Sharpening grafting knives

A couple months ago, Brady started a thread Bonsai Knife for Grafting - #8 by Olpea about grafting knives.

In that thread Brady inquired how my newly purchased Lansky sharpening system worked out for me. I’ve had a chance to use the system and so thought I’d report back. It’s somewhat important grafting knives remain sharp for best results, and this is grafting season.

I’m not anywhere near a knife or knife sharpening expert, so your not going to get an expert’s review here. Just a regular guy who needs a good sharp grafting knife this time of year.

As I mentioned in the previous thread, I’m unable to sharpen a hard steel knife to a razor edge with a free-hand stone. I’ve been able to sharpen soft knife steel razor sharp, but not hard steel (especially stainless steel) free-hand on a stone. I’m sure there are some experts who can sharpen hard knife steel to a razor edge via free-hand, but I’m not one of them.

As an aside, when it comes to sharpening knives, lots of men claim they are great at knife sharpening on a free-hand stone, but more often than not, it’s their testosterone speaking, not logic. It’s simply harder to maintain a constant angle “free-hand” vs. one of these sharpening systems (constancy of angle is key to getting a sharp edge). When it comes to guns and knives, I’ve found most men allow their testosterone speak louder than their reason.

I looked at some relatively inexpensive sharpening “kits”. Mainly I looked at DMT and Lansky. Unlike freehand stones, these kits are designed to keep the blade/stone at a fixed angle during the sharpening process.

The DMT kit seemed too junky to me with their plastic clamp holder. I elected for the Lansky diamond kit (diamond stones last longer). I also purchased the ultra fine ceramic stone with the diamond kit I purchased.

I watched this video a few times to get some pointers how to use the kit:

This guy seems to know how to get the most out of the kit, so I followed his advice.

Now for my review.

Overall the Lansky kit is decent. In terms of the negatives, I don’t like the way Lansky changed the clamping system. Evidently, too many people complained the old clamping system wouldn’t hold the blade steady, so the new Lansky clamps have a sort of rubber built into the clamp to hold the blade. The problem is the rubber also allows the blade to move and flex during the sharpening process. This is an “engineering fix” which is worse than the original problem. As the guy in the video explains, the clamping problem of not holding the blade firmly in the original Lansky design can be easily overcome by applying a small amount of masking tape to the blade at the point where the clamp attaches. However, Lansky’s new fix to this problem, by building in a rubber pad in the clamp, allows the blade to move somewhat. This isn’t a huge problem, but it is a drawback.

I think next time I sharpen a knife, I will try to remove the rubber pads in the clamp, and just stick with putting masking tape on the blade to hold the blade firmly in the clamp.

The other thing I don’t like about the Lansky system is the case. The case is really cheap plastic. I had to duct tape it to hold it shut. This isn’t a huge deal because I want a knife sharpening system which gets knives sharp, not one with a perfect case. Still, if they could come up with a nice steel case, I’d be willing to pay extra for that, so the junky plastic case is a drawback.

Other than that, I was pretty pleased with the knife sharpening system. Since my grafting knife has a fairly short blade (lengthwise and edgewise) I couldn’t sharpen less than the 25 degree angle, but I think I’m OK with that.

It took about 20 mins to put a good edge on the grafting knife. When I was through, it wasn’t as sharp as a straight razor (which was a small disappointment) but it was still very sharp. I could shave the hair off my arm, but it dragged enough I wouldn’t want to try to use it on my face. :grinning:

In the end, I think the kit is decent, but I don’t like the rubber gasket on the clamp (which I think could be removed) and the cheap plastic case. Nevertheless, overall I think the kit is worth the money. It will sharpen hard knife steel significantly better than I could ever sharpen it free-hand.



I used to own a grafting knife and loss it somewhere in the orchard under the mud somewhere. I now use the box cutter and change a new blade every now and then. The box cutter gives me a nice sharpe cut every time with less multiple cuts. I love my box cutter now and will not buy another grafting knife.


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Does the box cutter have a one sided blade? If not does that ever cause issues?


Just a Stanley box cutter with both sided blade. I usually buy a 50 blades refill at Home Depot and that will last me for a long time. I am getting comfortable at it and just one or two cuts and the scion is ready to insert into the bark graft.



I like the idea of razor sharp box cutter blades, and think they are worthwhile. The disadvantage I’ve found is that they are a bit too flexible.

I’ve found a “thicker” knife blade makes a straighter cut. I think that offers a chance for slight better success. I used to use “break off” razor blades which are very sharp, but even flimsier than “Stanley” razor knife blades.

In the end, I think temps/timing are the most critical factor for graft/budding takes, so the discussion of the best tools is secondary to that. If I hadn’t have purchased this Lansky knife sharpening system, I’d have stayed with either the break off razor blades or the razor knife Stanley type pyramid shaped blades.

Olpea…you and I are of identical opinions on knife sharpening. I’ve never been able to get anything super sharp, but my brother sharpened some different things for me a few years ago and all were razor sharp. Even did the knife in my Leatherman (low carbon stainless steel). He has a Lansky kit also and also can and does sharpen some things free hand. You are spot on about the testosterone deal too.

I also prefer the box cutter like Tony for the same reasons. I too tried the snap off blades and they are way too flexible. I cannot imagine though that you find a box cutter blade too flexible.
I do also wish that someone would manufacture a box cutter blade that was one-sided. I think they’d do-in the grafting knives if they ever did.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve tried a Stanley type blade and memory gets dull (pun intended). As I think back, probably the biggest drawback of the Stanley type blade is the really short length (when affixed in a razor knife holder).

As I say, the correct timing is the big deal. Now is the time in my area for pomes. Stonefruit are still some time away.

Many years ago I was given lessons in knife sharpening. An expert would watch me, check my work, point out bad spots, etc etc. Because of that I find I can get a much better edge by hand than with any apparatus.

I have a Lansky kit I bought 5-10 years ago. I don’t use it anymore, but I did find it handy for sharpening bread knives since it could do the bumps pretty well.

So, if you knew someone really good perhaps they could teach you. It is an art that requires training.


I tried using a utility knife at first, but I couldn’t put a long straight cut on the scion to save my life. More specifically, it wouldn’t start the cut at a low enough angle to make the long straight cut for bark grafting. I figured was the dual bevel so I bought a simple grafting knife with the single bevel. Problem fixed. Go figure, use the right tool for the job and get the right results.


I have a Corona sharpening tool, that’s extremely easy to use, and
it keeps all of my tools very sharp.

I agree on the length and I can see where a purpose designed knife is superior. 63chevyimpala makes his and there is a good video where he sharpens them and talks a lot about it…but I can’t seem to find it.


I used to have a grafting knife with a single bevel but lost it. All this discussion makes me want to try a single bevel knife again. I think I could easily put a single bevel on a knife with the Lansky kit, but I have a question about which side to put the bevel on.

When cutting the scion (holding the scion in my left hand and cutting away from me with my right) does the bevel go toward the inside (against the wood) or is the bevel on the outside? In other words, should I be able to see the bevel when cutting the scion, or not?

I would be interested to hear an answer to this question . My brother makes knives as a hobby and he said he would make me one if I told him what I wanted. I think it would be like a draw knife which is also beveled on one side. One way it makes a deep diving cut and you flip it over and you get fine thin shavings . It has been so long since I used one I don’t remember which way was which.

Just watched the video, I bet that knife was scary sharp when he was done. Every time I sharpen a knife it makes my wife uneasy , usually I am bleeding shortly.

haha…me too. My wife weirds out at the site of razor sharp things…she goes into full panic mode when I have one in my hand. :stuck_out_tongue:

Like you…I’m often bleeding at some point.

[quote=“Olpea, post:13, topic:891”]
When cutting the scion (holding the scion in my left hand and cutting away from me with my right) does the bevel go toward the inside (against the wood) or is the bevel on the outside? In other words, should I be able to see the bevel when cutting the scion, or not?
[/quote]The bevel is to the outside against the shaving. The flat side is to the inside against the scion.

Here is an okay grafting video from Dave Wilson Nursery:

From what I understand,The flat side of the blade should be against the wood.
Thanks for the writeup about the Lansky sharpener Olpea.It looks to be the best system in it’s price range. Brady

Agree completely with using box cutter, only took me 40 years to discover it.

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