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Carving the front of the Crab Apple.
Work began carving the front of the tree. I started to clean the deadwood using a Dremel mounted with wire-brushes, before creating a third dimension to the previously flat deadwood by creating furrows, uro (deadwood holes) and undulations on the surface. I prefer to create interest in the deadwood by carving these undulations, rather than crazy spirals and swirls that cut across the grain of the wood and look artificial once the wood begins to age and weather.
The carving was also governed by the size of the new bonsai pot. The tree was slightly wider than its intended new home and I knew I would have to carve away areas of the deadwood to shoe-horn the Crab Apple into it. For this reason, it was necessary to get the tree repotted before I could finish carving the remianing deadwood.
Repotting the Crab Apple.
I removed the Crab Appe from its growing container and began to clean the old soil from its roots using a chopstick. Unfortunately, there was still a considerable amount of very wet clay ground-soil at the base of the trunk that had not been previously removed, and would have affected the health and vigour of the tree over the years, as well as encouraging the wood to rot.
Repotting the Crab Apple.
Offering up the tree to its new bonsai pot to see if it will fit! Several areas of the base needed to be carved away until the tree could be positioned as I wanted.
After some time, and removal of deadwood around the edges of the tree, it slipped into its new pot and repotting was completed using a good quality inorganic bonsai soil. This would encourage far better health in the tree and improved development.
Further carving and smoothing of the deadwood was carried out until I was satisfied with this initial work. At this point in the styling process, I prefer to begin to add 'colour' and tone to the deadwood as it makes it easier to see any areas that require further work.
As previously mentioned, I wanted to create deadwood that imitated that seen on deciduous trees in nature, and would also pick up the colour and tones in the bonsai pot.
To achieve this, I burnt some old newspaper and rubbed the resulting ash into the dry wood with a wet tooth-brush. As soon as the ash had begun to dry, I then applied a thin coat of lime-sulphur to lighten it.
As well as creating a silvery-grey colour, rubbing the ash into the wood results in very natural tones and avoids the oblique, solid-grey colour that adding ash to the lime-sulphur itself causes.
Note the peak and troughs created in the deadwood, and also where I had left the old (secure) bark and naturally interesting features intact.
The ash also seems to be a very useful way of ensuring that the lime sulphur is effective even on fresh, slightly sappy deadwood; the wood changes colour within a couple of hours, rather over a period of days.
The interior of the 'shell' of deadwood, having already been scorched with a gas torch, had now also been dyed with black water-based paint to create contrast with the lighter outer-shell.
The Crab Apple at the end of a long styling session, repotted, carved and partially wired. A further session working on the deadwood would be required to remove tool marks and to age and refine my initial carving.