There are more key cutting machines around than I thought at first. I have found six different types. The first one is the old standard that I am most familiar with, a manual key cutting machine. You place a blank on the side with the cutting tool and the key to be copied on the side with the guide. Turn on the motor rotating the spindle holding the cutting wheel. The next step is to move the key over the guide, maintaining even pressure while doing so, till all the excess material on the blank is removed. Finally you need to buff the excess material hanging on the newly made key away so that it will move smoothly in the lock it is meant for. It is important that the blank is the same key type as the key being copied.
With the second key cutting machine I found, another one I have used in the past, the operation is similar. Again the first step is to place the key in the side with the guide and the matching blank in the side with the cutting wheel. From here, the steps are simpler, but still similar. Simply turn the machine on and press the start switch or lever and the key cutting machine will cut the key for you. You still need to buff away the residues left from removing the material from the blank so that it will enter the lock smoothly, but it is simpler to operate than a manual key cutting machine as you do not need to maintain even pressure. This is a semi-automatic key cutting machine. With a fully automatic key cutting machine, the on switch of the motor starts the cutting process also.
A tubular key cutting machine is used to cut the style of key used on soda vending machines. It operates in the same manner as the manual key cutting machines do. A code cutter is the type of key cutting machine lock manufacturers use to make their originals for your locks. You place a blank of the type needed into the slot by the cutting wheel. The next step is to enter the code for the key. This is done either by the use of a code card furnished by the manufacturer or by looking it up in a code book furnished by the lock manufacturer. All codes come from the lock manufacturer. After the cutting, the key still needs to have the excess burrs removed so that the key will enter the lock smoothly. Another version of the code cutter is called a punch code cutter. This key cutting machine operates just to the code cutter, but instead of rotating the wheel to cut the key, a punch mechanism is used. This is used mostly for two sided keys like some automotive keys. Entering the code sets the punch up. After placing the proper blank in position, the use of a lever attached to the machine operates the punch and makes the key. The key will still need some buffing to remove burrs, but less than other styles of key cutting machines. Always remember to wear protective eyewear when operating a key cutting machine to protect your eyes from the metal being removed.