When shopping for Bonsai Tools it can be overwhelming with the shear number of tools that are available, In this article we hope to cover a wide range of Bonsai Tools and what they are actually used for so you can have a better idea of what you need. For more in depth information on each tool you can visit their product pages on our webstore by following the links.
Bonsai Scissors are the first tool you will likely acquire as pruning is one of the most common jobs in Bonsai, there are a few different types of scissors. The main types you will see are
General Pruning Scissors : To Prune smaller branches and foliage.
De-candling Shears : for removing candles on pines and working on trees with lots of fine branching using the longer slender handle.
Bud Shears : for nipping off fresh buds on a tree which you don’t require using the smaller fine blades.
Root Shears : these scissors have a thicker blade and a shorter handle for working on your trees root system.
Branch Cutters will probably be the second tool you acquire, These are designed to cut thicker branches of bonsai trees while leaving a nice clean cut. They have a much thicker head and blades then the bonsai scissors so they can handle thicker wood. They usually come in 3 mains sizes which are 170mm 205mm and 270mm. Its important with this tool that you make sure its good quality and made from a good quality steel. Branch cutters are generally put under a lot of tension and lower quality tools will break in time or become dull causing you to buy multiple sets rather then just 1 set to last your bonsai journey.
Wiring bonsai trees is something you will always be doing which means removing the bonsai wire will also be a constant job, We have special wire cutters for bonsai which will make cutting the wire easier and also reduce the risk of accidentally cutting the branch as well. There are usually 3 main types of wire cutters you will see for bonsai, they are
Bull Nose Wire Cutters : For cutting thicker wire and removing wire from the tree with minimal risk of cutting the branch due to the curved nose design of the wire cutter.
Scissor Type Wire Cutters : These wire cutters look like your bonsai scissors except they have wire cutter blades on the end, they are usually longer and allow you to get into finer branching to remove wire.
Detail Wire Cutters : these wire cutters are very small and fit in the palm of your hand, this allows you to add detail wire to your tree and you never have to put down your wire cutters which saves you time and arm strain.
Much like the branch cutters you will want to make sure your wire cutters are higher quality and made from good quality steel as they are also under a lot of tension and you want them to last a lifetime.
Bonsai Knob Cutters a few different jobs it can achieve, 1 of its main jobs though is creating a concave cut into trees that have a thicker callus, this allows the callus to grow into the concave cavity and heal more flush. The other job this tool has is removing nubs left during pruning, some tree we will leave a little nub when pruning to prevent die back killing an area of the tree we want to keep, this means at a later date we need to come back and remove that nub which this tool is great at!. One last job this tool is fantastic at is working down larger flat cuts left by removing larger branches or trunk chopping, this tool can help work the stump back while also creating a more natural undulated surface to the cut rather then a perfect flat cut which looks un natural. Once again aim for higher quality with this tool as it usually finds it self in high stress situations and you don’t want your tool breaking under pressure.
The tool of many jobs! Jin pliers are mainly used for creating jins on trees by helping crush the bark and peeling it off, you can also use them to break the ends of the jin and strip them back making a more natural look to the deadwood. Jin pliers how ever are also useful for things like tightening guy wires, tightening tree support wires during repotting and also for getting that last little bend on your wire when applying thicker wire to trees. But you will find 100 uses for this tool.
Trunk Splitters have 2 main uses, 1 use is as it implies, Some trees that have multiple trunks like figs can be split in 2 so you have 2 separate tree rather then 1 by splitting the tree down the middle and allowing the tree to survive on the root ball that is on either side. Another use this tool has is separating live veins from dead wood if you need to bend a branch, some trees have a length of hard dead wood running along them preventing any kind of bending, this tool will allow you to separate the live part of the branch from the dead wood so you can then bend it.
Bonsai Root Hooks have 2 main jobs, one job is being able to pick through the soil to get to the end of a root to move it into a better position when creating nebari. The other main job it has is too free up compaction on the soil surface so water can penetrate again. Over the years hard watering and fertilizer build up can for a very hard surface and you need a robust tool to break up that crust.
A Bonsai Root Cutter is used for cutting back tap roots and also for creating clean flat cuts on larger roots in the root ball. Having a perfectly flat cut can be useful when cutting roots back on the very bottom so that the tree can still sit flat in the pot. You can essentially cut large roots perfectly flush with the bottom of your root ball.
A Bonsai Root Rake is used for working back the top layer of soil around the root ball while re potting. You can be a little more aggressive here as you will be trimming the outer layer of roots back anyway with you root scissors. Your root rake will help you get through that compacted outside layer quicker then just using a chopstick.
This Keyhole Bonsai saw can be used to remove smaller branches but its main use is for creating clean fine cuts when wedge cutting things like pines and ficus. When creating a wedge cut its super important that the gap you cut out can sit back flush with itself once the trunk or branch is bent over. The fine blade on this saw allows you to get the smallest cut possible with any type of saw.
This Bonsai Pruning Saw is for removing larger branches that your branch cutters can not get through, the razor sharp saw blade will make this process easier and will also leave a nice clean cut reducing possible die back where the cut was made.
This Grafting Knife ( at least the one we sell ) is SUPER sharp. This allows you to create fine clean precise cuts to create grafts with which will increase your chances of success with grafting. This knife is also excellent for re opening old wounds on trees so it can continue healing and closing the wounds.
These Sickles are often mistaken for some kind of saw or branch cutter. They are actually a repotting tool. They allow you to get down into the side wall of the pot when a tree has become root bound and free up the pressure created from the roots pressing against the side wall which can make it almost impossible to get the tree out of the pot. This tool should be used in a scraping fashion rather then a sawing motion. The sickle itself is not actually bonsai tool but rather it was made for cutting rope and also for harvesting certain grass like plants. But its shape and thin blade is perfect for the job described above.
There are a wide range of hand carving bonsai tools available to create deadwood such as jin and shari on bonsai. These tools have a handle with all sorts of cutting tips on the end. Some will be purely for scraping the bark off while others will have different shaped heads to create different striations in the wood to replicate old time worn wood.
There are a few different types of brushes for bonsai and all of them are used for cleaning but there are a few different types that do different jobs, they are
Finishing brushes : these brushes are usually made from a soft to medium stiffness hemp which allows you to brush any debris off the soil surface after doing pruning work or other jobs that may make a mess on the soil surface. This brush will allow your to remove the mess without removing your soil. They are also great if you need to put some new soil on the surface to fill out any holes and create a smooth surface again, you can apply a bulk amount of soil and brush the excess off leaving the hole filled flush.
Deadwood cleaning brushes : these brushes usually come in either Nylon or Brass. The brass is more aggressive for cleaning heavily soiled dead wood while the nylon is more gentle for lighter cleaning.
Tapered Deadwood Cleaning Brushes : These are the same as the regular deadwood cleaning brushes except they are cone shaped so you can get into finer places such as branch crouches to clean bark or deadwood.
Fine detail cleaning brushes : this type of brush looks like a small paint brush except the bristles are usually steel. This allows you to get into finer small cracks and crevices to clean out dirt and other gunk.
There are a few different branch benders made to aid in bending larger branches that are hard to do by hand or with wire alone, The few different types you will see are
Branch Bending Clamps : this style is for putting movement in larger trunks or branches by attaching the clamp and slowly cranking the center handle, the clamp remains on the tree until the bend sets, you can also give more fragile tree incremental bends each week to slowly apply the bend over time.
Branch Bending Jack : this tool is used to help either push or pull larger branches. For example you can attach one end of the jack to the trunk and the other end of the jack to a branch that needs a large bend and use the trunk as an anchor. As you tighten the jack you will slowly bring the branch towards you, this is also helpful for when you are applying guy wires on your own you can tighten the jack first then tighten your guy wire then so on and so forth until the branch is in the position you need it.
Branch Bending Extension Handle : This tool is a long handle that can be applied to a branch to give you more leverage to bend a thicker branch, the longer the fulcrum you have the easier the branch is to bend. This tool is a life saver for bending large branches.
When it comes to bonsai tweezers there are a few types available out there, These are
Straight tweezers : these are good entry level tweezers for people either pinching growth on their trees or needles plucking, the fine straight ends allow you to get right down to the base of the growth and remove the whole lot.
Down Turned Tweezers : these tweezers are great for removing weeds, the down turned end allows you to get right under the stalk of the weed and remove it roots and all rather then just removing the top growth and leaving the roots which will cause the weed to grow again.
Needle plucking tweezers : these are a higher quality tweezer that have much stronger teeth on the ends of them to remove stubborn pine needles when needle plucking. These tweezers will allow a much stronger bite then the entry level tweezers.
Of course you can get both straight and down turned tweezers in many different qualities and steels. Some tweezers also feature a spatula on the ends of them.
Bonsai Watering Wands
These bonsai watering wands are specially designed for watering bonsai. They have a small head and a long slender handle which allows you to get in and under your lower branches and get water on the soil surface, some come with longer handles to allow you to reach the trees at the back of the benches. These wands also provide a high volume of water while also giving a very gentle stream of water, this lowers the risk of surface compaction and also helps to prevent washing away fertilizer and top dressings. They are also made out of stronger materials so last longer out in the sun then most store bought watering nozzles.
I hope this article has given you some basic insight into what some of the main tools do in bonsai.
All tools mention in this article are available in our online bonsai store.
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Bonsai Journey.