The Maniago Viper: A collector-grade gentleman’s folding knife

The TecnocutViper is the kind of knife that gets passed around at a knife club meeting. The blade has a mirror polish. The blade spine and lock back mechanism have a matching scalloped embellishment. The textured titanium bolsters mate to cocobolo handle scales with a serpentine curve that is fitted without gaps. There is a slight step down from the handle scale to the bolster which some enthusiasts will consider a less than perfect fit. I did not find this detracted from my aesthetic appreciation of the knife.

Left side view of Viper with blade deployed

Left side view of Viper with blade deployed. The knife is made in Maniago, Italy.

The blade slides open as if on ball bearings and locks in place with a solidity that refutes its ability to fold back into the handle. The entire package slips into a soft leather pouch that allows trouser pocket carry, but prevents contact between the edged gentleman’s jewelry in the pouch and coins or keys that might also share the trouser pocket.

A knife like this is not what I normally carry. I play rough with my pocketknives. My pocketknives get used as cutting tools everywhere I go. This is the kind of knife that looks so good and I want to keep it that way.

    Top view of scalloped embellishment shared by lock bar and blade back.

Top view of scalloped embellishment shared by lock bar and blade back.

I didn’t realize just how much polish this knife would exhibit when I ordered it. My principle interest was its N690Co blade. I have subjected other folding knives with N690Co blades to testing abuses that would make most knife enthusiasts cringe. The visual elegance of this knife has prevented me from subjecting it to the same extreme treatment that I have given to other knives. But my primary passion for knives revolves around testing for cutting abilities. So this knife couldn’t be allowed to get by untested.

I cut a substantial amount of cardboard with it and didn’t put any scratches in the blade polish. The factory edge has excellent cutting capability in cardboard. It also cuts beef rawhide dog chewies with less effort than most knives.

I opened letters and snap cut Kleenex tissue. I slashed free hanging Wal-Mart cash register tape. This latter trick defeats the edge of many knives, but the Viper’s edge consistently slashed clean cuts.

partially deployed knife

Right-side view of partially deployed knife.

Finally, I endurance cut tested the first inch of blade in 1/2-inch manila rope. I have not found Rockwell hardness ratings to be a consistent predictor of how many rope cuts a knife can accomplish. It might be reasonable to assume that this blade is produced with a little less abrasion resistance than N690Co steel might be capable of to provide for attaining the mirror polish of the blade with less effort. This knife blade still makes enough repetitive rope cuts to be solidly comparable to other factory knives considered to exhibit good cutting endurance based on actual performance.

Cutting rawhide with the Viper

Cutting rawhide with the Viper. My left thumb is clearly reflected by the mirror polish of the blade.

The Viper did prove to be exceptionally easy to re-sharpen. The edge responds quite well to just stropping on cardboard if you don’t deliberately ignore it until it is dull. As a gentleman’s knife the Viper might be able to keep a very usable edge by simply stopping on cardboard or an old leather belt after each time the knife sees light usage. This will be more important to some knife owners than an ability to make a large number of repetitive rope cuts.

The only thing that might make this knife a little awkward in polite company is its size. It looks much larger than its less-than 3-inch blade would indicate. While I personally appreciate the better grip and control that the size of this knife provides, it also can be recognized as having a wider range of possible uses than some people are comfortable with.

Right-side view of closed knife

Right-side view of closed knife. The distinctive bolsters provide a firm gripping area.

This is a knife with a gentleman’s pedigree. While the knife is constructed of premium materials, it is not intended for extreme uses. It is capable of being used for precision cutting. But the blade exhibits such a high degree of polish that most people will be reluctant to expose it to activities that might mar its finish.

The texturing of the knife’s titanium bolsters provides a curiously non-abrasive but secure grip for the fingers. The texturing pattern is a sort of basket weave, which borders on appearing primitive. I found this to be a pleasing contrast to the polish of the rest of the knife. The marketplace will decide whether this contrast has enough sales appeal for production success.

Deployed knife

Deployed knife in the author’s palm

The Viper is manufactured in Maniago, Italy by Tecnocut. Tecnocut Knives have also been made for and distributed by Ka-Bar in recent years. Informed knife enthusiasts will have to add this geographic location to the list of international knife making centers like the Solingen Valley of Germany, Seki City, Japan, and Sheffield, England.

 

By Michael S. Black