The Best Bonsai Tools: What You Need to Know

Bonsai tools in action.
Shears are one of the most common types of bonsai tools.

If you want to get into bonsai as a hobby, you will need a proper set of tools. A beginner hobbyist can get along fine with only a concave cutter and a shear, but the more control you want, the more bonsai tools are required. We have listed and reviewed everything from the essential tools to non-essential bonsai supplies and accessories such as turntables.

Topics Covered

  • What you should know before buying tools
  • The different types of tools
  • Bonsai tool kits reviewed
  • Maintenance tools
  • Accessories and extras
  • How to take care of your tools
DescriptionBuy
10-Piece bonsai tool kit.This 10-Piece Bonsai Tool Kit is made from high carbon steel and has everything a beginner to intermediate hobbyist will need. The set includes wire, a leaf trimmer, short handle shears, long-handle shears, a wire cutter, and more.
100% Pure Camellia Maintenance Oil.This high-quality and 100% pure camellia maintenance oil ships straight from Japan. Apply it to your carbon steel tools to extend their life and keep them from rusting.
400-Grit Water Stone.This 400 grit water stone ships from Japan and is ideal for keeping high-alloy bonsai tools sharp and functioning as they should.

What you should know before buying bonsai tools

Shaping and maintaining a miniature tree from a seed to the desired size requires a rather extensive set of tools. The younger the tree, the fewer tools are needed, but you will have to expand your toolset as the tree grows.

Before we get into the product reviews, we will first go over a couple of things every beginner should know when selecting tools.

Size: It’s not advised to use a 7″ branch cutter to cut a 10mm branch. Branch cutters in that size are only suitable for cutting branches up to 5mm thick. Therefore, it’s essential to upgrade your tools to the correct size as your tree grows. Otherwise, you could damage your tools and also the actual tree.

Weight: Cheap bonsai tools tend to weigh more than quality ones. Just remember that you will most certainly want something lightweight, especially with extended periods of use.

Material: The material of your bonsai tools is a good indication of their quality. At the very least, you want something made of carbon steel, but high-grade stainless steel, although costing more, is the ideal choice.

Origin: Japan produces some of the world’s highest quality products. Therefore, you can never go wrong with choosing bonsai tools made in Japan. Also, keep in mind that many US companies manufacture some excellent quality products too.


The different types of bonsai tools

Below is a list of the most commonly used tools and their functions. There is no need to buy them all simultaneously. Rather start with a bonsai tool kit, and then upgrade or purchase new ones individually as needed.

ToolDescription
Bonsai tools: Branch cutter.

Branch cutter

The branch cutter, as the name implies, cuts branches. It allows you to cut a whole branch without any stubs remaining, which allows it to heal quickly and without any callouses.
Bonsai tools: Concave cutter.

Concave cutter

The concave cutter is very similar to a branch cutter and is for general cutting purposes. However, it specializes in leaving a concave shape after cutting branches to avoid bulging.
Bonsai tools: Leaf trimmer.

Leaf trimmer

Leaf trimmers are for cutting leaves and thinning foliage.
Bonsai tools: Jin Pliers.

Jin pliers

Jin pliers are ideal for creating a deadwood effect by stripping away pieces of bark from the tree. Its other uses include applying and removing bonsai wire from branches.
Bonsai tools: Scissors/shears.

Bonsai scissors

Scissors, or shears, are the most common type of bonsai tool and are used for everything from pruning canopies to trimming leaves and cutting small twigs.
Bonsai tools: Bending wire.

Bonsai wire

Wire plays an essential role in bending the branches of a bonsai tree into a style of your liking. The wire must be kept in place for a couple of months until the branches are permanently set in their new positions. There are two types of wire – annealed copper and anodized aluminum. It’s recommended that beginners start with aluminum wire because it’s easier to work with.
Bonsai tools: Raffia.

Raffia

Raffia is long dried strips of leaves taken from the raffia palm tree. These strips are soaked in water for 30 minutes before being tightly wrapped around branches about to be bent. Not only does raffia minimize scarring to the branches from the bonsai wire, but it also prevents the bark from drying, cracking, and even breaking during the bending process.
Bonsai tools: Wire cutter.

Wire cutter

A wire cutter is for cutting bonsai wire.
Bonsai tools: Saw.

Bonsai saw

A bonsai saw is a multi-purpose tool for cutting small branches or any part of the tree that is too hard or thick to cut with scissors. Saws are also ideally suited for pruning thick roots. These saws have fine teeth that ensure that the tree heals neatly and very fast.
Bonsai tools: Root hook.

Root hook

When repotting, the root hook does a great job at detangling the roots while minimizing damage to them.
Bonsai tools: Sickle knife.

Sickle knife

Sickles are used in the repotting process as it makes it easier to remove pot bound roots. They are also useful when sorting out root mats.
Bonsai tools: Soil scoops.

Soil scoops

Soil scoops are used when repotting your tree. They work far better than if you had to use your hands or a small spade to move messy soil.

Bonsai tool kits

Bonsai tool kits won’t always have everything a professional needs, but they are more than enough for a budding beginner. It’s not a problem since any additional tools required now or later can be purchased separately.


7-Piece master-grade bonsai tool kit

TianBonsai brings you this quality master-grade stainless steel bonsai tool kit. Each item is handmade by the master worker at TianBonsai and is guaranteed to last three years with regular use.

Also, the warranty is reasonable. If anything goes wrong with the tools within the first three years of purchase, take a picture of the defect and email it to them. They will send you a new one without charging any fees.

Included in the bonsai tool kit: A nylon case, 8″ jin pliers, 8″ bonsai tweezers, 7″ knob cutter, 7″ wire cutter, 8″ trunk splitter, 7″ branch cutter, 7″ round edge cutter.

The product has dimensions of 9.8 x 8.31 x 1.81 inches and weighs 2.49 pounds.


10-Piece Bonsai Tool Kit from Aonepro

This 10-piece bonsai tool kit is made from carbon steel and is suitable for everyone from beginner to professional level. It allows you to cut roots and branches, trim leaves, and loosen the soil.

Included in the bonsai tool kit: A nylon tool case, 5x aluminum training wire set, 4″ leaf trimmer, 7.6″ large cutting scissor, 7″ medium-sized cutting scissor, 7.8″ wire cutter, 6.4″ hemp broom, 9″ root hook, 8.2″ long handle shear, 8″ concave cutter, 8.6″ rake with a spatula, and an 8″ knob cutter.

The product has dimensions of 14.76 x 10.12 x 2.13 inches and weighs 4.13 pounds.


Maintenance tools

Keeping your tools well oiled and sharp will greatly extend their lifespan by keeping them functioning as they should and keep them looking new.


Camellia maintenance oil from Japan

This high-grade 100% pure camellia oil from Japan prevents carbon steel from rusting and can be used on everything from kitchen knives to carpentry and bonsai tools.

Also, it’s safe on rubber materials, ceramics and plastic.

Instructions: Spray onto the steel surfaces of your tools and wipe the excess oil off after each use.


400-Grit super ceramic water stone from Japan

This 400 grit water stone is ideal for the rapid sharpening of stainless steel and high alloy blades. The surface has a small amount of elasticity which prevents the blade from skidding while sharpening.

The product comes with an instruction booklet that explains how to use the product and take care of it. There is also a handy nagura included, which is used for cleaning and flattening the main water stone before use.

The product has dimensions of 8.27 x 2.76 x 0.98 inches and weighs 1.98 pounds.


Japanese rust eraser

This rust eraser from the Hanafubuki Wazakura brand in Japan is made from alumina and urethane. It’s for removing rust, stains, and tree sap from your bonsai tools and kitchen knives.

The product has dimensions of 2.56 x 1.57 x 0.35 inches and weighs 3.52 ounces.


Accessories

Accessories are non-essential items, but they can make your bonsai hobby a lot more convenient and easy.


Bonsai turntable

Many bonsai accessories will help simplify your work, and one such item is a bonsai turntable. This particular model featured here is made in Japan by the Fujiwara Sangyo Company, weighs 7 pounds, and has 11.8 x 11.7 x 3.1-inch dimensions.

The item requires assembly but is sturdy and of very high quality. Also, it ships from Japan, so expect around two weeks for delivery.


How to take care of your bonsai tools

Taking proper care of your bonsai tools will keep them looking new and functioning properly. Also, it will increase their lifespan. Here’s what you should do.

Inspect and clean your tools: Dirt, debris, and tree sap are found on bonsai tools after use. Wipe them clean with a damp cloth, but be careful not to cut yourself on any of the blades. Also, don’t leave any stains behind. Use a wooden spatula or a piece of bamboo to remove stubborn stains.

Keep your blades sharp: Blunt tools are of no use, so keep them sharp with a fine-grit Japanese water stone.

Keep them rust-free: If you use stainless steel bonsai tools, then you have nothing to worry about. Carbon steel, on the other hand, is prone to rust. To quickly and safely remove rust without damaging the steel, use a rust-eraser.

Keep them oiled: Always spray some choji or camellia oil on your tools before packing away. Not only does it keep everything working as it should, but it also helps deter rust.


Related Content

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.

Check out our ultimate bonsai guide here.

To grow a healthy tree fast, you should always choose the correct soil for your tree.

The pot you choose for your tree plays an important part in aesthetics. Find out more about bonsai pots here.

Each year numerous bonsai exhibitions are held across Japan, where people come from all over to show off their work. Find out when, where, and how to attend one of these events.