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Using Grafting Knives

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Grafting KnifeA sharp knife is essential if you want to have good grafting results. Unlike other knives, grafting knives have thin, sharp, razor-like blades that are beveled on only one side to let the knife cut easily through tough, woody material with a flat cut that provides the most contact possible in the finished graft. While it can be costly, a grafting knife is a wise investment if you do a lot of propagation work.

To use a grafting knife, hold it lightly in your hand and rest your thumb along the back of the knife where the handle meets the blade for the most control. Only hold the knife as firmly as required for the job at hand. To cut across small branches, cut in the center of the blade. To make larger cuts, pull the branch closer to the handle to give yourself more leverage.

To cut scions from plants, use a single stroke through the branch. To trim scion tips for fitting into cleft grafts, hold the scion with the cut tip away and trim the tip on either side into a wedge shape.

To cleave branches or trunks for cleft or whip grafts, carefully force the edge of the blade into the center of the cut end of the branch and twist the knife handle to lever the split open. To cut a branch with a large diameter, carefully drive the blade edge into the wood with a small wooden or plastic mallet.

To receive scions when you are doing budding, make incisions in branch or trunk bark. Lift the bark away from the underlying pith wood with the dull back of the knife point. To remove buds from budsticks, slice quickly and cleanly under the bud. Start about ½ inch below the bud and finish ½ inch above it.

To girdle branches for air layering, place the edge of the grafting knife across the branch and roll it around the branch to score a ring around the bark down to the pith wood in two places. Then cut an incision from one ring to the other. Use the tip of the knife to lift and peel away the bark.

Trim leaves, flowers, and buds by cutting them off with short forward strokes. To cut large leaves to be left on cuttings, place the leaf on a wooden surface and stroke the knife across the leaf.

Use a sharpening stone to keep an edge on the knife blade. Clean and sharpen the blade after each use. Oil it regularly to prevent corrosion.

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