Bonsai shears, also called bonsai scissors, are the most often used tool in creating and maintaining our small trees.
Many growers have more than one pair, but different sizes make different jobs easier. When using the wrong size tool, we often make mistakes. In addition, using the wrong size can easily damage your shears.
Just Getting Started?
If you’re a beginner, one pair of medium-sized bonsai scissors – used for general pruning things such as young branches – will be adequate. Although not necessary, an additional pair of small shears could be a convenience for trimming leaves and the tips of new growth. (Also known as bonsai “bud scissors.”)
The larger shears can often do the job of both. The smaller one should never be forced to cut more than it was meant to trim.
Never force any tool. It can be an expensive mistake.
I read once that you should “never use household scissors” on bonsai. But remember, there is no magic in using bonsai tools.
Special tools may not be necessary if you have one little tree that occasionally needs a trim. Of course, it’s always fun to have a real bonsai tool. As your bonsai collection grows, you will find value in having “real” bonsai tools. In the meantime, a pair of sharp household scissors may work just fine.
The key is to keep all tools sharp and clean.
Dirty tools can transfer dangerous pathogens from one plant to another in any horticultural hobby. Furthermore, dirty tools rust. Make sure to clean your tools properly after each time they are used. Review bonsai tree tools cleaning notes on the Bonsai Tools page.
Styling Tools (In Addition to Bonsai Shears)
As your hobby develops, you will know when you need additional tools.
If you are shaping, styling, and creating new trees, you will need other tools. In addition to the bonsai shears, the concave branch cutter is another of the ‘first real bonsai tools.
That one is difficult to duplicate. A branch cutter will make removing the branches you don’t want much easier and quicker than using heavy-duty garden shears.
Many folks use chopsticks to help remove soil or even use them when adding soil to a container. It’s an easy-to-find, free tool. Take some home from your favorite Oriental restaurant. You will probably use them more than you think.
The ‘Magic Cloth’ is another highly recommended “tool.”