Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What's in my grafting box?

    The pecan tree grafting season will soon be here. Before I cut a single tree,  I like to gather all the tools and supplies I'll need in a handy tool box that can easily be taken to the field (photo at right). I've used this box for over 30 years and what I really like about this particular box is the pull out drawer where I can store extra tools, parts and supplies. Let's take a closer look at what I carry along for grafting pecan trees.

    First are the tools (photo at left). I use a model 605 Tina grafting knife with high-carbon steel blade (A). This is only the second Tina knife I've owned. The first one was unfortunately planted in a pecan orchard a couple of years ago.
    Grafting knives are beveled on one side of the blade while the other side is flat. This is important to remember because when you sharpen a grafting knife it is sharpened like a chisel or wood plane blade rather than a standard kitchen knife. I carry a pair of Felco Model 8 pruning shears (B). I've had this pruner long enough to wear off the red plastic coating on one side of the shear (it now sports a coat of black electrical tape). I install a new blade in the shear each spring. Also in my box is a Model A700 Leonard folding saw (C). I love this type of Tri-edge tooth pruning saw. They cut smoothly and rapidly on the pull stroke. For bark grafting, I use an Arrow Model JT-21M medium duty staple gun (D). The staples inside are 5/16 inch in length. And finally,  I use a wood rasp (E) for removing the rough bark from larger trees during bark grafting.
    Next, I carry a collection of consumable supplies (photo at right).  I use a lot of green grafting tape (A). This stuff is actually sold as "plant tie ribbon" and is 1/2 inch wide and 4 mils thick. I use black electrical tape (B), not for grafting, but to install a bird perch on every graft I make. I hate it when birds ruin a perfectly good graft. Elmer's glue, aluminum foil, and plastic sandwich bags are all carried in my box and are used to protect grafts made out in the field. 

    Down in the drawer, I take along some extra tools and supplies (photo at left). I carry a set of Arkansas stones and bottle of light oil (A) in order to keep a keen edge on my grafting knife. If I'm grafting a lot of trees, I usually stop to sharpen my knife about once an hour. I can also use the stones to sharpen the blade of my pruners. For emergencies,  I carry an extra blade for the Model 8 Felco (B), an extra spring (C), and the little tool (E) used to tighten the clippers. Since you never know when a grafting knife can disappear, I always carry an extra knife (D). Finally, I use a lot of staples in grafting, so I carry one or two extra boxes.
    One last item that many people forget in their grafting box are tags and ball point pen (photo at right).  I use  double surface aluminum tags to label the cultivar name on each tree I graft. Using a ball point pen, I can make an impression in the metal with the cultivar name then staple the tag to the tree. The tag will last one season, sometimes two. I install more permanent tags later in the year on successfully grafted trees.