If the proper hardware has been ordered using the letters and/or numbers off the head of the key, then it is usually possible to key to your existing keys. Most often, it is physically possible to key the locks to an existing master key system. However, there are standards that must be met in order for these things to be done properly.
We’ll address keying to an existing key first. First and foremost, the key you are requesting we use must be cut to manufacturers specifications. Using a worn key or a “generational key” creates a situation where we can only guarantee the lock will work with the single key provided. A “generational key” is a copy of a key that is not original to manufacturers’ specifications. The first copy of an original is a 1st generation key. The copy made from the 1st copy is a 2nd generation key. The copy made from the 2nd copy is a 3rd generation key and so on. Some places do a good job cutting keys and adjust their key machines on a regular basis.
Many do not. But no matter how well the duplicating machine is maintained, there will be a variance between the original key and each successive generation cut. We test our key machines to the 5th generation when adjusting our key machines. We recommend that when you get a new key, whether to a home, business, or vehicle, to immediately get a copy for daily use and store the original to be used when duplicating keys in the future. Ask about available key storage boxes or notebooks.
Keying to an existing master key system presents an additional set of concerns. First, you must realize that having a master key system generally reduces security and increases convenience. Second, there are rules to master keying which will help reduce a loss of security. Master keying should not be random but should be done from a developed master key system. The master key system should have a list of keys which have been used (known as a bitting list). Otherwise, the locksmith who tries to create new keys to the master key system takes a chance that the new keys may unintentionally work other locks. This is sometimes referred to as a “ghost master” or an “incidental master”.
We require any system we work on to be to manufacturers specifications. We recommend you consider a new master key system if you do not have a bitting list. Let us help you reduce the liabilities related to haphazard keying.
A: Most keys in use today may be duplicated. If you have provided a key to an employee, a contractor, or a cleaning company, then even if you get the key back, you can’t know if a copy has been made. Many people feel that if they have the key stamped “DO NOT DUPLICATE” they have solved the problem. The fact is that there is no law to prevent key duplication if a key is stamped that way unless the key belongs to a state or federal agency or the US Postal Service.
If you have provided a key to an employee, a contractor, or a cleaning company, then even if you get the key back, you can’t know if a copy has been made.
Most manufacturers do make a line of locks and keys which do have key duplication restrictions. The locks and keys have patents which limit production of the key blanks to the original manufacturer. The manufacturer then controls key blank distribution through contracts with the distributors of their products.
For top shelf protection, we recommend Medeco High-Security Locks which are tested for resistance to forced entry, pick resistance, and drill resistance in addition to the key duplication restrictions. Medeco also produces a line of locks, KeyMark, that focus on the key duplication restrictions only and therefore may save you money by not buying features you don’t feel you need. Medeco and KeyMark also make a wide variety of replacement cylinders that may fit into existing hardware thereby saving you money. In many cases, you won’t have to buy complete replacement hardware for this reason.
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