Affordable soils, tools, and wire

Thank you so much for your encouraging response, it has really boosted my morale and I appreciate all your advice!

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I had a cheapo set of tools I bought off Amazon that got me by along with standard garden tools, dollar store stuff, box store deals for a few years. I have upgraded now that I know this is a hobby that will stick long term. Ryan said start with shears, then concave cutters, then root/flat cutters, and then move on from there. https://live.bonsaimirai.com/archive/video/live-qa-xxxii If you hunt you will find that you can buy great tools online for good prices just not often from the same maker or site when they are on sale or whatever.
As far as soil goes…APL…Acadama, Pumice, Lava is what is generally seen as the gold standard as far as soil components go.
I replace Acadama with Optisorb, you can buy it at O’Rileys Auto Parts or Granger. I buy pumice online from this CA company. Free shipping and good stuff. http://www.generalpumiceproducts.com/order-here/15lb-bag-garden-pumice
I know others substitute Perlite for pumice. It is available at the big boxes…Wollyworld, HD and Lowes. I replace Lava with Expanded Shale. I like Lady Bug brand. It too is available at the box retailers, but I buy it at Home Depot.
Wire and Mesh, etc. I go here. https://www.dallasbonsai.com/supplies.html They are local to me. I like these guys. I think they do good job. They run sales from time to time and pretty good bang for the buck. They don’t kill you on shipping either.
No doubt Bonsai is a little expensive, but there are loads of ways to save money and still have success. If you call a DJ or a dinner caterer and say “I have a party to plan…” the price will be $X if you say "I have a wedding to plan " the price will be $X +75% I think some of that is true in Bonsai. People have been growing trees in pots for thousands of years all over the world. Many had none of these components. We know that you will achieve a better result with them, but you work with what you have. They key is balance of water and oxygen in the container. The tree will tell you that.

Welcome. Bonsai On!!

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Where are you in Mississippi?

All the recommendations are great. I’d add this:
Create a dummy email address and sign it up to as many online bonsai retailers you can find. You’ll get slammed, but there will be sales from time to time that fit your needs.

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I’m in Jackson. I’ve been surprised that I can’t find a bonsai club! That’s a great idea about another email address- I’m going to do that!

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Wow, you all have AMAZING creative problem solving ideas and I’m really thankful for all of the advice.

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there are a couple of other threads with info that you may find helpful. this is one Local Soil Suppliers there is another on wire as well.

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I’m repeating some of what has been said, but hardware store version of bonsai tools are just as good. Pliers, wire cutters, clippers, soil screens. They all work pretty much the same.

The only thing you may have to really spend on are some of the cutters, just to get those nice, clean cuts. Even then, you can get decent ones for $10-$20. They won’t be name brand, but they work great if you keep them sharp and clean.

I think the greatest hurdle as a beginner is more about learning the horticulture, and keeping the trees healthy enough to work on. If you have that down, tools are easy to figure out.

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@Mississippi_Cary - I’ll agree with the info here that some of the tools can be purchased on an economical scale. For instance I just got a sweet pair of pliers for $4 from HD. But my suggestion would be to invest in the tools that will be touching your trees. Two items for sure would be shears and concave cutter (or spherical knob cutter :slight_smile:). For around $100 each you can get a very nice pair that will last your entire life! I think that is a great value. Some may balk at this but its all in the materials. Higher quality tools use higher quality steel that hardens as it ages while lower grade steels either never work harden or actually loose hardness. Japanese steel has always had a high reputation next to German.
So while bonsai can be done on a fiver, consider a small investment in the important stuff.

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I should also mention something I found years ago while perusing one of the big hobby stores. I found something called knitting canvas. I guess it’s used for knitting designs onto, but it’s pretty much drainage hole mesh that they sell for pennies a sheet. It’s made of plastic, works amazingly well, and is WAY cheaper than the “for bonsai” stuff.

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That’s awesome. It looks just like the “drainage screen” I bought from a bonsai retailer. It sure wasn’t 79 cents tho. Just the other night the guest stylist at Mirai was using a dual purpose tool that was not specifically for bonsai. It was found online by someone in the chat for $30. That said somethings you will have to spend the money on. Tools are designed for a purpose and sometimes half the job is having the right tool for the job.

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I completely agree. There really isn’t a substitute for a spherical knob cutter, but I think we get a little hung up on the more basic stuff. There are a lot of really nice options out there for pruning shears. If we’re being honest, some of the nice shears that people use for roses and other flower work are really comfortable, and a bunch are under $20. Same goes for pliers. You can get the nice bonsai ones for about $50, or you can get a nice normal set of pliers from a hardware store for half the price.

Oh, and while you’re at the hobby store getting mesh, check out their wire section and their woodworking section. You’ll find awesome wire cutters in all sizes, aluminum wire in small gauges and carving tools for all sorts of jobs. Raffia is usually cheaper there, too. Especially if you find some of those novelty hula skirts on sale.

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Hey el cheezer, post a photo of you in that hula skirt!!! :grin:

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Just as I pictured you in my mind!!!

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So I’ve thought about trying to anneal my own wire, but wasn’t ever sure how to do it right. What’s your process? How hot, how long , cooling, etc?

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Annealing is pretty easy. I use a ceramics kiln and simply take it up to 900 degrees and pull the wire out when the temp alarm goes off, then dunk it in water. If you let it soak at temp too long the material begins to break down and the surface of the wire will become rough. The same goes for higher temps.

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Cool, thanks! I don’t have access to a kiln nearby but I’ll figure something out

One caveat here, I haven’t done this myself, but some wood burning fireplaces can get hot enough to anneal copper wire. You just have less control over the temperature, which makes the process difficult for those of us without experience.

just curious, as a beginner, what is the advantage of annealing copper wire vs plain copper wire? less noticeable? or is there a horticultural reason?

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Annealing wire makes it easier to work with. Annealing resets the crystal structure of the copper wire to get the molecules to align and bend more easily. As you work the wire (as you wire your tree), it loses the structure slightly and gets harder as you work it.

If you are interested, go to Home Depot or a local hardware store and try to bend some 6 or 8 gauge copper wire that isn’t annealed (mine has some on spools in the electrical dept without insulation). It’s crazy stiff.

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Hello Everyone,

Where is the best akadama to buy online?

Regards,
Steven

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