Tactical Keychains embodies pretty much every aspect of the modern notion of micro-scale manufacturing. Brad, the founder, is a former wind turbine tech in Iowa who started out with a low-cost Tormach mill in his garage, and a Kickstarter project for a neat bottle opener. He's taken the success of that initial campaign in early 2013, and gone on to produce 9 more successful projects. Still working out of his garage, he's been able to step up from the Tormach to a "real" CNC mill, the Fanuc Robodrill (Mac nerds might remember a report from a few years ago about Apple buying up the world's supply of CNC mills; most of them were Robodrills like Brad's).

I think what Brad is doing is really very cool, and his latest project is his most interesting and ambitious; the Titanium Utility Knife Keychain, or TUKK.

This is a simple, wonderfully executed, totally satisfying little gadget; a titanium box with a #11 utility blade that pops out with a flick of a sliding deployment, and automatically retracts when released. The blade lock and retraction is (quite smartly) provided by a neodymium magnet, one that also happens to allow the TUKK to stick on metal surfaces for easy access. The blade does not lock out for reasons of safety; but holding it with your thumb while making a cut is easy enough that this design makes sense.

Who's the TUKK for? If you need to open boxes mail and don't (or can't) be carrying a traditional pocket knife, the TUKK is the obvious answer - it's 80% of the utility of a knife with none of the social weight of carrying what some more sensitive people might consider a "weapon." Even if we ignore the utility, the TUKK is a neat piece of EDC kit that puts a chunk of precision crafted titanium in your pocket for about $50, which is a pretty great deal.

Only two quibbles; replacing the blade can be finicky, requiring adjusting the T6 screws till everything slides perfectly, and the TUKK isn't compatible with XAacto brand blades (including the new Z series nitride variants). Do those issues matter? No. The TUKK is a neat piece of beautifully machined kit, and if you're into pocket gear, you already want one. If you have the misfortune of loving someone who is into pocket gear, this is an easy gift item they will adore.

Brad is the embodiment of what modern technology can do. Tormach is a company that has made precision manufacturing accessible to the point where anyone (with serious gumption) can do high-end machining in their garage. Kickstarter has made it possible for that garage factory to get their work in front of tens of thousands of people. Social media lets Brad's customers peek into the process (check out his Instagram an You Tube, where he shows exactly how he makes everything, down to nitty gritty details on things like CNC machine offsets).


AuthorGreg Koenig