17+ Different Types Of Keys

Did you know that keys are older than what you think? Since their first appearance 6000 years ago in Babylon and Egypt, locks and keys have become an imperative part of our home security. They are so inherently vital for the home that it is continually being innovated in time. As a matter of fact, there are more than 17 types of keys out there for your choosing. 

If you are currently looking for the best type of key for your home, this post shall round up the best ones as well as their specific uses. So, if you are in for the different types of keys, read on. 

Related: Parts Of a Door

What are keys made of? 

In history, keys have been made using different materials including very unorthodox ones like fortified animal bones. But conventionally, keys are made from various types of metals which include brass, silver, gold, steel, iron, and nickel. 

What are the six main types of keys?

Be it for residential or commercial type of building, there are six main types of keys that you should know about. All the other types of keys are inspired or derived from the functions and form of these main types, so it is important to be familiar with them. 

  • Transponder 
  • Double-sided 
  • Paracentric 
  • Dimple keys 
  • Skeleton key 
  • Barrel

17 types of keys

For more specific types of keys along with their functions, here are 17 types of keys that you can checkout to narrow down your home security choice. 

1. Key cards

These are the hotel cards that we know of. They come in many forms and shapes now thanks to the need for better hotel room security. The card is enforced with a magnetic strip so when it is inserted in the key card slot, a laser reads a unique signature encryption in it.

Use: For hotel room security. 

2. Primary keys

These keys are unique because they can open multiple locks with just one key. As such, having one is very beneficial if you do not want to carry a bunch of keys for different locks. It saves time and space (in the bag). But they must be held on securely and they are certainly not for forgetful people.

Use: For multiple doors and locks. 

3. Magnetic keys

As the term implies, this type of key relies on a magnet system. They do not need an electronic setup to activate the system. All you must do is to align a bunch of magnets to open the lock. The alignment determines the pattern for opening it up. So overall, it offers a good home security system.

4. Smart car keys

This one is like transponder keys only they are more technologically advanced. They are programmed using the car lock’s system and so they are highly impossible to duplicate. With this key, you can also control the car’s lock and the car’s ignition remotely.

Use: For remote car starting and locking. 

5. VAT keys

VAT stands for vehicle anti-theft. It is an upgradeable key to enforce greater safety for cars. They contain microchips with a unique code that matches the car. As such, the key cannot be used by any car and the car cannot be used by another key.

Use: For impenetrable car security. 

6. Laser cut car key

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As the name suggests, these keys are made through laser cutting. They also come with other names such as internal cut keys and sidewinder keys because they have two identical sides. It is more common in cars, and they are convenient because you can turn the ignition with it no matter where it is facing. They are also hard to replicate so you can count on them for car security. 

Use: Car starting convenience; anti auto-theft. 

7. Mechanically cut key

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This is another car key but is used for older model cars or for traditional lock homes and offices. They are ridged on one side and plain on the other side. They are made using a die-cast mold and are easy to replicate due to their basic design. 

Use: Car key for older model cars; basic key for homes and offices.  

8. Valet keys

These keys allow you to surrender your keys to your valet without worries because they are specifically programmed to only open the driver’s side door and start the ignition, nothing else. It is always handy to have a valet key so that you are sure that none of the safety boxes, the trunk and the hood are opened. 

Use: For extreme car security in valet parking. 

9. Abloy key

This one works by rotating the discs enclosed in the key. The lock is released once the discs are aligned correctly. They are rare in most locations but are standard keys in some countries like Finland. These ones are hard to duplicate because they are not loaded with spring. 

Use: For disc tumbler locks. 

10. Cruciform key

This one is also known as the ‘cross key’ because they only open x-shaped locks. They are mostly used in industrial contexts where more reliable keys are needed. They are compact, durable and ensure safety. They have four flat sides with scattered teeth along each edge. 

Use: Used for industrial settings. 

11. Transponder

These are our car keys, and they were specifically developed to prevent car theft because they are harder to duplicate. They are also for supreme car security because once they are used to a different car, some car brands and models automatically shut off.  

Use: For supreme car security and anti-theft system. 

12. Double-sided

They are also called the four-sided keys and are mainly used for homes now because of their durability. They are named as such because of their four sets of teeth to prevent greater risks of break-ins because they are harder to pick. 

Use: For residential security; most common home keys. 

13. Paracentric

Source

This type of key is unique for its twisted shape and small, fine set of teeth at the tip. It is mainly used for prison cells because it is harder for notorious inmates to pick and break out. They are the most recommended for high level security. 

Use: For tight security systems like prison cells. 

14. Dimple keys

These keys get their name from their identifiable dimples along the key’s length. The dimples are used to pair with matching pins for the door to be opened. The dimples are found on both sides for convenience, but it is recommended for tighter home security. 

Use: Used to open pin tumbler-based locks. 

15. Skeleton key

These ones are the classic types of keys. They are no longer in use, but we know them for their appearance in medieval and mystery films. They have a toothed end and a cylindrical shaft. 

Use: Opens warded locks. 

16. Barrel keys

They are also called tubular keys because of their cylindrical shape and are used specifically for pin tumbler locks. They are usually used for bicycle locks as well as in vending machines. They are easiest to duplicate compared to the other major types of keys. 

Use: Opens tubular locks like in furniture. 

17. Deadbolt key

This is a key that you use for added safety reinforcements in the home. They come in a single cylinder, double cylinder, and lockable thumb turn. It is a smart decision to have one if you ever find yourself in a compromised position with a stranger rounding up your home. 

Use: Double home security

Uses of keys

While it is imminent, you still must know the uses of keys given the different types that we have listed here. At best, there are five most common uses of keys, and we will cover them all in this section. 

Homes and offices

This is the most observable reason why we need keys in life. There are different doors in the home and each needs different sets of keys. Our homes are our safe places, hence, enforcing that safety is the top priority. The same is true for offices. The main keys used for homes and offices would be the double-sided key and primary keys. 

Padlocks

If there is a key, a padlock is nearby, conventionally. Keys for padlocks are used for property gates, diaries, and journals as well. Padlocks are fairly easy to pick, and open so keyed ones are essential for these types of security systems. 

Safe

Most safes come in pre-programmed codes. For them to become more impenetrable, they come with technologically advanced keys like keypad key locks, magnetic locks, fingerprint locks and more. 

Cars

All cars are operated with keys. They only do not open and lock the door but also ensure maximum safety for the car to make sure that it is anti-theft. The most common types of car keys would be: mechanically cut keys, transponder keys, laser cut keys, valet keys, smart car keys, VAT keys. 

FAQs on Types of Keys

Aside from the types of keys, you also have to know some FAQs about them for handy information when you encounter problems and other key related issues in the future. 

What are 4 sided keys used for?

The four-sided keys are usually used for residential locks. Instead of the basic one-sided teeth, this one has four toothed sides. It gives more security to residences because the teeth patterns are harder to pick and these are hard to replicate. 

Can you make your keys look different? 

Accessorizing home and car keys have become a trend especially because more and more people are becoming more forgetful about where they are storing them. To make them stand out and easy to find, here are some tips on how to make your keys look different. 

  • Wrap the top of the key with yarn, acrylic, or nail polish. 
  • Paint the code pattern with nail polish for you to avoid locking yourself in. 
  • Hang a keychain or a tiny stuffed animal on to the key. 
  • Color code them using paint or washi tapes. 

Are there types of old keys? 

Believe it or not there are. Knowing which old keys to look for can be profitable for antique collectors. You just must be sure about the age, material and of course they should be in pristine condition. If you are into antique key collection, you should watch out for the following vintage keys. 

  • Antique round keys for barn doors
  • Skeleton master keys
  • Chest and trunk keys
  • Vintage suitcase keys
  • String instrument case keys
  • Vintage car keys
  • Vending keys
  • Novelty keys
  • Watch winders or clock keys
  • Bit key
  • Interchangeable key
  • Sewing machine keys

Most popular key brands 

Throughout history, there have been reputable key manufacturers that stood the test of time. As a matter of fact, some of them are still around making different types of keys from standard key and lock systems to more modern ones. 

  • Crouch and Fitzgerald
  • Corbin Eagle
  • Everlasting
  • Excelsior
  • Hartmann
  • Milwaukee
  • Presto
  • Wheary
  • Yale

How many unique keys are there?

In simple key systems, one can have at least a thousand unique keys. The mathematical possibilities for unique keys are called key bittings or the unique pin arrangements to enforce the security in keys. 

Other than this, each brand also manufactures their keys with a unique lock system so there are more chances that you would not be able to use the lock and key system of any key you find out there to open a different door. 

Can all types of keys be cut?

Except for key cards and electric lock systems, all types of keys can be cut and duplicated. However, it is already possible to legally protect your keys from being copied by any locksmiths without authorization from you. 

Where should everyday keys be placed? 

For ease and convenience, there should only be one secure place where everyday keys are placed. It should be placed where kids could reach them or where pets could run off with them. It is recommended that everyday keys be placed next to the item that you first pick up in the morning. 

Where to keep spare keys? 

It is essential for you to have storage for your spare keys. If you are thinking of where you could keep your spare keys, these should be your priority choices: 

  • Magnetic key container: Install a magnetic key container in your car to put all your spare keys. With the more technologically enhanced safety of cars, you can protect both your home and your car from break ins. 
  • Fake sprinkler head: No one would ever know that the spare key is there. But of course, this only works as a decoy if you have a sprinkler system in your home. 
  • Wood: Ever seen one of those popular lifehack videos? You can actually make a keyhole out of a tree in your landscape. There is no way burglars would think that hard to deduce that the spare key is tucked in one of your trees. 
  • Key lockbox: If you want to go all in and are sophisticated, you can buy a key lockbox where you could store your spare keys. With a time-lock and code encrypted box like this one, you can store more valuables there along with your spare keys. 
  • Other good key storage areas: Other good key containers in your home would be in the doghouse, up under the grill and other inconspicuous spaces in the home. 

Where not to keep spare keys?

Of course, in our fast-paced lives, anywhere can make a good spare key storage. But in living up the main function of keys which is to secure the home, you should know where not to keep spare keys. 

  • Under the door mat: It is 2021 and by now, you should already know that this never worked. It is too close to the door, and this is the first place any burglar would look for the keys in. 
  • Under a flowerpot: Same case as the door mat: it never worked. It is also close to the door and a lot of movies have already shown why hiding the spare key under the flowerpot is never a good idea. 
  • In your wallet: You take your wallet in and out and no matter how sophisticated the design is, it is not fall proof for your spare keys. It also poses double the danger because it is also where you hide your cards so if you lose your wallet, you are not just giving away your address but also the key to your home. 
  • Fake rock: The effort of buying a faux rock is commendable but they are just used for landscaping so never take them as a good place to spare your key because well, they look like fake rocks. 

What are alternative options for keys? 

The traditional lock and key may sometimes not make the cut so it is always recommended for you to look for alternative options. Here are some of the best and most common lock and key alternatives for your home. 

  • Smart lock systems: It is a lot of money but with this, you would not even be needing a key at all. It offers a centralized locking system which, in one click, closes everything off to avoid burglary. You can also remotely control it through a phone application and even tie it up with a central camera unit for you to monitor home activities even if you are away.
  • Combination deadbolt:  It may not be the most high tech choice but this is still a great alternative for keys because you have to tap in your combination code into the padlock and then lock again the door with just one click.  
  • Touchscreen locks: This is another keyless option for your home, but it also costs a lot. The door opens with either fingerprint, voice, or face recognition. You can also go manual by tapping in your number combination code. 
  • Fortify your doors: This one is a new trend in home contracting and all for the good reasons. Instead of sticking with traditional wood or metal doors, you can replace them with heavy-duty, fortified steel doors with at least 3-inch screws. Installing an alarm system for forced opening could also come in handy if you want a tight home security. 

How do I repurpose old keys? 

If you are going to a more modern lock and key or have a lot of old keys out there, do not worry because you can totally make something out of them. Here are some tips on how to repurpose old keys. 

  • Turn them into key hooks.
  • Use them as plumb bobs. 
  • Use as weight for curtains. 
  • Make a door chime out of an old bunch of keys. 
  • Turn them into magnets. 

What materials can I use to unlock a door without my keys?

This would sound burglar friendly but there are also ways to unlock your door if you happen to have forgotten your keys. In this list, you will find some of the common materials used and ways to unlock a door without a key. 

  • Removing the doorknob DIY with a screwdriver. 
  • Buy a portable lock. It can be useful in these situations. 
  • Use a jammer to block the door (i.e. security bar, steel door brace).
  • It is time to tie several handles together by the jamb. 

What are considered as modern type keys? 

There are five different types of modern keys and this includes: abloy key, tubular key, multi-sided key, transponder key, paracentric key. They are modern keys in the sense that they are now harder to pick and cannot be easily duplicated. 

Conclusion

There was a time when keys were just keys. But with the changing times, their form, shapes, and functions have changed too. More than ever, they have become not just a security system for fortune and important scrolls but for the security of the home, cars as well as our valuables, in general. With the fast rate of key innovation now, we can expect to see more types of keys in the future. But for now, these are the ones you can choose from.

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