About this project
The Epsilon EKO opens stuff that is closed, especially in a pinch. The Kappa QR makes the process magic.
Designed from experience, created out of necessity. Just like my Beta QR keychain flashlight, the EKO is there when you need it and disappears into your EDC when you don't.
I've been working on this project for about 5 months. It started as a conversation with Joe at Scout Leather Co. about making a knife. I said, "I want a 'gentleman's box opener' and not another thing to put in my pocket. I'm fine with throwing out the entire 'knife' part." Joe replied, "what about using a key?" And the EKO was born. Well okay, about 15 prototypes later and the EKO was born. Check out the "behind the scenes" section below for some details on the design process.
DETAILS: The EKO is waterjet by a US vendor from domestic 6/4 titanium. The rough blanks are shipped to me and hand-finished entirely in-house. The blank is stone washed in a ceramic tumbling media before the blade is machined on my Haas CNC mill. I could have skipped all the tedious hand-finishing by milling the blade first and tumbling the key afterwards. I tried it and it worked great. However, I love the aesthetic contrast between the stone washed finish and the shiny milled surfaces.
FOR BOXES: it's a big step up from getting glue all over your house key or going all feral on a box with your wild animal teeth. The EKO makes it look easy.
FOR BOTTLES: you can skip the lighter trick, the two bottle trick, the bang it on the edge of your friends counter and break a big hunk out of it trick. You get the idea, use the EKO and you might get invited back next time.
OPERATING NOTES: With a little practice and even less muscle you can open bottles in one shot. It's just physics mate. However, you might spill some beer the first couple tries so practice before you don your evening wear. It's a little key, don't expect to dazzle like a bartender without putting in some practice. Here are my tips for awesome opening:
- Hold the bottle around the shoulder, not at the middle.
- Pull your arm (the one holding the bottle) tight against your body
- Push down with your thumb until the "blade" contacts the bottle cap Then pull up with the key ring to dislodge the already "peeled" cap
The "easy" way is to pry the cap twice. Just push down with your thumb until the blade contacts the cap, then move around the cap 90 degrees (you took geometry right?) and repeat. You won't even break a sweat.
Compared to an actual knife, it's not sharp at all. However, if you are hopelessly accident prone and have a history of trouble with things like butter knives, safety scissors, and letter openers...I recommend you stay away from the EKO.
First, the actual edge of the "blade" has a small flat, it does not come to a sharp edge like an actual blade. The tape-cutting action relies on the geometry of the tanto-point to pierce the tape, not the sharpness of the blade. That said, it's as close to sharp as I felt comfortable making it while being 99% certain that you aren't going to cut yourself by accident. Yeah, you "could" still cut yourself, but you can cut yourself with a spork if you try hard enough. Be smart.
Second, the tip of the key has been deliberately rounded off so there is virtually no risk of stabbing your finger on it (unless you are made of Play-Doh) while fishing in your pocket or bag for your keys.
If you must know, yes the hex can accept a 1/4" tool bit. However, that's just supposed to be the Prometheus logo. I made it 1/4" compatible to prevent the flood of well meaning suggestions to make it so :)
I'm not your mother. If you buy it, you own it, and you can do whatever you want :) Keep in mind that Ti is NOT good at holding a sharp edge. If you make the edge sharp, it will dull quickly. The EKO "as shipped" should be sharp enough to cut through fiber-reinforced packing tape if you put a little effort behind it.
Just like a flashlight, sometimes you have things on your key chain that you may need to quickly and easily detach. That might even be your actual keys! The Kappa QR delivers convenience (and security) in an entirely new way.
This design is identical to (and compatible with) my Beta-QR v2 flashlight quick release design. A proprietary "canted coil spring" is used to provide a "snap together" action: two pieces, no moving parts, nothing to break and the spring is replaceable if that's ever needed.
The spring is manufactured by a company that specializes in only this type of spring. It's commonly used for electrical and mechanical interconnects on everything from heart implants to military electronics to stuff that flies in space. It should be adequate for your house key.
OPERATING NOTES: Twisting the two halves while connecting/disconnecting the QR will significantly reduce the amount of force required to connect/disconnect. This is the preferred method, though it is not strictly necessary. Just pretend like you are screwing (or unscrewing) the two halves...but there are no threads of course. The twisting action pre-loads the canted coil spring and makes it easier to compress.
BREAK IN PERIOD: The sharp edge of the retaining groove (male portion of the QR) can create an excessively crisp/sharp detach on a brand new QR. The first few dozen actuations will round-over this edge. Over time, the connect/disconnect should become smoother.
This is my current key chain; it's pretty beefy. That's a lot of brass. A couple of notes: I have taken to putting my car fob on a separate QR. Whenever I leave my car (hiking, taking the dog to the beach, mtn biking, etc.) I just take the fob with me and leave the rest locked in the car.
It's also nice to have my CAD dongle on a QR so I don't have to plug my entire key chain into my laptop. House keys on a QR are awesome for unlocking my shop gate...when I still have to drive through but don't want to take the keys out of the ignition...or when I forget something in the house after getting into the car...especially if you live somewhere hot/cold. Keep that AC/heat on while you run back to the house!
Incidentally, you can also connect the Beta QRv2 flashlight to any of the other items if you need a grab-and-go combo. Headed out on the town on the left. Walking the dog on the right :) When I lug my whole setup it's nice to have the brass Scout Leather Co. "Scout Hook" (pictured) on my belt loop, but sometimes just a couple items in a pocket is the perfect choice.
This is a "hanging" shot. You can see how the QRs tend to nest with each other, making a smaller footprint. It's still beefcake if you have this many. I think the ideal would be one light and one QR; however, I've learned to live with this...mainly because of of the Scout Hook mentioned above :)
The first prototype was literally a key-blank purchased from the hardware store, drilled on the drill press, and then band-sawed and hand ground. This worked fine, but none too sexy. The next step was to scan the key and build a 2D outline. This was printed on a piece of paper and then glued to a sheet of 1/8" mild steel. More drill press, band saw, belt sander, and wheel grinder and we have the second prototype.
This looked like it was going to work but I needed to refine the shape. Joe did some styling on the key and then we laser cut some acrylic blanks just to get a handle on proportions and dimensions. Several more iterations were required (blue keys above) and I basically 3D printed these for fun. These were used for testing iterations of the bottle opener geometry. Of course these aren't strong enough to open a bottle. Time to spend real money. I had 3 different geometries water-jet (last three keys in the first photo in this section) in order to settle on the final design.
These blanks are water-jet by a US vendor from 1/8" thick domestic 6Al/4V titanium alloy. I receive them "rough cut" and proceed to tumble them for about 5 hours to break and debur the edges. The "funny" thing is that flat-sided parts will stick together in the tumbler, so every blank must have a zip-tie applied to prevent the surface tension that makes them stick. Next the blanks are milled on my Haas VF1 to achieve the blade angle. This requires a custom manufactured solid carbide endmill.
Joe and I consumed a LOT of Cokes during the design phase of the EKO. This is all that would fit on my 4 foot wide table. I finally ended up ordering a bottle capping machine after my belt expanded a full notch. That's why you see the Coke bottle topped with a gold cap and filled with water in some of the other images :)
This is the laser template I use to mark the "do not duplicate" lettering on the EKO. First each key must be thoroughly degreased. Then the keys are laid into the template and sprayed with a laser marking substrate. Finally the sheet goes into the laser for marking. When that's done the keys (and template) need to have the marking substrate washed off. Rinse and repeat as they say. See, making stuff is easy!
If you follow my work closely, you'll know that both the Epsilon EKO and the Kappa QR have been available in limited quantities. I decided to run this project a little bit differently and make small production runs of both items so I'd know exactly what I was getting into.
Particularly with the EKO, I wasn't sure if it would be possible for me to do in-house. In the end it required some special fixturing to hold the keys and a custom made tapered endmill to cut the blade angle. Making certain it would work required physically trying it out. The good news is it worked!
This strategy allows me to deliver finished rewards more quickly, instead making you wait months for me to work out the kinks. So, the reason for the Kickstarter campaign is that I'm ready to share this limited-production work and go full scale...you are also getting a gigantic break on the retail price, so that's a good enough reason right?
Those of you who know my projects know that I try to keep things as simple as possible, including pledging for rewards. So here is the deal:
- If you want both an EKO and Kappa QR: Just pledge for the EKO and add $20 for the Kappa. We'll sort out the details via Backerkit when the campaign ends. Even if you forget to do this, you can still add a Kappa later on through Backerkit.
- If you want multiple EKOs or Kappa QRs: First, you are awesome. Second, don't worry about it, you can decide later! Just make your basic pledge and you can add more rewards via Backerkit after the campaign ends.
Fulfillment is Managed with Backerkit:
As with my past three projects, I'm using a platform called Backerkit to manage the fulfillment process. Participation is not mandatory...but greatly appreciated :) My experience demonstrates that Backerkit is a critical tool in delivering the right reward to the right person at the right time.
You may choose to opt out of Backerkit, but it may delay the delivery of your reward. Fulfillment and data tracking are exceedingly difficult on a large project. Asking me to manually manage your contact information is time consuming. This is time spent at the computer and not in the shop making parts or shipping rewards. Be a team player and we all win!
- You'll be asked to confirm your pledge information and provide your shipping address through Backerkit.
- Backerkit puts you in control of your pledge by allowing you to manage your own order quantity and shipping address.
- You will not receive a Kickstarter survey requesting this information.
- If you opt out of Backerkit, you will not have the option to modify your reward quantities.
All of the work you see in the video is done in my own shop on my own equipment, except for the waterjet work, which is outsourced to one of the best vendors in the country. They are located in sunny Massachusetts and I've been working with them for several years.
The following is an estimate, not a guarantee -
I'm leaving myself plenty of time in the production schedule in case the project does better than I think it will. Fingers crossed :) However, I've actually already started the machining of the Kappa QR parts.
I'll be ordering the EKO blanks about 2 weeks into the project, after I have a pretty good handle on how many I'll need. The shop that makes the blanks is exceedingly busy and it may take up to 2 months to get the parts, depending on their schedule.
The good news is that I'm ready to start machining after the blanks arrive and spend about 5 hours in the tumbling machine. I can only tumble 50 EKOs at a time, so just this one step in the process could take a week or two if there are a lot of backers.
Risks and challenges
One of the advantages to doing most of the work is that it minimizes external risk. The vendor I'm using for waterjet is one of the best in the industry. They specialize in high-end production parts for some of the world's best knife makers and I've been working with them for years.
The rest of the work is done completely in-house and I've already put the Kappa QR and Epsilon EKO through first-run manufacturing. Normally the "figure it out" work starts when funding is completed. In this case, for your convenience and my sanity, I've already done all of that.
The major risks to this project will be flood, earthquake, tsunami, giant meteor impact, and/or a sudden sub-zero cold spell that freezes 80% of the earth overnight.
Seriously though, the real risks are still large ones like a piece of machinery suffering a major malfunction or me breaking my leg or something like that.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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