Making straight grafting cuts

One issue I seem to have is this…

When cutting my scionwood for insertion, I find it can be difficult to get a straight cut. It seems no matter what I do, it goes a bit “concave” to where the bottom of the “wedge” is actually wider than the middle of the cut.

It doesn’t “feel” to me like I am bending my arm outward as I cut, but it seems to happen a lot.

If I’m describing this correctly, does it happen to any of you? How do I avoid it?

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Make sure you are using a single bevel blade, sharpened only on one side.

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Which side should be “up” (away from the wood) when cutting? The beveled side or the straight side?

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I’m new to this, so take it with a grain of salt. While practicing this winter, I found that while a single bevel blade helps, how sharp the blade is matters way more for getting a flat cut. My impression is that the big advantage of a single bevel blade is that it increases the effective sharpness, not any magic about having a flat side. If you are using a single bevel knife, you want it to be bevel up to maximize ‘bite’. I also noticed that having a blade that is at least 2 1/2" is very helpful, and should have as straight an edge as possible.

Any knife you use should be sharpened at least to an extra fine level (1000 grit diamond, 4000 grit Japanese water stone, or hard Arkansas [yes, these are all approximately the same]), but finer is better. Also when sharpening, it should be sharp enough to shave coming off the coarser grits, then refined from there.

If you’re not already, you want to make sure you’re drawing the knife perpendicular to the cut instead of just pushing. The slicing action is more efficient and gives you more control over the cut. This is where the bade length comes in to play. You should also be moving the stick to enhance this action.

It’s also good to make sure you’re holding the knife correctly and supporting there back of the cut. I found this video from @SkillCult helpful:

https://youtu.be/B32nKvZMzFY

@Barkslip, feel free to contradict any or all of this.

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Awesome video! Thanks!

I have cut myself in the past making grafting cuts. One time it was E.R-worthy. So this is good info.

I have a new grafting knife, along with a bunch of cut wood from pruning that I’m going to practice on. I’m still about a month away from actual outdoor grafting time.

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If,even after all your practice with a knife isn’t enough when it comes time to do the real thing this season,maybe pick up a utility cutter.
I have these.They came as a kit, about 2 and 4 inch and were $6 clearance at Lowes.They’re probably not available there anymore,but other companies make something similar.When doing a whip and tongue,a knife is used to make the tongue,but it might be possible,with practice,to do it with the cutter.bb

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I hear ya. I watched part of his video until where he has his hands touching all parts of the scion stick and knife. Everything is really close together in his hand.

It’s going to be different Jay if you’re benchgrafting trees bagged in moist paper towels. The root systems get in the way and therefore I lay them on a table and look from above down on them to make my whip while basically holding onto the root collar. I also “taught myself” not to put my thumb on the stick. I never move my thumb during a cut but my thumb is locked tight and I don’t know maybe an inch away from the stick. Then I pull that cut really hard. There are times with skinny sticks that I may use my thumb (holding the material to be cut) to stop the knife blade. Again, I feel I do what’s necessary for each particular(s).

I 100% disagree w/you about no bevel because it’s the bevel that guides the blade more accurately as it finds a path of grain to follow. Whereas- a blade sharpened on both ends or (utility blade) provides two faults: 1) you have less control - therefore you have more of a chance of hurting yourself or 2) again, your knife (with any persons direction and speed) pulling thru a cut can put you off track going into another section of grain and the end result is not completely flat.

Let’s talk knives real quick. The skinnier the blade the less chance also of warping the stick. I have a big cotton sampler Schatt & Morgan that was ground into a single-bevel and is razor sharp but it tapers from skinny of course at the sharp end of the blade and becomes pretty thick at the top. That thickness literally can cause tearing of anything above the bevel. That’s tough to describe but imagine how an axe blade or wedge for cutting wood works: It “Opens Up” a pathway where the grain being followed in no other words is not FLAT. lol. So that’s how I’m trying to get to my point.

Thee only and best grafting knife most anyone will ever need is the Tina 605. It is the most comfortable and best-built knife there is. It’s a minimum of 2 or 3 times as heavy as that Victornix “florists knife” and that extra heaviness gives you a lot more stability as you make your cuts. I can’t tell you that, you have to feel it for yourself. There’s such a difference.

All the best to all,

Dax

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I agree 100% that the single bevel is better. I guess my point that I’m trying to make is that a properly sharpened double bevel is better than a dull single bevel.

You seriously should write a book. You could call it “Modern Grafting: Going Nuts for Plant Propagation”

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I guess you are using a straight blade knife. There is a reason why there are different types of grafting knifes. The right type for what you are doing is curved blade knife, something like Tina 615. It’s easier to make a flat cut with a curved blade.

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thanks @jcguarneri for linking my video. watching it again, I think that is all sound advice and wouldn’t add anything off the top of my head. with skill, grafts can be made with all manner of knives, including those which are not that sharp. My mantra is skills over gear. but it certainly helps to have a good tool for the job, which is very sharp. I do think single bevel knives make some difference, but it is of minimal importance. It’s a control thing, I think having to do with the amount of surface contact between the wood and the blade, more being better. grafting isn’t always uniform pencil sized stocks. It can be 1/8 inch scions with close joints in the top of a tree, or making slashing cuts into the side of a limb above your head, making flat cuts, compound cuts, sloping cuts, matching compound cuts on stock and scion etc. etc. the thing that will serve us best in all of these situations is skill and practice with a knife. No, I can’t do all that with a cheap, dull, soft knockoff marine combat knife with a chrome plated blade that cost 14.99 at the flea market. But, almost any of it can be done with say an opinel or swiss army knife, sharpened on both sides.

I recommend the victorinox florist knife. It is cheap, highly visible (probably would have lost mine the other day if it wasn’t neon yellow), thin bladed, and comes razor sharp out of the box. It doesn’t have a bud flap lifter, but only pros might actually need that for efficiency. You can get more control with the forward inertia of a heavy knife, but it shouldn’t be necessary. It’s light, lays flat in the pocket and it just works. My favorite grafting knife was a single bevel one that I made with a file from a sawed off old hickory knife, but I lost it.

As to making flat cuts and one pass cuts… don’t expect to make every single cut in one pull. It’s nice, but very difficult to do consistently. It’s also not that important. It’s nice to make the perfect cut in one pass, but there are all sorts of thing to prevent it, from how hard the stock is, how thick and of course how much we graft. The important thing is that you end up with good fits when they are compressed. cuts can be somewhat convex, somewhat propeller shaped, etc and still fit close when squeezed. That can involve multiple passes if necessary. The closer we can get to one pull cuts the better and that shows a lot about skill, but I frequently make multiple pass cuts, “whittling” the stock down with a few cuts until it’s right. what matters is whether it fits when the pieces are put together and put under whatever pressure they are going to be put under, like nailing or wrapping.

And just a rant about mechanical grafting tools. grafting tools probably have a place in production, but they are really the antithesis of the skills over gear mentality, an expensive, bulky and inelegant solution that only fills a small portion of our needs in grafting relatively uniform stocks in a certain size range (I’m assuming, never used one). I prefer a small, light, folding, blade, 2-1/2 to 3 inches long with a single bevel and sheeps foot end. the victorinox floral knife I can put in my pocket literally all day and never notice it’s there and I’m very unlikely to need to grab any other knife to do all kinds of grafting. I not infrequently use the opinel that is in my pocket, rarely razor sharp, to do a quick graft, because I can make it work. https://youtu.be/dP-5gD3QoUA?t=1278 elegant solutions are typically better solutions. The best advice I can give any new grafter is to use knives to cut wood more. Any carving or wood cutting will build knife skills and control, but especially practicing on prunings making different types of grafts. That investment in comfort, skill and ioverall competence with knives will make much more possible and also make for much safer grafting in the awkward situations we sometimes find ourselves in facing real life situations. Skill with a knife is often the limiting factor for new grafters, not the tool, and the best tool will not make up enough for lack of skill. cutting wood with knives is fun and ti’s a skill that serves in other areas, so make some chips!

The sharpening grafting knives video I did in that series right before the safety video has pretty much everything anyone really needs to know about sharpening tools. https://youtu.be/5p3NMKPe8KM If knife use and skill is a major limiting factor in grafting, ability to sharpen is a pre-limiting factor to that. But again, that is a skill that serves broadly and is worth investing in. If you don’t have stones and don’t want to buy them, some sharpening can be done very well with fine grit emery papers glued to a small flat board. but the victorinox floral and king whetstone I recommend can be bought on amazon right now for 18.00 and 20.00 and are a good investment. If you sharpen well on the 1000 side of the king stone and strop well on a leather strop (easy to make, glue leather flesh side up on a small board) with polishing compound, that will be plenty sharp. I would also encourage people with a small thin, quality pocket knife, or other thin knife or opinel etc. to try using that instead of buying a grafting knife. but I do like my grafting knives since I do a lot of it, and I do prefer the sheeps foot for making bark slices and having more straight blade length for slashing slope cuts.

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I liked your videos, and have some questions. So do you wet these stones first? Not sure I saw anything on that? Also you hardly see it anymore, but what about the use of honing oil? I’m not new to grafting or sharpening, I just want to make sure I’m using these tools correctly. I think I am as my knives cut very well! I rely on sharp kitchen knives too since I cook, and to fillet my catch too. Which of course you need as sharp as a razor if you don’t want to lose meat. I use lot’s of things that need sharpening. From your videos, I learned a lot though thanks!

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The first grip you show in your video is called the chest lever or scissor grip in woodcarving, you can get a little more power using your shoulder and back muscles by bringing your elbows backwards instead of outwards. Nice video!

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I have to disagree in a gentleman’s way. The skill achieved with a Tina 605 vs. a Victorinix from the start if I were to have been handed one of the other would’ve been unfair in the end. That’s truth speaking. I have no other words to express that, Steven.

I agree with everything. I screw around and make cuts so damn long sometimes that I have to come back with the knife and take 1/3 or more off of it and then whip to that point. And I’ll jack around and look at it again and maybe do it again. I throw away maybe (1) bud in every 50? I don’t know, but a lot.

That’s all I can add without seeming a jerk. Which I['m not.

Dax

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Respect brother, respect.

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I don’t use oilstones and if I ever have any, I use water with them. Once you use oil, you can’t really use water anymore. those are waterstones and yeah, they are presoaked for a short time. the coarse ones slurp up a lot of water, and even the fine. Usually you need to slop a splash on occasionally too.

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well, I’m a minimalist. I used to carry a heavy grafting knife and it always annoyed me in the pocket. I still have it, but never use it. I like cheap solutions that work and most of my grafting is in the field, up trees quite a bit, frameworking etc. florist knife works for me well enough that I don’t need to look elsewhere. I also tend to use one axe for everything though and am not a professional. If I were benchgrafting nursery stock all day, I might feel different though and want to refine my gear for highest efficiency.

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It may also have a lot to do with what you are grafting.

If you are doing apples, you can use a blunt knife, make ragged cuts and the graft will likely take.

It’s harder with persimmon and I assume with nuts as well.

I just looked it up. Wow, 100.00. I could not justify spending 100.00 on a grafting knife with the grafting I do and would certainly never recommend it to the average backyard orchardists learning to graft.

Unbelievable and ungentlemanly, Steven. I don’t know why two lively-confident but not knowing each other but going on trust that I offered a persimmon graft or more or anything I also offered and offered shipping and “light reading” upon your videos you asked that anyone purchasing from Amazon use your special link where you get incentives for your representation. You think that mere 90$ I spent for that knife if the reason I recommended it? LIfe is never about money my friend. Be good.

I sincerely hope we reconcile in time frames that mean nothing.

Your friend, as-always.

Dax