MARKSMITH Titanium | The Best EDC Marker You'll Ever Own

Created by Daniel Bauen + Microfacturing

Carry the world's first titanium retractable permanent marker every day to make a bold statement on surfaces that a pen can't write on.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Gr5 MARKSMITH Have Arrived!!! Make Sure Address Is Up To Date!
8 days ago – Tue, Jun 08, 2021 at 09:37:23 PM

And they are fantastic! Everything I have ever dreamed of! Well worth the wait!

The MARKSMITH Gr5 titanium markers landed at our shop today, and we've been inspecting and assembling them. They are perfect. The machine shop has done an excellent job. The inner bore is cleanly machined and the motion of the bolt slide is smooth. The strive for perfection was worth it.

YES! There are actually Marksmiths in those boxes!

The Marksmiths arrive as empty titanium shells. We add the cartridge, inspect for cosmetics and function, test the action and add an additional cartridge in the box.

Throwing in the gloves at the end of a long day of assembly and inspection

Just a short update. We're going to start shipping these in a few days.

Update Your Address

If you've moved recently and haven't already updated your address, please do so through Backerkit. We will be locking down surveys shortly. https://marksmith-ti.backerkit.com/backer/welcome


Thanks,

Daniel and Team Engineerable 

Gr5 MARKSMITH Are On Their Way To Us!
19 days ago – Sat, May 29, 2021 at 03:00:24 AM

The machine shop has shipped the Gr5 Marksmiths to us, so we should be receiving those in a few days.

Here's a picture they sent of the MARKSMITH being packed up for shipping. Many updates ago it appeared that the packaging was delaying the shipping, but after the Gr2 fiasco, the packaging has been sitting around waiting to be filled with the new Gr5 Marksmiths.

I'm proud of our new SOUL BUILT logo designed for us by MARKSMITH backer, EDC enthusiast, and awesome designer, Arvid Al Chalabi (see his Youtube here) who helped with the logo and box design layout. It was awesome to get a passionate Marksmith backer on board to help out with that. I'll reveal more about the meaning of the logo and how we arrived at this design in a future update.


Here's part of the order ready to ship. I mean it could be anyone's boxes, but I have to give them the benefit of the doubt that these are in fact the boxes that are being shipped to us.

What has happened since the last update?

I've been checking in with them on a regular basis. 

On the 14th they updated that they were still working on them.

On the 17th, they update that they were not yet finished with all the parts, and this was the current state of completion. The pictures are just the top layer of parts in the storage boxes. There are many more parts not shown underneath.


Tips were completed.

The bore in the body (that problematic deep hole) and the internal threading was complete. Had to finish the rounded end and add the slot for the clip bolt.

The slides were completed.

And there was still a lot of hand finishing to do to the parts for the surface finish.


On the 25th they update that the parts were finished machining and surface treatment and were being cleaned using an ultrasonic cleaner to remove dirt and oil from the manufacturing process. Then they would be assembled and packaged. This is the blurry picture I received (but the markers look great).


Then yesterday they said they were shipped and sent the images of the packaging shown in the beginning of this update.


I look forward to receiving them within a few days and start shipping them out.


Thank you for your continued patience,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

Gr5 Production Update
about 1 month ago – Mon, May 10, 2021 at 08:50:54 PM

Production Update

The machine shop said that they needed a little bit more time and will complete the GR5 by May 15th. Fingers crossed that there aren’t more delays with those.


Why is it so difficult to make these?

The deep hole (referred to as a 10X hole because the depth is approximately 10X the diameter of the drill) is the biggest challenge of production, particularly in titanium. The depth of the hole makes it more difficult to properly remove the chips, and if the chips don't clear out fast enough, then it will damage the inner surface, grab the drill body and wear out the cutting edge. The drilling process requires coolant that passes through the center of the drill to keep the cutting tip cool and clear the chips. Ideally, for titanium, a high-pressure coolant system in the range of 1000 psi at the correct flow rate will clear the chips, and keep the cut cooler by breaking the vapor barrier that envelopes the high temperatures at the cutting edge. It's basically a pressure washer blasting the chips and heat away. These high-pressure coolant systems are not very common though, since most CNC machines only come with ~50psi coolant pumps, and a factory-installed high-pressure upgrade might be 300 psi.


From the very beginning, while Marksmith was still in the design stage, I identified some high-end insert drills by one of the world's top toolmakers that would be able to drill the hole quickly and have a reasonable service life, so I knew that I wasn't designing something that was impossible to make. 

High-end insert drill bit example with carbide inserts

There's also the possibility of using a gun drill which is typically used for 10X and deeper holes (like gun barrels after which the drill is named). These are highly specialized drills, so you have to find a shop that has experience using these, and then they may not be good at other aspects.

This is a gun drill.

I discussed the application with the tool maker's drilling specialists who confirmed that the insert drills I chose would work well (with proper coolant pressure and flow). The downside is that the upfront cost of the drills and inserts is very expensive compared to non-insert carbide drills, but if you look at the cost per part, it's well worth the time saved.


Initially, I did not advise the machine shop, because they should be the "experts", and experts don't like to get advice. However, they kept complaining about how long it was taking to drill the holes (20X longer than the insert drill can do), and how aggressively the Gr5 titanium wore out the drill bit. That’s the main reason they claimed for why they switched to the Gr2 material. That's when I recommended the insert drill, but they replied that they are experts in machining titanium and have resolved the difficulties with drilling that hole. Whatever... as long as they can provide the quality I'm looking for and deliver. Otherwise, if you're not willing to innovate, you're going to get left behind.


What about the other machine shop?

In a previous update, I talked about another machine shop that we were working with to have a second source. They were initially confident that they could do an even better job machining the Gr5 titanium, but once they actually tried making the parts, they ran into similar issues with the deep hole and after trying different techniques, they almost gave up on being able to make it altogether. They wanted to redesign the marker such that the hole could be drilled from both ends. This explains why almost all titanium pen bodies are tubes that are open at both ends, and the top is capped off with a screw-on piece. Although I agree that might be a better solution for manufacturing in the future, it messes up the current design. I recommended the same insert drill tool to them, and they gave it a try. SUCCESS! They have now been able to consistently drill the hole without breaking drill bits and at a reasonable amount of machine time. I have seen pictures of progress, and have yet to get samples in hand from them, but we're one step closer to having a backup production shop.


Now that the machine shops have finally optimized drilling out the body to make the marker in the way that I designed, it will remain a unique design due to the inherent difficulty of making it (in Gr5 Ti). Although I have revealed some of the magic behind the making of it, it just won't be worth it for someone else to pursue making an imitation of the exact same design.  If someone else is going to try to copy this, they will opt to drill the body out from both ends, which will affect the overall design.


Thanks,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

Still have Gr2 ready to ship. New Screws Have Arrived!
2 months ago – Sat, Apr 03, 2021 at 01:49:55 AM

A Limited Amount of Gr2 Marksmiths are Ready To Ship. Claim Yours Now!

First, there are still some Gr2 Marksmiths available from the 100 pcs batch, and those are ready to ship now that the replacement screws arrived. If you've already claimed one of those in the previous update, then you're on the list and yours will be the first to ship out. If you would like to claim one, please leave a comment below stating that you are cool with the Gr2. They are really nice markers, fully functional, and the difference is minute compared to Gr5. We spent a lot of time working on them and refinishing them to make sure that they meet our standards.


New Screws Arrived

The replacement screws of the correct length have arrived. We'll be using these new screws to replace the original screws that were too short in the first 100 Marksmiths that we received (and the machine shop is replacing them in the thousands of Gr2 they made and fixed).

Here's what a bag of 2320 titanium screws looks like. This is just part of the 10,000 screws needed for the first production run of 5000 Gr5 Marksmiths.

New screw on the left, old too short screw on the right.

The new screws have 5 visible threads sticking out of the clip, which will ensure that there are at least 3 threads of engagement into the bolt slide for proper retention. At this length, it does not interfere with the bore of the bolt slide which was an issue with one of the sample runs before production.

New screw vs old screw. Now you can see that there are at least 3 full threads of engagement for proper retention.

All Marksmiths will have the updated screw length. Even the completed Gr2 ones that the factory still had have been retrofitted with the longer screw.


The Gr2 bodies we have are ready and we are reassembling them with the new screws. The screws will be Loctite into place so no worries about the clip coming loose. So those are ready to ship. If you've already claimed one of those in the previous update, then you're on the list, and yours will be the first to ship out. If you would like to claim one, please leave a comment below stating that you are cool with the Gr2. Again, they are really nice markers, fully functional, and the difference is minute compared to Gr5.


I was actually surprised that the earlier delivery Gr2 versions weren't snapped up right away. It seems that most backers are willing to wait for the Gr5 to be complete.


Grade 5 Marksmith Production Update

The same machine shop that previously made and sent the Gr2 has been working very hard to regain our trust. Since the last update, they shipped replacement screws of the correct length to fix the Marksmiths I had already received, and I have received samples of fixed and improved Gr2 Marksmiths with DLC coated bolt slides as a solution to improve the feel of the motion (It works! DLC is an extremely wear-resistant coating).


They are expecting to complete the Grade 5 Marksmith production by the end of April. They said that they have resolved the machining difficulties (drilling the deep hole) that initially led them to use Gr2. The deep hole (referred to as a 10X hole because the depth is approximately 10X the diameter of the drill) is the biggest challenge of production, particularly in titanium.


Thank you,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

MARKSMITH Production Update - First Production Run
3 months ago – Wed, Mar 03, 2021 at 07:48:14 PM

The first batch looked great upon initial inspection so we sent out the surveys such that we could begin shipping asap.


As we prepared them for shipping we noticed that the bolt slide motion was not as smooth as the samples or prototypes. It was downright rough, and I knew that you would not be pleased with it.


Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the interior of the marker bodies was left quite rough after the drilling process.

Rough inner bore surface

I was not pleased with this and notified the machine shop that the bores needed to be refinished and made smoother on the ones that they still had. They started fixing them immediately.


The proper way to drill a hole like this is to drill it slightly undersized first. That first drilling step can leave a rough finish because chips can get caught between the drill and wall, scratching it. Then a finishing drill or reamer is used to cut the final dimension of the bore. If the finishing needs to be even smoother, it can be sanded or honed.


It was clear that no finishing was done to the bores.


We disassembled all the Marksmiths we had already received and used a reamer to clean out the bores, followed by honing to further improve the smoothness of the bore. Watch the video for the whole process.

This is what a cleaned-up bore looks like after we reamed and sanded them. We could only remove a small amount of material, otherwise, the bolt would be too loose inside the body.

As we disassembled them, I also noticed that the screws holding the clip to the slide were only engaging by about 1mm. Normally you want the thread engagement of a screw to be at least 1X the diameter (2.5mm in this case), and the absolute minimum is 3 threads of engagement. You also have to consider that the threads don’t start right at the tip of the screw, or the opening of the hole. There’s usually a small chamfer before the threads start. Therefore, the screws are only holding on by 1-2 threads. The screws are supposed to be longer to take advantage of the full depth of the hole that they thread into.

Although 3 Threads are visible, the first ¾ or so of thread at the end of the screw, and the first ¾ or so of thread at the opening of the hole that the screws thread into are truncated, so your only looking at about 1-2 threads of solid engagement, which is not enough, especially when there's more threaded length available in the hole.

Even though the clips were held on well, the short screws and reduced thread engagement can compromise long-term durability as the clip is used repeatedly. The last thing I want is clips coming off due to screws that are too short.


I’ve requested longer screws be sent to replace the screws on the ones we have already, and that all future Marksmiths have the correct length screws. Since these are custom-made screws, we are currently waiting on the new screws to arrive.

Short screw on the left, correct length screw on the right (ignore the different head heights. The thicker and stronger head height on the left is being used for all current screws.) The gunk in the threads is the thread locking compound.

At least a very strong thread locking compound was used that often required heating up the screws to break down the thread locker and remove them. But that was mostly because the thread locker had worked its way up into the hole in the clip and was locking the screw there also. In this video, we show how we removed stuck thread locked screws.

Even after honing the bores smooth, the sliding motion was still not as smooth as the pre-production samples. It appeared that the titanium used in production was softer than the one used in pre-production, and thus resulted in increased friction when sliding. I became suspicious that the titanium used in production was actually Grade 2 instead of Grade 5 that had been specified and agreed on as the alloy to be used for all parts.


Grade 2 vs Grade 5 Titanium… What’s the big deal?

Grade 2 titanium is known as “commercially pure” titanium, being composed of over 99% titanium. That high purity is a good thing, right? Well, if your goal is ultimate corrosion resistance, malleability, and relatively easy to machine, then yes. However, as with most metals, the strongest and hardest forms are alloyed with other elements. Grade 5 titanium is the most common strong and hard titanium alloy, which also makes it more difficult to machine. It consists of about 90% titanium, 6% aluminum, and 4% Vanadium. Grade 2 pure titanium is plenty strong for use as the Marksmith body, but it’s the higher hardness of Grade 5 that makes it desirable for when parts have to slide against each other with relatively low friction. The clip must be made of Grade 5, because of the higher flexural strength that will allow it to act like a spring and resists yielding when bending.


So then, how could we confirm what grade of titanium was actually used in production? Normally I would send parts to a lab for material analysis, but we were able to demo a LIBS material analyzer made by SciAps which allowed us to test more parts quickly and faster than sending out to the lab. This was my first time using a handheld LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) analyzer or XRF (X-ray) analyzer, and it felt like handling something straight out of science fiction, like an engineer's tricorder. Mind-boggling technology packed into something the size of a cordless drill. Press it against any material, pull the trigger, fire a laser or x-ray beam, and almost instantaneously get a full readout of the elemental composition of the material with a % confidence as to what type and grade of material it is.

We started testing samples of known Grade 5 and Grade 2 alloys purchased with material certifications. The LIBS analyzer identified them correctly as Ti-6Al-4V, and Grade 12 (which is almost identical to Grade 2, and Grade 2 was not currently set up in the material library of this LIBS analyzer). Moving onto the prototypes, which checked out as Grade 5, and then the samples which all checked out as Grade 5, except for one slide that was Grade 2.


The clip was the first part analyzed of the production Marksmith. It was identified as Grade 5, as it should be.

The clips all checked out as Ti 6-4 (Grade 5)

All the other parts of the production Marksmith were tested and confirmed to be made of Grade 2. This was a real letdown because it meant that the machine shop had not used the material that they had agreed on (Grade 5) to make the marker bodies.

The bolt slide from the production Marksmith is analyzed as TiGr 12 (basically identical to Gr2, the analyzer did not have Gr 2 in the library).
The tip is analyzed as Gr 12 Ti instead of Gr 5 that it should be made of.
The body was also analyzed as Gr 12 Ti instead of the Gr 5 that it should have been made from.

When confronted about the test results, they admitted to having used Grade 2 because it was less difficult to machine than Grade 5. They had not informed me about the change, probably assuming that I would not be able to tell the difference, and they could make more money by saving on machining time and reduced tool wear.


The machine shop agreed to remake the production run in Grade 5 and properly machine the bores. They had to order the Grade 5 material and production is supposed to take about 45 days.


What about the 100 Marksmiths that we fixed?

Currently, we have 100 pcs of Grade 2 Ti Marksmiths that we’ve fixed, but are waiting on new longer titanium screws to replace the short ones. Once those screws arrive, these will be the first Marksmiths available to ship before the Grade 5 Marksmith arrives. The Gr2 Marksmiths are functional, and look nice. However, the Gr2 will scratch easier (easily buffed out with a Scotch-Brite pad) and feel slightly less smooth when extending the marker than the Gr5. Since Gr5 Ti was the material that was promised in the Kickstarter, I cannot ship these Gr2 Ti versions to unknowing backers who may want to wait for the Gr5. Understanding the difference, if you would like to get one of the Gr2 instead of waiting, please leave a comment within this update saying you are ok with Gr2 Ti version. We will choose 100 backers at random from those comments to ship the Gr2 Ti Marksmith.


To Be Continued...

There are more details to cover, but I will end this part here and continue in another update. 


I'm sorry that there is still more delay in getting the Marksmith in your hands. I'm equally frustrated by the delays and wish the production could happen more rapidly with fewer problems created by the machine shop. At this point, the machine shop has broken my trust by leaving the bore rough and switching the materials, but we are so close that the most rapid way forward is to push them to do their work correctly. They will have to make good on re-machining the markers and providing consistent quality to regain my trust. Starting from scratch with a new factory would reset the sample/production timeline. However, in order to cover our bases, I have engaged another machine shop that we'll be working with in parallel so that we have 2 sources for Marksmith and future products. I will find out which one can produce the best quality with the least frustration.


Thank you,

Daniel and Team Engineerable