CAMILLUS COMEBACK | Camillus Tactical Knives

From the ashes of this 100-year-old New England cutlery company comes a new and innovative line of tactical knives for everyday carry!

Top to bottom, the new Camillus Models 18519 folder, M18519 fixed blade, and the return of the classic Cuda one-hand opener. All have AUS-8 blades with a black Carbonitride Titanium coating that wears like iron.

It is starting to seem like there is an SOP for any old-line American cutlery brand when they are forced to close their doors. First, the factory and all its equipment are auctioned off, eliminating any possibility of the original manufacturing facility reopening. Step two, someone buys up the brand name with its assorted trademarks so that they can be used on a new line of cutlery manufactured “off shore” (normally code for mainland China). Controversial as this might be, there is often a silver lining to starting with a clean slate in another country. The reborn company can be much more flexible about offering innovative new designs without the years of development time common in the past to the inflexible New England companies.

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Left to right, the Camillus M18514 folder, the replaceable edge M18563, and the M18513 folder. I carried this last model for a couple of weeks as my EDC and found it to be very practical.

Acme United
The reorganized Camillus Cutlery is a classic example of this trend. When the 100-year-old cutlery maker closed its doors, Acme United/Clauss Tools, longtime maker of scissors and shears, acquired the brand and set out to reestablish it as a leader in its field. With only a few rare exceptions, the old Camillus knife line of traditional folding knives is completely gone. What many probably don’t realize is that Camillus branded knives always were a small part of the company’s output. Most of their production was devoted to manufacturing other cutlery seller’s products. The closing of the New York factory gave several companies no choice but to also contract their products out to Chinese sources.

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Left to right, Acme’s own Rapid Load boxcutter knife, Clauss shears, and the Camillus Tiger Sharp interchangeable edge fixed-blade hunter. The company has long offered a wide range of cutting tools that Camillus line expands even more.

When Acme sent TK a cross section of their line for evaluation, I had to find logical ways to field test each model. In the past, we have had a patch of very invasive, small diameter bamboo, growing on one side of our yard. Its only saving grace was that every spring it made good garden stakes and row markers. So this year my wife decided to declare war on the patch with fire, chemicals and pruning shears. Time will tell if she has actually won the battle but it did mean I needed to find another source of garden stakes for the planting season. What I ended up doing was lopping off a number of long, thin hazel suckers with a machete (ESEE Lite model), cutting them to length with a pair of large limb pruners, and then whittling points on all of them with the Camillus Model 18537 4-1/2-inch drop-point hunter fixed blade (suggested retail $69.99) included in the test group. Eventually I had cut points on 90 stakes without resharpening the knife. Not bad! A few quick passes over a diamond rod had it back to factory sharp.

Coating & Handling
Like all of the new models, this knife has an AUS-8 stainless blade with a black Carbonitride titanium coating. Frankly, I tend to take all new super coatings with a grain of salt because few will actually hold up under hard use for any length of time in the field. While it may not be the same as digging a foxhole with your knife, my stake-making project did not seem to phase the coating on the Camillus. Another point about extended whittling projects like this is that you soon form strong opinions about the comfort of any particular handle. Most handles will probably be OK for a few minutes use but work with it for an hour or two and you may find yourself flat out hating it! I was pleased to discover the handle on the Camillus hunter was extremely comfortable from start to finish on the project.

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Left to right, the M18506, M18537, and M18508 fixed blades. All offer bamboo slab handles on AUS-8 blades. I was particularly impressed with the shape and comfort of the M18537’s handle under heavy use.

The handles on all of the Camillus fixed blades are bamboo, a material that seems to be especially popular with the “green” set right now. I’ve been told it is both very durable and that it is a “renewable” resource. Sorry, but as an old forester, I consider all trees a renewable resource! You just need to preserve the space to grow them rather than build another super “box” store on a 50-acre parking lot next to a 500-home subdivision.

Anyway, given the handle didn’t show any signs of wear from my stake making, I thought I would see how it held up to moisture by soaking it in a bucket of water over night. Our local wet winter monsoon rains followed by low humidity summers can be very hard on some natural wood handles. My goal was to see if the bamboo swelled and then shrank when it dried. I repeated the soaking and drying test three times just to make things interesting but found no real change in the handle’s condition.

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  • The Squealer

    The real Un-told story behind Camillus USA closing and the aftermath of the imminent “AUCTION” is wreaking havoc on a very unsuspecting and naive community of USA Cutlery fanatics across america and the world as I type. How you ask could this be possible and who could have initiated this “unknowingly” would be the second question. From the ashes would rise renowned experts such as “Tom Williams” and his side kick or if you will “silent partner” Wallace Rockwell” both former employees who were silently gathering every piece of literature and used equipment and parts that they could get there hands on. Setting up shop at an undisclosed location nearby they would initiate their plan with the help of yet another group of unsuspecting Collectors and Would be historians. The Perfect Storm as some describe it, but wait they can’t describe it because they still don’t know that they were part of the original plan. So let’s get back to second part of that initial question “Who unknowingly initiated this”. Until yesterday I like everyone else thought that these folks were the legitimate “Custodians Of the Camillus Legend” but I was in the dark just as many thousands of would-be collectors are today. As the famous Radio Personality of the late 20th century would say “Here’s the Rest of the story” Profit seekers and on some level “Fame seekers” would start rising up from the ashes of this historical and monumental USA Corporation that crashed and burnt in 2007. Most see it as another victim of the “then and Now” economic downslide. But the truth just might surprise you!!

    The Giant Corporation was Left unattended and with the auction being imminent a young night watchmen would let his friends and acquaintances in the Camillus factory loading docks after dark or as I heard it “After Midnight” and charged a mere $50.00 a car load and gave them the key to the factory. The young Night guard would haul off his ILL gotten loot as time and help permitted. The Auction was just a formality as most of the highly collectible stuff had already left the building. Waiting a few years he would list his ILL gotten loot on Craigslist, it would sell in less than two hours of posting it. Now the Auctions of Ebay and the chatrooms of the knife enthusiasts World are full of old parts and new knife legends just waiting to be discovered. Would-Be experts who otherwise wouldn’t have an inkling of an idea have come scurrying from the base boards and one always knows more than the other when it comes to Camillus History. Meanwhile “Tom Williams has snared his spot in the limelight and his running buddy Wallace Rockwell has an assembly line set up at his home. How could this happen and how did I hear about all of this insanely crooked stuff, well that’s another story to be told another day. Ironically each of the popular websites devoted to the preservation of our nation’s brightest Cutlery entrepreneurs and their Accomplishments have fallen hook line and sinker for every last bit of it. This includes the Popular “Knife World” magazine and many others. Here’s the bottom line. No one is either capable or has any prior knowledge of the inside workings of Camillus and so Tom Williams has comfortably seated himself at the table of knowledge. Accredited as a salutatorian of cutlery he has been interviewed and quoted across the USA and of course the internet as we know it today. It is said that nothing goes unnoticed in New York if it has to do with knives and Camillus. Backyard storerooms and storage facilities now house most of Camillus’s finest memories and timeless Works.

    Most would be oblivious to one little fact if not for recent purchase on Ebay and a seller eager to tell all. As most crimes in America take place in the dark of the night, this is a crime in progress and it’s being accomplished on a daily basis and in broad daylight and no one except the initial perpetrators are any the wiser. As the Famous Radio personality and storyteller of the late 20th century would say “Now you’ve heard the Rest of the Story”