Key blanks are the raw material locksmiths use to create unique keys for the public. Automatic machines that vend duplicate keys typically contain only a few dozen different key blanks. Some retailers will stock almost 200 different key blanks. The typical locksmith keeps 4,000 to 6,000 different kinds of key blanks on hand.
Locksmiths take it as a matter of pride that a request for a key to a 1949 Chevrolet pickup is as easily provided as one for the newest cars fresh out of the dealer showroom. Easier, actually, because the newer vehicles must have their mechanical key made. And then the computer portion of the key must be programmed into the vehicle’s computer. Special computers that interface with vehicle computers are now basic tools for modern locksmiths. Like so many professions and trades, the modern locksmith is computer literate. The need to maintain hundreds of computer programs to access the many vehicles now on the road is as necessary as the many key blanks they use. And, of course, they have the skills to turn the key blanks into usable keys and to program them into the vehicles’ computer.