted for, provided you keep track of them. An alternative to this is to ensure that you always have a good quality key nearby, either with a neighbour, family member, or close friend. Of course, the best course of action is to keep tabs on your keys.

How much does it cost to hire a locksmith?

If you’re wondering how much all of this will cost, don’t worry. Locksmith services are relatively inexpensive, even for a top-quality service. Naturally, lock replacements will be more expensive than a simple key cutting but the cost will also be impacted by a few other factors such as what kind of lock you need replacing, how many locks you need replacing, and the timing.

An emergency locksmith for instance, may run a slightly higher bill due to it being out of hours.

Local Heroes recently compiled the average costs of locksmith services and maintains a data sheet of most common locksmith jobs and their costs.