Creating Deadwood for Bonsai by Hand

Part Two

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This second part of the article "Creating Deadwood for Bonsai by Hand" demonstrates further the use of handtools to create jin and shari with a natural appearance. (Part One can be seen here ).

Deadwood features using this method are created by tearing away fibres from the wood; pulling away strips of the grain to create a natural effect. When fibres are pulled along the length of a branch or trunk, the pulled-fibres will create lines (or depressions) that would be almost impossible to replicate using a carving machine.

There are limitations; not only does the deadwood need to be fibrous and have distinct live/dead veins which tend to occur in coniferous species, but the wood needs to be strong enough not to snap as the fibres are pulled back along the branch. As illustrated in this article, the wood of Juniperus/Juniper species is perfect for these techniques, whereas Pinus/Pine wood will tend to only successfully tear while still fresh.

juniper bonsai deadwood

A raw, unstyled Juniper sabina before work in early Summer 2015

This Juniper sabina bonsai was purchased from Spain where it had been collected from high up in the mountains. Aged 150+ years, the tree was completely raw and unstyled since collection 3 years previously. As a result it had many layers of flaking bark on the live veins.

In the middle section of the tree there was also a stump where a lengthy branch had been chopped at the time of collection.

juniper bonsai deadwood

After creating deadwood-effects on the branch stump by hand

The branch stump was "carved" and shaped by hand. The tip of the stump was crushed with jin pliers.Then slithers of wood were pulled back along the branch with jin pliers to create a natural appearance to the deadwood. The length and shape of each part of the deadwood was shaped by removing, or retaining, parts of the jin. Fibres were also pulled back to create the depressions or "troughs" along the length of the wood. The result was a jin that looked as though it had been created by nature, and not man.

juniper bonsai deadwood

After isolating the live vein at the front of the Juniper, the deadwood is immediately obvious.

With the use of a sharp knife to carefully pull back the dead areas of bark until the cambium could be seen, the live veins of the tree were found.

My preferred method for finding the live veins is to establish an area on the tree that is quite definitely dead(wood), and then to very slowly remove thin strips of dead bark until the cambium is revealed, at which point I know I have reached a live vein.

juniper bonsai deadwood

Shaping the deadwood by using jin pliers to strip away fibres.

With the live veins established, it was then possible to work on the deadwood itself. Using the techniques described in Part One of this article, I was able to keep ripping away fibres from the deadwood before smoothing them out with a gas-torch and a wire brush.

juniper bonsai deadwood

The front of the Juniper sabina bonsai after a number of hours of carving.

Creating Deadwood for Bonsai by Hand: Part Two. Page 1 2 3