A member of the Bonsai Society of San Francisco, Samuel Tan, has taken an interest in juniper bonsai – especially deadwood work. Although relatively new to bonsai, Sam has picked up good tips from books like François Jeker’s Bonsai Deadwood and Cheng Cheng-Kung’s Bonsai Shari SiDiao.
I was curious what information Sam had found most useful when getting started with carving. He didn’t hesitate: following the grain of the wood, using a chisel and pliers to peel away strands of wood, and wearing cut-proof gloves.
Sam was working on a shimpaku juniper at the time and agreed to demonstrate these techniques. Here’s the tree.
Shimpaku juniper – black ink marks future deadwood along the trunk
The first technique uses a chisel to deepen deadwood along the trunk.
Narrow deadwood feature created by removing the bark
Begin by inserting the head of the chisel parallel with the grain of the wood.
Inserting the chisel into the wood
After pulling the strands of wood away from the tree, use a pair scissors to cut the separated strands.
Cutting the loose strands
From here there are two options. The loose strand can be pulled with finger and chisel or with a pair of pliers. First the finger and chisel approach.
Insert chisel under loose flap of wood
Press firmly on the flap with your thumb and pull
If you can’t pull the wood with your finger, a pair of pliers can help.
Pulling a strand of wood with pliers
Pliers are particularly useful for larger strands.
Peeling away a larger section of wood with pliers
Keep pulling to lengthen the deadwood feature
Once the deadwood feature reaches the desired length, use scissors to remove the peeled wood.
Cutting the peeled wood
Here are a couple of the deadwood features after the initial work. The next step will be to clean up the loose strands.
Jin and shari
Initial deadwood work complete
Thanks to Samuel Tan for the tips. If you can think of additional tips for new carvers, feel free to leave them below.
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