Created with shapes, sizes and sharpness to do specific jobs, bonsai tools also do them well. Hundreds of different designs and sizes are available.
These implements are available individually, as well as in sets. Before you buy … understand there are many different grades. The least expensive equipment is often very poor quality. They may break and/or lose their cutting edge quickly.
If they seem too cheap, it’s probably for a good reason.
Which Bonsai Tools to Buy
If you’re just getting started, go easy. In the beginning, a basic bonsai tool set may be perfect.
Before buying a tool kit, make sure the set includes only the tools you will use! Otherwise, it may be better to purchase them individually.
Don’t be tempted by the exotic selection available. In time, you will know which ones are important for your particular needs. Consider purchasing two quality bonsai tools. Many hobbyists begin with the two most important:
Bonsai Rakes – Very good for removing soil around the trunk to expose nebari. When repotting some roots can be raked out to trim and remove soil, others may need to be “sliced” with a saw or sharp knife. Used judiciously, the bonsai rake is valuable … know it is not perfect for every root pruning situation.
Bonsai Tweezers – A convenience tool. They are often used for plucking needles and many swear by them for removing weeds.
Watering Wand – makes watering your bonsai an easy task and makes the job thorough.
Bonsai Turntable – Is it necessary? Perhaps not, however it is highly recommend. Turning your tree – small or large – is the best way to study your subject. Whether you start with an old lazy-susan or purchase a “real” bonsai turntable … get one!
Tool Sharpener – In addition to keeping tools clean, keep them sharp.
Important Bonsai Supplies
Specialty Non-Bonsai Tools
‘Bonsai’ Shovel – This shovel is gaining popularity especially for yamadori collectors!
In England, Harry Harrington had this to say “I took the smaller spade (the Nomad) out collecting in really rocky (chalk) soil and it worked wonders! … smaller and lighter it added barely any weight to my rucksack … Root Slayer Nomad is quite definitely coming out with me for the rest of the collecting season!“
This tool comes in different sizes, but if you are hiking any distance, this “Nomad” is the lighter weight. Unless you really need to dig very deep, this one will work! This is a perfect shovel for those who dig their own yamadori. What is Yamadori Bonsai? [Collecting Bonsai In The Forest]
A ‘Bonsai’ Pressure Washer – This water sprayer with adjustable pressure strength is perfect for cleaning bark and driftwood. Especially if you are a yamadori collector, you will need one.
Bonsai artist Mike Rogers in Central Florida uses one and and recommends: “To avoid tearing off the bark, it’s important to test and adjust the pressure strength before using it on your bonsai !” Test it on an old log or something comparable.
If you’ve ever spent hours with vinegar or soapy water and a toothbrush trying to clean dead wood or the bark on your bonsai, you will love this sprayer! If you are a beginner, you may not have the need for this tool. As your collection grows, you will find it invaluable!
Here are some important notes on the handy little spot cleaner – from Mike Sullivan – a fan in South Florida.
I have destroyed mine repeatedly by not keeping it perfectly upright while using. Turning it at an angle to get into hard to reach areas destroys the inner coil. It causes it to rust and snap and can clog the nozzle. You can by replacement kits from the manufacturer. I’ve purchased a half dozen already. Difficult instructions to follow but doable. Much easier to remember to keep it upright.
Also, care should be taken on tropical bark, sounds silly but this machine is a little dynamo. Start at a distance with the softest setting then move toward the tree. If you see green. STOP. I stripped my first little tree in a heartbeat. Oops! Of course, it survived but a shocker to see all that green when it happened!
Another problem: these machines are awesome for Shohin, but bigger trees really tax the little powerhouse. They tend to run very hot. They are “spot” cleaners after all, not made for hours of constant running.
More Good Advice – when you feel the handle getting hot, set it down, do some hand brushing. When cooled; continue.