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Bonsai Tools 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Using Essential Bonsai Equipment

Bonsai tools are specialized tools that are specifically designed to help with the cultivation, shaping and maintenance of bonsai trees. These tools are an essential part of the bonsai experience, as they allow you to properly care for your bonsai tree and create the desired shape and style.

Bonsai tools come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and designs, each with its own unique purpose. Some of the most commonly used bonsai tools include scissors, which are used for pruning and shaping, wire cutters, which are used for adding and removing bonsai wire that’s used for bending and shaping branches, and concave cutters, which are used for creating natural-looking cuts and to remove larger branches that the scissors cant cut.

In addition to the physical maintenance of bonsai trees, bonsai tools also play a crucial role in the artistic expression of bonsai. By using the various bonsai tools, bonsai enthusiasts can create a wide range of shapes and styles, from the traditional, formal, and symmetrical to the informal, asymmetrical, and naturalistic.

Stainless Steel Bonsai Tool Kit

Overview of the top 10 bonsai tools you will need

There are many different types of bonsai tools available, each with its own unique purpose and function. Some of the most commonly used bonsai tools include:

Bonsai Scissors: Scissors are used for pruning and shaping branches, leaves, and twigs. They come in different sizes, with the most common being small, medium and large sizes.

Bonsai Scissors

Branch Cutters (Concave cutters): These are specialized tools that are used for cutting branches and twigs without leaving a noticeable scar. The concave shape of the cutting edge allows for a natural-looking cut, The thicker head also allows for greater tension to be applied allowing you to cut larger branches then bonsai scissors.

Branch Cutters

Knob Cutters: Knob cutters are used for cutting thick branches and removing large knobs. They are designed to make a clean cut and prevent damage to the surrounding bark. By creating a concave cut this allows the callus to heal into the concave section creating a flush heal.

Bonsai Knob Cutter

Wire Cutters: These are used for cutting and removing bonsai wire. They come in different sizes, with the most common being small and large. They also come in 2 different styles which are bull nose and scissors type.

bonsai wire cutter

Root Cutters: Root cutters are used for cutting and removing roots. They come in different 2 main types which are your root scissors which are used for training and maintaining the root system, and Root Cutters which are designed for removing large tap root and large roots in general leaving a flat cut.

root cutter

Rakes: Rakes are used for removing compacted soil, old organic fertilizer and moss from the soil surface to allow water to keep penetrating. They come in different sizes and shapes, including flat,pointed, and fine-toothed.

root rake

Bonsai Tweezers: Tweezers are used for needle plucking on pines and are also useful for removing weeds from your bonsai tree by grabbing the weed at the base removing it roots and all.

bonsai tweezer

Jin Pliers: Jin pliers were mainly invented for crushing bark to allow the creation of jin ( deadwood ) on bonsai trees, But in modern times jin pliers are used for bending and shaping branches and wire, Tightening guy wires & tightening tree support wires when re potting. They come in different sizes, with the most common being small, medium and large.

Jin Pliers

Bonsai Carving Tools: These are used for carving and shaping deadwood, knobs and adding texture on the trunk and branches.

Bonsai Carving Tools

Sickles : These tools are used during the re potting process to free up roots from the wall of the bonsai pot that create pressure and make it hard to remove the tree from the pot.

These are just a few examples of the many different types of bonsai tools available. Each tool has its own unique function and is designed to help you achieve the desired shape and style for your bonsai tree.

Basic Bonsai Tools For Beginners

Out of the list above the top 3 tools for bonsai beginners to start with would be

1. Bonsai Scissors : When starting off you usually have smaller trees so the need for branch cutters wont be as high, usually the growth on your tree can be handled with a good quality set of bonsai scissors. Just make sure you get good quality trusted tools as cheap tools can actually do damage to your tree by crushing before they cut, a good set of scissors needs to be made from a high quality steel that can be sharpened down to a very fine edge without breaking. The finer the edge the cleaner the cut. Cheap tools have a thicker blade because they cant be thinned out with breaking thus they crush the branch before they cut it.

2. Wire Cutters : Most beginners will want to begin wiring their tree straight away so its essential to have a good set of wire cutters on hand. A good set of specially designed wire cutters can prevent you from accidentally cutting your tree while removing wire, especially if the wire has bitten into the tree. Good quality wire cutters also make it easier to cut through wire minimising the stress on your hand. Regular side cutters are risky and the pointed ends make it easy to accidentally cut into your tree while cutting the wire.

3. Tweezers : Every bonsai tree will get weeds at some point and you will want to make sure you get them out before the deep root them selves in your pot. Having a good set of tweezers allows you to greab the root at the base and remove it with all the roots intact. The best tweezers for removing weeds are the Down turned tweezers.

Here is an affordable Beginners Bonsai Tool Kit

This kit has a high quality set of scissors, wire cutters and tweezers all made in Japan.

Advanced Bonsai Tools

As you start to progress in your bonsai journey you will start to require more and more specialised tools for advanced jobs, lets take a look at some of these tools.

1. Branch Benders , Jacks and Extensions Handles : These tools are necessary when you begin to work on larger bonsai material. The bigger the tree gets the harder the branches are to move, especially on trees that get harder wood like junipers. Having one of these tools on hand will help you get the job done with minimal damage to the tree. Although not a tool an common companion to the branch bending tools is Raffia. Raffia is used to wrap around branches that will be bend excessively to help apply pressure to the external layers of the branch to stop it from splitting open under intense pressure. If there is a break the raffia also protects the branch by helping keep moisture in to stop the branch from drying out.

2. Trunk Splitters : This tool has 2 main jobs, it can separate lives veins from deadwood if you decide you need to bend something that is adhered to deadwood, deadwood has no give so it wont bend. So in order to move a branch that is attached to dead wood you need to separate the 2 which this tool does well. This tool can also separate 2 trunks from each other allowing you to split 1 twin trunk tree into 2 individual trees, this procedure can be risky and not all species can have this technique performed so make sure you know what you are doing before giving it a go. Try this on a ficus to begin with if you need some practise.

3. Rotary Tools : Rotary tools are an advanced carving tool for carving dead wood on larger trees. Theses tools can be very dangerous to use so be sure to have plenty of protective equipment such as gloves, hearing protection and also safety glasses.

4. Grafting Knife : This is a very very sharp knife generally made from a very high quality carbon steel that can be sharpened to a razor thing edge. Be very carefully with these knives as they will cut skin like a scalpel. This knofe is used to create very fine and precise cuts for grafting, the success of your graft can greatly depend on how clean the cut is so having a top quality grafting knife is paramount.

These are just a few of the more advanced tools used in bonsai for future consideration.

If you want to purchase high Quality Bonsai Tools consider visiting our Webstore

Bonsai Wire

Although not a tool in a traditional sense bonsai wire is a staple in bonsai practise so it is worth mentioning while you are here. Bonsai wire is an important tool in the art of bonsai. It is used to shape and train bonsai trees by gently bending branches and trunks into the desired position. Bonsai wire is typically made of anodized aluminum, copper or stainless steel.

The wire is wrapped around the branches and trunk of the bonsai tree, and over time, the tree will grow into the desired shape. The wire should be checked regularly, and as the branches and trunk thicken, the wire should be adjusted or removed to prevent damage to the tree.

Bonsai wire is available in a variety of thicknesses, and the appropriate size should be chosen based on the size of the branch or trunk. Thin wire is used for delicate or small branches, while thicker wire is used for larger or stronger branches.

Bonsai wire has many uses, such as:

  1. Creating movement: Bonsai wire is used to create movement in the branches and trunk of the tree, which adds interest and realism to the bonsai.

  2. Styling: Bonsai wire is used to style the tree, creating different shapes and styles.

  3. Correcting: Bonsai wire is used to correct the position of branches or trunks that are growing in an undesirable direction.

  4. Training: Bonsai wire is used to train the tree, directing its growth and shaping it into the desired form from a young age.

  5. Support: Bonsai wire can be used to support the tree in a bonsai pot when it is unstable, this prevents the tree from rocking around in the wind or even falling out of the pot before it has had a chance to stabilize it self.

It's important to note that bonsai wire should be applied carefully, as over-wiring or leaving the wire on for too long can damage the tree. It's also important to check the wire regularly and adjust or remove it as needed. With proper use, bonsai wire can be a valuable tool in creating beautiful, realistic bonsai trees.

Different Types Of Bonsai Wire Available And When To Use Each

Anodized Aluminium Bonsai Wire : This is the cheapest and most common bonsai wire used. It comes in generally 2 colours which is black or brown, although the black will eventually go brown in the sun anyway. Aluminium wire is good for beginners as it is more forgiving to mistakes, its cheap and can do less damage to a tree if applied poorly. This type of wire is also popular for tree support wire when repotting as it posses less risk to breaking to pot if the tree grows and applies tension to the wire, in this case the wire will break before the pot where as if you use a stronger wire like steel or copper the pot will be the weakest point and break first. Aluminium wire is recommended for beginners

Copper Bonsai Wire : Copper bonsai wire is a more advanced wire generally used by professionals and enthusiasts. The advantage of copper wire is that it is annealed meaning it is soft to apply but once bent it work hardens and has a much stronger hold. This means there is less room for error when moving branches into place and if mistakes are made it can become very expensive as copper wire can be almost double the price of aluminium wire. Copper wire is also an advantage for show wiring as it is harder to see when applied to a tree. When applying copper wire the physical size of the wire that is applied can be smaller than that of the aluminium wire due to its stronger holding capacity.

You can purchase both Aluminium Bonsai Wire and Copper wire from our webstore

Bonsai Pots And Accessories

Bonsai pots and other accessories play an important role in the art of bonsai. They not only provide a decorative element to the bonsai tree but also serve functional purposes.

  1. Bonsai Pots: Bonsai pots are used to hold the bonsai tree, they are also the main component that allows us to keep our trees small. They come in different sizes, shapes, and materials such as ceramic, plastic or unglazed pottery. The shape, size and color of the pot should complement the style and size of the bonsai tree without over powering it.

  2. Bonsai Trays: Bonsai trays are used to hold the bonsai pot and to catch excess water. They come in different sizes and materials such as ceramic, plastic or unglazed pottery. They are also used to display the bonsai tree, these are more common for indoor varieties.

  3. Bonsai Humidity trays: Bonsai humidity trays are used to increase humidity around the bonsai tree. They are filled with water and placed under the bonsai pot. The water evaporates and increases the humidity around the tree.

  4. Bonsai Fertilizers: Bonsai fertilizers are used to provide the bonsai tree with the necessary nutrients. They come in different types such as organic or chemical fertilizers.

5. Bonsai Stands and Jitas: Bonsai stands are used to display the bonsai tree. They come in different sizes and materials such as wood or metal. Jitas are used to display smaller trees or accent plants known as kusamono.

  1. Watering Tools : There are 2 main types of watering tools used in bonsai which are watering cans and watering wands. A watering can is used for spot watering when only a few trees need watering, special bonsai watering cans have a very fine nozzle which cant be found on regular watering cans. This gives a high flow of water but it is a very soft shower which prevents the erosion of soil and washing away fertilizers and top dressings. The watering wand is similar to the watering can except it is a hose attachment that allows the same kind of gental watering but without having to keep refilling the can. This if great for those with larger collections that need constant watering.

Care And Maintenance Of Bonsai Tools

Proper maintenance and care of your bonsai tools is essential to ensure that they last for a long time and perform well. Here are some tips on how to properly maintain and care for your bonsai tools:

  1. Clean your tools after each use: Wipe down your tools with a clean, dry cloth to remove any moisture. Use a crean mate to remove dirt, debris, or sap that may have accumulated on them.

  2. Keep your tools dry: Make sure to dry your tools thoroughly after cleaning them. Moisture can cause rust and damage to the tools. We recommend using a tool oil such a camellia oil to prevent high carbon steel tools from rusting.

  3. Store your tools in a dry place: Keep your tools in a dry place, such as a toolbox or a Tool Case, to prevent rust and damage.

  4. Sharpen and maintain your tools regularly: Regularly sharpen and maintain your tools to ensure that they perform well and last for a long time. If you have high quality carbon steel tools you wont have to sharpen very often, if you use stainless steel tools you may need to sharpen more frequently. NEVER use a diamond based sharpening tool to sharpen your bonsai tools, only use a natural wet stone. Diamond tools are design to remove large amounts of steel from tools such as chisels and axes, Bonsai tools have very fine edges and need minimal material removed to become sharp again. ALWAYS use a natural wetstone.

  5. Oil the moving parts of your tools: Oiling the moving parts of your tools will keep them in good working order and prevent rust.

  6. Use the right tool for the job: Using the right tool for the job will prevent damage to the tool and the tree.

  7. Do not use tools that are damaged: Do not use tools that are damaged, such as bent, cracked or rusted, as they can be dangerous and damage the tree.

You can get all your tool care products from us at Bonsai-En

What Is The Best Steel For Bonsai Tools?

When purchasing bonsai tools you will come across 2 main steels, Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel. But which one do you choose and why, and are there other steels?

Carbon Steel

First lets talk about Carbon Steel. This steel is the optimum steel for bonsai tools as it has the ability to be worked down to a very thin edge without breaking, this allows you to get the sharpest tool possible, the thicker an edge the lest sharp it will be. Carbon steel is incredibly strong and Japanese Carbon Steel is world famous for its sharpness and durability which is why the worlds best Swords, Chefs Knives and Bonsai Tools are made from it. The down side to carbon steel is that it will rust due to its lack of chromium which would essentially soften the steel. So greater care has to be taken with Carbon Steel Tools. As carbon steel ages though it gets a patina on the surface and the shiny exposed surface of the blades will begin to turn black, this offers some protection from corrosion but not a lot. Most good quality carbon steel tools are coated with a protective layer as well.

It important though when looking at carbon steel tools to be sure that it is actually Japanese carbon steel, i have seen many company's selling tools claiming to be made from Japanese steel but in actual fact they are manufactured in china from a mixed alloy.

What Makes Japanese Carbon Steel Superior?

Japanese carbon steel cutting tools are highly sought after by professionals for their superior quality and performance. They are often used for precision cutting and shaping in woodworking, metalworking, and other industries including bonsai. Examples of Japanese carbon steel cutting tools include traditional knives such as chef knives and Japanese swords, hand plane blades and chisels.

It is worth noting that there are different grades of Japanese carbon steel, some of them are more expensive than others and the quality of the steel also varies.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel tools have 1 single advantage over the carbon steel tools and that is that they don't rust. Other then this stainless steel is a softer steel so it requires sharpening more often to maintain a precise edge on the blade if it is a cheap steel. Stainless steel is also a more expensive steel in the raw form so proper good quality stainless steel tools will always be expensive. A set of branch cutters in good quality stainless steel can start at $160 Aud. If there is a bonsai tool that is stainless steel and is cheap there is an issue somewhere. This might be that the tool is made from a low grade stainless steel or it is actually another steel disguised as stainless steel.

There are however some decent stainless steels out there and they can make good quality bonsai tools, you will just have to pay extra for the shiny appearance and anti corrosion ability's.

What Stainless Steel Is In Our Bonsai Tools?


SUS420JS is a type of martensitic stainless steel, which is a specific category of stainless steel characterized by its high strength and hardness. SUS420JS is a Japanese Standard. It has a similar composition to 420 stainless steel, which is commonly used in the production of knives, scissors, and other cutting tools, as well as in the manufacture of machine parts, valves, and fasteners. This steel is also known for its good corrosion resistance, particularly in comparison to other martensitic stainless steels.

This gives one of the best options for stainless steel tools as it is a much stronger stainless steel therefor giving you a much longer lifespan from your tools and less of the downfalls from cheaper stainless steels.

I hope this has helped give you a basic understanding of Bonsai Tools and their uses. We have also provided you with our webstore which is a great place to get everything you need and have piece of mind that you are buying excellent quality.

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