Welcome to my blog. I started this blog to share with the public the joy of my creations. I hope more people will join me on this journey. Bonsai is a very peaceful and rewarding passtime, hobby, craft or art. Make your choice. You can contact me at newzealandteatreebonsai@gmail.com.
Enjoy and Cheers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Bonsai Tools - Part 1.

Over the last few days when it was cold and raining I stayed indoor to clean and sharpen my bonsai tools.
When I first started bonsai in 1978, I had a general gardening scissor, a snap cutter, a small saw and a plier. These were my bonsai tools. Total cost not more than $10. Today you can still get these tools for under $10. Recently I picked up a snap cutter for $1. The quality is not that good but it works. A plier is about $2. A general gardening scissor and a small saw for a few $ each. So basic bonsai tools are not expensive. I believe many ordinary people in Asia are still doing their bonsai with these basic tools. Where there is passion, good bonsai can be produced with simple basic tools. The passion is primary and the tools secondary.
These were my first bonsai tools:

Two years later, I bought a set of Japanese carbon steel tools for Sing$50, from a Japanese master by the name of Suzuki who set up shop in Singapore. Last I heard he was into landscaping which is a more lucrative business in Singapore, with so many hotels and expensive homes. I have been using this set of tools until 2004 when I went on a bonsai tour in Japan and so took the opportunity to pick up some good stainless steel Japanese bonsai tools. The $50 set consisted of a small branch cutter, a small concave cutter, a regular shear, a long handle shear, a trimming scissor, a wire cutter, a plier, a spring assisted trimming shear and a broom brush.  I have misplaced or lost the concave cutter, the regular shear and the trimming scissor. All the other tools are still in good working conditions. That $50 must have been the best $50 I ever spent in my life. Good values and fun over 20 years ! Of course proper care and maintenance are essentials to keep your tools in good condition so that they can last. So if you can afford it, get a decent set of bonsai tools. They not only improve the productivity and quality of your bonsai works but also spur you on. It feels good to be working with professional tools.
What remains of my first set of bonsai tools:

Today I have more tools than I needed. I have three sets of stainless steel tools, including a set of still unuse Masakumi.
Here are part of my current set of bonsai tools:

Should u want to equip yourself with a set of bonsai tools my suggestion is to get
1. A concave cutter - this should handle the branches and all the unwanted bulges on the tree.
2. A pruning shear - to handle the twigs and leave.
3. A trimming shear - for finner foliage works.
4. A plier - for bending wires.
5. A wire cutter.
6. A saw for the larger cuts.
7. A brush for tidying up.
8. A twizzer for weeding.

Of course as your passion grows and your bonsai works get more specialised and complicated then you may have to look into getting tools like:

Branch bender:

Trunk splitter:

Root cutter:

My recommendation is to buy good quality tools. Where it is made and the price is no indication of quality and reliability. The best is to rely on recommendations from friends who have used these tools before. I bought the following tools blindly and paid for my mistakes. The first was a small Japanese cutter. After a year the spring snapped. The second is a Chinese made stainless steel knob cutter. After 6 months, the cutting edges misaligned. The third is most disappointing. It is an expensive pair of Japanese stainless steel scissor which was supposedly to be made of a new and better material. The cutting edges wore off faster than normal and it rusted. The last is a small "Made in Japan" cutter, bought from an American dealer on the Internet. Less that 6 months, the cutting edges misaligned. I really wonder whether it is Made in Japan as carved onto the tool.

In Part 2 I will cover my carving tools and maintenance and sharpening of tools. CJ

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A visit to Takasago-an.

The highpoint of last year's 11th Aspac Exhibition and Convention in Takamatsu was a visit to Takasago-an on the last day, to conclude a massively successful event. I am sure most of the about 1,000 participants from all over the world, like me, went home happy and satisfied. Takasago-an is the World renowned bonsai garden cum residence of the late and well-like Daizo-Iwasaki. Besides the numbers of award winning bonsai and master pieces, there are about 500 top class bonsai. I found a new meaning to addiction to bonsai. Here are some photos to share the beauty of this massive and impressive collections. CJ.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Work to Improve a Shohin Wild Olive Bonsai

This shohin wild olive was dug about 7 - 8 years ago. It is 17 cm tall and the base is 8 cm. Yesterday I spend 1.5 hours working on this fella.

This is how it looked like before work begins.

First I cut of this chunk with a saw.

Then I used my Dremel to carve the trunk into shape.

Today I spend another 1.5 hours working on the tree. I did some detailed carvings and then wired. The tree will now be rested for it to recover. Always remember the survival of the tree is paramount. So try not to do too much nor push too hard. If the tree is dead, all your years of efforts will be wasted.
Then I will feed it heavily to improve the ramifications. They are very greedy and love an inch or two of dynamic lifter. Use the 2 x 2 approach to improve the branch structure. Basically 2 x 2 involves cutting a growing branch at the right place, to induce two new branches to grow. The process is repeated. So from 1, u get 2. From 2 u get 4. From 4 u get 8 branches.
Next is to put it into a nice pot. I am currently thinking of putting it into a round terracota pot of 6 - 8 cm thick by 10 - 12 cm wide. Round pots generally go well with small trees. Of course the best approach is to get a few pots, put the tree into each and then decide. Pot selection is just like chosing a dress. Does it looks good ? Always remember the pot must enhance the beauty of the tree.

The tree after 3 hours of work.

A closed-up of the detailed carving.

These are the carving tools I used. A Dremel with 5 different type of bits. The first on the left was bought on the internet. 2nd to 4th was bought from a Japanese Shohin Bonsai Master who has these specially made for himself. He was very kind to let me have one set. The last is a Dremel bit which can be bought from Dremel dealers. CJ.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Adachi Museum of Art

In Nov last year I attended the 11th Aspac convention in Japan. As part of my tour, we visited the Adachi Museum of Art. They have a very impressive collections of paintings. However what impresses me most is the Garden. Exquisite ! The best I have seen so far. No wonder it was honoured as the  best Japanese Garden for eight consecutive years by the Journal of Japanese Gardening. Some photos to share the beautiful scenaries.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

11th ASPAC Convention And Exhibition

In Nov 2011, I attended the 11th Asia-Pacific Bonsai n Suiseki Convention & Exhibition in Takamatsu, Shikoku Island. It was an enjoyable 4 days event. There are bonsai and suiseki demonstrations and talks by the leading experts from Japan. Exhibitions and other festivities like tours to gardens and bonsai production areas. With over 50 bonsai farms producing fantastic materials and quality bonsai, Takamatsu rightfully claimed to be the top bonsai production area in Japan and thus the world. Of course the sales area got plenty of attention. No where else do u get such a wide range of bonsai, bonsai stocks, tools and utensils on sale. As usual I ended up buying more than my needs and paying for excess lugages. It was such a pity that I cannot buy any of the wonderful materials which were reasonably priced as West Australian quarantine is very strict. Close to a thousand people from all over the world attended. About half from Mainland China. Nice to catch up with old friends and acquaintances and made new ones. Here are some photos of the event. CJ.

Opening Ceremony.

Exhibition Trees.

Sales Area n Trees.

Lots of buzzes were created by the sale of this tree priced at Yen 100 million which is about A$1.3 million at current exchange rate.

Bonsai farm.