Wow! Thanks for all the endorsements, I had no idea people would actually read this.
So here is an update. The other week my city's supply of HF acid aka Whink Rust Remover completely ran out. Some stores replaced it with the Whink Calcium and Lime Solution with the green cap but this is completely useless for etching titanium.
Then I remembered hearing about ammonium bifluoride being able to etch titanium when in a solution with another acid (forgot name) at ambient temperature so it was off to the Wally World and the Big Box supermarket and drug stores. I picked up every bottle of anything that remotely resembled a bottle of liquid and started reading the labels to find what I was looking for. Which really weirded out the other people shopping in the store for some reason, they probably thought I was cooking drugs or something. After a good while I ended up in the automotive department and the first thing I saw was a big neon read bottle so I grabbed it and started to read.
HOT RIMS CHROME WHEEL CLEANER
Contains phosporic acid, nonionic surfacant, hydroxyacetic acid, glycol ether, ammonium bifluoride.
Jackpot. I bought a bottle of the stuff for about 6 dollars and a canister of acetone from the hardware department and couldn't wait to do the acid test, so to speak.
I grabbed my gear and went outside. I had a small titanium keychain knife that I got on that Wish site because titanium and was disassembled and halfway into an orange peel finish so I threw that in one of those disposable food storage containers and started to spray the HOT RIMS CHROME WHEEL CLEANER and waited. Spray some more and wait. 30 seconds and then foamy bubbles appeared on my slabs accompanied by a not-at-all unpleasant fragrance that reminded me of summer. After about 3 minutes, I neutralize with my bucket as described in my earlier reply and rinse off the bubbles and was looking at cleanly etched slabs and as a bonus my finish wasn't completely stripped off.
I really really like this stuff. It doesn't leave hotspots like the Whink did sometimes, and I don't have to etch with any sense of urgency to prevent too much material from being removed. This stuff takes its time and was designed for etching chrome and doesn't dissolve plastic or release noxious fumes. Just remember to not spray it directly on your piece and then gently agitate the container to remove the fouling to ensure a consistently clean etch. Neutralize, then pour down the drain, follow proper safety guidelines, etc.
Since the stakes are not considerably lowered and I'm not risking my life with HF, after my etch and touch up on the finish, I decided to do a localized partial etching which really means put it on a paintbrush that uses synthetic fibers instead of horsehair and apply it directly to the piece in strategic locations to make it more grippy. What I did not expect was the vivid level of saturation that came about as a result.
So that's about it. I'm happy I can get back to my projects now.
Hope this helps somebody.