Let’s face it, tools are cool. No matter the occupation, the hobby or the obsession, we all love a shiny set of new tools. But, when it comes to cost, the sky is the limit for even just a single sparkling beauty. However, when it comes to bonsai, if you are smart, you can avoid breaking your bank. With a basic set of tools you can go a long way to create miniature masterpieces. Rules of thumb, get the best you can afford, shop around and ask questions.
1) Concave Cutter – This is the essential go to tool for Bonsai cultivation. Primarily, it is designed for removing branches. Concave cutters leave a small indented cut that heals quickly and minimizes scar tissue. A must have. There really is no substitute. An 8″ pair can purchased for as little as $30.
2 ) Wire Cutter – Wire cutters accomplish two things with wire. First, they are used to cut wire into pieces as needed from the rolls. Second, they are used for cutting the wire into links when removing the wire from branch wrapings. Never try to unwrap wire from a tree. Always cut it off. If you are going to attempt to substitute bonsai wire cutters for something from the tool shed, make sure that they are rounded at the top. This will allow you to get as close to a branch as possible while cutting wire and at the same time avoid cutting into the tree.
3 ) Shears (3 sizes shown) – While three sizes are show, for the beginner, one should suffice. Bonsai shears, sometimes referred to as bonsai scissors, are extremely effective at trimming roots, twigs, and branches from your bonsai. If you are on a budget, quality shears or scissors can be obtained at most garden stores.
4) Chop Stick (not shown) – Do not under estimate the value of this seemingly simple and inexpensive tool. It possibly has more potential uses than any other tool in the Bonsai tool box. Some of its uses include; packing soil, to brace a tree, to assist in a branch bend, a water gauge, a soil rake, a root comb, a back scratcher or a nose picker. Or whatever else you come up with. Chopsticks can usually be obtained for free along with an order of your favorite chinese take out. If you use your chop stick as a nose picker, do not share it – thank you.
Nice to have:
4) Leaf trimmer - Bonsai leaf trimmers are also known as bonsai bud snippers or defoliators. They perform the easiest bonsai tree maintenance focusing on the light and delicate.
5) Rake with Spatula – This tool allows the enthusiast to rake and pick root balls apart for a more controlled root trim and repotting.
6) Root Hook – Again, this tool is made to comb through bonsai roots easily. Perhaps if you have a rake, you can for go this tool for now. Another great substitute is running water and your hand.
7) Knob Cutter – A knob cutter is designed to make a concave cut and remove trunk knobs and roots. It produces a hollow, circular cut that heals quickly with a minimum amount of scarring. The cutting head on this tool is on the tip (not the side like concave cutters), which allows you to cut much more forcefully. This makes it an ideal tool to have when cutting, carving, or shaping deadwood.
8 ) Turn Table (not shown) – Bonsai Turntables can get very elaborate. They are used while styling a tree and provide a convenient method for rotating the tree in order to make stylistic judgments. Prices vary wildly on this item. A quick substitute might be a rotating spice rack.
Silly, but fun;
9) Coir Brush - This traditional Japanese tool is for keeping the surface of the soil free of litter without damaging surface roots. But really, it is just a small broom if you really think about it. Or is it?