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Tip of the Week  #15

Wiring - Copper or Aluminum?

Welcome to our next installment of  "Tips Of The Week".

This feature is for the benefit of visitors to this site, I would be happy to hear from you if there is something you would like to see covered here in future weeks. Please direct your E-mail to let me know if I should include your first name, last name, city, E-mail address or no acknowledgement.

Interested in past articles? There's a list at the bottom of the page.

The idea for this article came from Barry, a reader from New York City.

"Wiring." Such a little word. Such a BIG subject. If you're new to bonsai, you probably consider wiring a minor part of the art. Nothing is further from the truth. It is true to the extent that it will take more then one article to cover it. The first part will explore the different types of wire, and some of the advantages & disadvantages of each. While not a difficult skill to master, wiring is much more complicated and important an area then one might suspect. The first thing you must decide is what kind of wire to use. Copper or Aluminum?

Copper wire is easy to find, and when annealed (heated until it turns a glowing red, then cooled) it's fairly easy to bend, and becomes hard as it is bent. This allows a thinner gauge wire to hold a given size branch in place. In addition, it oxidizes rapidly to a deep brown color that blends well with most branches. The disadvantages of copper wire are that it is difficult to remove from the branch, shouldn't be cut with anything other then a bonsai wire cutter, and is difficult to impossible to re-use.

Aluminum wire is less readily available, and in it's natural state, is silver in color. It is very unattractive on a branch. It doesn't have the holding power of the same gauge copper wire. On the upside, anodized aluminum wire has the color of aged copper wire, is available from almost any bonsai dealer, is very easy to wrap around branches, and unwrap. This means the same piece can be used over and over. It comes in nine sizes, and the lesser branch holding ability can be overcome by using a thicker gauge.

For the longest time, although I sold it, I refused to use aluminum wire. I guess I considered it "non traditional". While wiring a Japanese White Pine one day, I ran out of a needed size of copper wire. I had no choice other then using aluminum wire. Within a week or two, I was hooked. To this day, I rarely use copper wire. There is a place for both types of wire. You will have to decide which is best for you and your bonsai collection. My suggestion is to experiment with both, and see which you prefer.

In the next installment I'll (finally) get into the actual wiring techniques.

Interested in past articles? Click for your choice below.

#1-Things to do in the spring

#2-Forest Plantings

#3-Planning a trimming schedule

#4-Trimming Japanese Maples (And other trees with opposing Buds)

#5-Trimming Chinese Elms (And other trees with alternating Buds)

#6-Trimming Conifers (Such as Pine, Juniper and Cypress)

#7-Improving Your Bonsai Skills

#8-Things to Remember During the Winter Months

#9-Some Thoughts About Tree Roots. Their Strengths & Weaknesses

#10-Potting Medium: The Foundation of a Bonsai

#11-Growing Bonsai Under Artificial Light.

#12-The Importance of Moss, How To Get It & Put It On a Bonsai.

#13-The Right Tool For The Job.

#14-Root Over Rock Planting.

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