Steel Used For Bonsai Scissors
When it comes to the steels used in Bonsai tools most manufacturers will want to keep this cost as low as possible. Steel prices can increase rapidly with the higher quality steels. So far in my journey looking at Bonsai Tools and being a purchaser i have found that most manufacturers that aren't in Japan don't actually use Japanese Steels. We will explain why that's important later. When shopping for Bonsai Tools you might notice that 1 set of scissors is $20 while another is $40, The set for $40 is likely a higher quality tool made from a better steel so it will last you a lot longer. But the reason i used the word "likely" is because the world of Bonsai Retail in the western world is still fairly young and without a high amount of competition there can be room for unfair pricing. This can also be the case for the exact same tool between 2 retailers. While one might retail a tool for $50 the other might retail it for $35. In this case the more expensive tool is not any better because they are the exact same tool, so just be cautious when shopping and do your homework.
Stainless Steel Vs Carbon Steel Bonsai Tools
I've done many articles and videos outlining this so let me just put it very simply for this article,
Carbon Steel is stronger but also cheaper to purchase. This will result in you paying less for a Carbon Steel Tool but having it last longer. All carbon steel tools will be coated black. A high quality Carbon Steel will rust over night if not cared for properly.
Stainless Steel is more expensive due to its rust resistance but is not generally used for precision cutting. This means you will pay more for your tool but it will go Dull a lot quicker then carbon steel and will be harder to keep sharpened. Stainless Steel does look nice due to its shine and is much easier to maintain.
For me Carbon Steel is always the winner, What other product can you say that the cheaper option is the higher quality option?
Japanese Made Bonsai Tools
Japanese Bonsai Tools have always been the highest quality tools, but over the last few years I've seen a stigma starting to attach it self to the Japanese Made Tools that comes from people who don't want to spend a higher amount of money on tools and would prefer to spend less. The stigma usually goes something like this "People only want Japanese Tools because Bonsai is a Japanese Art " or something to that effect. Basically they are stating that people only want Japanese made bonsai tools to feel like they are doing better quality bonsai or are more involved in the world of bonsai then those without the Japanese tools. But those people are missing a major point here. If you think about the Chef Knife industry what are the highest quality knives? Its Japanese Knives, When we look at the sword industry what are the highest quality swords? Japanese Swords, When we look at hunting and fishing knives what are the highest quality knives? Japanese Knives. What do all of these have in common? Sharp Edges...
Japanese carbon steel can be worked down to a very thin edge giving you a razor sharp cutting edge, but the bonus with this Japanese steel is that even with a very thin edge of metal it is very strong and will resist damage and becoming dull over time. This is the real reason any Japanese made tool for any industry that requires tools with very precise cutting edges is preferred. The carbon steel is very easy to maintain in terms of sharpness as well, you can use a whetstone to sharpen your tools and you wont move much steel off the blade before you get the sharpness back and it will stay sharp for a long time, This means that you move little steel to get a sharp edge and you have to do it less over the years meaning your tool will last forever and a day if you look after them properly.
Bonsai Scissors Maintenance
When it comes to maintaining your Bonsai Scissors it is very simple. Before use spray them with isopropyl alcohol and spray in between the changing of trees so you don't accidentally transfer fungal spores between your trees. You can also use a Crean Mate before use to clean any build up off your blades which will cause them to separate as they cut causing a less precise cut to be made. After use you can apply Bonsai Tool Oil which is camellia oil commonly used in the chefs industry, You can apply this with a Tool Oil Applicator which will apply a thin coat of oil which will protect them against rusting.
Types Of Bonsai Scissors
Now that we have some of the basics out of the way lets take a look at the 4 most common types of bonsai scissors you might see when purchasing scissors.
200mm Pruning Shears ( General Pruning )
Bonsai Root Scissors ( For Bonsai Root Work )
The bonsai root scissors are a shorter length as you don't need to get them in between any fine branching or into any tight spots, but the big difference here is that the blades on a good set of bonsai root scissors are a lot thicker then all the other types of bonsai scissors we will see. The reason for this is that in bonsai in particular we run into in organic aggregates in our root systems which with a thin set of blades could cause some damage, Having the thicker blades allows us to work with confidence in the root system and if we do come across something a little harder then normal our scissors will live to see another day with sharp blades. Just be carful though because although scissors can be designed in this way it doesn't mean the steel used is strong so be sure to research the steel used to make sure it is up too the task.
De-Candling Scissors ( For De-Candling Black and Red Pines and Also Working On Highly Ramified Trees with slightly thicker branching )
As you can probably already tell with these scissors the advantage is the longer slender handle. This allows us to get in between pine needles and branches to De-Candle our pines. The other main use for these scissors is maintaining highly ramified or compact trees where you need to get the scissors deep into the branching without having to get your whole hand in there increasing the chances of breaking fine branching. These scissors generally have a medium thickness blade which will allow them to cut fine to medium twigging.
Bonsai Bud Shears ( for removing buds and trimming highly ramified fine twigging )
These bonsai scissors are some of the smallest of the lot, They are generally used for removing un wanted buds which can be very small and need a small precise blade to get the bud removed at the base. They are also commonly used to work on trees with a lot of very fine twigging, because they are so small they can fit into tighter spaces without the risk of damage.
When shopping for your Bonsai Tools in general take the time to research the brand, See if there is trust in the company and if their tools have lasted in the hands of other artists. Research the steel used, see if it is used for applications that require strength and longevity. Check the pricing, Remember cheaper is not a good thing in the world of tools. You want your tools to last, 1 set of high quality tools will be cheaper then 10 sets of cheap tools over your bonsai journey.
I hope this has helped you with your Bonsai Scissors Purchasing journey.
Bonsai-En has all the scissors mentioned in this article available with shipping to Australia, New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Italy.
We also have an Online Bonsai Beginners Course available which covers these tools plus 4 Hrs of Bonsai Fundamentals to instantly improve your Bonsai Practise. You can check that out here www.TheBonsaiDojo.com
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Bonsai Journey