First Bonsai Tools - Most versatile size to choose?

Hi Everyone! First time posting here.

I’m looking to buy my first set of beginner bonsai tools based on the cleaning video recommendations.

  • Knob Cutters
  • Concave Cutters
  • Pruning Shears

However, I need to decide between the small (8 1/4") or large (11 1/2") cutter sizes to start.

After having watched the 8 beginner vids, the beginner video series, and having searched the forum. I wasnt able to find anything to help me make this decision.

What size cutter is the most versatile starting point for a beginner?


What size trees do you have?

My guess is that in most cases, the 8" tools will work just fine, but you will have issues cutting larger branches. I still mostly use my 8" tools. I am thinking of getting some bigger tools eventually, but my trees aren’t quite large enough to warrant it.

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Currently don’t have any trees. But have been studying with the plan to go down the nursery stock material path for practice. Sorry I can’t provide more specifics yet!

I played with bonsai for 30 years. Using any tool that seemed to work… I joined a local club. We had access to Japanese bonsai “quality” tools. Game changer. Just buy them, they do what they are designed to do real well.
The carbon grade works great. Keep them cleaned and dry, from rust. Wipe with a spritz of isopropyl alcohol after use, before doing another tree , to prevent bacteria and fungal infections.
You will ALSO need a pair of short shank scissors, and maybe a long shank leaf scissors. AND a pair of wire cutters, you WILL eventually do wire… Ryan uses a mini bolt cutter(hardware stoor…). The Japanese style is sufficient for small to medium wire… I use a larger old straight heavy Ikabana cutter for large roots, expect the soil to leave teeth in it.
Anything larger than a thumb gets sawn first… I have several Japanese saws. Most have WAY too agressive teeth. I found a small ‘flush cut’ saw at Harbour Freight that does a superb easy job on my smaller trees…
I suggest going online and buy a midrange quality price SET. Just the tools you need, so far… under $100.
Hope this helps. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!
Bonsai On!


Wow, I can’t thank you enough for the detail in your reply! Great insight

I concur with the 8" tools to start. Unless you have the hands of someone over 2m (6’7") tall the 12" tools are hard to use with one hand. Ryan uses the Knipex wire cutters KNIPEX CoBolt® Compact Bolt Cutter | Knipex as do I and several others. They are phenomenal (as are their snap ring pliers for a very different hobby). I either use the Knipex cutters or scissors - I no longer use the traditional wire cutters. Use some low cost (<$20) garden scissors for root trimming and they work well for branches as well. They are cheap enough to have one pair for roots and another for branches. I like the more expensive rounded concave cutters vs. the straight ones, although I use both and have seen Ryan use both. I use them far more often than knob cutters. Decent bypass garden shears will work well when you need to make a big cut. Ryan uses hardware store slip joint pliers, but this is one of the places that I like the Japanese bonsai pliers better - persnal choice.


I agree with the others here. The size of the tool is really dictated by the size of the tree. Big tools are heavy and if you you have not worked with them in any way before then they will be even more awkward in your hands. If what you are starting with is nursery material then the 8’ will get the job done.
These are the suggested tools to begin with by Ryan. The three tools will run about $175 but they will last you a lifetime. MIRAI beginners tools.
Like @MartyWeiser I would suggest 2 sets of shears. 1 for branch work and one (perhaps more inexpensive) for rootwork. I would also add a small saw to this list as @KurtP suggests. A set to start with is nice, no doubt, it’s what I did, but after realizing quickly that I enjoyed this and was likely to continue doing bonsai I replaced my starter set with much more quality tools. One may see that as wasted money. Good New Years deals to be had here. Stone Lantern.

If I were going to mix a match I would buy the Joshua Roth concave cutter from MIRAI and other mixed tools. The concave cutter is arguably the most used tool in the bag.

So proceed with financial certainty or financial caution, depending on the thickness of your pockets. :money_mouth_face:

Welcome to the tree house, nuts welcome.

Bonsai On.

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Thank you for the thorough responses @MartyWeiser and @moon! Really helped me establish a starting point for tool selection.

I agree with all the above. Once you have the basic tools you can then get family and friends to buy you the others for birthdays and christmas. Worked for me!!

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