3 grafting questions

I’m about to embark on my first attempt at grafting and have a couple questions.

  1. Should I get a grafting tool or just use a knife?
    I know that with some experience, a knife will work just fine, but I’m wondering if a tool will be a worthy investment. I can easily justify the cost in dollars (about the price of 2 bareroot trees) and in time (if it gives me successful grafts, I’ll be at least a year ahead if I use a knife and they fail). Orchard Valley and a 3-cutter for $67: http://www.orchardvalleysupply.com/ovsstore/pc/Grafting-Tool-103p282.htm Looking at reviews of similar tools on Amazon, they seems to be either “this is the greatest thing ever!!” or “don’t waste your money, this thing sucks”. What’s the consensus here? I found a couple older threads where the question came up but was never answered.

  2. In the mid-Atlantic what’s the best time to cut wood and what’s the best time to do the grafts?
    What I’ve read says cut scions before they break dormancy, but I’m not sure what that really means. My peach buds seem to be getting very fat (like they’re not fully dormant) but I don’t really know because I’ve never paid that much attention at this time of year. Taking a wild, nearly uneducated guess, I’d say my peach wood needs to be cut NOW, but my apple wood can wait for a month or more.

  3. Is there a problem in getting wood too early?
    I know that ideally, the cut wood won’t spend too much time in the 'fridge, but how does it work in the real world? I’ve seen that some people have already sent out their wood and I’m assuming it will be stored in the 'fridge until grafting time. How long is too long for wood to be off the tree?

Before you buy any grafting tools, buy a utility knife/box cutter which takes replacement blades. Then practice, practice and practice again on disposable wood. If it still doesn’t work for you, think of spending more on fancier grafting tools. I thought I had a sharp grafting knife till I tried out the utility knife with a fresh blade. Again the important thing is - a sharp knife.

You can collect scions and place them in an airtight ziplock bag in your refrigerator. Per @fruitnut, you’ll only add chill hours to your scions this way. You can store it for a month at least.


I did my first grafting (and will do my next ones)with a simple utility knife. Contrary to what might be the natural way of thinking , I think the way to go is to start off with the utility knife and then with experience move up to a grafting knife. One thing already mentioned is keeping it sharp, and with the utility knife all you need it to change the blade.


Here in the mid west zone 6 , I collected peach scion wood in mid February last year and held it in the fridge until I grafted on May 3rd

I think it would have kept longer


I’m not trying to say the utility knife is the best but it is what I have used for the last 20 years. I’m well pleased with it and I have no plans to change. Love just throwing away used blades. Good luck, Bill

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I agree. Save your money and use a very sharp knife -the utility knives are a godsend if you have trouble getting a knife truly sharp.

The advantage to the knife, in my opinion, is that it lets you adapt to different situations more easily. Wood is often mismatched in size, or pretty thin, or curved, or has the buds too close for convenience. The knife is a small and tidy package with lots of other uses.

Don’t just get a knife. Get a sturdy pair of gloves and then reinforce the pointer fingers with some duct tape.

Or perhaps not. Some say that the graft will not take without the shedding of human blood.


My wife gets all nervous when I get a whetstone out.

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Bart… You want mine… you can have it for postage. Really.

Honestly, really… no backsies.


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I think that very sharp knives are much safer! They bite when they should and go where they’re supposed to with much less force. (Besides, when you do cut yourself the wound is so much tidier … )

There are tools and there are tools and not all are the same. I prefer a knife but if I get in trouble and I have tired eyes and a shaky hand and 100 trees to graft and plant by the end of the day that are all pencil sized here is a fast way to do it http://www.garrettwade.com/professional-italian-grafting-tools-gp.html . A standard tool makes short work of saddle grafts. I do like a knife better because not every rootstock or scion is the size of a pencil. If you have 6 trees to do stick with your knife.

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The orange metal Home Depot box cutter with a box of 50 new blades that will last me for years. Nice and clean angle cut every time. Just to be careful not to slice your left index finger. Practice first with some tree branches until you feel comfortable then do it on real scion woods.


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Yes, they seem to heal cleanly. I agree with what you say about a sharp knife. My wife says I have no respect for a sharp edge, and I guess she is right. I have handled knives my entire life and I can be a little over confidant in my skills. I do occasionally give myself a good cut, I will say that sharp knives cut you clean but hurt just as bad and go deeper

If I have a lot grafting to do, I tape my fingers. It’s kept me blood
free many times, and also helps to prevent blisters.

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I also spend a lot of time with sharp knives and have only made one real bad mistake. Worse part was I was a half mile or more back in a beaver flooding . And then once I got back to the car , about twenty mile drive with one hand to get back home wile trying to keep pressure on the cut. Still have nerve damage in my thumb !

Wow, that looks scary and a long way from home.

I was in that situation last year. I tried very sharp case pocket knife. Then switched to a box cutter, then bought an opinel #6 knife and then bought a Victorinox grafting knife. None of them cut perfectly straight on a pull cut. Not even the Victorinox. The Opinel felt the best in hand and with a strop was literally straight razor sharp. As far as knives are concerned I prefer it. It worked perfectly for cleft and bark grafting. Also with budding.

I saw a thread on GW I think where people were talking about a cheap Chinese grafting tool that made 3 types of cuts including omega “key lock” cuts. I think I paid $20 for the tool and that thing was great. While I had learned how to do a pretty decent W&T graft with a knife this omega tool made getting a perfect cut easy as pie. The drawback is that it needed to have pencil sized wood or slightly larger and the scion and understood needed to be the same size. I think I did 21 grafts with that tool last year and every one was successful. That was all on apple and pear. It’s made in China so I’ll be happy if it last me 3 years. The omega tool shown above in the OPS post is surely much nicer than mine. But for $20 I was very happy with mine.

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Yes it was down to the bone but thankfully just missed hitting the joint. The knife was contaminated with beaver blood (skin them where I catch them as one beaver can weigh 40-50 lbs) and I was also lucky there was no infection . I know it doesn’t have to do with grafting but it is a reminder how quick something can happen when doing things like grafting and sharp knives . I do like the idea of a tool like @clarkinks posted the link to. I have seen several different versions and may try one at some point if I start doing a lot of grafting .

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works in kitchen, everything is hot and sharp. I have a plain edge spyderco enduro I’ll probably use when the time comes to graft things.

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this was a serious cut, dangerous. You were lucky there is no serious damage done.