Another Way of Carving Bonsai

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This large Scots Pine bonsai (Pinus sylvestris) came into my hands in early Summer 2015. At over 130cm wide, the tree had been collected in the UK New Forest many years before and had received some initial styling. During the late Summer of the same year I turned my attention to carrying out some improvements on the deadwood.

Another Way of Carving Bonsai

The central jin/stub on the Scots Pine bonsai.

One of the main areas of deadwood that required carving was a large, 4"/10cm diameter stub in the centre of the tree-base. The stub resulted from the removal of a large trunk from the tree during the previous year.

scots pine branch stub

The large stub as seen from the back of the tree.

Ordinarily, ripping lengths of deadwood from along the grain of a coniferous tree would quickly and easily create a pleasing and natural appearance to a jin. However, given the size of this stub, and its relatively short length, this method would have produced something of a "Parrots Beak" (an unnaturally sharply-tapered jin).

So my approach on this occasion had to be different and I decided to create the impression of a big jin with largely intact walls and a rotted-out core.

hollow jin

Hollowing the stub. Note: a towel is draped over the trunkbase and soil to catch the majority of wood-chips and debris resulting from carving.

I began the work simply by hollowing out the stub. There are a number of ways this can be achieved, however I prefer to use a standard Flat-Head drill bit mounted into a standard electric drill, as it removes a large amount of wood in a short amount of time using a plunging action.

peeling bark

Peeling the bark.

With the stub roughly hollowed out, I began to peel back the exterior wood and bark.

Peeling the bark.

Peeling the bark.

As the lengths of peeled bark reached the base of the stub they were severed with a sharp knife. This ensured that I didn't tear into the wood of the live part of the tree.

Peeling the bark.

Peeling the bark.

The stub, as seen from the back of the tree, after it had been hollowed-out and the bark peeled away. As the wood at the base of the stub was still live and resinuous, a layer of petroleum jelly was smeared around the edge of the bark to stop it from bleeding. Petroleum jelly is by far the best way of stopping Pine sap from bleeding.

carving pine bonsai deadwood

Carving the interior of the deadwood.

I then started to widen the hollow inside the deadwood. Currently my favoured carving bits for this type of work are "Bonsai Nibblers" fitted to a Makita die-grinder or a Dremel, however, there are a wide range of suitable carving power tools on the market.

carving pine bonsai deadwood

Carving the interior of the deadwood.

The interior is hollowed further, removing enough material to create a convincing hollow without removing the structural integrity of the piece itself. There must be enough wood along the 'walls' of the hollow for the deadwood not to break or fall away over time, however, the openings to the hollow can be carved so that they are very thin and delicate, as shown above.

At this point I also started to carefully burn away the 'fluff' and wood-fibres from the stub using a small gas-torch.

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