Trimming is the first method of shaping
bonsai trees that most hobbyists learn. While mastering trimming takes
time, patience, and an understanding of the subject tree, I doesn't take
much skill or daring to grab a scissor and trim a branch or twig. Wiring,
on the other hand, fills many beginners with fear that boarders on dread.
The problem is that without wiring skills, you will be severely limited
in what you can achieve with your bonsai collection.
As with all other aspects of bonsai cultivation,
you can learn to wire with a little time, patience and practice. Almost
every bonsai book has an article ranging from a paragraph to a page on
wiring. If you're fortunate enough to have access to "Bonsai
Today Magazine" Issue #1, you'll find a 20 page tutorial on wiring, complete
with an extensive collection of color photos and diagrams. By
all means, read whatever you can on the subject, but until you "take the
bull by the horns" and actually start wiring, your education won't leave
The best approach is to cut a thin branch
from a tree to practice on. If you don't have a tree on your
property, make sure to get permission from the owner of the tree first. Wrapping
the branch and gently bending it will familiarize you with how much the
branch can bend without breaking, and what gauge wire is needed for a
given branch thickness. When I began to learn to wire, I experimented
on myself. I held the end of a piece of wire with my thumb, and wrapped
it around my index finger. It's a good way to tell how tight you are wrapping
the wire, and possibly prevent damaging your subject.
Pay attention to the relationship between
the branch and the wire. Wire which is too thin won't hold the branch.
Wire that is too thick can damage the branch. Wrap the wire around the
branch, don't bend the branch around the wire. The result of doing that
is a "corkscrew" branch that looks very unnatural. Cut your wire to equal
1-1/2 times the length of the branch to be wired. This will allow for
coiling around the branch. To prevent the wire from slipping
when you bend the branch, find a branch close to the branch to be wired,
make a "hook" on the end of the wire, and attach it to the "anchoring"
branch. Wrap the wire around the trunk and onto the subject
branch. The wire should make contact with the subject branch
on the plane of the direction of the bend. If the branch is
to be bent down, make first contact on the top, et cetera. when you bend
the branch, the wire will tighten slightly, making for better holding
There are more aspects of wiring than can
be covered here. The important thing is to get out there and wire. Your
skills will improve with each branch you work on.