TAKE CARE OF YOUR TOOLS!
by Bill Sullivan
The following electronic reprint was posted
to the Internet by the Golden State Bonsai Federation, a federation
of over 60 Bonsai clubs in the state of California. It was posted
by Michael Greenstein [[email protected]].
Before beginning to recondition or to sharpen
your tools, you should have on hand:
1. Soap and water, rubbing alcohol, Clorox, WD-40, and/or lighter
2. Rust eraser.
3. Wire brushes (hand and power).
4. Steel wool.
5. Fine emery cloth, wet/dry.
1. Water or oil stones(coarse and fine).
Water stones need to be well soaked.
You will need both flat and round stones.
2. Honer (porcelain knob and tube insulators are great).
3. Power brush and grinder.
4. Hand files (coarse and fine).
1. Ball peen hammer and anvil (or piece
of heavy metal).
2. Naval Jelly (follow instructions; use mask and safety glasses).
3. Gun Blue (Minute Man cold chemical; follow instruction).
4. Plastic Dip (PDI).
5. Light oil (Three-In-One).
If you clean your tools after each use,
they should never need major work. Tools should be cleaned
thoroughly with soap and water or rubbing alcohol after each
use, and then dried carefully. A Clorox mix can also be used
to clean and sterilize. WD 40, (a rust preventative oil) and
lighter fluid are good for removing the "gook" from
the cutting surfaces of the tools left by pines, ficus, and other
plants which exude a sticky sap. Always dry your tools and oil
lightly after each cleaning.
When it becomes necessary to sharpen or
repair your tools due to use or misuse, then by following the
instructions given, you can return the tool to a serviceable
condition. There is no sense in massacring your five-hundred
dollar tree with tools that are not in good condition.
The appearance of a rusty tool can be materially
improved by the use of a "Rust Eraser." This product
will remove rust and polish up your tools after initial
heavy cleaning. This is a new, but highly effective device which
may be purchased through several dealers. Naval Jelly is used
for the removal of heavy rust, and will also provide an element
of protection. Following the manufacturer's instruction, it is
wise to use gloves, mask and safety glasses. Be sure any residue
is carefully washed and rinsed away. For the removal of especially
heavy rust, sandpaper or wire brushes should be used. Steel wool
is effective, but hard on the hands. Power wire brushes are great
for both cleaning and polishing. I cannot stress too strongly
that safety glasses and masks should be worn when using caustic
materials or power tools.
Study your tools carefully before doing
any sharpening. There are bypass blades, anvil, beveled, and
blades that meet, but are beveled inside and out. Stainless steel
tools are difficult to sharpen, because they are so hard. Be
sure to check the manufacturer's angle of any tool before
you start. That angle is the one you want to maintain.
need to be smooth and flat when used. A worn stone with curves
or waves is worthless. A wooden block with raised ends will elevate
your stone, hold it firmly, and save your knuckles. A "stop"
should be secure to one end of the block to keep the stone from
sliding off the work bench. Oil and water stones both do the
same thing, remove metal in such a way as to provide a sharp
cutting edge. Heavy work, such as removing a nick in the blade,
should be done with coarse or medium stones, and the finishing
touches can be done with the fine stone. A tungaloy carbide sharpener
can be used, but this cuts away excessive amounts of the metal,
and should only be used sparingly. Be sure to clean stones after
In sharpening bypass blades, you
are removing metal from the cutting edge, so use pressure only
on the forward strike, beveled side down against the stone. Do
not attempt to correct the "overbite" of concave tools!
With anvil blades, sharpen only the top blade, which is
beveled on both sides. Use the same procedure as: before, but
remember to do both sides. Concave cutters are sharpened
on the inside only. Lightly roll the outer concave surfaces against
the stone, one side at a time. The interior surfaces should be
sharpened with a round or half-round stone, and finished with
a honer. The honer does not sharpen; it just smoothes the surfaces.
Tools with blades that meet, like root pruners, may need to be
adjusted for proper closure by filing the stop pin just enough
to allow the blades to touch. Wire cutters need to be
sharpened on both sides, but because the blade movement is so
restricted, it is best to use a fine file. Use the file cautiously.
If you remove too much metal, they will not close properly.
should only be used for "heavy" removal of metal, although
the experienced craftsman could use it for fine work. Be sure
the tools you are sharpening do not get hot! Heat removes the
temper, rendering a tool "soft" and incapable of holding
an edge. A vise is essential for holding most curved-bladed bonsai
tools while working on those angles. Left-handed tools are hard
to find and require special care.
If you need to adjust the rivet
to keep the closing tension tight, it may be tapped lightly with
the "peen' side of the hammer. For best results, the tool
should be held firmly against an anvil or piece of heavy metal.
If the closing joint is too tight, work an abrasive material,
like Liquid Wrench into the area by moving the handles back and
renews the surface look and provides rust protection. It can
only be used on areas that have been completely cleaned. Not
even a fingerprint can remain. I suggest that cleaning solution
be used to decrease the metal before applying the bluing solution.
The "blue" can be painted on with a Q-Tip swab, covering
the exposed metal parts. Follow the package instructions and
avoid skin contact. To give a better "feel" to the
tool, the grip area of the handles can be immersed in "plastic
dip." Follow the package instructions carefully. After
dipping a handle, turn it rapidly up and down, up and down, to
keep a glob from forming at the tip. This dip protects the metal,
provides a cushioned grip, and (because it comes in at least
seven colors), helps in tool identification. Probably no more
than two coats of this material is necessary. Use the Gun Blue
before you dip the handles.
After cleaning, sharpening and reconditioning
tools, they should be oiled lightly. Excess oil should
be wiped away. Regularly cleaned and oiled tools will not rust!
Who can work in bonsai without getting their tools wet and dirty?
Properly cared for and sharpened, your bonsai tools can remain
serviceable for decades.
Edited for the Internet by Thomas