Part of the fun of visiting large bonsai exhibits is shopping in the vendor area. Sometimes there are hundreds of shiny, new tools for sale. After taking a good look at each, I usually tell myself – or try to anyway – that I have enough for the time being. And sometimes that works.
The reality is that I rarely use more than a handful of tools when I’m working on my trees. (I’ll cover repotting tools in a future post.) My short list of essential bonsai tools includes scissors, wire cutters, pliers, branch cutters, and tweezers.
Basic bonsai tools
Scissors made for bonsai are great for detail work and they fit well in the hand. I can’t think of a workshop during which I failed to reach for my scissors.
Wiring bonsai typically requires wire cutters and pliers. Wire cutters come in a variety of sizes, some made for large wires, others for small wires. Pliers too come in a variety of styles. Just about any can work well for bonsai, including the hardware store variety.
Branch cutters come in many styles. Of the cutters pictured below, I get the most use out of the third pair from the left.
Different styles of branch cutters
Tweezers are a must have for working with black or red pines. I use tweezers for other varieties as well, but not as often as I do for pines.
You may have noticed the blue stripes on my tools. Anyone who has lost a tool at a workshop knows why. The easier it is to identify your tools, the easier it is to keep track of them.
Electrical tape – simple ID system for tools
I find it hard to write about bonsai tools without mentioning little brooms and chopsticks. Chopsticks are the most versatile tools I carry around with me. Little brooms are fun and help out a lot during repotting season.
Although I have a fair selection of bonsai tools, I’m not a very good tool snob. Scissors need to be sharp, not expensive; pliers – effective, not pretty. And if I’m not sure that I need a new tool, I don’t hesitate to do some research before buying. I talk to teachers, vendors, and friends who have used the tools. I ask about sizes and styles and brands and any other criteria about which I’m not too sure. I check what’s available, and occasionally my budget, and then make the purchase. I also try to keep the following idea in mind – the less I spend on tools, the more I can spend on trees!
There are plenty of other tools I could have mentioned from chisels to grafting knifes to leaf cutters – are there others you find to be “essential”?
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