What do you look for in the ultimate grafting knife

There are several grafting knife threads here at GF and I’ve participated in several of them. I have my own opinions on what I like in a grafting knife and would like to know what features you prefer. I’ve made custom knives for several years now but I’ve never made a grafter. Mostly drop point hunters and skinning knives. But I think a custom grafter would be a nice little project. I’m thinking 1095 high carbon steel straight blade with a single bevel. Burled maple handle. Similar style to the Tina knives. Long handle with a shorter blade for more control. I don’t care to bud much so a bud flap opener is probably unnecessary for me.

I have a single bevel victorinox and an Opinel #6 I’ve used along with a good old fashioned box cutter.

What do you guys like?

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I don’t know the steels very well, but I’ve played a little with knife making using “road-kill” steel: used saw blades (L-6?), steel from torsion bars, coil or leaf springs, railroad spikes, and the race from a ball bearing. It’s helpful to know what you’re working with so you don’t break it in the quench, and I did when I water quenched an anvil hardy I’d spent hours forging.

Ball bearing steel is tough, durable, and takes a great edge with work. I cobbled together a couple of grafting knives out of hacksaw blades, and I think with care you could make good knives with them. Mine were just “OK”. If you don’t have a forge heat treating is difficult, but small blades can be held at a high enough temperature with a propane torch, and with some steels will air quench. Tempering is touchy with small, thin blades. I quench the hot steel edge down, moving it back and forth until it quits quivering, and then submerge the rest of the blade. Try to leave the tine unquenched. I like to heat a piece of bar in the forge and then rest the back of the blade on it, letting the heat travel to the edge. Aim for a peacock, but purple is easier to sharpen and holds an edge reasonably well.

For the quenching liquid use water if you can, brine if water isn’t right, oil if you have to. I know a shop that uses transmission fluid but I’ve never tried it. Oil can be OK but it sure can be hard to clean off the steel before tempering.

Burled maple would be a nice handle, any of the fruit or nut woods. Apricot and plum make beautiful handles.

Sorry I didn’t address your actual question- but I think knives like the Tina are a great model. It would have to have a fixed blade- couldn’t do a folder to save my life!

That’s all I know about knife making and maybe a little more! Good luck.



Thanks Mark. Sounds like you’d played around with baldes a lot too. You are correct there are a lot of good scrap items to use for making knife blades. Circular saw blades are great for thin bladed knives and would likely work perfectly for a grafting knife. I do have a big box of blade steel I bought from Jantz several years ago. Lots of good steel in there. 1080 is very easy to heat treat so it’s my go to steel. I’ve used lawn mower blades and even spring steel from bed frames. All of the knives I’ve made have been via stock removal. I do have a small forge I built out of the lightweight K26 fire bricks that works well. But I’ve never used it for actual forging. Only for heat treating. Speaking of I always use veg oil for quenching. I’ve never tried water as it has a bad reputation for damaging blades.

A fruitwood handle is a great idea. Would make sense to come full circle and use apple or pear wood. I’ve made knives with black cherry which is beautiful but not exactly a fruit wood. I’ve always tossed around the idea of making my own micarta. Lots of neat stuff I could mix with resin. I bet crushed up red maple leaves during autumn would be great.


I like the Victorinox knives and have two of them. I like the fact that
they stay sharp and fold into the handle, which makes them
safer to use than an open blade knife. I don’t chip bud either,
but I find the bark lifter very useful in doing bark grafts.

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A pretty handle would be nice…but…
What I look for is good steel.

This is where I would recommend to start.
As I said in my post on sharpening grafting knifes…
This steel , which I believe is “M2 high speed steel "
Is truly amazing in its wear resistance, and its razor sharp edge .
No other knife I have seen even comes close !
(” custom grafter would be a nice little project ")
Well this is not "a little "project ,!
This stuff is hard, and very time consuming to re profile.
Ag good project for a cold day like today.
New blanks of this "Hyde high speed steel "can be bought on line,
I am working with old stock
I do a lot of grafting,… And I want a “very " sharp knife,that will " stay " sharp. This is the best I have found yet.
Here are some pics.of some in various stages of reworking.

The 3rd one down is " my” knife
The others I am making as “back up”
If you have the skill to work this steel.? ( I am still learning )
I think you will be very happy with the result.

And “yes” a nice fruit wood handle would be so cool !


You are right! M2 is the holy grail. I’ve never had access to it or made anything from it. The hardest steel I’ve used is O1 and D2 tool steel. It’s harder to work with than 1095 which I find is the best balance between workability and holding an edge. If I ever come across a saw blade or anything else made of M2 I will try my hand with it.

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Not sure if this is the same as mine, ? I buy used ones on eBay .
But $12 new

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Ok,… Thanks to @speedster1 for starting this post last night,
I thought , well it’s a cold day,…
I might as well make another knife …
From a flat ground high speed steel blank.

2hrs. On a low speed electric, fine , grinding wheel, with Dimond powder…
Dipped in ice water between Each pass…
I profiled it flat on both sides,thick as a nickel at the back.
Flat on both sides , down to a very fine edge
After 2+ hrs I finally got to where I had a "bur "…
Meaning I was getting to a edge.
This was not sharp by any means when I started
There was NO edge .
Rather it was a raw piece of steel with a rough profile …
At this point I started , by hand , going through different grits of sand paper ,
Using them like a sharpening stone
220 grit … After the first pass I could shave. With it
Stopp with compound
Nicely polished !
This may be the best one yet ! ,! ,!

Knives made out of this type of steel can cost $200- $300 dollars.!,
The blank cost ~ $10
Takes a long cold day to make one.

I am going to call it my "
light saber "


Awesome hillbilly. Call it the grafting scalpel!

Those handles look like they would feel comfortable in the hand.

Yes , they are comfortable .
They where made for factory work.
Not real pretty… , but functional .

One note is that ;
Hyde, Dexter, and Rigis made ( make) this type of knife,some blades are different widths. And lengths . … So not all interchangeable.
Also , the blades can be of different alloys.

I don’t want to sound like some knife ( steel) expert here

I am not !

I just lucked into a high speed steel knife, and was amazed .
There are many different good ( better ? ) steels out there, for knife making.
Many of which are very expensive .
These " mill knives" have been used in industry for many years,and are affordable .


This is a good question ?
I believe the answer is …
…it just depends …
on the steel, and how often you resharpen . And the hardness of what you are cutting
Paw paw is very soft, citrus very hard.
First let me say that " new knife I just made has a 10 deg angle .
That is more like you would sharpen a razor.
This steel will work good at that angle. And hold that edge.
“Most will not.”
20 deg is possibly the recommended angle for “most knives.”
If thinner than that ,the edge may chip or curl and /or need honeing /sharpening more often."
Most of the common stainless knives I think need a wider angle, if to thin they will curl.
Harder carbon steel may be best at narrower angle , thinner , but they may chip if to thin .
Keeping a leather strop in the grafting kit ,helps to touch up if doing a lot.
So it just depends on the steel.
This is why I love that high speed steel .
I can sharpen it to a razor edge, it has not chipped or curled and keeps that sharp edge.


I made one from O1, bought 1/2" x 1/8" stock and shaped it with a bench grinder then a bastard file, then diamond stones and wet/dry sandpaper. Did the heat treat with a propane torch in a rocket stove I have made out of a log. Was a little worried because I read O1 can be tricky, needs a long soak and can warp during quench, but it turned out fine. It has a flat grind, something like a 10 degree bevel, amazing how well it cuts, I only use it for very thin scions and watermelons. I use various scandinavian grind carving knives for everything else since that is what I’m comfortable with. I might make another with a less aggressive edge out of the rest of the bar.


I used ironwood for the handle, and 5/8" orchard tubing with a collar of silicone hose for a sheath.


I like it!


A discarded planer blade makes a surprisingly good source of steel for a knife. I happen to have two blades removed from my planer last year that are about to be converted to grafting knives. I don’t know what type steel they are made from, but to hold an edge on a planer suggests one of the better grades.

The handle is very important for a grafting knife. Cutting smooth bevels and angles requires fine motor control which can only be had with a relatively large handle. Note the knives shown above, most of them have relatively large handles to enable grafting. I have a never ending supply of good quality black walnut from which to make knife handles. I want a relatively hard rot resistant wood for the handle.

The width of the blade is determined by the size rootstock and scion to be cut. I watched a team of 5 grafting pecans in SouthWest Georgia last weekend. The guy cutting the rootstock had a knife with a handle at least a foot long by an inch diameter with a blade about 3.5 inches long by 3/4 inch wide. The rootstock trees varied in diameter from about 1/2 inch up to 7/8 inch with most around 3/4 inch. Working from this, grafting with smaller diameter wood suggests a blade 1/2 inch wide would be desirable.

I’ve tried several different bevel angles over the years. The best for me has been between 14 and 17 degrees.



[quote=“Fusion_power, post:16, topic:20059”]
(" A discarded planer blade makes a surprisingly good source of steel for a knife…
to hold an edge on a planer suggests one of the better grades. .")

Yes, I bet that is some good stuff !
Think of how many cuts that blade makes,… On the length of a board…
And will stay sharp board after board. , of dry oak !
More cuts that you could make by hand in a lifetime !
Let us know how " easy" that is to profile.
That may make the " ultimate " grafting knife ?

Over on the knife forums they have done extensive edge holding testing and found the best to be the advanced powder metallurgical steels CPM S90V and CPM 154, or the Bohler K390 and M390. Expensive and very dependent on rather precise heat treatment regiment.

Oh, left out S110V.


What knife forums would those be?


Blade forums .com is one.
Here is a nice page :


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