4 Ways To Duplicate Keys By Hand

Locksmith showing key blanks in his shop | Ways To Duplicate Keys By Hand | Featured

Have you ever thought of how to duplicate keys by hand, but didn’t have any idea how to do it? If so, then you’ve come to the right place!

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Tips and Tricks to Easily Duplicate Keys by Hand

Make Your Own Keys

It may be a bit troublesome to have the keys to your house and other locks duplicated by a locksmith. Not to mention the cost of having one made.

If you want to save a few bucks and have the time for a hobby, then you can start this one. That’s why we make sure we have key organizers or key holders to reduce the chances of losing them.

Moving forward, with the right tools and a lot of patience, here are a few tips and tricks to create keys on your own without using a key duplicating machine. You could hardly distinguish your work with a duplicate key made by a locksmith.

The Longer & Traditional Method

Tools needed are blank keys, a hand file, a vice and of course the original key.

Step 1: Clamp and Align


Clamp duplicate and original keys side by side using the vice.

You have to make sure the keys are properly aligned with each other. Then tighten the vice.

Step 2: Start Filing


With the use of the hand file, you can begin filing down on the blank key starting with the highest point of the original key, down to the valleys. You will have to be really patient during this process because you might destroy the original key.

A smaller hand file would definitely come in handy when you get to valleys. Make sure both keys are still properly aligned during the process.

Step 3: Test It


When you have filed the blank keys as close to the original, try testing it. It may take a couple of more finishing touches if it still doesn’t work smoothly.

You can compare the copy with the original one and file the flaws.

The Quick Hack Methods

Hack #1: Heat It Up or Pen It Out

Tools Needed Are:

  • Clear tape
  • Lighter
  • Tin can lid/piece of plastic bottle or plastic card
  • Sharp scissors or xacto knife
  • Flathead screwdriver

Step 1: Place the Original Key Over a Flame


Place the original key over a flame until it creates a black coating on the surface. You can set it down and let it cool black side up.

You can also use a marker for this method.

Step 2: Use Clear Tape


Place a clear tape (sticky side) on top of the black coating covered key part once it's cool enough. Then remove the tape carefully and you will see a black coating on the tape.

It will have to be an exact copy after that.

Step 3: Stick It


Choose a lid from a can of food, a plastic bottle or plastic card. Then stick the tape on the surface.

Step 4: Cut It Out


Using the tape with soot as an outline, carefully cut out the metal can, a piece of a plastic bottle, or plastic card with a piece of sharp scissors or a xacto knife. Be accurate on the edges of the key to make it work.

What Is a Xacto Knife? A type of utility knife capable of the most accurate and sharpest cut for a certain craft.

When done, hold it up against the original, then cut out any overlapping flaws.

Step 5: Test and Support


Test and support the duplicate key with a flat screwdriver so it won’t break. It will also be easier to twist the drum bolt around.

It may take a bit of wiggling, but if it’s cut out correctly, it will definitely work.

RELATED: How Locksmithing Can Help Increase Your Chances Of Survival

Hack #2: Take a Picture of the Key

Materials Needed to Duplicate Keys Are:

  • Camera or cellphone camera
  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Piece of paper
  • Coin(optional)
  • Sharp scissors
  • Lid of a food can, piece of a plastic bottle, ruler, or plastic cards

Step 1: Take a Photo of the Key


Take a photo of the key. If you can’t bring the key with you when you print it out, make sure to place a coin beside the key.

Then print it out.

Step 2: Upload and Print

Upload the image to your computer, then make a printout. Measure the printout with the actual key or coin.

Resize the photo until you get the exact measurement using the key or the coin.

Step 3: Cut and Stick


Cut it out then using a clear tape stick it on a metal can lid, piece of a plastic bottle or plastic card. Then follow steps 4 to 6 from Hack #1.

Hack #3: Mold It

Materials Needed Are:

  • Part 1 & 2 mold solution
  • Part 3 (hardener) mold solution
  • Low melting point metal ingots
  • Casting ladle
  • Butane gas torch
  • Tubular plastic container
  • Key to be duplicated

Step 1: Mix Molding Solution


First, mix mold solution 1& 2 plastic tubular container. When done, mix the hardener (mold solution 3).

You have under a minute to set the key in the mold after mixing all three solutions.

Step 2: Insert the Key and Let It Dry

Insert the key in the mixture. Align it as straight as possible with the sides of the container.

Lift it once to prevent air bubbles, then insert again. You can use a keyholder to make it stable.

Let it dry for 5 – 10 minutes. When it’s ready, push the mold out from the bottom with your finger.

Step 3: Cut the Mold Open

Cut the mold open on one side with a xacto knife or cutter, preferably the solid part. Be careful not to cut the important parts of the mold.

Then open the cut part and remove the key. Cut the hollow top portion of the mold, making it funnel-like.

Step 4: Heat Metal Ingot and Pour in Casting Mold


Place the mold back into the tubular plastic container. Place the metal ingot in the casting ladle then start heating it up with the butane gas torch until it melts.

When it is in liquid form, immediately pour it into the mold. Tap the mold to avoid air bubbles.

Step 5: Remove and Test


Let it cool down for a few moments then start removing the mold and then test if it works. If steps are followed correctly, you will have an exact mold copy of your key, be it your car key, house key, or even restricted keys to access your property.

Here is a video posted by Jake’s Workshop on how to make a 3D printed key using a 3D printer:

Remember to duplicate the keys you own and those that unlock your property only. You can duplicate someone else keys as long as they are aware of it.

Overall, this is a good way to be productive in your downtime and save a few bucks altogether. You’ll never know, blacksmithing might just become your hobby.

Was this article helpful in your desire to duplicate keys? Please let us know in the comments section below!


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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 22, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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24 Responses to :
4 Ways To Duplicate Keys By Hand

  1. Jeff Robertson says:

    No 5…
    Step 1 Get in car
    Step 2 Go to Lowe’s or Home Depot
    Step 3 Find hardware department
    Step 4 Find correct keyblank
    Step5 Let an associate cut key on proper machine
    Step 6 Go eat lunch and enjoy all the time saved by not trying the other hacks.

    1. Greg says:

      If shit hits the fan there’s not going to be any going to Lowe’s or Home Depot. Thats why its important or at the very least very helpful to know and practice these hacks. Just

    2. Dew says:

      Step 7 Take 2 of the four keys back because the minimum wage employee that does not know how to calibrate the machine anyway also put one of the keys in too deep and all of your cuts are half a pin off and the keys don’t work.

  2. Alan says:

    It’s always necessary to have the proper key blank for your particular style key. The wrong blank will not fit your lock’s cylinder. There are a large number of different key blanks depending on your key type. Where to get the right key blanks is not covered in this article. Key blanks are not generally available except to key making services but are available online.

  3. Grimmie says:

    Even Wal-Mart has key making machines that are cheap and quick to make whatever keys you may need an it will work most of the time much better than you trying one of those home made methods but if you have no choice those ways may work after many hours of work an detailing with files good luck

  4. Will says:

    You all just keep trying these hacks,because when you break the plastic key or molded key or whatever else you are using,I as a locksmith love it because then I get more of your money to try and get broken piece out and repair the lock.As for walmart or lowes why spend your money at one of the big box chainstores and have to go back 2 or 3 times before you get one that works.Support your local locksmith usually not much more expensive,but 9 times out of 10 a one time trip.

    1. Lisa says:

      Can you being a locksmith make a copy of my Fiat key that will cost me about $350 at the dealership?

      1. Dave in Fairfax says:

        The wireless keys can only be partially duplicated. The physical part is relatively easy. If your vehicle has a lock the key will fit into, the duplicate will get you into the car. The wireless part is not feasibly duplicated without advanced hacking skills and equipment, so no. It won’t start your car. If you don’t have a lock on the door that the key fits into, the duplicate won’t even do that.

  5. It was helpful to read that having keys for your own property is advised. This is a great way to respect other people’s security and privacy. As I look into getting a key cutting service, I will be sure that no one else gets my new keys.

  6. It is a good and informative blog. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Tradinjr says:

      I agree with you.

  7. DDDDDuane says:

    Yes….Doing this stuff is a very practical use of your time….
    Slightly better than watching Gilligan’s lsland reruns..

  8. Bob k says:

    I had a key made on those vending machines. It didn’t turn in the lock, but maybe i can try to file it down to work. Next problem, remembering where i put a nonworking key!

  9. I like how you suggested using a plastic card to duplicate a key. I am looking into going to see a locksmith to make keys. Thank you for the tips on duplicating keys by hand.

  10. Anonymous says:

    As I read this article all I could keep thinking is telling people how to make keys so they can break into someone’s house or building.

  11. David says:

    This was a very good article !
    I can see where you are going here when it comes to trying to make your own key. This is for survival purposes.

  12. Peter says:

    Nice blog ! Thank you for provide such a nice information

  13. Janel says:

    I got it, it worked! Thanks for sharing the key copying process.

  14. Jane Wood says:

    Oh, really it worked perfectly. Thank you!

  15. Aaron Dariss says:

    Some locksmiths will charge on a task basis. This means each service you have the locksmith perform will be a one-time charge. Other locksmiths will charge hourly. They will have a standard minimum, usually an hour. So if your service only takes 30 minutes, you still pay for the hour.

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