Bonsai Tools & How to Care for Them

When practicing bonsai, using the right tools makes a lot of the task easier. The problem is that most people do not know what they are or how to use them. In this article, I am going to explain some of the more common tools and their uses. At the end of the article, I will tell you how to care for the tools.

Kaneshin 827 Trimming Scissors
Kaneshin No. 827 Trimming Scissors


One of the most important tools you can have in your tool box is a pair of trimming scissors. Trimming scissors are used to trim your bonsai. You use them to cut small to medium branches, leaves, needles, and fine roots. The No. 827 Trimming Scissors from Kaneshin is a great all around pair.

Some trimming scissors are more appropriate than others for certain tasks.

Kaneshin Trimming Scissors 32
Kaneshin No. 32 Trimming Scissors

The Kaneshi No. 32 Trimming Scissors are smaller, thinner and are ideal for those small trimming tasks. Some tasks that these are great for are cutting needles on Pines, thining Junipers, defoliating deciduous trees. Basically, these are great for getting into tight spaces to do the light trimming.

Along with the smaller bonsai trimming scissors, there are also bigger and heavier scissors as well. It’s best to pick the size of the tool for the task at hand.

Concave Cutters

Kaneshin 3A
Kaneshin No. 3A Concave Cutter

Another tool that is a must have in your tool box is the Concave Cutter or the Branch Cutter as they are sometimes referred as.

The Concave Cutter is ideal for removing or shortening larger branches. The cut that is produced is, well, concave in appearance. This allows the wound to heal cleaner. Some people use the Concave Cutter to cut heavier roots.

Just like other bonsai tools, the Concave Cutter comes in different sizes for different tasks.

Kaneshin 4S
Kaneshin No. 4S Concave Cutter

Another version of the Concave Cutter is the Rounded Concave Cutter like the Kaneshin No. 4 or the smaller No. 4S. I personally prefer these over the standard cutter of the like of the Kaneshin No. 3A.

What makes the Rounded Concave Cutter different is the rounded blades. The roundedness of the blade essentially scoops out the wood as it is cut. Almost acting as a Concave and a Knob Cutter in one tool.

Wire Cutters

Kaneshin 511
Kaneshin No. 511 Wire Cutters

Bonsai Wire cutters was the second tool I ever purchased after the Trimming Scissors.

Wire cutters are used to cut the wire off of the branches after out branches have set or the wire starts to bite into the branch. The tips of the wire cutters are designed to reduce the chance of causing damage to the branch as the wire is being cut.

You can get away with using normal wire cutters, but I highly recommend the use of the Bonsai Wire Cutters as they reduce the risk of damaging the branches. Kaneshin No. 511 Wire Cutters are the standard size and are a more general style.

Masakuni M9 Wire Scissors
Masakuni No. M9 Wire Scissors

Wire scissors such as these Masakuni No. M9 are great for removing the finest of fine wire.

I have a Kishu Juniper that needs to be rewired and I am looking forward to using these to remove the fine 20 gauge wire. I am currently using the Slim American Bonsai Wire Cutters and they work great.

Bonsai Pliers

There are a couple of different styles of Bonsai Pliers and they serve different purposes.

The general purpose pliers below have a narrow head allowing access to tighter spots and even grasping bonsai wire and being used as leverage as you bend a branch.

Kaneshin 48 Pliers
Kaneshin No. 48 Pliers

The head on the Pliers below are more rounded. These are used to create Jin and Shari on our bonsai. You would use these to grasp wood fibers. Then using the curved head, you would roll the fibers back creating a natural look to the Jin.

Kaneshin 509 Pliers
Kaneshin No. 509 Pliers

Bonsai Knob Cutters

Kaneshin 11 Knob Cutter
Kaneshin 11 Knob Cutter

One of the last basics tools I added to my toolbox was the Knob Cutter.

The Knob Cutter does just that, it cuts knobs or stubs left over after removing branches with Scissors or Concave Cutters. The two blades are designed like a gouge chisel. When the blades close they gouge out material and make the wound more hollow. With this hollow, when the tree heals itself by forming a callous over the wound, it allows the callous to form more flat and uniform.

Bonsai Tool Care & Proper Use

Bonsai tools are designed to serve a niche hobby and therefore are not the most affordable for everyone, so taking care of the tools is a must. They come in many different price points with varying degree of quality. Usually, you get what you pay for. Stainless steel tools won’t rust but they don’t hold their edge for long requiring more frequent sharpening. Black carbon steel is harder steel so the tools hold their edge much longer but rust easier. I personally prefer the black carbon steel tools because of the sharpness of the blade edge.

The one thing that we all can do to make sure our tools last a long time is to use the correct tools for the correct jobs.

  • Use the correct tool for the job.
    • Scissors. Use scissors for small trimming jobs such as twigs, leaves, fine roots. Use the back part of the blade or the blades can snap.
    • Cutters, Concave, and Knob cutters should not cut anything thicker than 1/3rd the length of the blades.
  • The blades on our tools should not meet flush. They should overlap just a bit. If they meet flush they are pinching or crushing and not cutting.

Cleaning our tools after each use will also help the longevity of each tool. If you are serious about cleaning them you can wash them with soap and warm water and then completely wipe dry. Never store the tools wet. Most people just wipe them down with a lightly oiled rag.

After cleaning your tools it is wise to use a lint-free cloth and wipe your tools with Camellia oil or some other tool oil. Make sure to wipe away any excess oil. This helps prevent rust.

When storing our tools, make sure that they do not hit each other as this could potentially dull the blades of the tools.

Best Selling Tool Care Items.