You probably use several different types of keys at home and work. But do you know how many different types of door keys there are? It might surprise you to learn just how many different variations there are.
This article is all about different types of keys. So, read on to find out everything you need to know about types of door keys.
A Brief History of Keys
The oldest keys and locks found date back 6,000 years ago to Egypt and Babylon and since their invention, they have become a key element in keeping our homes safe. The first keys were made of wood and they were tooth-shaped, heavy, and bulky. They were used to lift hinged pins in a small opening near the door bolts.
The Romans improved the design. They made keys from iron and bronze and they became stronger, smaller, and lighter. Over time, large flat keys evolved into skeleton keys. These keys were cylindrical shafts that had just one rectangular tooth instead of many pins at its end.
The skeleton key remained the main tool for locking and unlocking doors for centuries. The major new developments didn’t take place until the 19th century when Linus Yale, an American mechanical engineer, patented several new locking mechanisms with his son, including the tumbler locks with a flat serrated-edge key.
While keys are still the main device to lock and unlock doors, modern technology has made alternative inventions possible, which may one day make keys obsolete.
The Main Types of Keys
While there are more types of keys, there are five main categories which all other types of keys are derived from. The six types are skeleton, double-sided, transponder, paracentric, tubular, and dimple keys.
1. The Skeleton key
Skeleton keys are a classic type of key and are not used in new lock systems. They have a cylindrical shaft and a toothed end. The key can fit into and open different locks due to the sanded-down serrated edge. Another name for this style of primary key is a passkey. You can learn more about skeleton keys in this video.
2. The Double-Sided Key
These types of keys are also called “double-bitted” keys. They are the most common type of door keys. They are symmetrical keys that have two cutouts and can be entered inside the lock either way. Another variation of this type of key is the four-sided key with the shaft having four cutouts.
3. The Transponder Key
Transponder or chip keys are commonly used in cars and other vehicles. They use a radio signal between the key and a microchip programmed into the car’s ignition code. They prevent car thefts because they are hard to duplicate and will shut off if someone uses an incorrect circuit code.
These keys are not only difficult but also expensive to duplicate. A locksmith would need to access the database of the car manufacturer to get the car code before they can create a new key.
4. The Paracentric Key
Paracentric keys are mainly used in places that demand high-level security, such as prisons. They have a unique design with a contorted blade and a set of tiny teeth at the top. These locks are very difficult to pick, which has led to their wide use in prisons. However, some people have found ways to open the locks without the key.
5. The Tubular Key
These keys, sometimes called barrel keys, are used to unlock pin tumbler locks. Tubular keys are shorter and have cylinders with a bigger diameter than traditional keys. Many bike locks use tumbler locks as do vending machines.
As well as the five main types of keys, other keys are used in certain settings.
6. Key Cards
These work well in settings where you need temporary access to a space, for example, a hotel room. The cards with a magnetic strip can be programmed to grant the holder entry for a certain amount of time or a certain number of times. The door lock opens when it reads the signature encryption on the magnetic strip.
7. Primary Keys
Even though the term primary key is sometimes used in connection with skeleton keys, not all skeleton keys are primary keys. A primary key will open multiple locks and they are used, for example, by caretakers in buildings where they may need to access a property when the owner is not present.
8. Magnetic Keys
This key and lock system relies on magnets. When you want to open a magnetic lock, you need to align the magnets correctly, which will trigger a pull or a push inside the lock. This action will move the internal tumblers and release the mechanism. It is a very secure lock mechanism.
Padlock keys are quite easy to recognize from their small size. Padlocks are often found on, for example, gates, lockers, and diaries. They are relatively easy to pick and a locksmith can create a new key using the type of padlock together with the brand information.
10. Smart Keys For Cars
Smart car keys are similar to transponder keys but they are technologically more advanced. A smart key is programmed to correspond to the car’s lock system and it is not possible to duplicate them. They also allow you to control the lock as well as the ignition remotely.
11. Abloy Keys
Abloy keys are used on disc tumbler locks, which are springless. The key rotates the disks until they are in alignment and the lock will open. This type of lock is extremely difficult to lock and in some parts of the world, such as Finland, they are the standard locks because of the safety and security they offer.
12. Deadbolt Keys
There are different types of deadbolt locks. Most single-cylinder deadbolt locks have a keyhole on the outside of the door and a thumb turn on the inside. A double-cylinder deadbolt lock will have a keyhole both in- and outside of the door.
For the safety of your home, you should always choose the lock with a double cylinder if you are installing it near a window to prevent thieves from breaking the window and opening the door.
13. Vehicle Anti-Theft Keys
Vehicle anti-theft (VAT) keys are upgraded keys that can further improve the safety of your car. A VAT key has a built-in microchip programmed with a unique code that matches your car. The key will only match your car and your car will not respond to any other key.
14. Cruciform Keys
These keys are sometimes called cross keys because they will only open locks shaped like the letter “x”. They are most commonly used in industrial settings because they are durable, compact, and safe. The key has four flat sides and a set of scattered teeth on each edge.
15. Laser-Cut Keys
These keys are common in cars and they are made by cutting the shape with a laser. Other names used for laser-cut keys are the sidewinder key and internal-cut key. Laser-cut keys are similar to mechanically cut keys but more complex and accurate offering additional safety and peace of mind.
16. Mechanically-Cut Keys
These are the oldest and most common types of car keys. They are also used in homes and offices with traditional locks. The keys have ridges and lines cut into one side of the blade. Because the set of teeth is only on one side, these keys are easy to cut with a cutting machine. However, this means that they are easy to duplicate, too.
Are There Any Alternatives For Door Keys?
Yes, there are alternatives to door keys if you would like a different system in your home. These systems can also be used to reinforce the safety of your home in addition to your normal door lock operated with a key.
Not as high-tech as the smart key system, yet a highly effective way to keep your home secure. You open the deadbolt lock by entering a combination code into a padlock and lock the door with one click. You will not need keys to enter your home when you use a combination deadbolt unless you use it in addition to your regular door lock and key.
Smart Lock Systems
These systems are expensive. However, they eliminate the need for keys. The smart lock system is a centralized locking system. You can open and close all your doors with just one click. The system can be controlled remotely through an application on your phone and linked to a security camera.
This is another high-tech option to keep your home safe from outsiders. It is a keyless option and similarly to the smart lock system, costs a lot. The touchscreen can be programmed to open using a fingerprint, voice, or face recognition. They come with a manual option where you operate the lock by entering a code on a keypad.
There you have it. The list of keys to operate different types of door locks. While most people still use normal keys and locks to keep their homes safe, it may be that as technology advances further and systems such as touchscreens and smart locks become cheaper, they will eventually eliminate the need for keys.
We hope you have found all the information you were looking for on the types of door keys. If you have further questions on the topic, you can write them in the comments section.