Best ways to speed up aging or appearance of deadwood

Since the older the deadwood, the older the tree, it would valuable to know methods of intentionally aging deadwood. The sub-topics would be: carving techniques, bark removal, bark traumatizing, application of heat and cold and judicious, controlled use of insects. Pictures or diagrams of the various techniques and their results will be very helpful. The showing of failures is encouraged. Canaries are heartily welcomed.

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One of my tricks. I don’t remember if I read it in François Jeker’s fantastic book on Bonsai Deadwood or came up with it myself. On top jins that are not too thick in diameter, I like to use the jin plier to remove some of the tiniest branchlets to leave a hollow where once that grew from to give the impression that it rotted away. somehow like in the picture below. (that jin was created last fall and I will still treat it with fire, brush it and then apply lime sulfur this spring or summer).


Nice. Sounds like a great idea. I’ve been messing around with Dan Robinson’s recommendation of heat and cold application. In this example, I used micro torch heating alternating with super cooled dry ice(dry ice + 90% alcohol). I didn’t notice a big difference but I might have done it improperly. Care must be taken when applying the liquid and subsequent flame. The trunk can catch on fire. I’m going to try liquid nitrogen next.

I would be very concerned about damaging the live vein or foliage with dry ice…

If you have some “man made” deadwood I recommend sandblasting. Mauro has some videos, and Lakeshore Bonsai out of Canada has some good examples on their website.

I also want to try this method but thought a CO2 fire extinguished less tricky ( liquid nitrogen can cause burns that are very dangerous ).

I have used this before and found that even glass beads was too harsh. I found a place that used crushed walnut shells and they said it could be used with rental sandblasters. The beauty of this is that cleanup is sweep and spread though the back yard ( like mulch ). Takes a little more concentration but worth it.
Also you cover your mouth/nose during use and don’t have to worry about the possibility of silica getting in your lungs.

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Leonard, where do you find the crushed walnut shells? Are there certain types of sand blasters that are better? Does the strength of the compressor make any difference?

Great tip on the silica breathing.


I got it from Eastwood at the time but it is available just about anywhere. The rental blaster I rented form Home Depot at the time and I had the walnut shells shipped.
I kept adjusting the feed till I got the right strength ( make sure you have practice pieces to work on first). Make sure you always flow with the grain, crossing leaves too deep a scar.
I made a hell of a mess but it all cleaned up fine.

Hey Raf! This is Benjamin (just Ben is fine) from the chat. What i was trying to get answered was techniques for creating vertical scaring on the trunk of a tree to enhance the “age” of the composition. I guess i’m just going to slice through the xylem down to the heartwood, and remove bark/cambium to expose a “gash” in the trunk???

One of the best illustrations (if people are still confused) is on Todd Schlafers site here, The vertical scar is what id like to go for…

Hi Ben,
I understand what you are trying to do. A couple of drawbacks will be that the newly created gash will ooze sap for a long time on a ponderosa, potentially either dripping or running onto the remaining bark areas of the trunk and messing them up visually. The other thing is that the new scar won’t look like the example on Todd’s site for about fifty to a hundred years. That may or may not be a problem, but it will look “fresh” for a long time.

Hi Ben. Yes, I’d say so. A few important points:

  1. Use a sharp blade to delineate the end points so that you don’t end up going to places that you don’t want, like cutting the supply to/from an important branch or root.
  2. Avoid order/symmetry with straight lines…
  3. You can use a tool to ‘chirp’ away at the individual small fibres of the wood and strip them down independently with the plier following the line of the wood grain.
  4. You can use a wire brush or rotary tool to mask tool marks following the grain

Hey Dudes!
Sorry I never responded to these last posts. I turned on the notifications so i’ll be on top of corresponding with the forum in the future… don’t want to leave friends hanging lol! Anyway, those methods are pretty much what i had in mind. I was just hoping for some tips on creating this effect. I mentioned my ponderosa, because it has this near flawless trunk/bark (which is great), but i’m often bored with the “perfect-ness” of it. Sometimes i love it, sometimes i wish it was more interesting… The funny thing is that i have a hornbeam that had its trunk chewed on by a mouse or some kind of small mammal a couple winters ago, and the resulting scar is fantastic! Can’t replicate natures’ perfect chaos, no matter how hard we try…


Crushed walnut shells are available through reloading sites.Tumble clean shell casings. Collect , sieve, and reuse.