When it comes to buying your first set of bonsai tools there are a lot of different options on the market not only with the types of tools but brands, materials used in manufacturing and pricing. So how does one break down all of this to make a good decision to buying bonsai tools? Lets take a look.
First lets start off with brands. The world of bonsai hasn't been around for a very long time so we have few brands that have managed to make a name for themselves in that short period because for a brand to get a good reputation it needs to have been tested over the years for reliability. This is the main reason we sell mostly Kikuwa Tools at Bonsai-en because they have been around for a long time, plus given the fact they are a Japanese company their tools have been used by some of the best artists in bonsai. This has given them a clear edge because they have been able to make adjustments over the years to the feedback they have received from professionals. You will always be able to find someone on the internet who is talking about the set of tools they have had for 30+ years and they are always kikuwa. So when you are looking for a brand to purchase do some research on it and see if you can find a good track record of reliability.
Next lets talk about material used to manufacture tools. There is a stigma around Japanese made bonsai tools that the only reason people like them is because it makes them feel like they are doing traditional bonsai by using what the Japanese use. But this isn't the reason at all, If we ask the question " who makes the best edged weapons in the world? " The answer is the Japanese, If we ask "who makes the sharpest and most reliable Chefs Knives in the world? " the answer is the Japanese. Now we can ask the question, " Who makes the sharpest and most reliable Bonsai Tools in the world?" and you guessed it, The Japanese. The reason they hold the title for all of these accomplishments has a lot to do with Japanese Steel. Things like Japanese blue steel are very high carbon steels that not only sharpen to a razor sharp edge but they are very very strong steel meaning that edge is held for a very long time and the tool will last a lifetime. Now there is a trade off here, Tools that are high carbon contain no chromium and loads of iron which rusts at the sign of moisture, if you leave a super high quality set of bonsai scissors outside over night even on a clear night with no rain, the next morning when you come out your tool will have a nice coating of surface rust. They wont be pitted and are easily cleaned with a Crean Mate but it is a good test to see how much of a high carbon tool you have.
So what about the debate of Stainless Steel vs Carbon Steel? Well these 2 are pretty much the opposite from each other, Carbon Steel is strong steel that holds an edge for a long time but rusts very easy if high quality carbon steel, the colour is black due to the limited protective coating applied to the tools. Stainless Steel bonsai tools however are a weaker steel that dulls easier but does not rust and is silver in colour. That is literally it for the argument of Stainless Vs Carbon. Carbon will require more care and maintenance against moisture using camellia oil and an applicator but you will get a much better life out of them. Stainless Steel requires minimal care but you'll also be trying to sharpen them eventually ( which can cause more damage if done wrong ) or even replacing them.
Now lets talk about pricing, The best things to do here is research the brand of tool and the steel used to make it and decide if it is worth your investment. A higher quality tool will last you a lifetime meaning you'll probably only make a single purchase for that tool, A cheaper tool you'll probably buy over and over again and suffer poor results. Try avoid cheap tools kits with multiple tools and purchase tools 1 at a time but higher quality. You can purchase tool kits though if all the tools are high quality but this may cost you upwards of $500 - $600.
If you want to know the difference between the different tools in Bonsai check out our tools and their descriptions on the shop to understand better what that particular tool is used for.