Cheap vs Quality Grafting Knives

A note on steel quality. Here are some stainless steels compared. I highlighted all the steels I’ve seen in grafting knives. I’m sure others have been used, but these are all the ones where I’ve seen it specified.

1.4116 is what Victorinox uses. 14C28N is commonly referred to as Sandvik steel (AM Leonard uses this). N690 I’ve only seen in the Due Buoi stainless knives. 8Cr13MoV I’ve seen in some cheap knives on Ali Express.

I wish Tina specified which carbon steel they use. It would tell me a lot about the relative merits (although there’s more to a knife design and build than the steel they use!). Most carbon steel grafting knives use 1095 (older Schrade and Case knives are a good example of this steel) or C70 (what Opinel uses). These steels tend to be reasonably tough and easy to sharpen, taking a fine edge. The flip side is they have poor edge retention and corrosion resistance. Corrosion resistance plays an indirect role in edge retention. If you don’t clean, dry, and oil your carbon steel promptly after use, light corrosion will rob some of your sharp edge, just from the knife sitting there. That’s why I prefer some of the harder stainless steels.

That chart comes from: Knife Steels Rated by a Metallurgist - Toughness, Edge Retention, and Corrosion Resistance - Knife Steel Nerds

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I like that angle! I did my best to replicate that with the Due Buoi knife. A little cockeyed, but you get the idea. The bark lifter/spine is on the left, edge on the right.

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Strange. I’ve owned an sold many a 440 C that were superb edge holders. But that was before powdered and designer metals emerged.

Forged 1095 is steel my preference if you can find it anymore. T10 is also good stuff but a bit tougher to sharpen like D2, In a short grafting knife, the flexure of 1095 is not a problem.

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Yes, 440C is a good one. It’s only 4.5 out of 10 on edge holding as compared to the super steels or high speed steels. Based on my personal experience with some of these, I read that chart as anything above 4 is excellent edge retention, above 6 superb, and above 8 extraordinary. And, that’s only one person’s rating. A fairly methodical, reproducible rating, but still only one. I still see lots of 1095 knives on the market. Most US made knives of unspecified carbon steel are 1095 or a close equivalent. C70 is pretty similar and easy to come by.

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I also use the Victorinox knives! It holds its sharp edge for several years and I probably do around 70-80 grafts annually, I have not needed to sharpen just have to be very careful on cuts to miss my fingers! It’s versatile for many purposes and a good value. I like its bark slipping ability to hold in the open position. Bought mine from Raintree.
Dennis
Kent, wa

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With knives it is less the material then the expertise of the process to make is. For instance Rough Rider makes many great, inexpensive knives from 440A. Usually of great beauty.

Better then say Taylor brothers.

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I’d agree, to a point. Properly forged and heat treated 440A is better than poorly processed 440C. But if both are prepared properly, C will always have better wear resistance and A will always have better corrosion resistance. The wear resistance is why A is almost always cheaper. It takes less time and skill to shape, so there is less of a labor charge. There’s a lot more crummy A in circulation than C. So I’m always a little leary of 440A or unspecified 440 unless that knife maker has a known good track record with the steel.

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Did some investigating in the shadowy Chinese cheap knife business. The one I really like to use is stamped Funtech in Chinese. It says 4 CT14 on the blade. clearly shorthand for 4CR14MOV. Which is like a lower carbon cheap steel. But like the bevel work I take it good hardening was done on it. It does not act like a cheap steel.

The set of handed knives come from Bumur. It does not identify the SS. I ran a diamond lap on it and it takes a good bite. I’m going to guess it is a 8CR13MOV type. Again sharpness in not there. And I flipped one and there are grinder marks all over it. Clearly they have no concept of sharpening.

I would send it back; but it is just easier to refinish it here. I can polish them better then most knife companies anyway. I would recommend to avoid Bumur though. A lot of rework many folks can not do.

Sorry. I like the Funtech. Fits my hand well{bigger} and control is better.

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Yeah, I think the cheap knife manufacturers have gotten better at remembering to heat treat! That’s the one thing I will say about these Pueldu knives, the steel seems more wear resistant than I would expect at the price point. I even thought I had heat damaged one when I got cocky with the bench grinder, but the steel still took a good amount of effort to reprofile. We’ll have to see how well it holds that edge, though.

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I never thought I was that picky about a grafting knife. Depending on what I have handy, I would use either a boxcutter (even one with a pretty dull blade) or a florist knife (Victorinox which was $14 about 10 years ago). Recently, I had neither and tried to use a double-beveled pocket knife and it was almost unbearable. No clean cuts, too much force needed…not good. I managed to find another boxcutter (there’s always one somewhere in the garage) and it was a massive improvement. I still can’t find the florist knife and this thread inspired me to try a slightly different model, A Felco/Victorinox budding knife for $26:

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i have been thru so many grafting knives i think i still have the best luck with razor blade…

Report back how you like it. This thread is making me think getting one too.

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I’ve used the Victorinox grafting knife for at least 10 years and easily 1000+ grafts. It holds an edge well, though I sharpen it at least once per season, depending on how many grafts I do.

It’s a fine knife, but I have relatively large hands, so I’d like something with a larger handle, both in length and circumference, for when I have many grafts to do in a short time, for larger caliper rootstock/scions or for harder wood. If anybody has a recommendation, I’d appreciate it.

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I think I’ve seen Stephen Hayes use a bigger knife for grafting. I found one of his videos where he talked about grafting knives.

He likes the Opinel ones. From the video, it looks to have 2 bevels, something I didn’t think was good for grafting. Anyone on here use something like the ones from that video?

As an aside, I’m surprised he doesn’t use parafilm. Is it not as popular/available in the UK?

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Well! Now I know why 100% of my grafts have failed! I started with one of those machines that cut 2 or 3 different shapes like a W. Then I read that those blades crush the wood and are no good. So I bought a grafting knife, parafilm, rubber bands, the whole set. I think the knife is a Victorinox. What a relief to know it’s not me.

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The Due Buoi and Antonini knives have thicker handles (Due Buoi is 18mm to the Felco’s 12mm). Antonini’s Old Bear line are basically Opinel clones, and includes a grafting knife. Would probably have a similar handle, but I don’t trust that locking mechanism to keep it from wobbling while grafting. Also, Felco has a few wooden scaled models (such as the 512) that are made by a firm in Italy instead of Victorinox. I’m having trouble finding specs, but the handles do seem thicker from what I can see, more in line with the other Italian wood-scaled knives.

@garymc, I think those CAN be good, but the ones that are worth getting are pretty pricey. They’re also going to be harder to sharpen because of all the weird angles.

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My understanding is you can use anything that’s sharp, but a single bevel is easier to control and get that nice flat surface. This jives with my limited experience. The one thing I need to keep reminding myself of is that almost everything we have available is going to be better than whatever was available when they figured out grafting in the bronze age.

A lot of people seem to like their Opinels for grafting. I can see why: they’re thin-bladed, inexpensive, and look good. Opinels are also extremely easy to resharpen, but they don’t hold that edge as long as some other steels or the same steel at a higher hardness. Personally, I love the Opinel #8 in general (I have two!), but not for grafting.

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I tried the single bevel knife some yesterday. Definitely going to rework today. I have not observed much crushing with the double bevel knife. 60 grafts has not bothered it a bit.

So long as it’s sharp, I don’t think a double bevel would crush stems. It’s just that for most users it’s easier to keep control and have a nice flat edge. You CAN get a flat edge just fine with double bevel, just takes more skill and control.

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Well, if the grafts get unruly, I do have a Master Cutlery 34" 1095 HRC 64 bush sword with a 8 mm flat spine. That is insanely sharp. Sort of like a Katana and a Meat Clever got married and birthed it…lol

We use it for butchering.

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