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Questions on the business of key cutting and the details of key bitting specifications

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Hi chaps,
I've been reading more detail into key cutting and was hoping you could help me out by answering some questions.

Business questions:
    I was reading the thmkey FAQ (https://www.thmkey.co.uk/is-key-cutting-a-profitable-trade) which quotes some expected profit values for a given number of keys cut but I have no idea what number of keys per day is typical.

    (Before the pandemic)
    1: How many keys did you cut a day?

    2: What kind of store are these numbers for e.g. high street in a big city vs small town, idependent vs Timpson?

    3: What is the proportion of different keys that you cut? e.g. 80% cylinder lock door keys, of which 70% are ER2-D 6pin, 30% are ER-1D 5 pin.
    I'm particularly interested in this, looking at the keys I have for my home and elderly parents home I seem to have ER-2D, EV-4D and U-5D profiles and I wanted to get a sense of the distribution of keys actually cut on a daily basis.

Technical key questions:
    4: Where can I find key bitting specifications for the different key profiles? I found PDFs for the yale 0.320" blade 0.019" and 0.025" cut depth key profiles but no others. I've read "Nearly all code books and code software contain either full or partial key bitting specification information" but have only found key blank directory PDFs.

    5: Does the key profile uniquely determine the bitting? e.g. a U-5D profile from CEA is called UN3, from KL UN5D and from Orion UNL5, do these all have the same pin spacing, cut angle and MACs?

    6: For this key blank (https://www.aldridgesecurity.co.uk/era-0073-era-652-56-6-pin-cylinder-blank.html) it states "Can be cut to suit most 6 pins cylinders" does this mean the profile does not uniquely determine the bitting contrary to question 5?

    My house key is a 6 pin key made by ERA which looks like an ER-2D profile. I measured the cut depths with a micrometer, quantised them to the nearest depth in the yale 0.320" blade 0.019" cut specification and cut a key from an ER-2D blank which produced a key which opens my door. The original key has a 0.333" blade (the spec says 0.320" +-0.002") but the 0 level cut is cut to 0.320".

    7: Is it normal for the original key to be 0.333" and not 0.320" or is the key a different specification which just turned out to be compatible enough to open my door?

    8: How common is the 0.019" version vs the 0.025" cut version?

    9: Is there any way to tell apart a 0.019" key vs a 0.025" key without using a micrometer?

I've numbered the questions to make them easier to refer to. I really appreciate any assistance you can give and think it's super interesting really getting into the details.

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1. I’d say at least 50 a day on average.. some days can be a lot more. 

2. Timpson (Supermarket Shop) Plenty of independents around too. 

3. A huge variety from ‘standard’ universals to your dimple cut security keys, and everything else in between. No way to keep track exactly but a huge variety of blanks get used on a daily basis. 

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7 hours ago, GLENGRAVING said:

I fear you're overthinking on the technicalities. If you can find a good location and do some decent marketing so that you will be noticed (as well as offer some complimentary services/products to entice), you will find that you don't need a PhD to earn a profit in this field. 

Totally agree with this statement...  

In addition to the above,  find a key cutting shop/place and ask if you can get some work experience for a week or so , you will find answers of most of your questions practically. 


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Same with Graham instacode is a marvelous, i am lucky got i  books of bitting from Morlins and from the locksmith company we acquired from edinburgh a long time ago.

1. 300 - 600 before and now about 200 - 300 a day

2. Small  Country town other than timpson were the only one for about 20 miles, no auto locksmith for 40 miles, we are now considering going into this market.

3. We have lot off office, call centres, Manufacturing  , but also haulage firms in the local area  so we see a  wide range of keys. Household not so much these days..

Best thing i ever done was create a website and go online, it did take ne the best part of 5 years to create the database and still creating the locks one as we have around 600 different types of locks.



OS Keys

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Thanks to all of you for the replies, super helpful information, really appreciate it.

@grahamparker I purchased a licence for instacode and have been experimenting with it on keys that I have. It looks like it contains a lot of the information I'm interested in.

@GLENGRAVING I understand the sentiment about paying too much attention to the technicalities but that is an area I'm interested in. I think that to do a good job it's important to understand what's going on in detail and because I'm interested I might as well learn!

@OS Keysthe database you mention is intriguing, can you tell me a bit more about what this database consists of? Ideally I'd have the information to be able to say "for JMA CHU1D key the cut angle is 110 degrees, blade width is 780, cut heights are X, pin distances are Y" for any key I would encounter, it looks like instacode contains this information but it's quite clunky to access. 

I had some other questions too if you all wouldn't mind.

10: I've seen websites that say they can identify which key you have from a photo that they can then cut to code. How would you identify which key a customer has from a photo alone?
@OS Keys mentions being online is a great addition and it seems like it would be useful to be able to do this 

11: Further to (11) Any advice on telling appart similar key profiles such as EV-4D and U-5D without either running the customer key through a keyway panel or trying the suspected blank in the customer's lock? 

12: This is easy if the profile is written on the key. Which customer keys tend to say which profile they are on the key its self? I have a couple with their profile printed on but is this common?

Thanks again

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Actually also, to clarify the relation between the point being discussed with @OS Keys and the process of key identification, if you don't know which profile a key is but can measure the pin spacing, cut heights and cut angle then that could help identify the key type. I didn't see how to do that in instacode but I'm not very familiar with it. Is this process something that locksmiths currently do?

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