Viper Knives is a relative newcomer to the US cutlery scene, and is a division of the Italian manufacturer Tecnocut, a company that I am frankly not that familiar with. I was first acquainted with Viper at Blade Show 2013 it was there that I had the opportunity to handle most of their line. Like many of the knives coming out of Maniago Italy I was impressed with the sophisticated designs coupled with tight fit and finish. One blade that especially caught my eye is the Carnera – a long lean chopper named after Italian pugilist Primo Carnera.
The knife’s sleek lines remind me somewhat of an Italian sports car, which certainly doesn’t hurt a first impression, but what I found most intriguing was how balanced and comfortable the knife felt in hand. This was something that had the potential to be a serious tool: light, balanced, comfortable, and featuring well finished high end materials. I couldn’t resist, so the Carnera ended up traveling back with me from the show.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Carnera has an overall length of 15.25″, features a 9.5″ blade, and weighs in at 17.5 ounces. The knife is approximately the same length as the ESEE Junglas, but in hand they are radically different knives. The Junglas is an absolute tank. If I needed something to survive the end of days and didn’t mind some extra weight I would put the Junglas on my short list. It was and continues to be one of my all time favorite heavy duty choppers. The Carnera, on the other hand, is much more efficient and refined. Its sweeping handle flows into a broad and confident clip point blade. It has a slight forward bias lending it towards chopping, but it still feels fast and fluid. The stock is thick but the wide blade coupled with a full flat grind lightens the knife significantly. Where the Junglas could be considered an all out survival knife, I feel like the Carnera is more suited for work as a camp knife or heavy machete.
I should mention that the knife comes in 2 main flavors; the stonewashed version with wood handles and leather sheath shown here, and a more military inspired version with a black PVD coated blade, micarta scales, and a cordura molle compatible sheath. Both versions can be examined on the Viper wesbite.
Viper selected D2 for the Carnera. D2 is a semi stainless, which on paper seems like a good compromise given that the blade is naked but still needs to be tough enough to resist chipping under heavy use. Done right D2 provides a good mix of toughness, edge retention, and resistance to corrosion. I’ve had good experiences with D2 and I’ve had OK experiences with D2 – it depends entirely on the heat treat. Done right it can be a great steel (as evidenced by master knifemakers like Bob Dozier using D2 exclusively).
Thankfully my experience with the Viper and it’s D2 blade has been nothing short of excellent.
As usual, I wish I could have taken this guy up into the Rocky mountains, or better yet, the Italian countryside for some extended use and testing. I had to settle on the less exotic location of my back yard. The good news is that I had a dead ficus tree that was in desperate need of an ass kicking, so I can at least assure you that this knife saw a good amount of use.
I mostly chopped with this knife. I chopped through thick tree limbs (anywhere from 4-7″ in diameter) and did quite a bit of limbing, light chopping, and clearing as well. It’s a great chopper. The full flat grind gets reasonable thin and comes to a nice traditional V edge. The knife bites deeply into wood and the D2 holds a nice aggressive edge, even after extended chopping sessions. There is enough weight behind the blade to get some good work done without the knife being overly heavy. A practiced hand should be able to get a lot of work done with it. My technique leaves something to be desired, but I was still pleased with the end result.
I will say that the full flat grind does not lend itself to batoning, which was not a big issue for me. If I really needed to split with this knife I’d use the Carnera to carve up a wood wedge and use that instead.
With a retail price of over $200, it’s worth talking about the fit and finish of the blade. The grinds on my knife were even and the edge was perfectly applied. The spine is capped (rounded) which is a very nice detail on a production knife. My version of the Carnera came with a lightly tumbled finish. This is a good choice for a semi stainless steel like D2. That said, I did notice a light patina form on my knife, and generally found it more difficult to keep clean. An application of Bar Keeper’s Friend or a similar cleaning agent will brighten it back up instantly. Alternatively, you could always opt for the PVD coated variant.
Handle and Ergonomics
One thing I immediately liked about the Carnera was the traditional wood handle scales. I think the wood is a very handsome option, although their micarta offering would probably be a little more practical. Viper selected Pau Santo wood for the handles, a wood I was previously unfamiliar with, but it has a pleasing and tight symmetry to the grain and strikes me as a great choice. The handle slabs have been bolted on, and were left with a smooth semi-glossy finish. There are 2 lanyard holes although I always used the knife without any lanyards and found that the grip was still secure.
The secure grip is thanks in large part to the elegant flowing handle design. The handle has these seductive curves t that are visually appealing but also highly functional. The knife felt very controllable in my hand, even when I was tired and sweaty after an extended chopping session. Not once did the knife slip of feel insecure, and it was extremely comfortable as well. I am very pleased with the handle design. It’s beautiful, comfortable, and entirely functional.
The Carnera comes with 2 options for the sheath: the leather sheath (shown here) or a cordura molle compatible military style sheath. Generally speaking, I like the leather sheath. They used thick pieces of leather and it compliments the traditional wood handles, although I would have loved it if Viper made this with a brown leather sheath – I think that would have looked especially handsome. The wide blade profile means they had to get creative with the sheath design, but the end result looks good and works well.
Practically speaking, the knife is securely held in place with a single snap, and the sheath features a generous belt loop with an easy to remove snap. It is adjustable and comes with a piece of cord that could be used as a thigh rig. I can see how the wide clip point blade provides a challenge for designing the sheath (much like a kukri style blade does), and given that limitation Viper came up with a sturdy and functional sheath. That said, this is a knife that I could justify having a custom kydex sheath made for – and I may eventually decide to do just that.
Viper Carnera Review – Final Thoughts
The Carnera is my first extended experience with a Viper product, and I was left very impressed. For a guy that likes capable choppers the Carnera is a lot of fun, but it is a serious tool that benefits from a very practical, very functional lightweight and balanced design. The sleek Italian lines, tasteful material selection, and excellent fit and finish make it a very well rounded package that should appeal to both collectors and enthusiasts.
As for potential downsides, this is a premium offering from Viper and the price reflects that, but you get what you pay for and I don’t think their retail price is entirely out of line. Perhaps the biggest problem is that these knives are still somewhat difficult to acquire here in the States. Thankfully, BladeHQ has recently picked them up (at least the stone washed version of it), so I expect we will be seeing more and more of this knife in the days to come.
Viper Carnera – $239.95
I recommend purchasing the Viper Carnera at BladeHQ. Purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated! Thank you very much.