Bonsai tools are one of the biggest investments any bonsai enthusiast will make. They are not something we want to buy every year, so buying high quality tools is essential. We at Willow Bonsai Shop have compiled a list of tried and tested items that are essential to tool maintenance and how to use them. If cleaned and maintained correctly, bonsai implements can last for over 20 years.
Tip 1: Use for the right applications
Every tool is made for a purpose, whether it is to cut leaves, branches, roots, or wire. Only using the instruments for their intended purpose will lengthen their lifespans. All bonsai gizmos and gadgets come in various sizes, so rather use a larger one than overstress a smaller one. Any decent retailer will show you how to use your tools properly, from how to hold them to what size branch you can cut. Holding them correctly will help later on when pruning trees that have hard to reach places, plus reducing errors when cutting.
Tip 2: Clean after every use
We all have the best intentions, but often, cleaning slips from our minds. Using a clean tool with no dirt or debris on it will have a sharper cut and will be better for your trees’ healing. We use Crean Mate, imported from Japan. It is the best abrasive composite cleaning block out there and lasts forever. Note that it doesn’t sharpen; it removes debris. With carbon steel tools, use a bit of multi-purpose oil on one side to remove most of the dirt, then buff and shine with the other side. With stainless steel tools, water can be used in the same way. I have used my 16-year-old block just as is for years; however, a bit of elbow grease is involved.
Tip 3: Sharpen
Sharpening a bonsai apparatus, whatever it may be, is actually harder than it sounds. There are angles, different materials, and various manufacturer differences that can make life difficult. We stock a very good sharpening tool that has a tungsten block. This block can sharpen both carbon steel and stainless steel. When sharpening any instruments, make sure you are sharpening the cutting edge and not just a tapered edge. Use a drop of oil on the blade and sharpening stone, and with some force, run the stone along the cutting edge. On any pairs of scissors, whatever you do on the one side, repeat on the other.
Tip 4: Sterilise
Once the cleaning and sharpening are done, all tools should be sterilised with methylated spirits or a solution of fungicide with water. The best way to do this is to have a bucket of water with your sterilising solution in it and then to dip the tools in after sharpening.
Tip 5: Oil
The final step in maintenance is to oil the moving parts of the tools and wipe everything down with a cloth. A little bit of multi-purpose oil can be applied on the cloth to shine the tools up and to prevent debris from getting into the mechanisms. This is particularly important with carbon steel to prevent rust. All tools should be placed in a pouch, roll, bag, or toolbox where they will not get damaged.
A great looking, well-maintained set of tools in a toolbox is quite the sight. Any tool collector will know the feeling of pride when their tools are all beautifully cleaned, sharpened, and oiled. Why battle with blunt, dirty tools when a little bit of effort will make your work that much more enjoyable?
Looking for new tools? Click here to view the high quality Ryuga Bonsai tool range that we stock.