onsdag 22 november 2017

Knife Review Viper Dan

- in search for the perfect pocketknife part 25

It's not often you get as positively surprised as I did when I with already high expectations opened the box from Viper Knives by Tecnocut. Despite the name they can be found in Maniago, Italy.

The content was a piece of cutlery baptised "DAN", which is the acronym that reads out "Daily Assorted Needs". Thereby it seems to aim at all the tasks and chores that possibly may appear in every day life and can be solved with an edge. A pocket- or EDC-knife for short.

Viper "Dan 1"

The design is very thougt out and the idea, besides being a practical and efficient pocketknife, is also to be legal in as many jurisdictions as possible.

With that in mind the knife was on purpose given a less "aggressive" appearance by having a flipper that doesn't flip, a lock that isn't a lock and a blade that stays under tre inches, the latter a common upper limit in many countries. 

Old meets new in this knife made by Italian Viper by Tecnocut

Is it possible to create a good knife with those limitations? Of course you can! Which is proven by all classic patterns and slipjoint that exists.

But one question remains, can you make a modern knife with the same postulates? I believe so. There are a few good examples out there like the "UKPK" and "Pingo" from Spyderco for instance. They are also made in Italy by the way. 


There are numerous ways of shaping a knifeblade, but if they are supposed to be at least somewhat practical everyone keep coming back to some basic ideas. This simple flatgrind drop point variant is one of those. This blade is well executed with a nice polished satin and in my eyes a rather elegant logotype. Well done if you insist of writing stuff on blades. Despite the simple appearance there are details like the finish and softly rounded spine of the blade that makes it feel elaborated and exclusive. The impression is enhanced by a well made grind that is sharp, even and symmetric.

The total length is 73 millimeter which isn't a coincidence, because it keeps the blade under tre inches which is a rather common limitation when it regards knife laws. The stock is three millimeter thick and that is kind of optimal for most EDC-knives I think. It is thick enough to be rigid and feel solid and thin enough to cut well.

A flatground drop point, as simple as it gets

Besides looking good this blade offers a capable tip, one piece of rounded belly for sweeping cuts and some straight edge for heavier tasks. It also extends all the way to the handle without ricasso,  which enables cuts close to the grip where you have the most power and control*. The complexity of the handle are underlined by the nice chamfers towards the front, which greatly facilitates sideways "pinch grips". A really nice touch.

The choice of steel, N690Co from Böhler/Uddeholm, feels adequate in this context. It is a stainless steel that sometimes is being said to be an European version of VG10. It may or may not be but anyway it is as easy to sharpen.

I haven't resharpened the edge at the time of writing, but as usual used both a strop and sharpening rods to touch up the edge. The steel reacts quickly and there are no problems getting it sharp again. 

This steel offers well balanced allround characteristics. Sure, N690 is no "supersteel" and is not the best in any areas, but it's competent enough and it doesn't rust to badly which is a trait I highly appreciate. Especially with knives that actually spend most of their time in a pocket close to the body.

A well chosen steel, N690 from Böhler/Uddeholm

The knife came with a likable edge already out of box and that is important to me. I really dislike when semi-expensive knives arrives almost blunt. If you like me are grown up with classic Mora no 1 as you go to knife and reference you are accustomed to sharp blades even on cheap knives. So there are no excuses for knife companies to be sloppy in that regard.

The factory edge cut hair with ease, a task most knives can do, but it is more how they do it that tells somethings about sharpness and edge angles. The same goes for paper cutting. In this case you could do it but advanced S-curves was out of question. Sharp but not extreme in other words. It's a significant difference between cutting a paper in half and make it curl. 

Exposed to real work Dan showed it's real potential. It was just as good as I hoped for. Especially cardboard and the like was handled with ease. A flatground blade, not overly thick stock and as before mentioned ability to cut close to the handle are the explanations to why it performs well.

And then came the real positive surprise - it is formidable at cutting wood! The blade has good bite and is easy to control both regarding angles and how deep you want the edge to dig in. The rounded spine helps when you want apply downward pressure with your thumb. The handle also proved to be rather comfortable even after working a while.

Dan is decent when commanded kitchen duties. Not as good as a proper kitchen knife of course. They are even thinner with taller blades and therefore in general have a much better geometry for this kind of work. But compared to many other folders it's more than a decent paring or petty knife. But to be perfectly honest there is just one task I do in kitchens using folders and that is opening containers and packages.

That is besides evaluating them for upcoming reviews of course. Since I always carry a knife in my right front pocket that's the first place my hand would go, I don't reach for my finest Japanese "kitchenswords" for those tasks. Cardboard and plastics are not the best friends to hang out with for refined pieces of kitchen cutlery. In these cases I also appreciate one hand opening and closing knives such as the Dan. 


Dan is built on a solid steel frame, no fuss there. The type of scales varies depending on what version you choose and the knife is available in four different options: black carbon fiber, green G10, black G10 - "Silvertwill" and like in this case maroon canvas micarta. The knife have a backspacer in titanium.

At arrival the color was a bright maroon almost on the pink side. But it darkens quickly since the micarta is bead blasted and the pores open which makes the material age beautifully.

I must admit that I have a soft spot for micarta. Besides looking good and changing character over time it is very nice to the touch and gives a warm feeling in cold conditions.

Scales in maroon canvas micarta. A favourite since it ages beautifully

This is a very well designed handle ergonomically speaking with a couple of details that makes it stand out. The sides are vaulted, which gives a soft feeling in hand. That impression is enhanced by the micarta, which appear and feels like a natural material despite being made out of pressed cloth and a lot of glue. The fingerchoil hasn't got that strange  steep curve that some knifemakers tend to put on their knives. I dislike that kind since it pushes the hand backwards and create hotspots. It is particularly common among flippers. This knife is an example of when it is made correctly. Add to that a clip that is just long enough to hide its tip inside the palm without disturbing to much even if you whiteknuckle the knife.

But there is one detail that stands out and that is the chamfering on the front of the scales. The shape is practically necessary for the opening of the blade but also provides a good platform for all pinchgrips. 

The way the front of the scales are chamfered is admirably executed

The knife is consistently well built and Viper even goes as far as actually list the steel quality of their screws and other hardware on their homepage. An approach that should be embraced by more makers.

The finish is unpeckable with no gaps between materials, well rounded and chamfered surfaces which includes the inside of the frame, the scales, the spine of the blade and the backspacer.

The handle has a lanyard hole but the so common 550-paracord doesnt fit. But on the other hand I think that is kind of overkill on this type of knife anyway both in function and in style, but that's of course a personal preference.

After a brief conversation with the designer via Instagram I found out that there is an idea behind the placement of the lanyardhole behind the clip. It is placed there so that the knife will ride higher in pocket with a lanyard attached for those who prefer that. What a really good idea since it gives you options!

But I'm torned about the whole concept of lanyards. It makes handles look less attractive and more like they are termite infested and I personally only occasionally have use for them. It should be said though that if you have a knife more expensive than say three dollars and are at sea you don't want to be without them. Who wants to hear a tiny splash just to discover that you're newly bought gem of a knife went missing? Or if you do like me and place a knife securely a couple of yards deep inside a massive rubble of stones somewhere in the Norwegian mountains. I know where it is and I'm pretty sure no one will steal it under a couple of hundred ton of rocks. 

Opening and lock

The opening mechanism is one of the more unique features of this knife. It is a frontflipper that doesn't flip, but rather reminds of a shorter version of a friction folder tang. It's not an miss at the drawing board but a well thougt out idea. As afore mentioned one of the main objectives where to make a "non threatening" knife that is legal in most places and at the same time being able to maneuver with one hand.

A "front flipper" - or is it?

This knife utilizes a "semi lock" called "AS" wich should be read out as "Action Stopper". It is a system built around double detentballs, that both keeps the blade open and closed as well as offer a half way stop like on a traditional knife. A symbioses between old an new.

The blade has a convenient half way stop that saves digits. The well placed jimping helps when opening

The function is excellent. The knife is not lightening fast to deploy so for those who feel that this is a necessity, they may look for other options. But it is fast enough for making me happy and it is very much a one hand operation. The half way stop is sympathetic since it makes the knife a bit more secure and easier to handle when folding. The lack of ricasso combined with a sharp blade could have acted like an finger guillotine otherwise.

To Carry

One of this knife's virtues is how it performs in pocket. Once in place it is civilized and friendly. A big portion of that behavior can be ascribed to a near perfect clip. It is a basic steel clip that makes the knife ride deep in the pocket. It holds the knife in place with authority and you don't risk loosing your knife and yet it's easy to pull out of pocket. That is the spring tension is well tuned in. In hand the pocketclip feels as small as can be. Only constructions with hidden clips or extractable clips can be felt less.

A really good clip. It is mounted solidly at the back with double screws

And here is how it looks in pocket. The hole in the clip allows for a lanyard to pass through. 
The knife then rides higher

Well rounded corners and a modest weight are other characteristics that makes this particular knife a joy to carry. Overall a very succesfull combination of materials and shapes. Dan weighs in at 90-95 grams depending on what version you opt for. Not too shabby for a pocketknife with a bladelength over seven centimeters and sturdy full liners.

To Conclude

The conclusion is something of a declaration of love since Viper Dan avoids many of the obstacles that make some pocketknives trip and fall towards being "the perfect pocket knife". It also suites my general needs very well.

I think a substantial part of the explanation why I like it so much can be found in the fact that this is a knife that knows what it is. It's not intended to be a camping knife, a whittler, a selfdefence knife or made for "hard use" whatever that is. It is clearly a knife aiming straight towards your pocket and EDC use. 

"Dan 1" designed by Tommaso Rumici. Not the mug though, it is made by my fiancee but they do match!

Tommaso Rumici, the designer behind this knife have thus succeeded in his perception. For me this is close to a perfect EDC-knife. The knife is light enough to carry yet substantial enough to inpire confidence. The clip allows for a deep, secure and discreet carry while not being obtrusive while working.

The micarta handles and the well tuned clip makes for an easy draw. In hand Dan is well balanced and every grip works. Notable is the chamfered front part of the scales that aids in pinchgrips, a detail often overlooked in modern folders. The blade is phenomenal in its simplicity. A classic flatground drop point in good steel. The shapes gives a belly, a good tip and a bit of straight edge to work with. The edge also extends all the way to the handle which adds control and power.

The somewhat odd solution for a lock is a modern interpretation of a slipjoint combined with the tang of a "friction folder". Not something historically new in any way, but exciting nevertheless and the system provides security by holding the blade in place even if there are no lock in traditional sense. The knife is also able to operate with one hand without being a flipper which makes it appear less aggressive.

Did I mention that it is good looking too?

As elegant as functional. The Viper Dan was a knife that caught my eye the first time I saw it

Are there no bad features on this knife? No negatives at all? Of course there are and they can be placed in the same exact column as the positives if you ask me. It all boils down to preferences. If you are in pursuit of a knife that flipps like crazy equipped with a titanium handle and a framelock and in every other aspect follows template 1A for modern folders this knife is not for you. It is as simple as that.

And of course, the construction and lack of proper lock means that you have to be aware of how you handle the knife, especially if you put some force behind the blade. You can do it, the thumb aids in keeping the blade in place but as said before, there are no lock and the knife should be treated with care. Therefore this is not your "stabby" knife. The same goes for closing the knife, it lacks ricasso or choil so fingers must be kept away when closing the blade one handed.

As proof of what I really think of this particular knife I can mention that I bought its sibbling, the Dan 2 before this text even was finished. It differs from model one by having a modified wharncliffe-blade instead of a droppoint. And my version got scales in G10/Silvertwill. The blade is a tad shorter and the shape makes the grind a bit lower and the bladeshape of course decreases the belly. As you might guess I like that knife as well.

My recommendation? Get a buddy named Dan!

 The product page can be found here!

Specification Viper Dan1:

Length, Overall: 182 mm
Lenght, Folded: 109 mm
Weight: 95 g
Blade Length: 73 mm
Blade Thickness: 3 mm
Blade Steel: N690Co, HRC 57-59
Handle: Canvas micarta/steelframe
Lock: AS, "Action Stopper"

Produced by: Viper by Tecnocut, made in Maniago, Italy

*  This can seem obvious but there is one thing that is really popular in the knife industry for the moment and that is "choils". They give "reach",  that is pushing the entire hand backwards on the handle away from what is supposed to be cut when not used. It can perhaps be logical for knives intended for the nonsence of "self defence". Otherwise they can often feel strange. Of course there are deviations from this rule. 

/ J - advocate for snakes

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