A key is most commonly made from brass with a nickel plated exterior. Some keys are made from aluminum or steel. The surface is hard and does not scratch easily. A metal engraver is used to carve into a metal key. Electric or pneumatic engravers work the best when engraving on metal. An engraving pen is the best tool. An engraving scribe will leave domed indentations if not done correctly.
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An engraving pen is a precise engraving tool that creates a clean crisp line. Both electric and pneumatic engraving pens work to engrave keys. A small tip is vibrated against the metal of the key when using an electric engraving pen. An electric engraving pen is not as powerful as a pneumatic engraving pen.
Pneumatic means the engraving pen uses air to move the engraving mechanism within the pen. The tip is moved by air compression at a very high speed. The pneumatic engraving pin hits the surface more often when moving it across the key surface at the same rate used to move an electric engraving pen.
An engraving scribe is a smaller version of an engraving pen. The tip is shaped like a ballpoint pen. The engraving scribe makes a line that is not as sharp as that made by the engraving pen. Engraving scribes come in both electric and pneumatic models.
An expensive engraving tool for a key is a laser. The laser is set to cut the desired letters or symbol. Engrave very small detailed items with a laser engraving tool. An advantage of the laser engraver is it does not have tips that wear. The laser engraves the design into the key. A disadvantage with the laser engraver is it needs a computer system specifically designated to the system. The computer is used to input the information on what design is to be engraved along with all of the specifics of the engraving. Specifics include such details as size of the design, depth and width of the cut, type of material to be cut, and so on.