I used to think that specialized bonsai tools were a bit of a gimmick, and that you didn’t really need to buy them. As I tried to work with my seedlings and trees I found that bonsai tools are specially designed for the job, and you save a lot of time and effort if you have them.
I have tried to provide some information here about tools I have used and would recommend, together with others that have been recommended to me.
Tools for Beginners
If you are just starting out, then probably the first tool you should buy is a pair of bonsai shears. I thought I would be able to get by just using a standard pair of garden pruning shears. However, the ends weren’t pointed enough and I couldn’t get into the tight corners around roots and branches for precise trimming.
The shears I currently like are the Wakashishi Bonsai Scissors. They are very reasonably priced and you can get them from Amazon.
I like the fact that they are made in Japan (makes them seem more authentic). These shears are about seven inches long and the blades two inches. The handles are quite large so you can fit two or three fingers inside the loop (the one that doesn’t have your thumb in). This can make pruning less tiring since you are able to move your fingers around inside the loops while pruning.
Something else that impressed me was how sharp the blades were and how close the contact between them. Sometimes with inexpensive shears the blades are quite blunt, and are too far apart, so you end up tearing the branches or roots rather than cutting them cleanly.
For cutting thicker branches and roots you will need a tool with shorter blades and longer handles to give you more leverage. Although bonsai shears with short blades and long handles are available, maybe the best tool for this (if you are only buying one) is a pair of concave cutters.
The blades in concave cutters resemble the claw-like blades on those pliers you can get for pulling nails out of wood. The blades don’t overlap very much (if at all) and the cutting is achieved by more of a pinching action.
You can get concave cutters with straight or curved cutting edges. The ones I like have a cutting surface that combines straight and curved edge functionality. A more advanced bonsai practitioner would probably prefer to have one of each, but this is perfect for this stage I am at. You can see them on Amazon here.
The third item I needed was a pair of wire cutters. Again, I tried to get by with standard wire cutters from my regular toolkit, but they weren’t really up to the job.
I found that I needed to be cutting wire that was in close contact with the trunk or branches, and I needed to do it without damaging the bark. Specialist bonsai wire cutters have blades that are specially designed to cut off training wires into short sections without damaging the tree.
The wire cutters I like are described as professional grade, but are quite inexpensive. You can see them on Amazon here.
Bonsai Tool Kits
You can get them all in a kit, similar to the one pictured, with a variety of shears and cutters. In kits like this one you also get a cleaning brush, which is usually made of bamboo or coconut fibre. You can see an example on the Amazon website.
I don’t think I’m really qualified to recommend professional standard bonsai tools yet. As I learn more I’ll come back here and let you know what I have learned.