How To Copy A Key [Different Methods With Videos]

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Losing your only key can be inconvenient and costly in terms of both time and money. However, by making the effort to create a backup key (copy a key), you can save yourself from unexpected and inconvenient circumstances.

This post will go over several methods on how to copy a key with a detailed video. We’ll start with some inexpensive and easily accessible services that you’re likely to discover locally. Then we’ll get into some inventive approaches for manually copying your key utilizing things you probably already have at home.

However, let’s discuss a few terminologies before diving into how to copy a key properly.

Table of Contents

What Does It Mean To Copy A Key?

Copying a key simply means duplicating a key. To copy a key is synonymous with creating an identical output of that particular key.

How Are Keys Made?

A key duplicator is an apparatus that cuts keys. An unblemished key is placed in a vice on one side of the key duplicator, lined up with the cutting tool (or blade). And a blank key is placed in a vice on the machine’s alignment tool side. 

The alignment tool is a flat piece of metal that is parallel to the blade. The key guide (also known as the alignment bar) on your key duplicator ensures that the keys are parallel to one another.

When the key duplicator is turned on, the blade slices into the blank key while the original moves horizontally across the machine, using the original as a form of a template. The lock technician will then sand the duplicate key for a flawless finish. The end result is a replica key that is identical to the original.

How Much Time Does It Take To Copy A Key?

A competent locksmith can duplicate a standard key properly in a matter of minutes. A more difficult key can take up to 25 minutes to duplicate. The time it takes to get a key replicated can vary depending on where you go and the locksmith you give to do the job.

Without further ado, it’s time we go straight to one of the major reasons why we are here. For all of the techniques listed below on how to copy a key, you’ll need an original key to copy. So get your original key, and let’s get started!

1. Go To A Copy A Key Booth

If you want to make a quick, cheap, and easy copy of a key, consider visiting a key copying booth, the most popular of which are Minute Key and KeyMe.

Key duplicating devices are self-service booths that do not require interaction with a locksmith or any other staff. They function by scanning your key with a laser to determine the type of key and the depth of the incisions. They then cut an exact copy in seconds.

These machines can copy most home and padlock keys, as well as car keys and RFID key cards/chips. All you need is your original key and a credit card to pay.

However, each booth brand provides different types of keys and services. Thus, you’ll need to investigate the booth near you to see what they have to offer. More complicated keys can occasionally be scanned in the booth, programmed elsewhere, and shipped to you.

These self-service devices are typically found at most large retail establishments, including Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Fleet Farm, Tractor Supply, and many others.

Key booths are useful since they allow you to select from a variety of key designs. Decorative keys depicting cats, flowers, or even your favourite sports team are available. Keys for different locks can even be colour-coded!

So, if you need a quick key and don’t want to deal with any bother, key booths are worth a look. I’ve used these hundreds of times and have yet to have a key not work.

2. Retail Establishments

Using a retail store’s in-house key duplication services is another quick and easy approach to duplicating a key.

Key copying services are commonly available at the following retail locations:

The advantage of using retail establishments over key booths is that they typically provide a larger assortment of keys, including key fobs, transponder keys, RFID chips, and keys for high-security locks. Their services are also reasonably priced.

The only two disadvantages of retail stores are that they are not as quick and easy to use as any automated machine and do not offer the extensive assortment of keys and services that a locksmith does.

To access retail services, you must carry your original key with you. If you don’t have the original key, you’ll need to have your lock decoded, or you can take this as an opportunity to improve your locks!

3. The Locksmith

If you need a key duplicate, there is no better alternative than contacting the grand wizard of locks and keys—the locksmith!

There is a widespread idea that locksmiths are a pricey service—and in some cases, it is true they are.

However, key duplication is not one of those services, and many locksmiths can provide you with high-quality reproductions of practically any key you require at a moderate cost.

Pro Tip: If you need a new car key, bring it to a locksmith rather than a dealership. You’ll save a TON of money.

If you no longer have the original key to replicate, you’ll need to contact a locksmith. A locksmith can decode the bitting of your lock and cut you a new key per specifications, albeit this is a more expensive service.

A locksmith can also assist you to improve the security of your doors and locks while you’re at it!

4. How to Make a Key Copy at Home

There are also methods for manually copying a key without the use of third-party services such as booths or locksmiths.

Before we get started, it’s vital to note that, short of purchasing your own key-cutting equipment, homemade keys rarely outperform professionally cut keys. They are also more prone to breakage.

However, a broken key is always preferable to no key at all, therefore let’s look at three terrific methods on how to copy a key yourself.

Method 1: Make a Key Copy Using a File

The initial do-it-yourself key copying approach is to file down a blank key to match your existing key.

This is a simple approach that takes simply a vice, a file, and a key blank that fits your individual lock. If you use a key blank from the wrong type or brand of lock, the key will most likely not even enter the keyway.

Please keep in mind that this method only works with pin tumbler lock keys and will not let you replicate keys for most other types of locks or keys for higher-security locks, such as dimple locks or pin tumbler locks with sidebars.

A key blank for your specific lock can be found at:

  1. A neighbourhood hardware store or a retail outlet such as Home Depot or Ace
  2. A neighbourhood locksmith
  3. Online retailers such as Amazon, Grainger, and CLK Supplies

When it comes to the file, use a pippin (cheap) file, a Dremel (expensive), or a triangular file (cheaper). Most little files, though, will most likely work with a little improvisation.

Follow these three steps to copy a key with a file.

  1. Align both keys and clamp them in a vice or vice-grip.
  2. Begin filling in your blank with your original key as a guide.
  3. When your key has been filed, enter it into the lock and test it.

Just in case your key no longer works, realign it with the key and double-check that you didn’t miss anything or misalign it while grinding. If the key does not fit into the lock at all, look for slag or chunks of metal protruding from the key’s side.

Another thing is that you may have used the incorrect key blank. Check that your key blank exactly matches your original.

Method 2: Create An Outline and Copy A Key Onto Other Materials.

Another method for making a quick and dirty key by hand is to trace your key onto another material and cut it out.

This isn’t a long-term solution by any means, but it works nicely as a rapid backup.

You’ll need a robust substance for your cloned key that won’t break in the lock to utilize this procedure. Soda cans, old credit cards, hotel keys, and even metal objects like butter knives, provided you have a file, are common supplies.

To outline and replicate a key, you’ll need transparent packaging tape, pliers, your original key, a cutting tool, and some material for your replacement key.

Follow these procedures to outline and copy a key:

  1. Cut a length of clear packing tape larger than the key you want to duplicate.
  2. Using pliers, grasp the head of your original key and heat one side until it turns black (soot buildup).
  3. Allow the key to cool before pressing firmly on the black side of the tape.
  4. Remove the tape, and you should see a black impression of the key.
  5. Place the tape on the material from which you want to produce a key and cut around the imprint. Make every effort to be as exact as possible.
  6. Test your new key carefully.

Don’t force anything if you’re using a fragile material (like a gift card). Breaking off a piece of your lock is probably not something you want to deal with.

Method 3: Copy a Key Out of Clay

If you want to be super-spy and duplicate your key, you can always make a cast of it and manufacture a clone!

This process is far more difficult and time-consuming than simply ordering a copy. However, if you have an odd key for which you cannot find a blank, or if you simply want to have some fun without regard for expense or effort, this process will provide you with a highly accurate and functioning duplicate!

Casted keys, however, are not as robust as normally cut keys. While they may function, don’t expect them to survive indefinitely.

To make a clay key, you’ll need:

  1. A duplicate key.
  2. Torch or lighter.
  3. Melted spoon.
  4. Moulding substance.
  5. Material for casting.

To make your mould, you should ideally utilize clay. Moulds can also be made from plaster of Paris, a bar of soap, or even bubble gum.

Zinc, copper, aluminium, or steel are the best materials for casting your key. Just be careful not to break any bits of your key into your lock. But if you do, be sure to read my tutorial, How To Unlock A Padlock Without Key.

What If You’ve Misplaced Your Original Key?


If you’ve lost your only key, you won’t be able to generate a straight duplicate using any of the techniques listed above.

However, this does not imply that all is lost! There are some good solutions available depending on your situation.

1. Contact a Locksmith

Calling a locksmith may be a slightly more expensive choice than the ones listed below. Nonetheless, it is the simplest and most dependable approach to take.

However, if you have locked yourself out and have no other way of getting in, a locksmith is your only true non-destructive choice other than manually manipulating the lock (which we will explain next).

When they arrive, you can discuss your alternatives, but the most cost-effective solutions will likely be to replace the lock or have it rekeyed.

2. Read This Article On How To Unlock A Padlock Without The Original Key

There you will learn how you can unlock a lock with only matches, candles, or just fire. And it works without having to destroy the padlock.

3. Bypass the Lock on Your Own

You can always try to bypass the lock or door yourself if you’ve locked yourself out and need to get in.

Take note: Never tamper with a lock that you do not own. This includes any apartment locks owned by your landlord or neighbour. While lock picking is a very delicate procedure, things can still go wrong and swiftly destroy your lock.

4. Locks Should Be Replaced

When you lose your sole key, it’s an ideal time to replace those outdated locks with something fresh.

For the cost of having a locksmith rekey your locks, you could buy some gleaming new knobs yourself.

5. Locks Should Be Rekeyed

Rekeying your own locks usually necessitates having the original key. If you’re up for it, there are ways to get around this need, such as shimming the core.

Video on How To Copy A Key In 5 Minutes

For a clearer understanding and videographic representation of how to copy a key in 5 minutes, watch the video below;

Is It Illegal To Duplicate A Key?

Copies of conventional keys, such as house keys, automobile keys, or padlock keys, are not prohibited.

Nonetheless, the line between copying keys and using them unlawfully is razor-thin, with no room for error. Using a key on a lock if you do not own the lock or what it protects is effectively illegal. So, don’t do that.

Other types of keys to consider are “Do Not Duplicate” keys and “Restricted” keys.

It is not unlawful to copy “Do Not Duplicate” keys. These keys are extremely deceptive, and there are no laws prohibiting someone from replicating them. While certain keying businesses and locksmiths would not replicate them for you, there are no legal implications.

Restricted keys, on the other hand, are a different story. These keys are protected from replication under US patent rules, and duplication rights are limited to the key’s original maker. Copying restricted keys may also result in a hefty fine (up to $10,000).

Keys With “Do Not Duplicate” Sign

Property owners and managers began enforcing the “do not duplicate” key message in an effort to rein in security violations committed by terminated employees, former tenants, construction workers, and others who obtained a key. Unauthorized key duplication is still a severe security risk today, and it is the single most violated security policy in the company.

Because they must be reproduced by a locksmith, the inscription may reduce the number of duplicates in circulation. However, keys with “Do Not Duplicate” stamps are no more safe than keys without them. Having a “do not duplicate” inscription on your corporate keys, according to the ALOA, may create a false sense of security.


Keys With A “Restricted” Sign

Some keys are prohibited from duplicating. Locksmiths call these keys “restricted,” which means that duplication rights are restricted to the key’s original manufacturer. Lock manufacturers have created restricted keys that are more difficult to copy since the procedure requires specific equipment and the key design is patent protected in order to make certain of their products more secure.

Restricted keys are protected by patent laws in the United States, which protect makers of specialized lock and key systems. Circumventing the law, including the illicit reproduction of limited keys, can result in a $10,000 fine.

Duplication of restricted keys is restricted to authorized manufacturers and locksmiths and necessitates the use of specific instruments. To have a copy produced, the locksmith should ask for identity and proof that the person requesting it has acquired permission from the original owner.

Because they are more difficult to duplicate, these keys give a better level of security than unrestricted keys, including those marked “do not duplicate.” A restricted key may be the best option for firms that want to limit the number of copies available.

FAQs About How To Copy A Key

Is It Simple To Copy A Key?

A competent locksmith can duplicate a standard key properly in a matter of minutes. A more difficult key can take up to 25 minutes to duplicate.

What Is The Cost Of Replicating A Key?

A simple key, such as a house key, can be copied for as little as $1. The most expensive is copying modern automobile keys, which typically costs $30 to $175, but some premium car models may cost $1,000 or more for a new key fob.

Where Can I Make A Key Copy?

For Simple House Key: Visit a nearby grocery shop and use a KeyMe self-service booth. 
Specialty Key: Use a KeyMe self-service booth at a local grocery shop to obtain a specialty key. 
Car Key: Visit or contact a locksmith.

Can you make your own key?

You can get a duplicate key created by going to a hardware store, vehicle dealership, or key booth.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are numerous techniques for copying a key, and you are not restricted to using the ones on this list.

If you need a quick and easy copy, your local Home Depot is an ideal solution.

However, if you want to support local companies, try contacting a local locksmith (which is always recommended). They’re just as affordable, and it’s a great way to vet local providers in case disaster strikes. You never know when you’ll require the services of a professional locksmith!

I hope you enjoyed this guide.

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