Favorite garden tool: Opinel No.8 grafting knife

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.


5 thoughts on “Favorite garden tool: Opinel No.8 grafting knife

  1. Both my budding and grafting knives are made by Tina. I have not worn them out because I do not use them very often. My favorite too is my Corona shears from 1985, when they were still made in Corona! Anyone who insists that Felco, Fiskars or any other is better if full of hooey. I use my shears more than anyone, and I know better than anyone. Some are so ridiculously fancy, and no one uses them to their full potential. They pamper them. I am quite rough with mine, and they do not care. It is jut like with cars. My neighbors in the 1990s bragged about how well their BMWs ‘could’ perform, but no one drove them in such a manner that they would ever experience the potential of what the cars were capable of doing. My 1976 F250 outlasted all of them, and did everything that I ever needed it to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant! I don’t know why I never thought to just carry a pocketknife rather than wish I had the pruners with me… which I usually don’t, because they are a danger to just throw in a pocket, and easily lost if put down instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of my first knives was a Laguiole that I bought while on holiday in Nice thirty years ago. I keep it in a drawer now, because I don’t want to risk losing it. When I’m not gardening, I usually carry an Opinel no. 8 with regular blade and an olive wood handle, but I think my most beautiful knife is Le Thiers par Chambriard. I love the shape and the carving on the back spring.

      Liked by 1 person

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