The art of bonsai has endured through the centuries, and is still a popular and relaxing hobby today. Using the correct bonsai tools will increase your enjoyment of this pastime, allowing you to create beautiful shapes out of your bonsai trees.
Pruners and Shears
A concave pruner is an essential tool in your bonsai tool set. As its name suggests, it makes a concave cut into the trunk or branch of your tree. This shape of the wound aids in quick healing with little scarring. The geometric shape of a concave pruner is very precise to allow for clean cuts. Material that is too big or too hard can alter this geometric shape and damage the pruner. A branch you're cutting with a concave pruner should have a maximum diameter of half the distance from the heel to the tip of the cutting blades.
To make more delicate cuts, or to reach interior leaves and branches more easily, add a pair of bud scissors to your bonsai supplies. This tool has short blades and small finger holes to provide greater control.
Use a knob cutter when you need to make more aggressive cuts into the wood, such as when pruning bonsai branches too large for a concave pruner. The knob cutter's blades come together in a spherical shape, allowing you to easily and quickly cut away protruding nubs but still be precise enough to shape the final surface cut on the trunk.
You will sometimes need to remove or shorten the roots of your bonsai tree when repotting in order to fit the tree to the pot. Small stones can become hidden in the roots and cause damage to the delicate blades of a concave pruner, so use a root cutter for this purpose. It features thicker, coarser blades which can stand up to the occasional small stone. It can also be used to prune branches that are too big or too hard for the concave pruner.
A root hook is useful for removing soil and untangling roots during repotting. A chopstick will do the job in smaller specimens, but for medium to large bonsai trees a root hook will be necessary. This tool is available with just one hook or several; the multihook tools are more effective for soil removal but are more likely to cause root damage than a single hook.
Copper or aluminum wire will help you train your bonsai into specific shapes and correct unwanted bends in the trunk and branches. If you're just beginning your bonsai hobby, you may want to stick with aluminum wire; it is more malleable than copper and less likely to damage your tree as you wind it.
You will need a pair of wire cutters when working with wire; while regular cutters are readily available, they can damage your tree when removing wire which has become tight with the tree's growth. Wire cutters made specifically for bonsai have shorter blades, making it easier to use the very tip of the blades to cut the wire and avoid scarring the tree.
More advanced bonsai tools include saws, pliers, carving tools and bending levers. These tools are useful in certain circumstances, but can cause serious damage to your tree if not used properly. They are not an essential part of your bonsai trimming kit in the beginning; purchase them later if you find you need them.
Your bonsai tools will come in contact with sap and moisture during their use, causing corrosion. Remove the sap with a cleaner such as turpentine after every use, then wipe them with an oiled cloth and store them in a dry place. With proper maintenance, your bonsai tools will give you years of reliable use.