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Vol#4 The Value of Tools for Japanese Artisans

Vol #4   Written by Yusuke Ogawa

Japanese Artisans and Tools

Artisans and craftsmen have been active in Japan for a long time.
From artisan experts in different construction tasks (carpenters, plasterers, tatami mat makers, etc.), to food related artisans (sushi or Japanese sweets) or traditional crafts (kintsugi, ceramic art, bonsai, etc), all of them are considered artisans because they produce something using specific technologies and methods in constant improvement to present the best item possible.

I even face bonsai as a result of such craftsmanship, since this is a for of art where artisans from different fields play a part, like metal and blacksmith masters. And we all have one thing in common: the high regard we have for tools with which we produce our work.

For craftsmen, tools are like limbs. They just can't work without tools. Without the proper ones, the quality of work and the value of the craftsman are affected. In Japan, we even say you can understand the skill of a craftsman by just looking at the tools.

In the world of craftsmen, the first most important step for a good result is to take care of the tools. Even sushi chefs spend many years sharpening kitchen knives as part of the initial training.

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Bonsai and Tool Maintenance

In the bonsai world these days, there is no longer a strict training in the maintenance of bonsai tools. However, I highly recommend to clean and sharpen your tools before and after bonsai repotting, pruning, or other bonsai work.
This is because cutting with blunt bonsai scissors will crush the root fibers, slowing the healing of the bonsai trees, and making it difficult for new shoots and roots to emerge.

Of particular concern is the bonsai root-cutting scissors at the time of repotting. This is because the roots mixed with soil can affect the sharpness of the blades, that will soon deteriorate. Moreover, the growth of the bonsai roots is directly related to the growth of the bonsai tree itself

By getting used to sharpening and cleaning your tools, it will become a familiar process and something you get attached to, so it turns out in the end it is not just a tool but a "tool of your own" that is different from the others and different from when it was brand new. In this way, you can say tools become a companion for craftsmen.
If you want to create a good work, not just bonsai, why not pay attention to the tools first?

Mr. Ogawa (owner of reBonsai, collaborator of Wazakura Japan)

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