The Epsilon EKO opens stuff that is closed, especially in a pinch.
Designed from experience, created out of necessity. Just like the Beta QR, 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'd be fine with throwing out the entire 'knife' part." Joe replied, "what about using a key?" And the EKO was born. Well, 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 bar tender 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.
HOW SHARP IS THE BLADE?: 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 edges of the "blade" are completely squared off and do not come to a sharp point like a knife or scissors. 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.
Second, the tip of the key has been deliberately rounded off so there is very little risk of stabbing your finger on it (unless you are made of Play-Doh) while fishing in your pocket or bag for your keys.
IS THAT 1/4" HEX COMPATIBLE?: If you must know, yes. 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 WANT TO SHARPEN IT!: 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. .
Now for some Behind the Scenes!
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 below) 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 above) 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 with 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. See, making stuff is easy!