how to choose bonsai tools

To succeed in bonsai growing an important issue is the choice of good tools. A good tool is not necessarily an expensive one. The secret is to use the appropriate tool for the dedicated task. Imagine a surgeon with the wrong scalpel!
Be the right man with the right tool for the right job and get started.
Bonsai caring is a kind of lifetime activity so it is judicious to choose tools that will last and serve you faithfully for many years.

Nevertheless the investment in quality tools is worthwhile. Traditionally the bonsai tools “made in Japan” are considered the best on the market. Generations of Japanese craftsmen have forged Samurai swords and metal tools for centuries, so my guess is that you can trust them concerning quality and reliability.

Generally the tools are graded according to the quality levels, finish and materials, from masters to novice, with intermediate grades such as professional, advanced and intermediate. In an ideal and utopian world there would be only masters tools. It is much more effective and enjoyable to work with a top of the line instrument.
But in real life we have to make compromises. Anyway, to resume try to get always the best bonsai tool at the price you can afford. An intermediate level Japanese brand is most of the time a reasonable choice. Gradually as time goes by, pamper yourself and upgrade to masters tools.

Your bonsai is a living creature and deserve the best care you can give. To reduce the trauma of the trimming and pruning at the minimum it is crucial for the cutting utensils to be as sharp as possible. Remember worn blades will harm your bonsai. Sharpening is an art, but if you decide to do it yourself, practice first on an old blade with a hand held oil stone. When you gain confidence start tackle your precious cutting instruments.

As you care for your bonsai tree you have to give the appropriate care to your tools also and preserve your investment. it’s never pleasant to work with a rusty and muddy instrument. After each use always inspect your tools to be sure that they are free of dust, dirt, mud and sap. Clean them carefully with a gentle cloth to remove all the debris, you can use a mildly soapy warm water or alternatively turpentine which is great for removing sap.

Then rinse, wipe and dry them thoroughly. It is desirable that you spray a lubricant(WD40) for storage. Don’t throw your tools on a workbench for the night, rather wrap them in a dedicated pouch or in a clean dry cloth. (never store your tools in a moist environment, avoid wide temperature variations and of course don’t forget any cutter, shear or scissors outdoor in a muddy bucket!). Rust is tools’s worst enemy, avoid it at any cost.

The tool box of the bonsai gardener

Trimming shears

The first all purpose bonsai tool you have to buy is the trimming shears, it is the most widely and commonly used. It trims leaves, small branches and twigs. There are two common sizes, the fine trimming shear for branches up to 1/4″ and a stronger one for branches up to 1/2″. The tip must be pointed and sturdy to allow access to tight place. Your trimming shear is not intended to trim dead wood. If you can afford it, buy a professional tool constructed with high carbon steel and laminated blades. The comfort of the grip is an important factor to considerate too. For delicate work of trimming, dedicated sharp scissors may be used if you don’t have fine trimming shears.

The Concave cutter

The concave pruner (cutter) is the most important tool of your equipment. The concave term is used regarding the shape of the cut and wound left on the trunk or branches after pruning. The healing of the wound will be smooth and fast when you use properly the concave cutter. The general shape of the wound will be concave and taller that it is wide. In nature, trauma caused to the trunk or branches of a tree heal laterally, from both sides. The concavity makes possible the formation of a callous that will not become protruding and unaesthetic. It will be difficult to distinguish that a cut has been made after complete healing.
Never apply too much power when trying to cut a branch, first use the portion of the blade near the tool pivot to have a mechanical advantage. If you don’t succeed, just use a saw or a big normal pruner and cut about one inch from the trunk. It will be necessary then to use the knob cutter to remove the small piece that remains.
The 8″ concave pruner is the most used due to its versatility.

The knob cutter

The knob cutter is less frequently employed but it is a worthwhile asset in your bonsai tool box. It is used after the branch has been cut off and it makes the final cut. The cutting blades of the knob cutter are round shaped. this allows the blades to bite into the wood and creates a depression which avoid further bulging of a callous.