Among the many things that the French do with greater style and elegance than anyone else, I would list the crafting of pocket knives. Over the years, I have accumulated a small collection of French knives and am fond of them all, but the one that is currently seeing the most use is my most recent purchase: an inexpensive grafting knife made by Opinel.
Like the classic Opinel No.8 pocket knife, the grafting knife has a beechwood handle and virobloc, a steel collar that twists to lock the blade open or closed. The classic Opinel has a carbon steel blade, but in a concession to the amount of water that it will encounter in the garden, the blade of the grafting knife is stainless. The wooden handle is gently curved to accommodate the blade, and it fits most comfortably in my hand with the edge of the blade facing towards me.
For the price (approx. $25), this is the most useful garden tool I own. I don’t graft, but the knife makes short work of any light pruning, trimming, or flower cutting in the garden. Since the blade is usually facing towards me, a pulling motion feels most natural. The curved blade slices cleanly through fibrous stems that tend to be mashed or mangled by secateurs that aren’t perfectly sharp (and the knife is a lot easier to slip in a pocket than a pair of secateurs). It is also ideal for slicing open plastic bags of potting soil, cutting twine or rope, and harvesting vegetables.
Two minor modifications will make the knife even better. The wooden handles of Opinel knives tend to swell when wet, making the blade tight, so I always dip a new Opinel in linseed oil (after removing the virobloc) to make the handle more waterproof. While I have the virobloc collar off, I stretch it slightly with a pair of pliers so that it fits more loosely and can be twisted easily with a push of my thumb. If the collar becomes too loose, it can be tightened again by squeezing with the pliers until the fit is perfect.