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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:

MARKSMITH Production Update - First Production Run
almost 3 years 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

Backerkit Shipping Surveys Will Be Emailed Within 24 Hours
about 3 years ago – Thu, Jan 28, 2021 at 01:51:48 AM

Backerkit Shipping Surveys will be sent out within 24 hours!

HEADS UP! Be on the watch for the Backerkit shipping survey email within 24 hours. The following summary outlines what to expect in the Backerkit surveys.


Backerkit is where you will enter your shipping address. We do not yet have any of your shipping information. If you move before your Marksmith ships, you will also be able to update your address by returning to Backerkit.


Backers who have requested to add on more MARKSMITHS to their order. You will now be able to add additional Marksmiths to your order in the Add-On section of Backerkit. You can add one extra Marksmith and refills with no increase in shipping.


Additional refills are available as add-ons. Marksmith comes with one refill installed and a spare refill. If you want more refills, you can add them on. I've had unused marker cartridges sitting around for years without drying out, so you don't have to be concerned about shelf life. Don't worry, I'll be shipping you fresh new ones.


Customize your Marksmith with an engraving

I've had requests from backers for custom laser engraving on the Marksmith, so I've added that option on BackerKit. There is also a laser engraving option if you add on a Marksmith Highlighter. We have our own laser engraver in house and can achieve a dark annealed style mark as shown in the image. It changes the color of the titanium without removing any material, so it leaves the surface smooth. The color change goes deep and won't scratch off.

Custom engraving available up to 25 characters long.

Marksmith Highlighter Add-On

In a previous update, I showed how Marksmith also works as a highlighter using Sharpie brand highlighter cartridges. If you missed it, here's the video:

There's a MARKSMITH HIGHLIGHTER add-on available in the Backerkit survey for those who want an extra Marksmith dedicated for highlighting. 

Add-on a Marksmith Highlighter to your order. Cross compatible with permanent marker cartridges too.

There are also Yellow Highlighter cartridge add-ons available for anyone who wants to use them in their Marksmith. They are compatible and interchangeable with the permanent marker cartridge.


And you asked for the highlighter assortment, so that will also be available as an add-on

Highlighter color multipack is compatible with your Marksmith.

Thank you,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

First Marksmith Production Has Arrived
about 3 years ago – Sat, Jan 23, 2021 at 10:06:17 PM

I have received the first small batch of production Marksmiths. This is the first 104 pcs of the 500 pcs 1st production run to do some initial inspection while the remainder wait for the boxes.

They look amazing. I'm very pleased with the appearance and finish. They function well too.

We are closely inspecting each one and will update when complete.

Some of the tips aren't fully tightened, making the connection more visible.

Schedule

Some have been requesting a [firm] delivery schedule. The recent delays in the production have been due to making revisions because of errors made by the machine shop. Every time a change has to be made, there's a lot of back and forth discussion and sharing of progress involved, so it can take time to resolve issues. We also have to analyze the design, modify parts, and test to figure out why the error is happening and how it can be solved. 


Therefore setting a firm delivery schedule date has been difficult not knowing if there will be more changes needed and how long they will take to resolve. If we set a date and miss it, then it decreases trust. I prefer to continue keeping you updated on regular events as we move forward, and trust that you will get your Marksmith. We want to deliver a marker to you of the highest quality to build confidence in our future titanium product designs.


I'm happy with the progress that we have made to a quality marking tool. I'm not happy with the time it has taken to arrive at this point because it means that we are still not able to sell them outside of Kickstarter, and it pushes back the launch of new products like MARKSMITH Ultra-Fine. Fortunately, MARKSMITH Ultra-Fine development has progressed in parallel to this one due to the similarity and will be able to begin the production of that one during the future Kickstarter campaign and deliver quickly after.


As of now, we have ~100 pcs in hand that require close inspection, and ~400 more pieces to be shipped soon with packaging. Once the 100pcs are inspected, then I can move forward to approve the next production run, and start shipping out the first batch.


Thanks,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

Happy New Year!
about 3 years ago – Thu, Jan 07, 2021 at 08:28:14 PM

Happy New Year!

Quick update.

I've been informed that the production of the Marksmith packaging box (see the previous update) is about 2 weeks out from being completed. I've asked the machine shop to go ahead and ship 100 pcs without the final packaging, which they will be able to ship at the beginning of this week. This will give us a head start to inspect and perform the final assembly of the Marksmith. That sample size from the production run will also be enough to inspect the quality to approve the next production run. This will save time over waiting for the whole 1st production run to be completed.

Thanks,

Daniel and Team Engineerable

Production Update
about 3 years ago – Fri, Dec 25, 2020 at 10:05:30 AM

In the previous update, I showed the bodies and tips after machining. Later I received pictures of the clips and bolts. All these pics are from post-machining, but before the final surface finish.

Here are the clips:

MARKSMITH Clips (This looks a bit haphazard, but any scratches are removed in the final finishing process.)

Here are the bolt slides:

MARKSMITH Bolt Slides post machining

I've been told that the first production batch is finished. The packaging (gift box) has been approved and we're waiting for those to arrive. 


Gift Box Packaging

You may be thinking... Who cares about the packaging for Kickstarter? I just want to use my Marksmith ASAP! 

In addition to the presentation, the packaging is an important part of safely shipping the Marksmith. If Marksmith was shipped from the machine shop to us without packaging, it would still need to be carefully individually wrapped, padded, and boxed. I receive raw parts all the time for other products we make, and it is a constant struggle to get the factories to properly package the parts so that they don't arrive damaged. In some cases, I even have custom shipping crates that I ship back to the factory empty to have them refill. Once at our workshop, Marksmith also needs to be well packaged with the extra refill cartridge to be shipped to you. The best way to achieve all of this is with a custom box.


The packaging had to be changed from the metal tin box to a heavy-duty cardstock box. I had told them early on that the box needed to fit a Marksmith and a refill. The initial metal boxes were a bit small, but I thought they had planned to get a larger size to fit the refill too. This is what the original metal boxes looked like:

I liked how the metal boxes looked, complementing the Marksmith design.

When they showed me their solution for fitting a spare refill, which was to place the cartridge against the Marksmith, I said that was not acceptable, and there needed to be some padding between the two. Also, the clip was now facing the lid and would need a layer of padding to prevent rubbing on the lid. The tin box ended up being too small for both the Marksmith and refills. 

The metal box doesn't have enough space to properly separate Marksmith from the additional refill cartridge. Yes, that is a black Ti body Marksmith with natural Ti clip from when we were testing different finishes.

Unfortunately, there were no other "off the shelf" sizes of the tin box that would work. The minimum order qty for a custom size tin box is 10,000 pcs, so I could not do a custom run either. That meant the only quick solution to nice packaging is a cardstock box similar to the one I showed in a past video. This is a preview of the box design showing the front flap.

Preview of the new box design. This is the front flap.

Special thanks to MARKSMITH backer, EDC enthusiast, and awesome designer, Arvid Al Chalabi (see his Youtube here) who helped with the logo and design layout. It was awesome to get a passionate Marksmith backer on board to help out with that. I'll reveal more about the work we did in a future update.


So as of right now, we're waiting for the packaging to be completed, then the machine shop will put the finished MARKSMITHs into the boxes and ship them to us. At our workshop, we'll put the permanent marker cartridge into the Marksmith and the extra refill in the box, test functionality, inspect the quality, and ship them out to you.


Thanks,

Daniel + Team Engineerable