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DIY Grafting Wax and Sealer

 
pioneer
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I decided that buying some scion wood for an upcoming frankentree project was a worthwhile investment.  I want to protect the trees from infections, and the scions from drying out, so have started looking into getting grafting wax, or some kind of paint, but am not into anything that supports the production and introduction of "toxic gick."  

Have any of you played around with making your own from ingredients found around the homestead, or the natural environment?  

So far I am seeing that unsalted beef tallow, pine sap/resin, and bees wax can be used, but am not yet sure in what proportions.  

What other ingredients might be useful?

Anybody know any good recipes?  

Using an image from skillcult.com grafting project page for attention:  

Skillcult-Graft-Image.jpeg
[Thumbnail for Skillcult-Graft-Image.jpeg]
 
pollinator
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What I have used successfully, are rubber bands. When using non-natural rubber bands like bicycle air chambers, you need to remove them to avoid having the stinky mess in the soil. I have never worked with natural, biodegradable latex (not yet?).

It does not exactly fit your search for "natural ingredients from around the homestead", but aren't broken air chambers kind of in the natural environment of a homestead? ;-)
 
pollinator
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We use rubber tourniquets, cutting them down to size. We have also used rubber bands in the past. For wax we use candle wax. Light a large candle and let it get a pool of melted wax around the wick. Dip the top, cut end of a scion into it after bench grafting. We also wrap the grafting rubber with a light-weight, double-sided tape to make a moisture seal while the graft calluses. Never have had the "right" stuff yet have done hundreds of successful grafts over the decades.
 
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Consider the purpose:  to keep the graft from drying out.  Bees wax with some olive oil to soften it are about as natural as you can get and still do the job.
 
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I did a historic re-enactment once, Victorian era apple grafting. Unresearched, what would they have used? I settled on tying my grafts with strips of canvas well-rubbed with candle. I got some takes, maybe not as many as using modern materials, but better than my current 0% take, also with modern materials.
 
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I learned to graft using pre-industrial methods.

We wrapped the graft or budding in natural raffia that had been soaked overnight.  Before that, different dried grasses or the inner layer from barks could be used. Something strong enough to hold when wet, but not so strong that it would be constricting the tree once it's growing.

Wax was never involved.  This is the first I've heard of the graft drying out.  If they have a good match to the cambium layer, it starts to take within a day or so.  Perhaps it has something to do with the climate?  

I'm trying some of the modern methods this year.  The big thing that worries me is the modern books say the success rate is so low compared to what I'm used to.

But arthritis and other things, so it's time to put away the pocket knife and try some of these new gadgets and tricks.  
 
pollinator
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Well, this is timely! I just finished grafting 10 new things onto 5 rootstocks. I used scotch tape though, so that's not really permie is it? I cut the scions off my existing orchard and some of them are so tiny, I couldn't even use the grafting tape (which is really just saran wrap on an incredibly tiny roll) so that's why the scotch tape. Crossing my fingers they take.

I do have a really awesome grafting tool that works well on larger branches with no chance of slicing my thumb open. The grafts I made last year with it look awesome!

Grafting tool
20240316_160411.jpg
another apple rootstock with grafts, this one really shows last years graft with the grafting tool
another apple rootstock with grafts, this one really shows last years graft with the grafting tool
20240316_160327.jpg
apple rootstock with random apple grafts (means I have no clue what I grafted other than they are apples)
apple rootstock with random apple grafts (means I have no clue what I grafted other than they are apples)
20240316_160214.jpg
quince rootstock with orcas and bartlett pear grafts
quince rootstock with orcas and bartlett pear grafts
20240316_160206.jpg
quince rootstock with pineapple quince grafts
quince rootstock with pineapple quince grafts
 
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the recipe for grafting wax given in the grafter’s handbook is 1 part tallow, 5 parts pine resin, 4 parts beeswax. it’s relatively hard at room (or outdoor grafting) temps, but in a tin or ziplock bag kept in an inner pocket warmed by body heat it’s relatively pliable - though it still needs a bit of kneading to really get it ready. there’s really only a few grafts that need some degree of wax - where larger wood is cut and needs to be at least temporarily covered, while the grafts are growing out around it - think crown or some types of ‘rind’ grafting.
 
pollinator
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I've tried using electrical tape, it did NOT go well. On some the tape stuck too well and constricted and took the bark off if I tried to check it. On others it peeled away from the joint and let water in causing mold and mildew to grow.
I also have used plastic wrap. Hard NOPE, it also lets water in, just gets all gross, too hard to get a good fit.
Last year I used hot wax, like for waxing armpits XD It made a promising seal at first but got all crumbly later. Maybe for the best?
I have had best results with wide rubber bands. They're easy to check on (I like to snoop and see the cambium growing, yes I get more fails that way, but it's more fun). If you get the OfficeHub brand they last a good long time, right about up to the time the graft has taken and is stabilized. Do not get Advantage brand, they crumbled and fell off within a few days.
Very interested in these old ways, rr and Anthony! I want to try the wax and canvas now! Unfortunately I didn't save any Scions this year > maybe I will buy some from skill cult.
 
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I used beeswax and oil as grafting wax, and used masking tape as the mechanical method to hold it together.  I got 17 of 22 apple grafts to take on my first-ever grafting effort, so that's pretty good!
If I were trying to be as all-natural as possible, I would probably use the warmed beeswax/oil mix again as grafting wax, and then wrap the graft with cloth or twine that's been coated in melted beeswax as the mechanical fastening.
 
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I have had a few successful grafts, a good percentage of successful grafts I have tried.  

I was at a class to learn grafting, no permie affiliation.

We used a green plastic tape, without glue or other stickum.  The same green tape florists and nursery people use.  We wrapped the graft snug but not tight.  It provided support for the graft as well as moisture protection.  The instructions were to keep an eye on it and when the graft began to increase in girth, remove the tape.

This is a fascinating discussion, and I am getting some great ideas.  I especially want to try the tallow-cloth strip.

One thing I will mention is that I have tried to make my own cheese curing wax.  I tried beeswax and olive oil.  I didn’t get the right proportions because it cracked on the cheese.  Those other recipes sound much better.

I have been buying cheese that has been waxed, and the cheese people leave it on, selling me the wax along with the cheese.  (Expensive wax!). It is assuredly not a natural product, but if you have some cheese wax, I bet it would do the job.  
 
Anthony Powell
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Gina Jeffries wrote:
I do have a really awesome grafting tool that works well on larger branches with no chance of slicing my thumb open. The grafts I made last year with it look awesome!

Grafting tool



Using a sharp knife, I wear a leather gardening glove on the hand that's in the direction of the blade, and cut steadily with a rocking motion.
Interestingly, I looked up Gina's grafting tool - and found an alternative, looks almost identical except appears to have 2 blades not 3, for a lot less + postage https://www.zealbonn.com/products/professional-grafting-tool . Same maker or a clone of lesser quality? I've had an issue with Hohner harmonicas - expensive in cardboard box good, cheap lookalike with Hohner case etc  not tuned.
 
Posts: 36
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How about clay with cow dung and horse manure, I kid you not.

Hello from a sunny terrace, a break from spreading more mulch and stuff.

The topic reminded me of a BBC UK  TV series that ran in 1987 - the victorian kitchen garden, with a book by Jennifer Davies, which is in my library, well, on a shelf
I had on very quick look on the net. There is reference to the series, not sure if it streams. That’s beyond my connection.

Loads of really clever gardening techniques. I could literally rewrite the whole book here for us. E.g: how to have fresh grapes on a vine on the table at Xmas, northern hemisphere. They were really clever chaps.

Back to grafting materials; the book mentions tallow and wax, using hot bricks to keep the wax malleable on site, resin, turpentine, alcohol, with occasional fires!! and clay seems to have been favoured, retaining moisture without going mouldy.
There is reference to a Mrs Loudon, gardening for ladies(1840). That must be suitable for me then, haha.

One dead useful tip is the double grafting - if a variety is tricky to graft on usually appropriate stock, first graft say an easy pear on quince, then in time you can follow with the fussy pear on the grafted ‘easy’ pear.
Hawthorn grows all over, a pain to move, so I graft in situ. It seems to be very willing rootstock.
I now have red and white flowered hawthorn to which medlar has been added,

Recently, I have become curious about what will be produced by the wild indiscriminate plantings that occur for which I thank rodents, birds and visitors who chuck or spit their their pips and stones under their feet.
I believe that the Bramley apple was an accident? as is the red skinned walnut of which a chap in Switzerland has 12 varieties.
Not the shell but the thin skin on the nut itself is a brilliant red and yes I do graft these. It is not the most productive of varieties, an early so prey to late frosts and violent rainstorms.s
And yes, I have used not too ghastly commercial paste for grafting with raffia.

Happy Sunday afternoon
Abundant blessings to all,
M-H

The grafting tool is a real temptation.
 
Anthony Powell
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marie-helene kutek wrote:
The topic reminded me of a BBC UK  TV series that ran in 1987 - the victorian kitchen garden, with a book by Jennifer Davies, which is in my library, well, on a shelf
I had on very quick look on the net. There is reference to the series, not sure if it streams. That’s beyond my connection.



2h38m of Victorian Kitchen Garden.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSxMUY_E07w&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fduckduckgo.com%2F
 
pollinator
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Great discussion.  I received a grafting tool as a Christmas present (https://www.leevalley.com/en-ca/shop/garden/planting/propagation/grafting/110128-grafting-tool?item=BL136) - more expensive I'm sure, but not bad, especially considering it was available locally with no shipping.  In my naivete, I've procured a brick of beeswax from a local apiary without knowing that "grafting wax" is typically a compound product (frankly the only wax I'm regularly aware of is bees and ear).  

Most of the description of the grafting wax available from Lee Valley:
"Made to an industry standard formulation, it contains gum resin, tallow and synthetic beeswax. To use, warm in the hands until soft enough to work or heat until liquid and spread on with a brush. Instructions on tin.

Made in USA. "

Based on this discussion, when I get around to doing some, I may experiment a bit with adding some oil.  I anticipate most grafting being done in our orchard, so creating something that is more pliable makes some sense.

This also has me thinking a bit...flax grows locally (primarily used for seed), and linen comes from using fibres from flax straw.  Wouldn't it be the ultimate if you could use locally grown flax and then use the linen woven locally from the fibre with local beeswax to seal a graft union?
 
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Hey everyone

Just wanted to add the following: I have done a couple of grafts and had a discussion with a friend of mine who is a tree surgeon about the use of wax to avoid the graft drying out. (I used pure beeswax in which I dipped the graft a couple of times, like making drip candles.) In his opinion this is uneccesary: not for avoiding infection nor for preventing the drying out off the graft or scion. The plant is perfectly able to fight against this itself in his opinion, which I believe. We did some tests, there is no difference in succes rate with or without wax.

However, I have always used a long piece of cut bicycle inner tubbing of about 3/4 inch or 2cm which I tightly and overlappingly roll from about an inch or 2,5cm under the graft to about to 2inches or 5cm above the graft, like you would bandage a wound. This (air)seals, supports and protects the graft.
Only recently I learned that in the olden days they used taffia in which case you do need extra protection for the graft against water and air to prevent it drying out, which was wax.
In my experience, the rubber of the inner tube cracks after a while because of uv/sunlight and will drop off. Shoots will even grow through it.
I find this 'waxless' method the easiest and simplest and the inner tubing is readily, freely available locally here.

Now that I am writing about this, if you want a frankentree, I thing you need to do a chipbudding or oculate the tree. If you craft a branch I think the tree will invest in its own branches rather than the graft but I have no experience in this. (I want to do this myself, so please, let me know) I only know that the rootstock will develop shoots that need to be trimmed back during the summer or otherwise the scion will die off, even if it took in the beginning.
I am not a native speaker so if I'm confusing what the original question was about, please excuse me.
 
Derek Thille
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John Venn wrote:
Now that I am writing about this, if you want a frankentree, I thing you need to do a chipbudding or oculate the tree. If you craft a branch I think the tree will invest in its own branches rather than the graft but I have no experience in this. (I want to do this myself, so please, let me know) I only know that the rootstock will develop shoots that need to be trimmed back during the summer or otherwise the scion will die off, even if it took in the beginning.
I am not a native speaker so if I'm confusing what the original question was about, please excuse me.



Around here, there are apple trees available with at least three varieties grafted on, so I expect it should work.  It wouldn't make sense for the producer to create and sell this if there isn't success (bad for their reputation for one).  I would presume that these trees are grown on by the orchardist for a year or two after performing the graft to ensure it takes though.  I haven't really looked at these closely to see what sort of graft they may perform as I have more than enough space on our acreage to simply plant more trees rather than a 3-in-1.
 
r ranson
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Nurseries usually only guarantee a tree for the first few months - then it's the grower's fault.

The three-way trees grow well for about 2 years, then one variety becomes dominant.  

The big advantage of multiple varieties on one trunk is pollination.  So even if one variety is dominant, the other branches still have different flowers which help increase fruit production.

speaking of which, I've got to take my paintbrush out to tickle my peach blooms.  
 
Anthony Powell
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John Venn wrote:
Now that I am writing about this, if you want a frankentree, I thing you need to do a chipbudding or oculate the tree. If you craft a branch I think the tree will invest in its own branches rather than the graft but I have no experience in this. (I want to do this myself, so please, let me know) I only know that the rootstock will develop shoots that need to be trimmed back during the summer or otherwise the scion will die off, even if it took in the beginning.


I've grafted a Wisley Crab onto a runt seedling, that already had many branches. I trimmed back competing nearby branches. That was enough - the WC's away. It's a fairly vigorous rootstock, so could be a while before I get fruit. I'm now after using two side limbs for alternative scions.
What I worry about is folks guerilla grafting onto street ornamentals, inserting twigs below the crown. They risk being shaded out.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Guerilla grafting!  What fun!  Thanks Anthony, I hadn’t put those two ideas together.  Now I have another way to have fun.
 
John Venn
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Thank you all for sharing your experiences with frankentrees. Something to experiment with in the future.

I do know someone who has fruit trees in espalier form where every arm is a different variety of apples or pears, which takes a lot of manipulation and cutting I imagine. I have not had the chance yet to ask him how he did this.
 
Arthur Wierzchos
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I was able to find another recipe online at this link:

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/38579884

“You might start, however, by taking equal parts by weight of bees-wax, unsalted  mutton or beef fat and powdered resin. Melt the beeswax and the fat together over a slow fire or by placing them in a tin in a vessel of boiling water, then add the resin gradually, stirring thoroughly until it has all dissolved and merged into the mixture. This mixture should be applied while fairly warm by means of a soft brush. The proportions may be varied as desired, more fat being
added if the wax is too hard and more resin if it is too soft.”



OK, this gives me something to work with.  

My family has bees, but I haven’t yet had a chance to help with the hives, so getting beeswax from them will have to wait until later this year.  I did stop at a local beekeeper and purchased a big block of beeswax from him.

Beeswax - Check

I don’t yet have any cows, and also haven’t been able to find a local source of meat, so I did purchase some fatty chunks of beef from a store, placed them into a pot with water, and boiled them into a stock with nothing added. After the stock cooled there was a nice thick layer of fat that was easy to separate from the liquid.

Unsalted Beef Fat - Check

We live in conifer country, and recently I cut down about a dozen trees, and trimmed back hundred of branches.  Sure enough, there was enough resin that i was able to scrape it into a bag.

Pine Resin - Check

This is an example of what I was collecting - for the most part:



There were some other much larger tree wounds I came across where i could collect a lot more quantity, but this was typically much dirtier and full of dirt, organics debris, and whatever else the wind probably blew into it.  

Now that the ingredients have been gathered, it was time to bring together everything needed to make this happen.  A scale to weigh the ingredients, a metal can, beef fat, beeswax, pine sap, and a pot to boil water.



I weighed the ingredients at roughly even proportions. It was about about 50g of each, except for the pine sap, which weighed about 65g. I figured there would be some gunk left behind, and later you will see that this did happen.  Next time I will probably use more pine sap, and maybe  figure out a way to turn it into a "Rosin", which would be more easy to powder and slowly mix into the recipe.



Here is the metal can with beeswax and beef fat put in together.  The can is sitting in a pot with water, where the water doesn't get into the mixture, but it can be used to slowly heat up and melt the ingredients.



And after melting. Now it is time to add the pine sap. "Rosin" powder would likely be better if it is available.  



Mixing in the pine resin with a wooden utensil. At this stage I could feel that there was a thicker layer of gunk accumulating at the bottom.  Probably a lot of the stuff that was stuck in the sap, and maybe even the sap itself?  



Pouring the mixture through a piece of cheese cloth and funnel to filter it into a glass jar. It smelled really nice!  Nothing like the typical store bought "wound healing" pastes for covering damaged areas on trees.  



It is complete! Im kind of proud of myself for doing this.  Not bad for the first time me thinks.  Hopefully this will prove to be good enough, even though there is still room for improvement.  



Here is what it looks like after cooling. At this stage it was somewhat easy to smush between the fingers, but not to use with a brush.  Clearly it needs to be melted in order to apply with a brush.



This is what triggered the desire to make grafting wax.  I purchased about a dozen varieties of top quality apple varieties, and ones with desirable traits that I hope to breed into my own varieties, such as red flesh and berry flavors.  I hope to gather seeds from these apples in the future for direct seeding on a much larger scale, while having a great pollen source to cross with each other.  



And finally a couple of the grafts after they are completed.  I did resort to using stripped plastic bag materials to wrap and hold the grafts in place.  I didn't have any flat raffia on hand to play with, which would have been the more natural approach. This will be another change id like to do in future grafting projects if only to gain the experience and know how. Plus, its what Sepp Holzer describes using in his Permaculture book.  



I covered the grafts generously with the melted wax. My inspirations come mainly from Steven Edholm with Skillcult. He has a fantastic series of videos that go into details about his grafting techniques and philosophy.  



Only about 20 more grafts to go! Frankentree project in the works. Maybe ill make a separate thread documenting that process, progress, and successes.  

Hopefully this post helps somebody out there.  You don't have to resort to using toxic tick!
 
Tick check! Okay, I guess that was just an itch. Oh wait! Just a tiny ad:
We need your help - Permies server fundraiser
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