Bonsai Tools: Everything You Will & Might Possibly Need

If you want to get into bonsai as a hobby you will need a proper set of tools. A beginner hobbyist can get away with only a concave cutter and a shear but the more control you want the more bonsai tools are required. Here we have listed everything you could possibly need – from the essentials to non-essential bonsai supplies and accessories that will help make your life considerably easier.


Bonsai tools for smaller trees

Shears and concave cutters are the most basic tools and they come in various sizes. If your tree is still in its infancy stages you will need a smaller toolset. A high quality shear and concave cutter is all you need when starting out but you will need to acquire more items as your tree grows.

Bonsai supplies

Preston Keres, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bonsai by Preston Keres, Cropped, CC0 1.0

Shears: Shears are for cutting roots, leaves, twigs and small branches. The larger your tree becomes, the larger the shears you will need. But regardless of the size, you will always need a small pair to work around a dense canopy.

Concave cutters: These are essential for removing branches from the trunk. They are well suited for this task because they create cuts which heal without leaving scars behind. There are three different varieties of concave cutters: knob shaped, straight and semi-round.



Bonsai tools for larger trees

Pruning saws and grafting knifes become essential when your bonsai tree has grown to a larger size. You can tell it’s time to upgrade your tools when you start having difficulty cutting branches with your current shears and concave cutters.

Pruning saws: A pruning saw is ideal when branches, trunks and roots become too thick. The saw only cuts when moving it back towards you, so practice caution when pushing forward as to not bend the blade.

Grafting knifes: You are likely to notice rough edges around the areas you have cut with a saw. This is where the grafting knife becomes useful as its ideal for smoothing these rough edges. After all, aesthetics is everything.


Bonsai tools for deadwood

Working on deadwood requires various bonsai supplies and tools. The more professional you want your tree to look the more of these items you will need.

Branch splitters: Use a branch splitter to split branches and trunks. By splitting them you make it easier to bend trunks / branches into the shape you want.

Jin pliers: These types of pliers are ideal for pulling off the remaining wood fibers which often remain after using branch splitters.

Slim chisels: Slim chisels are perfect for lifting wood fibers. The aforementioned jin pliers do the same task but a slim chisel excels at removing the much smaller and finer fibers which often remain.

Gas torches and brushes: A gas torch and brush can be used as an alternative for removing fine wood fibers with a slim chisel. Simply burn the fibers and brush them off.

Wood hardener: Wood hardener is one of the most essential bonsai supplies as its used for preserving and strengthening the deadwood after maintenance has been done.


Bonsai wire and bending tools

There will come a time when wire and bending tools are needed. This can be extremely fragile work, especially when it comes to bending branches as snapping them can be a very real danger. Using the correct tools will help minimize this risk.

Bonsai wire: This type of wire comes in various diameters and are used to bend branches to shape. They come in both aluminum and copper. Aluminum wire is much easier to work with and is recommended for thin branches that do not give off much resistance when bending. Copper wire is recommended for thicker branches that gives off a considerable amount of resistance.

Wire cutters and pliers: Wire cutters and pliers will be needed when working with these wires as they need to be cut and twisted.

Wet raffia: Wet raffia should be tightly wrapped around the branch before bending it with wire. This minimizes the risk of bark breaking or tearing off. Raffia also helps heal any cracks which are likely to occur during the bending process.



Bonsai tools for roots and repotting

Throughout the course of every bonsai trees life, work will be required on the roots and the actual tree itself will have to be repotted. Fortunately, there are a specific set of tools for this very purpose.

Sickle knifes: Sickle knifes are used to gently cut along the insides of the pot to help loosen the soil. Doing so is vital as simply pulling the tree could damage the roots or tree itself.

Root hooks / rakes: These vital tools are used for opening the rootball without causing any damage and for removing the old soil from the roots.

Scoops: Scoops are for scooping out the old soil and putting new soil in. Any type of scoop small enough for the pot will do.

Bonsai soil mix: Using the correct soil is of the utmost importance. If you live in a temperate climate it should be okay to use soil from your garden. If you choose to do so then only use soil you find at least 3 feet down because top level dirt is contaminated. Also, before using first spread it out in the sun for about a week before sieving. A better option is to purchase nutrient rich bonsai soil which will ensure your tree stays healthy. Such soil can be purchased from most good garden nurseries or even on Amazon.com.

Bonsai pots: Choosing the right pot is often the most overlooked aspects of the craft among Westerners. Therefore, the pot is one of the most crucial of the bonsai supplies in terms of aesthetics. These are easily available from many stores and online.


Maintenance tools

If you have invested a considerable amount of money on your tools then it would make sense to take good care of them. The following bonsai supplies will ensure that your tools function correctly and also greatly extend their life.

Rust remover: Metallic tools are likely to pick up rust over time and its essential to prevent it or remove it as soon as its spotted. The easiest way to do this is with a specialized rust remover. Keep in mind that the more expensive stainless steel tools do not rust.

Grindstone: With time your tools will become blunt which is why sharpening them is essential. A grindstone is ideally suited for this task but using it correctly does require some skill gained through practice. If you have no experience with sharpening then it might be best to practice on some old blunt kitchen knifes or garden shears.

Disinfectant: Disinfecting is often one of the most overlooked maintenance tasks, yet its also one of the most important. All tools should be periodically cleaned with a good strong disinfectant to prevent spreading bacteria and fungi from one tree to another.

Camellia oil: Camellia oil works wonders on hinges and should be applied from time to time. It will ensure your tools work properly and it extends their lifespan.


Bonsai accessories

The following bonsai supplies and accessories are considered non-essential but are worth mentioning because they can make your life considerably easier.

Automatic watering system: Bonsai trees need to be watered on a very regular basis and there will be times when you will be away from home for extended periods of time. If someone is home they could do the watering for you but if that’s not an option you might want to invest in an automatic watering system.

Humidity drip tray: Humidity drip trays serve multiple purposes. They protect whatever surface your bonsai tree is sitting on by catching the water which seeps through the pot. In addition, the water which collects in the tray evaporates and thereby creates a healthy humid environment for your tree. Purchasing an actual drip tray may not be necessary because you can use any old tray you have laying around your home.

Bonsai turntable: When working on your tree you will have to rotate it on a regular basis. This can be troublesome for two reasons: Firstly, they can be heavy and secondly, moving it may cause scratch marks on the table surface you are working on. If this is a problem for you then investing in a turntable might not be such a bad idea and they need not cost an arm and a leg.

Bonsai grow light: Waiting for your tree to reach further maturity can take a long time and is often accompanied with great anticipation. Why not cut your waiting time in half by using a grow light?



Further Information

Now that you know what is needed, why not learn the necessary skills via video from a bonsai expert? Check out the YouTube page of Nigel Saunders.