Which tools do I need?

So.. you have taken the step, you are hooked on bonsai and now you are tempted to go out and buy yourself a bunch of tools. Off you run to the bonsai dealer. And there you stand. Which tools to buy? These shears are expensive! Not to speak of those pliers!

You can spend a fortune on tools alone. Prices vary with the material used (Stainless steel, regular steel) country produced (China, Japan,..), size and manufacturer. So, before you go out, think about what you really need. Are you planning on splitting branches? Probably not. And do you really need a set of jin pliers? Probably you have pliers at home, which you could also use for the time being? So if you are just starting off with bonsai, but you want to go beyond (ab)using your kitchen utensils, these two pieces of equipment would be the most usefull to you: A set of sharp shears, and a set of concave cutters. Make sure you buy them large enough: Larger tools may be used on a smaller tree. Small tools will bend when used on too big a tree. As part of a starter toolkit, mid-sized tools are usually a good starting point.

Bonsai tools come in a range of different makes. There is no bigger difference than between the stainless teel vss ‘regular’ steel varieties. Although stainless steel feels like the best buy, it actually isn’t. It would be tempting: Buying tools which do not rust. However, in order to keep your tools in the best condition AND reduce the risk of transmitting diseases between plants, it is important to clean your tools between use. It is a very small step to the also wipe the tool with a cloth dipped in a bit of (machine) oil or petroleum jelly to protect the too against rust. Second reason for regular steel is the easy of sharpening, and the sharpness obtained can be higher with regular vss stainless steel.

Sharp Shears

Bonsai shearsWhen you trim your bonsai, you will need sharp shears When you are just starting off, your kitchen scissors will probably do. But as you have a few more trees, or you trim more and more, you might want to consider purchasing a pair of scissors specifically for your bonsai. If you do, please consider proper bonsai schears. They have as big advantage that the beak is small compared to the handles. This allows to you move the beak in the middle of the tree and cut small branches there. This without the risk of cutting other branches.

Concave cutters

Concave ShearsWhen trimming branches back to their base, often a stub reamins. In order for the wound to heal nicely and quickly, it is advisable to trim the stubs away too. The curved blades of these pliers pull themselves a little into the back of the main stemm, and cut out the base of the stub. This allows the bark to quickly and smoothly cover the cutmark.


For your tools to stay in optimal condition there are a few do’s and don’ts.
– Clean your tools after each use. Some website recommend using alcohol to desinfect your tools. The custom is very common, but it is not certain that a quick wipe-down is very usefull. An immersion for several minutes would be required to really be usefull. More usefull is probably a dip in some bleech, which is much more powerfull when it comes to desinfecting.
– whipe the tools with a little bit of light oil or petroleum jelly. This will block moisture getting to the metal, greatly reducing the risk of rust.
– Sharpen your tool every once in a while.

– use too much pressure on your tools. If you cannot cut a stub in one go, bite little sections of. Although the tools are sturdy, they can bend and be rendeered useless.

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