Tips for Sharpening Bonsai Tools

Sharpening bonsai tools is an important part of the bonsai process.

Dull bonsai shears can cause damage and aggravation! Here are some helpful techniques to consider from Dave at Bogan’s Bonsai. He shared many details with me. Here, in part, is our conversation.

Where to Start?

Dave Bogan, Guest Author

“Get all your bonsai tools together. Give them a thorough cleaning first. Sharp tools are a must. If your tools are dull, they will crush the wood fibers instead of cutting cleanly.”

What To Use?

“Most tools will only need a quick honing with a stone or diamond file. By stone, I mean a sharpening stone, generally a fine grit. Many refer to them as Japanese water stones, and they come in grit sizes of 100 to 6000 grit.

Diamond Files?

“For weekly sharpening bonsai tools, I use a diamond hone to simply touch up the edges. These diamond files are available at most home stores. Lowes and Home Depot have them for around $25. Diamond hones look like a file with a handle. One side is labeled course, and one is fine. I use the fine sideto continually keep my tools – especially scissor types – always sharp.”

How To Maintain the Bevel?

“Always try to maintain the original bevel … using a marker, paint the bevel with ink. As you sharper the tools, the ink will be rubbed off, showing you if your angle is correct. Always sharpen against the edge or up the bevel. Sharpen a cutting tool until you can feel a slight edge forming on the bottom. This is a slight curling of the metal, showing you have created a very fine edge. Once you feel this curl, lightly run this edge across a very fine hone, which will remove it. This only takes one or two swipes.

Don’t overdo it.

Never allow a pair of bonsai shears or scissor-type cutters to close until you have removed this burr from the bottom side.” 

Final Thoughts

Like so many aspects of bonsai, different artists use different techniques. Whichever technique you decide upon … use it! Check out our bonsai tools page if you want more discussion on the best tools for bonsai!

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