Bonsai Tools

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bonsai tool

Tool-sharpener (left) and Draw Knife (right)

Diamond tool sharpeners as pictured above are easy to locate in hardware stores and their small size (6mm) and rounded surface on one side makes them ideal for sharpening all bonsai tools and knob/side cutters in particular.

A draw-knife (also known as a bark-stripper) is an extremely useful tool with a multitude of uses and will strip bark away from wood in seconds.

Useful Accessories

As well as a basic tool kit it is worth investing in some essential accessories which are frequently required for the practice of bonsai.

A cheap black turntable is a worthwhile initial investment; it allows the bonsai to be easily and repeatedly turned while being worked on.

I no longer consider cut-paste or wound sealant to be necessary and do not apply them to fresh pruning wounds when I am working although many older bonsai publications and many enthusiasts will describe its importance.

It is however important to apply Vaseline (Petroleum Jelly) to the fresh wounds of all resinous trees such as Pine, Spruce and Larch as these species will bleed heavily. Petroleum Jelly can be applied to wounds on all species as effectively as using a traditional bonsai wound-sealant.

Do not use a proprietary bonsai sealant as ordinary garden-tree wound sealant can be difficult to remove once hardened and can cause further damage.

At repotting time soil sieves are needed to remove fine particles and dust from newly mixed bonsai soils. Root hooks are often used for removing old soil from around bonsai roots and for combing out though I would personally recommend using a mixture of hands and a chopstick, as these cause less damage when potting on new material for the first time and for repotting

Drainage Mesh is essential for stopping bonsai soils from dropping out through drainage holes in bonsai pots.

Additionally, a small knife and a small hand saw (with large teeth, fine-tooth saws will not cut through live wood effectively) are items that though not essential, are useful items to add to the toolbox.


Wire is commonly used in bonsai to allow accurate shaping and positioning of branches and trunks. It is also needed for anchoring in newly potted trees and drainage mesh.

Custom made aluminium wire is readily available from bonsai outlets and occasionally garden centres. It is worth investing in three or four different gauge wires that should be able to deal with shaping a variety of branch and trunk thickness. I would recommend purchasing 1mm, 1.5mm and 2mm gauges at first.

The Japanese traditionally use copper wire for its superior holding power though it is now becoming less popular and is harder to source commercially.

It should be noted that plastic-coated wire available from garden centres and a number of other alternatives to bonsai wire are not only unsightly, have little 'holding' power but also contain metals that can cause severe damage (sometimes with fatal consequences) to trees when they come into contact with the cambium layer, the 'living tissue' of the tree.

bonsai wire

Anodised Aluminium Bonsai Wire.

Related Article: Cleaning Bonsai Tools and Wood-Carving Bits