Bonsai Gardening Secrets

Bonsai Tools

Copyright © 2004
by Erik A. Olsen
Excerpted from Bonsai Gardening Secrets®
Tools used for Bonsai growing are very important. Remember, you will be cutting, pruning, and wiring during the training phase, which can cause wounds. The cleaner the wound, the better the Bonsai will heal and thrive. By using the right tools, you can help keep the wounds to a minimal.

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. The information in this chapter will guide you to the right tools. Additionally, most Bonsai tools can be purchased at your local nursery, gardening center, or from Bonsai companies on the internet.


These shears are great for heavy-duty use when training Bonsai. The blade is beveled and usually constructed from a non-stick carbon steel to ensure a clean, smooth cut. Other features commonly seen include dual layer comfort grips, sap groove, enclosed spring, and ambidextrous lock.


Originally designed to remove old plants from high mountainous regions, this tools is now used by Bonsai growers around the world.

This concave shaped blade is very strong and thick, making it a perfect tool for digging. The blade is made from carbon steel and has a semi-sharp, beveled and serrated edge. The design ensures your safety while allowing you to work in difficult or rocky places.


This convenient tool is usually designed with an on/off control. With this wand, you can water your Bonsai quickly and efficiently. The spray mist is dense but very gentle. Made with an internal nylon diffuser, the water is always distributed evenly, must like rain.


This folding saw is an exceptional tool for Bonsai. The blade is excellent for cutting and with the folding design, extremely convenient. The saw tooth design features three cutting surfaces, meaning the cuts are quick and clean.


These all-purpose shears are ideal for working with Bonsai. They are constructed with a carbon steel blade that can easily cut through one-half inch of branch. The tip is pointed and strong, helping you get into tight areas.


These generally come with a protective sheath and are excellent for pruning Bonsai. Because they are large and powerful, they can cut cleanly through even the thickest branch.


This tape is ideal for grafting in that it will help prevent damage from wiring. This is ideal for certain types of plants and trees that do not do well with traditional wiring.


Provided in a tube or round tin, the paste is a sealant that will help with grafting and cuts. Additionally, it contains both fungicide and insecticide to help protect the Bonsai.


This oil has been used for centuries as a way of protecting prized Japanese Samurai swords. However, it is excellent for tools used in Bonsai growing, keeping them in top working order.


You can get sharpening stones in fine or a two-in-one option. With the fine stone, you will get clean, smooth edges on your tools. Then for the two-in-one option, once the tools are sharp, they will remain that way for a long time. This stone comes with both medium and coarse grit.


The most important thing to remember when buying and using your tools for Bonsai is that they need to be as sharp as possible. You can have your tools sharpened professionally or if you want to do it yourself, use an electric wet stone, die grinder, oilstones, Japanese water stones, ceramic sticks, files, and diamond laps.


If you have saws, they will need to be sharpened a little differently from your other tools. For example, because pruning saws have very narrow and long teeth, you will need to use a feather file. Typically, this sharpening tool would need to be ordered.

Diamond Laps

These are also referred to as stones or plates and are ceramic stones that have diamond dust embedded. Since they do not have to be lubricated and can be used dry, they are convenient and affordable.

Bonsai Shears

For the inside of the blades, you would need to use the lap. Just make sure the material ground from this area is minimal. If not, the blades will no longer match and therefore, not work properly.

In most cases, the outside or the beveled edge is what receives most of the sharpening. With the lap, you would keep the angle as flat as possible. While not difficult, if you have any concerns or questions, you can have a professional do the sharpening for you.

Grafting Knife

Since these are beveled and flat at the same time, you would use a diamond lap for the rough work, switching to the Japanese water stone for the honing portion. Although you could use oilstones, you will soon discover that the water stones are much faster.

Concave Cutters

This particular tool is a little difficult to sharpen. It is important that you examine your tool first to see how it was made. If the edges do not match perfectly, then the cutters are worthless. Therefore, you need to protect the cutters from any nicks no matter what. When you do sharpen, you want to remove as little material as you can, using the diamond lap on the outside. Then, repeat this on the inside surface area. If you have a diamond or ceramic stick, it would be very helpful.


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