Bonsai Tools and their usage

Bonsai Tools and their usage

Published by Alva L. Hayes (Miami Tropical Bonsai) on 6th Sep 2020

Bonsai tools are a must if you want to grow a Bonsai tree. These are small trees that imitate the looks of full-grown trees and are produced inside containers using various cultivation techniques. Taking proper care is a crucial part of growing a Bonsai, and you need the right tools for that.

What tools do I need?

If you are a beginner and just starting, you should consider buying something like a concave cutter and standard shear. The more artistic tree you want to make your tree, the more tools you will need.

Now the question is if you should choose Japanese or Chinese tools. Japanese tools are well known for their quality but are usually a bit costly. Chinese tools provide good value for money.

You can use online marketplaces like eBay or Amazon to buy tools like these.

Common Bonsai Equipments

A standard Bonsai tool kit should include

  • Shears
  • Pliers
  • Saws
  • Knives
  • Wiring tools

How to use Bonsai Tools?

Bonsai tools are usually made out of black steel. These tools require high maintenance, as they can rust very quickly. Make sure to use them the way they are supposed to be used. This will ensure that your Bonsai equipment does not expire ahead of time.

Let's discuss what purpose each tool serves.


Shears are used to cutting twigs, small branches, and leaves.

There are many types of shears, and their usage is different from one another. There are strong, wide shaped shears used for thick branches, long and narrow shaped shears used in deep bushes, and small ones used on outer areas.

Here are a few types of shears

  • pruning shear
  • standard shear
  • long slim twig shear
  • shohin and azalea shear
  • Strong shear


Pliers or cutters are usually used for trimming. Different pliers are used for different purposes.

If you want to remove branches and do not want a scar, you can use concave cutters. There are different types of concave cutters like knob cutters, straight blade concave cutters, or semi-round blade concave cutters.

These are some standard pliers

  • Leafcutter
  • large concave cutter
  • small concave cutter
  • knob cutter
  • root plier
  • large wire cutter
  • small wire cutter
  • Wire bending plier

Knife and Saw

A saw is usually used for those thick branches that pliers cannot cut, and knives are used to smooth out the rough edges left behind after using a saw.

A small reminder if you have a Japanese saw. Japanese saw cuts when you pull them towards yourself. So do not push too hard when you are using it because excess pressure can break the blade.

Root hook and Root rake

Bonsai hook and rake are both used for repotting.

Root hooks have a single edge that is very helpful for removing soil from the root and ensuring the tree’s safety. This is a crucial tool for the repotting of a Bonsai tree.

Root rakes can be used to loosen the topsoil to increase water absorption. It has a flat edge that helps in repotting. This flat edge can be used to pack soil between the roots to increase its strength. They are usually made using carbon steel.

Wiring Tools

Wiring is used to shape or guide tree branches to go in specific directions.

Usually, aluminum or copper wires are used for this. Wires can differentiate from each other based on their diameter. You also need wire cutters and pliers to bend the wires. These tools have different sizes and shapes.

Aluminum wire is recommended for beginners.

Electric Bonsai Tools

Electric Bonsai tools are also known as power tools. These tools require extreme attention while using because if you do not use them with care, they can cause severe injuries. Make sure to wear protective glasses, gloves, dust mask, and helmet while using electric-powered tools.

Use these tools with the utmost concentration, hold them firmly, and be cautious about the speed control dial and power button.

Though electric tools are risky to use, the results of using these tools can be very satisfying.

Here are some common electric tools.

  • "Dremel 300" machine
  • wood hardener
  • round carving hook with a thin, sharp tip
  • angled carving hook
  • Small and large jin plier
  • branch splitter
  • spear plow
  • small loop knife
  • strong, straight scalpel
  • curved scalpel
  • set of 10 small carving tools
  • a set of 5 different carving tools
  • a set of 4 flex cut carving tools

How to clean Bonsai Tools?

Regular usage of these tools will inevitably make them dirty. Not taking proper care can cause the tools to get dull and attract rust. If these equipment types are not cleaned and cared properly, they will be unusable at some point. Properly maintained tools are both easy to use and good for your plant. It is better to keep them clean and preserve them rather than buy new ones each year.

Follow these steps to increase the longevity of your tools.

  • Inspect the tools after using making sure they are clean and in good shape.
  • Clean all the tools with a cloth. Carefully clean them as they have sharp edges.
  • If you see any saps on your shears, remove them with soap water because they can make your tools rusty.
  • Remove the stains on your tools and use something like a Tri-flow oil as lubrication between uses.
  • If your tool is rusted, use a rust eraser to remove rust coating as sandpaper can be very harsh.
  • After cleaning, spray some Tri-slow oil to stop corrosion when storing.

How to sharpen Bonsai instruments?

Bonsai instruments are usually made out of carbon steel or stainless steel. Carbon steel is more vulnerable to rust, but it stays sharp for a long time, whereas stainless steel is the exact opposite. It does not matter what type of tool you have. Because in time, you will need to sharpen them

The best way to sharpen an edge is honing, and there are different materials you can use for this. The first way is to use an extra-fine file. Just let the file go over the edge in both directions. It is important to ensure that the number of passes is the same for both directions. Otherwise, each sides will have different results.

Another way is to use diamond impregnated honing sticks. They have three grades that are; coarse, medium, and fine. Usually, usage of a rough grade is not always necessary. The procedures are the same for this method but make sure to use both the medium and the fine stick.

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