Hi CPP - you are astute! Curiosity got the best of me last night and I had to disassemble the quantum. You are correct there are no dust protectors, what I was seeing as shown in your second pic was simply the bearing races that are exposed. As you pointed out the blade has material removed in this area creating a flush condition. I thought those silver races were an additional washer for dust protection but was incorrect. I do believe Shiro's theory that this design will aid in cleaning / keep gunk out of there. This only adds to my belief that this is an extremely well thought out and detailed knife design. Thanks for pointing that out.