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 Bonsai Tools

 By Erik A. Olsen

Although you do not need to run out and buy a stock of special tools for Bonsai growing, unless you want, you do need some basic tools to do this right.  As your interest in the hobby (or to some of us, the obsession) grows, you’ll no doubt want to add to your “kit” of essential bonsai tools. Crafting beautiful bonsai is more art than science, but still requires the proper tools to shape and mold your bonsai into your vision. Many tools have been produced over the years specifically for bonsai work. Most (if not all) of these tools can be purchased in most parts of the world via the internet.

Additionally, most Bonsai tools can be purchased at your local nursery or gardening center. Please keep in mind, as with any thing else, when it comes to good bonsai tools, you definitely get what you pay for. Purchasing cheaper, poor quality tools will (in the long run) actually cost you more money as they will wear out and/or break relatively quickly. To give you an idea, I’ve had most of my bonsai tools for 14 years (at least!), and they are still as good as they day I bought them. If you are a beginner, please don’t let the enormous selection of tools overwhelm you.

Many bonsai tools are designed from specific functions, so you may not need them all. Once you get comfortable with the process of pruning, training, and shaping trees, you can expand your tool collection to include more specialized tools. Further, the tools you need will depend largely on what sort of bonsai work you intend to do. For instance, you will need far fewer tools to prune and repot an existing bonsai tree than you would to create a bonsai tree from a trunk you harvested from another plant. Tools are normally sold separately, but a number of gardening/bonsai retailers offer all in on starter kits (recommend for the beginner).

A beginner’s kit of Bonsai tools should contain (at least) the following:

Bonsai Wire Cutters

These wire cutters are designed specifically for removing bonsai wire. Although enthusiasts new to bonsai sometimes substitute standard wire cutters, these are designed with a rounded head to prevent damage to the trunk and branches when removing wires. The jaws of the cutters cut the wire symmetrically and cleanly. Highly recommended for bonsai enthusiast. 7-3/4” overall. Click Here to See an Example Online 

Traditional Bonsai Trimming Shears

Designed for trimming roots, branches and twigs with ease, these traditional trimming shears are an absolutely essential cutting tool. The handles are designed to be large enough to accommodate your fingers and allow you to pick off prunings without having to out the shears down ( a great time-save, believe me!). The rivet holding the two halves together should be loose enough to allow the handles to open and close easily, so as not to have to be pulled apart. In addition, the blades need to be kept VERY sharp, so as to cut the stems cleanly without crushing them. Click Here to See an Example Online

 Concave Branch Cutter

This razor sharp tool is designed for cutting branches flush to the trunk. The resulting wound can then heal over quickly with very little scarring. Will keep a sharp edge indefinitely when properly used and cared for. The Concave Cutter is the single most important tool for bonsai use and for which there is no substitute. The 8” version is considered the basic size. Tip: When using this tool, try to make the cut run vertically up the trunk, as the rising sap will heal the cut much more quickly than a transverse cut. Click Here to See an Example Online

Spherical Knob Cutter

The spherical knob cutter is designed to remove trunk knobs and roots. The head is shaped like a ball, hence the name spherical’. They produce a hollow, circular cut that heals quickly with a minimum of scarring. A newer type of trimming tool, it leaves behind a circular cut that will usually heal flush. Also known as nippers or wen cutter, they can also be utilized to carve dead wood and jiins, or nipping away at large stubs that prove too large for just one cut. Click Here to See an Example Online

Bud Trimming (Satsuki) Shears 

Long narrow body which is great for trimming buds and reaching deep with minimum disturbance to the surrounding foliage. It’s finger rings are also well suited for smaller hands. 3/4” blades, 7” overall. These are the best shears for small (indoor) bonsai sizes. Insure you do not use these for general trimming tasks, as the blades will quickly become dull. Click Here to See an Example Online

Root Hook (also known as a Root Rake)

Prior to any root pruning, the rounded end of this tool can be used to disentangle the roots of a larger bonsai without causing (much) damage. (Note: for smaller and indoor bonsai, I recommend you use a chopstick or similar implement). Click Here to See an Example Online

 Conclusion

Starting your bonsai hobby with the right tools will not only make the learning process easier, it will be more enjoyable as well. Keep in mind that although the tools I described above are the basic requirement you will need, there are many more tools and implements available worldwide to assist you in creating your bonsai trees. As your skills progress, you will undoubtedly be able to discern the tools necessary for you to further advance your bonsai pruning and shaping techniques.


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