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Essential Bonsai Tools for Beginners

Learning to create Bonsai as a hobby can offer a lifetime of personal reward and satisfaction to the individual willing to learn a few basic techniques and implement the required patience and discipline.  One challenge many face when starting out in Bonsai is deciding which tools to purchase in order to properly care for your trees.  There are countless tools on the market and some can become pretty expensive, knowing which tools are essential is not only important for the proper care of your tree, but also prevents unnecessary spending while enjoying the art of Bonsai.

Here are the five essential tools a beginner should be sure to have in their Bonsai tool kit. 

Hand Pruner

For general pruning and upkeep of your bonsai as well as trimming roots during the re-potting process, a good hand pruner is essential.  A good pruner should be strong enough to cut small to medium sized branches with a cutting tip small and agile enough to reach into the inner branches of your Bonsai.  The cutting edge should be sharp enough to give a clean cut.  A double edge cutting surface is preferred over a single blade against a flat cutting surface.  There are several varieties of pruners which will meet these specifications which can cost under $20.  There are higher quality pruners which range from $50 to $75, however it’s best to stick with the less expensive pruners until you find out what style works best for you.  Your hand pruner should also feel comfortable in your hand when using.

Concave Branch Cutter

When working on your Bonsai, the concave cutter is a tool which is very hard to find a substitute for.  The design of the concave cutter is such that it removes the cut branch very close to the perpendicular branch in order to not leave an unsightly knob where the branch was cut.  The concave cutter gets its name from the position of the blade’s cutting edge.  When used correctly, concave cutters leave a small indentation on the trunk so when the bark fills in, it is smooth and even with the original trunk of the Bonsai.  This allows for a smooth, clean looking trunk over time when creating the Bonsai.

Concave cutters come in various sizes.  They start at about 6 inches and go up from there.  Some Concave cutters are so large they require two hands to use.   A good rule of thumb for a beginner is to use one that fits comfortably in one hand; usually 6-8 inches.

Concave cutters ranch in price anywhere from $15 for an inexpensive, stainless steel, machine fabricated tool up to $200 for a forged concave cutter made from very hard steel.  A beginner Bonsai enthusiast whom feels they will stay with Bonsai for some time can start out with a lower end priced concave cutter in the $30-$40 range.


Chop Stick

A single chop stick is a tool essential for the re-potting of your Bonsai.  It can be used to remove old soil from around roots as well as compacting the new soil around roots when it’s time to re-pot. 

The great thing about this tool is that it’s usually free with any type of meal eaten chopsticks.   So the next time you order up your favorite Asian dish, make sure you save one of the chop sticks.  If you have yet to re-pot your Bonsai, just tuck it away in your tool case, you’ll be sure to use it when it comes time to re-pot your Bonsai.

Wire

For the beginner, wiring is a very popular way to shape your Bonsai.  The two main types of wire used in shaping a Bonsai are Aluminum and Copper.  Aluminum is less expensive and easier to bend which is why it’s more popular with beginners.  However, because it’s easier to bend, a thinker gauge is required to hold the desired branch in place.  There are various sizes of wire, and a good rule of thumb is to use a wire thickness which will hold the branch you wish to move in position for an extended amount of time.

Wires are also used to firmly attach the Bonsai to the base of the pot to prevent it from moving in the pot once planted.  When purchasing wire, it’s best to purchase an assortment of gauges in order to get experience and practice in wiring your Bonsai.

Wire Cutters

“Wire cutters are used to cut wires.”  This may sound self explanatory, however many times beginners make the mistake of using their pruners to cut the wires for their Bonsai.  Doing this will damage your pruners and prevent a clean cut when using them to cut the branches of your Bonsai.  Do not use your pruners to cut your Bonsai wires.  A decent pair of wire cutters can be purchased for around $10.

 

Your Bonsai tools should be kept clean and dry when not in use. Surfaces of any tool should be cleaned with a soft cloth and alcohol after each use so as not to contaminate other trees when used.  There are many ways to store your Bonsai tools when not in use and for transporting.  Once popular product is a Bonsai tool roll.