There are literally dozens of types of Bonsai Tools that have evolved over the millennia, tool that are specialist in their use, like the branch splitter; and some like the Jin Pliers, which have eveolved from everyday home utensils. The Jin Plier are no more than Chinese Tongs used to hold the hot wok with its Angled tapered head and nose.
I shall present the tool grouped by how they are applied to everyday Bonsai maintenance tasks, like Pruning, Re-potting, Shaping and Wiring, and Carving, Feeding and Watering.
Video on How to Use Bonsai Tools
Branch & Leaf Pruning
Bud & Fine Twig Shears (Koeda Kiri Hasami) - These long reach scissors are designed for pruning delicate branches, twigs and buds. Their long slender handles are ideal for those difficult to reach places.
General Purpose Shears (Ashinaga Basami ) – These comfortable shears are for your every day use, for pruning fine to medium branches and roots. Do not walk into your Bonsai Garden without them. The large handles allow you to use all your palm and fingers to exert maximum pressure.
Branch & Root Shears (Hasami)- This heavy duty tool allows you to prune your Bonsai’s thicker Roots and Branches. Its broad blade allows you raverse the fully width in one clean cut, allowing for smooth and clean cut end to end, and good for healing cleanly and quickly.
Jin Pliers - Ideal for making Jin and Shari on Bonsai. It does this by nibbling or stripping away at the branched to be made into a Jin. This Tool however has many more uses, from wire tying and un-winding.
Wire Cutters (YATTOKO) - This specially designed tool cuts wire close to bark with minimal damage to the bark. Use wire cutters to cut away wire from the branches as this minimises damage to the cambium and delicate leaf bud.
Branch Splitters - Used for splitting heavy Bonsai branches along the length of the branch, in two or more layers, making the branch more pliable and hence easier to reposition. It is also and an invaluable tool for deadwood creation and can be used to eke out large bits of wood, which is pulled out with care can leave a highly desirable natural tear look.
Root Cutters – In shape almost like the Branch splitter, but the cutting lips are not as deep as those of a branch splitter, and the lips are positioned at a slight angle where as the Branch Splitters are positioned horizontally. Ideal for cutting the thicker tap roots and adventitious roots and for nipping out root stumps closer to the trunk.
Root Hooks – Single and Multi-pronged invaluable tool when re-potting. The single pronged hook is used to tease out individual and difficult roots, while the multi-pronged hook is used to untangle root balls.
Drainage Screens – Draining Sieves play two roles, one it prevents the lost of soil from the drainage holes and second it helps keeps insects and other pest out of the pot. Use a non-clogging variety of drainage screen.
Rakes – Like root hooks are used on smaller root balls, and to plane or rake the surface of the soil on a Bonsai pot to remove debris or to agitate the top soil if it has got compacted or to remove surface weeds.
Spatulas – Very important tool, make sure you get a strong heavy metal grade spatula, is used for many tasks around the potting shed, but I think the most important of them is to tease those stubborn little trees out off their pots when you need to re-pot them.
Sieves – To ensure that you use just the right size grit or growing medium for you bonsai.
Scoops – In valuable little helper, beats having to use your hand to fill the pot with, some of these handy scoops even come with an in built sieve.
Tamping Trowel - Used to tamp down soil when re-potting or after mixing in solid bonsai feed.
Coir Brush – The brush end is used to smooth down soil surfaces and give a finished look, or just brush-off dead leaves and debris of the surface. The handle end made be used to clean or rub off branches and trunks unsightly loose bark or lichen, or perhaps even the odd pest.
Hand saw – for use in lots of little task. Look for a pull saw version if you can find one. Essential for when you are on those collecting field trips.
Tool & Pot Care and Maintenance
Tool Sharpening Oilstones – to sharpen your favourite tools, remember to use with care, else you could do more damage then good.
Turntables – essential to help with you wire, shaping carving and potting jobs. If you can find one with a brake to stop the head turning when you don’t want it to turn all the better.
Camellia Oil – not really a tool, but nevertheless a useful tool to have in one’s arsenal.