How to Use a Grafting Knife


For those that do a lot of work propagating plants, a quality grafting knife, while not cheap, is a an essential tool for good grafting results. Grafting knives are different from other knives. They have sharp, razor-like blades that are beveled on one side and flat on the other. The knife makes cuts through tough, woody material easily with a flat cut that provides the highest level of contact in a graft.

Step 1

Work with a grafting knife by holding it lightly in the hand. Rest the thumb along the spine of the knife where the handle meets the blade for greater control. Grip the knife only as firmly as is needed to do the job. For cuts across small branches, cut in the center of the blade. For better leverage when cutting larger branches, move the branch closer to the handle.

Step 2

Cut scions from plants using a single stroke of the knife through the selected branch. Trim scion tips for fitting into cleft grafts by holding the scion with the cut tip away and trim the tip on either side to form a wedge shape.

Step 3

Cleave branches or trunks for cleft or whip grafts by carefully forcing the edge of the blade into the center of the cut end of the branch. Twist the handle of the knife to lever the split open. For large-diameter branches, use a small wooden or plastic mallet to carefully drive the blade edge into the wood.

Step 4

Make incisions in branch or trunk bark for receiving scions when doing budding. Use the dull back of the knife point to lift the bark away from the underlying pith wood. Remove buds from budsticks by slicing quickly and cleanly under the bud, starting about 1/2 inch below the bud and finishing 1/2 inch above it.

Step 5

Girdle branches for air layering by placing the edge of the grafting knife across the branch and rolling the knife around the branch to score a ring around the bark down to the pith wood in two places. Then make an incision from one ring to the other and use the tip of the knife to lift anf peel the bark away.

Step 6

Trim leaves, flowers and buds by slicing them off with short forward strokes. Cut large leaves to be left on cuttings by placing the leaf on a wooden surface and stroking the knife across the leaf.


  • Earthworks
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
  • Orchard's Edge
Keywords: grafting knife, using a grafting knife, grafting knives

About this Author

Located in Jacksonville, Fla, Frank Whittemore has been a writer and content strategist for over 15 years, providing corporate communications services to Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics that stem from his fascination with nature, the environment, science, medicine and technology.