One to Watch: Protech Cambria Flipper
Tony Sculimbrene 10.04.17
Protech is a name that is often associated with automatic knives and not just any automatics, but incredibly expensive autos. If one of your knives is called the Godfather, you’re not about to release an $8 knife at Wal-Mart. For years, this is the part of the market Protech has played in: the uber-expensive stuff. Some of the Custom Protech stuff sells for close to $5,000 and any blade is north of $2,000. There are Protechs with gems and others with engraved ivory. Bling is not foreign to Protech.
Their mid-tier stuff is largely dominated by automatic knives, some out the front like Arcangel, but the majority are side-opening autos like the aforementioned Godfather. Protech has also collaborated with a number of well-known custom makers including Ernest Emerson, Mick Strider, and Les George. All helped design automatic versions of their classic blades… there is an auto CQC-7, an auto SNG, and an auto Rockeye. Protech also has a large number of collaborations with Walter Brend.
Protech makes a few non-autos, a pair of fixed blades, a balisong, and two manual folders. But for a company with all the technical know-how that Protech has, they didn’t have a flipper, until the Cambria. The Cambria is a midsized knife with aluminum handles, a 3.5 inch blade of 154CM, and a button lock. The flipper is a traditional design with an ultra-smooth bearing pivot. The production version of the knife (not pictured above) has two inlays, one on the lower portion of the handle and one on the button for the button lock. The clip on the Cambria is an excellent, deep carry, over-the-top pocket clip. The entire package is full of good, smart design choices.
Reports on the Cambria have focused on a pair of things: the pronounced pistol grip and the incredibly smooth bearing pivot. This knife has one of the most aggressively-angled handles I have ever seen, dropping down from the spine of the blade by about a full inch. When closed, it’s not that noticeable, but when open the Cambria has a distinctive curve to it, giving the knife an unusual look and feel.
The pivot smoothness is undoubtedly the result of Protech’s machining excellence and the natural advantages of button-lock flippers. Unlike other lockblade styles, a button lock has very little contact and almost no pressure placed on the blade during the opening arc, giving button-lock flippers incredibly smooth, speedy opening. The Freeman Flipper, my only experience with a button-lock flipper, confirms what the consensus seems to be with the Cambria–this buttery smooth action.
A few things concern me about the knife. First, for the price, $175, you can get decidedly better steel. 154CM isn’t bad, but it is just barely an average steel these days (check out Cedric and Ada’s work on steel, a good summary of which you can find here).
Second, I am not thrilled with aluminum handles. I don’t think the strength difference between titanium and aluminum is relevant for most people, but in a button lock, the area around the lock needs to be dead-on perfect for the lock to work at all. Unlike with, say, a liner lock or a lockback, the tolerances need to be (and remain) perfect. Regardless of the potential issues though, the Cambria is certainly an interesting design coming from an unexpected source.