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Pro-Tech, founded in 1998 and currently running an 8-person operation in their Sante Fe Springs, California, plant has collaborated with Allen Elishewitz for a second joint project after the success of their earlier DORU folder, but this time it’s a solid fixed blade that I’d equate to the military’s now-iconic go-anywhere small unit transport vehicle, the HUMVEE. Neither the new Spindrift knife nor the Hummer that replaced the even more iconic Jeep several years back are built for looks. Both are built with certain features intended for tough times in tough places, and to hold up to situations and terrain that would send a high-end Lamborghini or a handmade $3,000 mirror-polished, gold inlaid, be-jeweled, mastodon-tusk-handled custom cutter screaming into the safety of the nearest auto or knife show where producing oohs and ahs is job one. Like the Hummer (the real Hummer, not the brightly painted soccer mom version), the Spindrift (which takes its name from a sniper term for the Magnus Effect that causes a drift in downrange travel from the bullet’s spin) is constructed for rugged performance and “pretty” wasn’t one of the design parameters.

Teamwork

Collaboration in the knife world can take several forms, ranging from minimal participation by the company involved to a more hands-on, step-by-step approach as the design evolves. It can also run in either direction, where a well-known designer has an idea for a specific knife but doesn’t have the capability to manufacture it in volume himself and approaches a name-brand mass-production manufacturer to produce the design, or where an established production company wants a new model and approaches a well-known outside custom maker/designer for the pattern. In this case, Dave Wattenburg, Pro-Tech’s founder and owner, wanted to step beyond his company’s normal range of automatics and offer his customer base a new fixed blade. The positive DORU experience with Elishewitz left a good impression, so he was Wattenburg’s choice for the new model.

Late last year, Elishewitz was approached with a general “something beefy, something mid-sized, something that could function in a military role” request, and roughly six months later he submitted sketches for consideration. After some tweaking in both directions to make sure the concept was adaptable to Pro-Tech’s machining capabilities, the final pattern was accepted, the Spindrift name suggested by Elishewitz was adopted, and the knife was scheduled for production. The first limited run of 160 units started showing up in the summer of this year, and our test sample was number 80 from that run, in the SD3 version.

Beautiful?

No chance here, the 12-ounce Spindrift is certainly no beauty. But, what it loses cosmetically it gains in function and sheer toughness, and Elishewitz designed loads of character into the knife. Pro-Tech wanted mid-sized, and the 11.6-inch overall length with its 5.3-inch cutting edge qualifies nicely. The triple-ground blade itself is an interesting approach to beefiness; with the thickest section of the spine measuring at 0.180 inches just forward of the grip panels. To lighten the blade’s weight, which is always a consideration in adding a hefty knife to a pack or belt (military or otherwise), a 3.75-inch section along the top of the spine is narrowed to a maximum depth of a quarter inch. The first 1.25-inch of the spine at the tip is reinforced, with about half of that length reverting to full thickness before tapering off into the actual tip itself. With a full tang measuring 1.610 inches at its widest point where blade meets handle slabs, a full thickness all the way back to the pommel, and no 90-degree stress risers, this is a particularly strong tool as far as forward or lateral impacts go. You’re not likely to snap that tip off against a rib if your mission requires such things, nor are you likely to replace an expensive one-piece knife with two useless pieces of busted steel in batoning on a weekend campout.

The Spindrift’s grip panels are CNC-machined G10. I’ll come right out and use the “ugly” word, but only because they are. Lightly rounded, with a thickness of 0.730 to 0.735 inches on the high spots, they actually fit quite well in the hand, and those deeply cut squiggles are there to give one of the most rock solid hand holds I’ve ever experienced on any non-rubberized blade handle anywhere. Up to as much as 0.074-inch deep in spots on my sample, they can fill with a fair amount of mud, blood, grease, or bacon fat and still anchor tightly in either a glove or a bare hand. That can be critically important in some applications on both forward thrusts against resistance and in using the angled exposed steel at the other end as a skullcrusher. Combined with a very comfortable index finger groove and the large single guard, I’d find it hard to imagine losing your grip on this one.

Behind The Scenes

It’s always interesting to hear the thoughts behind a new design. Why the 154CM steel? Elishewitz says he chose it because “154CM is the middle-of-the-road premium stainless steel, easy to sharpen, keeps a decent edge, good stain resistance. Yes, there are other steels on the market that outperform 154CM on certain things but they can easily cost twice as much and have their own downfalls.” Why use G10 scales? “G10 is a great material for handles, absorbs very little moisture, very tough, does not shrink, does not rot. The 3D texture really aids in grip retention under any condition.” Wattenburg adds, incidentally, “Those G10 scales actually take more time on the machine than the blades do. All painstakingly CNC machined from solid sheets of G10, there is no easy way to make them. There is about 40 minutes of machining per set of handles for that knife.” The scales are attached by strong torx screws because Elishewitz says “Torx head screws are a lot better than hex, they don’t strip out.” Wattenberg concurs, “We use Mil-Spec torx head screws on that knife—they are expensive, but tough as heck. With that torx head we can really bear down on them and make them super tight. There is already Loctite on them—we have never had an issue on any of our fixed blades with screws loosening up.”

The blade profile? Elishewitz feels “The upswept blade shape allows the user to have a broader range of applications with the knife. It is a great defense design, it is also a great hunting design for skinning and it works pretty good around a camp site. The wedge [thinned spine] on the top is… to lighten the blade.” And the black blade finish, according to Wattenburg, is a DLC (Diamond Like Coating) tungsten carbide application done by Ion Bond in North Carolina that adds to the toughness of the blade’s Rc 59 hardness. Each DLC-coated blade is sent to Ion Bond after all machining and polishing is done by Pro-Tech, the surfaces are coated, and returned to Pro-Tech where the scales are attached. One of the most scratch and corrosion-resistant blade finishes on the planet, and “Expensive, but worth it” in Wattenberg’s opinion.

Field Tests

To test the entire package, I sliced on a 3-pound roast, stabbed it, partially de-limbed a deadfall scrub oak, chipped repeatedly into the main trunk with the tip, “drilled” into that trunk, pried with the tip as deep into the wood as I could stab the point, shaved bark off some of the smaller limbs, and clipped the Spindrift onto my .44 Mag high country rig in its custom fitted Kydex sheath by removing the two spacer bars from the Tek-Lok attachment to fit the wide belt.

The blade doesn’t slice as well as a thinner filleting knife, but it did the job, and the upswept curve pattern would enable an effective cutting stroke on torso or extremities. There are two broad schools of thought on knife use for attack or defense: a number of quick relatively small cuts on torso, neck or arms to disable as targets present, or straight penetration into the torso. The Spindrift can be adapted reasonably well to either, and has sufficient blade length to reach vital organs to disable early on if penetration is needed. The tip won’t break if it encounters bone along the way. On the oak, the blade would have been more effective with more weight and length for light chopping, but by holding the knife back toward the pommel and using snap cuts, it did what I asked it to do, and it never felt like I was even close to losing control in chopping because of those textured panels, or in ice-picking thanks to the panels and the prominent finger guard. The sweet spot for chopping is about 1.5 inches forward of the guard, by the way. No edge or tip damage, the bark shaving was done after the chopping, and the edge held. The high-rise sheath could not have been better constructed to comfortably ride along on an 8-hour 9,000 foot high-elevation ATV mountain jaunt, without either digging into the narrow bucket seat on the bottom or my ribs on the top, and that’s important for long days on the trail. In other words- big enough for serious chores, but not too big to be practical.

Wrap Up

Offered by Pro-Tech in four versions, the SD1 with black G-10 and stonewash blade at $370, the SD2 with gray G-10 and stonewash blade at $370, the SD 3 with black G-10 and black DLC blade at $400, and the SD4 with gray G-10 and black DLC blade at $400; the rugged and weather-resistant Spindrift trades good value for its price point in any of its versions. These will be run in batches, check with Pro-Tech, 562-903-0678, protechknives.com, for availability.

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