Sharpening grafting knives

I tried a few grafts once with a non-beveled knife when I lost my grafting knife. It was nearly impossible for me to get a clean cut. I don’t know how anyone can graft that way. The beveled knife puts a completely flat surface against the wood, so the plane of the knife becomes the plane of the wood. You don’t just want a bevel on the blade, the knife should be completely flat on one side for the entire surface right up to the sharp. To make sure you have the right blade for your handedness, hold the knife in your hand with the sharp side toward you. The bevel should be outwards (on right side for right handers, left side for left handers).

One other advantage of a bevel is it is easier to sharpen. For one side its completely flat, you can ask your kids to sharpen that side its so easy. For the bevel it should be completely planar (if narrow) and you rock the knife until you have it totally flat and then stroke. If you are careful it will always stay flat and that flat can always be your guide for sharpening.

I make a good portion of my income sharpening. More on hair salon scissors then knives ($35 vs $4) A knife will work like a champ in a condition that would ruin hair scissors. So the old dude in the video gets a good functioning edge (according to him) after a very ugly process.

I use a folding Victorionox two blade grafting knife. $25-ish. You can still find them but they are not currently being brought into the US. I mostly use the blade with the straight edge. I also have a couple of fixed blade grafting knives, but don’t use them much.

The old dude in the video made one comment about Henkels and is Sharpening a Foershner (Foershner now Victorinox which also owns Swiss Army). These are all German and he thinks that is a big deal. But it’s not. Neither is Swedish or Japanese. The most innovative steel company in the world is Crucible, an American company. There are several great steel companies in the world, each has many patents, but raw materials are not exclusive to any region or country. Furthermore the steels used in any of these knives are more then 50 year old formulas.

The stone the old dude uses is changing the angle a great deal depending on where he is on the stone. This is not all bad as it gives a convex edge, which helps a blade pass through material more easily. But there is no way to know the angle the actual cutting edge is. But by the time he is done, I am sure quite steep.

Back to sharpening, the Lansky system Olpea uses is a much better idea. If you are willing to spend more for a better system, get the Edge Pro… I carry a $200 pocket knife, I only sharpen it on Edge Pro.

The Ken Onion Work Sharp is by far the best electric system on the market. But keep the speed down and learn to use it on junk knives.

I can give pointers on either of the systems I recommend if anyone asks, but I have typed enough for now.

One, final thing. to test how sharp you knife is: hold a piece of paper hanging from one hand and put your knife near your hand and push down. A sharp knife will glide through the paper. A sorta’ sharp knife will cut the paper but not so easily. Also, when you are cutting, slowly pull the knife away so that you can test the full length of your blade


I sharpen my grafting knife by hand, start on a 400 grit diamond to flatten the bottom and bevel, then work the bevel on soft 750 grit whetstone and then hard Arkansas stone. I re-sharpen after about 50 grafts. This has worked for me. I’m quite happy with the A.P. Leonard grafting knife I purchased a year ago as well

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cckw…he thinks German steel is a big deal because everyone thinks that. Henkel knives are known by pretty much everyone the world over. Name a American cutlery company you can say that of…just one. Henkel is only one of several good knife companies there. I’m not saying you are wrong by any means. sounds like you know knives, but let’s be real. For an American to say a American company is the most innovative smells like homerism.
He also likes to use Old Hickory stuff.

Appleseed, I find it odd you would take issue with my statement on Crusible. They are a huge company with a lot of R&D money. They innovate a lot. So do others, but Crusible sits on top.

There are some bushcraft guys that scour yard sales for the Old Hickory stuff because it is 1095 steel. Some of them bring it to me to sharpen and fix tips or other problems. But none of these knives are any big deal, No matter the country of origin. ALthough on the subject of Old Hickory. If you get them at a yard sale for a buck you can do a lot of abusive work with them and not worry about it.

Buck is a widely known knife brand. Many people think a Buck 110 pocket knife is a big deal. It was in 1979. But conventional wisdom dies hard.

My favorite pocket knife is a ZT 0801BW. It is an American made knife. the handle material is titanium, the blade steel is Elmax. Elmax a product of Uddeholm, a Swedish steel company. I am also very fond of M390 steel, made by Bohler (Austrian) I have a custom made hunting knife in M390 that is awesome at edge holding, I love the knife. But, Crusible S90V or S110V are better then M390 and Elmax. S90v and S110v are harder to work with, so fewer knives are made with them. But these are all top tier very modern knife steels.

cckw…I didn’t “take issue” so to speak. I’m just pointing out that your comment seemed to indicate the grafter was not knowledgeable on the subject because he mentioned German steel and implied quality material. This is not a comment or belief without merit. We as Americans tend to see the accomplishments of home based companies while ignoring their shortcomings. German steel (and German manufacturing in general) has a long history of high quality that still exists today. I’ve personally seen the difference in American vs. German 430 bright annealed sheet and the German stuff is on a whole different level. I don’t like to admit that, but I’m honest and it’s just simply vastly superior in every single regard. This is well known. Now I don’t know how that translates to other steels etc, but just mentioning one related aspect of it that I’ve witnessed.
Buck btw is NOT a fine cutlery company, they are the epitome of over rated, supposedly, American companies.
It’s not about knowing how to do something, as you say it’s known to pretty much everyone…it’s in the doing. Chrysler knows how to build quality cars just as Honda does. One of those car companies actually does build good cars, the other does not. It’s all about execution. Just an analogy.


What do you think of Tina grafting knives? I had always heard they were some of the best quality grafting knives, but do you know if that’s still true?

Sharpening is a wear process just like dulling is. So one gives you a sense of the other. But is not precise. I only have a few people that I do grafting knives for, but one guy has quite a few, and the Tinas were the better acting ones.

As a side note Olpea, on your Lansky do a first step and a less steep angle. so that your blade does not get thick so close to the edge. So if you are doing a 40 (or 45) degree angle (vs the flat side, because you only sharpen one side) Do a 25 degree for a little bit, first coarse then through the grits and polish. Now on to your 40. When you are done you will have the strength of the 40 degree edge but be thinner behind the edge for an easier pass through the material. This thinning behind the edge adds to the feel of sharpness in use.

Another side note. A pocket knife would be sharpened to 30 or 40 degrees total, so 15 or 20 per side. A cheaper knife is better at 40. Kitchen knives generally 30.

Knives from the factory are not especially consistent in angle, so don’t think it’s you when you see that.

One final note, there is “burr” hanging from the edge of a blade you sharpened. If you don’t get this removed it will act dull. Dragging it backwards on leather or cardboard alternating sides will get this off. Sometimes it is really stubborn. But take comfort in that. a rule of thumb is that stubborn burr indicates better steel then an easy burr. Slice paper to test your progress

I look at my sharpening work with reading glasses most of the time. $10 at walmart 2x power.

Thanks cckw. Those sharpening tips make a lot of sense!

Hi Guys,

A few friends asked me several times how i keep my grafting knives sharp (as they saw in my grafting videos).
Instead of explaining, over and over, i decided to make a video about how i sharpen my grafting knives.

I am no expert at sharpening but, in just a few minutes, my japanese stones return my grafting knives to an acceptable condition (after the pounding i give them during the busy months).

Here it is - hope it helps a few fellow grafters:


So nicely done! Thanks.

Jeff, check his new channel “All About Grafting”. I recall the episode you’re referring to.

My favorite grafting knife is a Hyde high speed steel mill blade,that I inherited from my grandfather.he worked in the rubber factory and used these in there to cut rubber. This knife will hold an edge for an amazingly long time. And can be sharpened to a incredibly sharp edge.
Last spring I sharpened it at the beginning of the grafting season. After several hundred grafts, it will still shave hair off of my arm better than most other knives freshly sharpened .
It is profiled such that it is flat on both sides , thick as a nickel at the back spine. Flat on both sides all the way to the edge, very thin razor edge

This is a pic of it with the green Regis handle
I had the handle wrapped in blue flagging tape for years . Unwrapped it the other day and was pleasantly surprised to see it was made in grafton Oh.
This is no ordinary knife ,does not look like much, but it is my prized possession .
It occurred to me that I needed back up ,in case I were to lose it.
Have bought several on eBay at real good prices.
Dexter, Regis , Hyde , are names to look for,
The blades can be of various alloys , I recommend high speed steel.
I turn the blades around and reprofile the edge on the other end of the blank.
This is a real project . This is the hardest steel I have tried to work, and takes a lot more time than your normal knife to reprofile / sharpen.
But the result is so worth it.

I also bought some other knives to try.


I got 3 victorinox knives stainless , could be good to carry , and for back up ,but this stainless does not hold an edge like the high speed steel , easy to sharpen,
Still these look ok for $ 20
(Top three in pick)
Then I got 2 Opinel knives. # 6 and # 8
The # 6 has a short handle with a prominent "bump " at the back that would wear a hole in my hand alter repeated use.
The # 8 is much more comfortable in my hand.
These blades are the carbon steel ones, seem like very good steel.
Thin blades, I think they will be good. And cheap ! About $12

Then there is the Antonini farm carbon steel.about $20
This looks like a real good knife for the $.
Well made ,good steel, I like this knife.
The blade is kind of hard to open , is its only fault.

Some more mill blades at the bottom of pic.

Here is a pic of a high speed steel ( HSS) blade I re profiled today,
" it was snowing "
Notice the reflection of the print in the bevel.
I use many different things to sharpen , mostly free hand.
Diamond hones.many different grits of stone , many grits of sand paper on my stones.
The last is 2000
I believe in very sharp knives. Better unions, less cell damage. Quicker healing. Learning to sharpen properly is a challenge ,


Notes on knives;

Sharp knives + fingers = be carful !

“Some” people should just not play with knives

Kevlar gloves may be a good investment .?

If you are just learning to graft .you need to decide if you are going to cut with the knife facing you ? Or like momma said ,cut away from you ?
This is personal preference , I have seen it done both ways.
The choise will determine which side of the blade the bevel is on. When you by or resharppen this is important , and con fussing.
The flat side goes toward the wood ( that you are keeping)
Beveled side is where the waste comes off.
When I cut scions I use my thumb under the scion as a rest to keep the twig from bending, knife facing me. But my knife never really moves.
Rather I pull the scion away from the knife. My thumb never moves relative to the knife. This is the only way I can get nice flat ,straight cuts…
Cutting away from myself , I could not do this.
So in the pic. Below ,my knife has the bevel on top , flat on the bottom,
And I am pulling the scion away from me,with my left hand. Right elbow stuck in my ribs so the knife never moves.
So befor you sharpen your grafting knife you need to decide which way you are going to cut.if you cut away from yourself , your knife would be sharpened the opposite way of mine.



Of all the knives I have listed above, none of them come close to the high speed steel mill blade in its ability to hold a razor sharp edge.
No matter how I sharpen the other knives, they never become as sharp as the mill blade. And it stays sharp.
What I understand is that high speed steel was developed to cut other steel. Wood is no challenge for it. Sharpening it is a challenge .as it is so hard.
I hear there are even some better alloys available , but expensive , and don’t know a affordable source .i find these mill blades affordable .
I think any of the above knives and others, properly sharpened , are way better than a razor box cutter, and will improve your success .
Since it is to cold to graft, I am honing my sharpening skills, and getting ready to cut stuff.
My rule is: if you cannot shave hair off your arm with your knife, it’s not sharp enough for grafting.



How do i know what stone have the highes grit?





The white stone is new and have grit 6000

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I write the grits on the side of my Japanese stones with a sharpe marker.


The smoother they are the higher the grit, and the finer and slower the sharpening.

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Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but getting prepared for grafting season.

@cckw and @Olpea, at what angle do you like to sharpen your grafting knife? Are you saying the very edge should be 45 degrees? That seems like a blunt angle but I’m no expert.

I was practicing sharpening an old dull single beveled pocket knife I found in a drawer before hitting my new victorinox. I got the edge to a shaving sharp 16 degree angle (which was the narrowest angle I could achieve with the geometry of my sharpener). I rolled the edge after a couple test cuts - so either the steel is not good or the angle is too fine. When comparing the bevel vs the factory bevel on the victorinox it looks almost twice as wide, so a much steeper angle apparently…