The bonsai hobby has many specialized tools which make the task of pruning, wiring, planting, watering and other general maintenance of your bonsai trees much easier. That said, there are 3 tools which I believe are must haves and you should definitely purchase these first. These three tools could be your entire collection of tools, or you could expand your tool set over the years.
So what are they? They are the Shear, typically a butterfly shear, a concave cutter, and a chopstick.
Historically, the butterfly shear is used for bonsai, however the bonsai tool manufacturers have made several different types of them. From the larger butterfly shear, to slim long nosed shears, and everything in between, there is a vast selection of shears to choose from – one to suit everyone’s tastes and budget. Speaking of budget, a quality shear will last you a lifetime as long as you take care of it. So buy a good quality shear. The Fujiyama brand shears cover a range of quality, but compared to everything else out there, they are very high quality. The bulk of the line is second only to Masakuni tools. That said, the heavy duty Fujiyama shears are on par with Masakuni tools, but at a significant savings.
The reason the Shear is the number one tool for bonsai is that it is a precision tool and can take out small amounts of material. This helps refine the plant into the desired shape. Because of its ability to be nimble, the shear is the ideal tool to use to get in between small, fine branches and take out a specific twig or leaf set. The shear is the main tool to use on your bonsai.
Taking care of your shear is easy! All you have to do is keep it dry and oil it from time to time. The only real way to ruin a shear, or any bonsai tool for that matter, is to drop it on the pavement, or leave it outside in the rain and elements for an extended period of time. Being steel, they will rust if not taken care of. Taking care of them is as easy as having a dry place for them and running some oil across the blade after each use.
The Concave Cutter:
The concave cutter was designed especially to cut the larger branches that the shear cannot cut. This tool is also used to help shape the bonsai tree, but it is specially designed to cut a small groove into the tree so that when the tree heals, the scar will be minimal.
Have you ever noticed that on trees in the great outdoors when someone cuts a branch off it leaves a scar? Usually that scar sticks out from the tree and it’s obvious that a branch was cut there. The concave cutter is designed to nip into the trunk of the tree so that when it heals, it will heal flush and smooth, thus minimizing the appearance that a branch was removed there. There is no better tool for this task than the concave cutter. Again, you should buy the finest quality you can – Fujiyama brand of course – and take care of it by keeping it clean and dry.
When you plant or repot a bonsai tree you will need to firm it into the pot. Also, if you had to prune the roots of your bonsai tree, you would have removed all of the soil around the roots in order to trim them – ideally with your special shear for this purpose. The way you get the soil back in and around the roots is by using a chopstick. Nothing else can do this for you. If you set the plant in, and merely dump the soil over the top and press it in, your tree will either fall over or die because it can’t get any water. You need to work the dirt in between the roots and firm it in with the chopstick. Give it a good press with your hands and then water it in. Also, the chopstick is extremely useful for making the little clips with wire that hold your screens in the holes in the bonsai pot. As with the shear, the chopstick is a versatile tool.
So, obviously, there are a couple other tools and supplies that you will need to completely take care of your bonsai. Bonsai wire comes to mind. But if you wanted to, because bonsai trees grow slowly, you could use only these three tools for many, many years and grow an attractive bonsai tree.
Just remember, when you buy a tool, buy a quality tool like a Fujiyama tool available at Dallas Bonsai Garden. The other tools will bend and break on you and get dull cutting edges after a couple cuts. Why waste your money? If you buy a good tool and take care of it, you won’t have to buy another one ever; unless you wanted to have one for your spouse or child, of course. Compared to every other tool on the market, dollar for dollar, you can’t get a better tool than a Fujiyama tool. So there you have it, the 3 must have tools. Of course you can add to your collection, but if you start with these 3, you will be prepared enough to handle everything you will encounter in the first year or two.