Titanium Knife, Belt Buckle and Coronavirus
A whole bunch of stuff for you today...
We're going to talk about:
-- The coronavirus
-- Why I've been late on almost every project/product
-- Updates on projects
-- A NEW knife design
-- A NEW Titanium Belt Buckle
Coronavirus Issues (yeah, really!)
You've probably heard a lot about this coronavirus thing on the news. And, I know, you probably don't want to hear any more about it ...but just give me a couple of seconds.
We get some titanium from China and some from the USA. Unfortunately, we're having issues getting titanium from China right now because of the coronavirus ...and so it's affecting production for some of our projects (but is certainly not the main reason projects are late).
I'll keep you updated on this - but hopefully it's a short-term thing. Not a huge deal as I continue to buy from the USA (also have a supplier in Singapore if we need it).
UPDATE: China seems to be back up and moving a gain in terms of titanium supply (certainly for us at least).
Why I've Been Screwing Up So Much
While the coronavirus is the cause of a little bit of lateness from me - it certainly does not explain why I've been perpetually late on projects for so long.
I'd like to talk about that now... (maybe strap yourself in ...could be a bit of a bumpy ride!)
Over the the last few months (possibly even a year or more) I've had many customers annoyed that I keep releasing new products ...when previous products/projects are late.
I'd like to discuss that here (there is a good chance, if you're reading this, you are someone who has been on the receiving end of late products/projects from me).
Firstly, customers are absolutely 100% correct to be annoyed. I've failed to deliver in time (again and again). And, secondly, not only am I late ...but I release other products before delivering the late project.
My short answer to this is:
I've screwed up. Not just that, but I've screwed-up many times (many late projects).
My longer (and it is quite a bit longer) answer to this is:
If I had focused 100% on delivering the late projects (and not released any new products), then I would not be in business today. I would have gone bankrupt most likely.
Getting late on a project is a double-whammy. Money coming into the business does not match the expenses going out of the business. It's like "quick-sand" ...you lift one foot to get out ...and the other foot goes even deeper into the sand!
I'll be honest here...
I have alienated a lot of Customers over the last year or two with late projects. I hate that they (and, quite likely, YOU reading this right now) have had such an awful experience.
Getting late on a couple of projects some time ago has had a domino-like effect to cause subsequent projects to be late. Here are a couple of examples of projects that really caused us problems:
-- Getting a few samples done of a black coating on titanium pens. The samples were great. We then sold 150 pens (on a Kickstarter) and the production black coatings were not acceptable. It took us something like 6 weeks, all day every day, to figuring out the process ourselves and coat our own pens. LESSON: I should have had more samples done at least - or not offered a Kickstarter product with a coating/finish we had never done before!
-- We used a new shipping method to ship 1500+ pens (a big Kickstarter project). We used a new shipping method because our previous courier suddenly stopped the service with a 3-day warning. The new service ended up losing a double-digit percentage of packages ...literally hundreds of packaged never arrived to Customers. I had to re-make hundreds of pens and ship them again. This cost somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 to fix (which I didn't have and had to go into debt over). LESSON: Have a "Plan B" and a "Plan C" for all sort of things that could potentially happen!
-- Had to make around 150 blades for a folding knife project. We made 100+ blades and discovered that the tumbling process caused small "pits" in the surface of the blades. We were not doing small "batches" back then like we do now and so they all had to be scrapped and started again. Many, many weeks of work wasted. LESSON: Prove out a process 100% before jumping in and making 100+ of something. Do small batches (i.e. around 20) all the way through to completion - it's less efficient but will catch any issues almost right away!
There are quite a few stories like this over the last couple of years. It's depressing. I'm getting better at mitigating these things and trying to plan for things going wrong. The thing I'm trying to highlight is that, when something goes wrong, it's very difficult to just drop everything and only fix that specific thing ...because the bills start mounting up and paying them becomes difficult. It is critical to keep money coming into the business (i.e. continue to develop and launch new products) even while there are projects that are falling behind because of unexpected issues.
The silver-lining is that, over the last two years, we've gone from it just being me in the business ...to being four of us in total. The mistakes are becoming less frequent as we discuss previous mistakes and potential new problems - but we're still playing "catch up".
There are a number of things we do now that help us steer clear of potential trouble. Here are some of them:
-- We CNC machine and surface-finish products in small batches. This is less efficient - but it helps us catch any issues very quickly.
-- We spend a lot more time costing a project/product than we used to - this helps us offer products for the lowest price we can (without going as far as losing money on them). I've made a few product where, after crunching the numbers, we're losing money for every one we make.
-- We have reduced the number of different products we design and sell ...because there was too much time spent in developing a new product only to quickly move onto the next one. We are now doing more complex products (knives and pens for example) ...but we aim to continue to sell each design for a longer period of time rather than drop it fast like we used to.
-- Buying more machines. Yeah, I know, crazy right? But it's really working well. We bought a new milling machine last year ...which has helped a lot. And we're in the process of (hopefully) buying another right now. The economics of business is such that... you're already paying rent, insurance, etc. ...and so the additional cost of a machine is small-ish compared to the monthly expenses of the business. So going from one machine to two machines to produce products makes a HUGE difference.
None of what I've said above excuses any of my screw-ups (and there are a lot of them!). The fact many of you are still sticking by me and continuing to buy the new products we're designing and making ...is absolutely amazing and I appreciate it so much.
I am very VERY aware of the lateness of every single project and and every product. Far from ignoring it ...it's at the forefront of my mind all the time.
I do hope that the above "behind the scenes" of the running of this business explains why I continue to release new products while some other projects are already late. It's not that I've moved onto the next "shiny new thing" ...it's because I need to keep the business moving along (i.e. developing new products and offering them for sale) or bills don't get paid and we have to close the doors!
Okay, I definitely think I've rambled enough now. Thank you for listening.
Updates (On Current Projects)
Here's where we are with current projects...
Pocket Tweezers - Finishing off the last of these. The last of these are being machined right now as a I type this (and we will be fully finished machining tomorrow morning) ...and another day or two surface finishing and assembly. Also, these are no longer for sale for the time being.
Magnatron™ Knife - This one has been affected by the coronovirus (waiting for material for the remaining scales). If you've pre-ordered this knife, then you're going to receive an email from me soon with an update I think you'll find interesting (note: you're going to be getting a bit of an upgrade on part of the knife).
TiVault™ - This project is not late - but I am getting questions about what stage it is at. Still on schedule (may end up being a little late because we do not yet have the titanium round bar in stock for it).
Bolty™ - Bolt Action Pen - Again, not late, but as with the TiVault™ above I'm getting questions about where it is at. We have the material on hand - just prioritizing other projects right now.
I know this knife will, for sure, have only limited appeal (i.e. it's definitely not for everyone). But, for those who like it, it's definitely going to be a MUST HAVE knife.
It's a high-end titanium flipper knife ...BUT, with a utility blade instead of a typical knife blade.
Here's what it looks like:
The blade can be changed without any tools and has a double-locking mechanism so it's 100% secure.
I was going to hold-off to offer this until I had made some - but the people who want it ...REALLY seem to want it (and banging my door down to get it!). So what I've done is setup the pre-order page so you can secure yours now.
Titanium Belt Buckle
The buckle I'm about to show you is the first prototype ...so it is fairly unfinished.
We're currently making the second prototype right now. There is a fairly significant different on the rear-side ...but, overall, it looks like the buckle below.
I'll just throw a few photos down here for your:
The above buckle was the first prototype.
We made a bunch of tweaks and here's the second prototype:
As you can see... we remove a LOT of material from the billet of titanium to make this buckle.
Actually, the starting weight is around 252 grams (8.9oz) and it's ending up around 39 grams (1.4oz) ...that's around 85% of the titanium machined away.
Also, something that I almost never do (perhaps only once) is leave lines from the machining in. I specifically want to do this as I really think it works on this buckle (mainly on the rear side).
Going forward we'll likely experiment with different designs/variations on the front side. I think the first version for sale will have obvious (and somewhat aggressive) machining lines on the front (not smooth like in the second prototype above).
I'm thinking we may offer a belt with this (i.e. you tell us your size and we'll cut and attach the belt to the buckle so it's ready to go ...is this something you would like ...or would you just want the buckle?).
Also, I've been wearing one of the prototypes this last weekend and it's been absolutely awesome because it's so slim and light. I've wanted to make a buckle like this for years (which is why the 3D model design did not take me too long because the design has been floating around in my head for a long time).
And I think that's all I have for you today.