Bonsai tree tools

Tools and materials for Bonsai

There are a lot of different bonsai tools for different types of work on your bonsai. But only the least you need immediately. Some tools are for special techniques that must first be learned before you get the necessary equipment. Here you will find a rough overview of bonsai tools

Traditional Japanese bonsai scissors, a century old tradition

Japan is known for its masterful blacksmithing. Especially the swords and knives are in focus here. For every person who deals with bonsai, however, are not beautiful and good knives important, but here are the bonsai scissors in the foreground. 

The master blacksmith Yasuhiro Hirakawa is the last of his profession. He makes traditional Japanese scissors and this according to centuries-old tradition. Because of this meticulous and ancient craftsmanship, it takes Hirakawa four times longer to make his Japanese bonsai scissors than it does to make traditional knives. 

If you want to have the pleasure of owning such a pair of scissors, you will have to spend a lot of money. The most expensive bonsai scissors costs 35,000 dollars.

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For beginners it is advisable to acquire a few basic tools at first, like a quality concave cutter and a standard shear. The more intensive you work with Bonsai, the more special tools you will need later on.

Japanese Bonsai tools are well-known for their high quality (and for their high prices), while Chinese tools provide increasingly better quality for their prices. The black steel of which most tools are made, needs a bit more maintenance because it can rust. High quality stainless steel tools are even more expensive. Use your Bonsai tools only for the purpose they were made for and treat them well. Then you won't ruin them ahead of time and they will work well for many years.

 

Bonsai tools; Shears and Pliers

Shears are available in many sizes and shapes. They are meant for cutting twigs, smaller branches, leaves or roots.
If most of the trees in your collection are small Bonsai, don't buy very large shears and pliers! There are shears with a wide standard shape, which are strong enough for thicker twigs, and shears with narrower and longer shapes, which make it easier to work in the middle of a dense canopy, and small shears for shohin Bonsai or for trimming azaleas and removing their wilted flowers.

Concave cutters are needed for removing branches from the trunk where we want to achieve deepened cuts which will heal without leaving a swollen scar. There are concave cutters with straight blades, those with semi-round blades and knob cutters which leave a particularly deepened cut. All these plier types are available in different sizes, of course.

The Bonsai tools
from three o'clock in clockwise

  1.  jin / wire bending plier
  2. Long slim twig shear
  3. standard shear
  4. concave cutter with straight blades
  5. knob cutter
  6. wire cutter
  7. Bonsai wire

Saws and Knifes

When you have to cut branches, trunks or roots which are too thick or too hard for using a plier, you should use an appropriate saw. Keep in mind that Japanese pruning saws cut when you pull them back towards yourself. Don't push them strongly because then the saw blade will bend or break. For smoothing the cuts and wounds left by pliers and saws, grafting knifes are most suitable, like those used by professional gardeners.

The Bonsai tools
from six o'clock in clockwise

  1. wooden Stick
  2. root hook
  3. grafting knife
  4. small root rake
  5. thin pruning saw
  6. carving tool
  7. soil scoops

Bonsai tools for Working on Roots and Repotting

For removing the rootball from the pot there are special sickle knifes and sickle saws which are used to cut along the inside of the pot. Solid angular plastic bowls in which you can work on the roots or mix new soil make work more comfortable and cleaner. Root hooks and root rakes, which are available in different sizes and variants, with one, two or three teeth, are used for opening the rootball, carefully combing the roots and removing old soil between the roots.

Root-pruning is done with a strong standard shear with big strong blades and solid handles. If you find strong, hard roots, use a root plier or a saw.

If you use granular soil components like Akadama, Kanuma, pumice etc. you should sieve them before use, to separate different grain sizes and remove the smallest, dusty particles. There are sieve sets made of stainless steel with various mesh sizes for this purpose. For filling the soil into the Bonsai pot there are scoops in different sizes which are specially shaped for pouring soil under overhanging low branches. To push the soil into cavities between the roots of the Bonsai, chopsticks or bamboo sticks are helpful. But you should take care not to damage the roots by poking too hard. For applying moss or removing weeds etc. you will use a tweezer spatula, which is also useful for pressing wet moss to the soil or for excavating persistent weeds.

Tools for Wiring and Bonsai Wire

For wiring a Bonsai tree you obviously need wire in various diameters, a wire cutter and a plier for bending the wire which is also used for deadwood (jin). Those tools are available in different shapes and sizes. Buy small ones if you have many shohin Bonsai. Wire for Bonsai purposes is either made from annealed aluminum or copper. Beginners should use aluminum as it is easier to apply.

Tools and Carving Knifes for Deadwood 

The main objective of working on deadwood is that it should look naturally and that no traces of human work should be perceptible. It seems paradoxical that this is why a huge variety of tools are available for this purpose.

The branch splitter is a sharp plier for multiple splitting of dead branches and stumps. For pulling fibers (on conifers with fibrous wood) or breaking of little wood particles (on deciduous trees with less fibrous wood) the jin plier is used.

A slim chisel which should not be too sharp is well suited for lifting wood fibers. Various loop knifes and carving hooks are used for peeling off bark and for carving slight furrows, which should follow the course of the fibers.

There are lots of differently shaped carving tools, often sold in sets, in different qualities and sizes, which work well for shaping, smoothing, contouring, narrowing or hollowing out deadwood.

In order to erase the last traces of your work and remove wood fibers sticking out it is best to use a gas torch which is fueled with lighter gas for example. After scorching, the charred wood layer is brushed off with steel, brass or nylon brushes.

For preserving decayed deadwood you can use wood hardener, which consists of liquid plastics diluted in acetone. The well-known Japanese jin liquid consists of lime sulphur which is mostly used for whitening the deadwood but also has some preserving effect.