New tools…tweezers

Regular readers know that the Van Fleets have had a busy summer; buying, renovating, and moving to a new house. Moving sucks. Packing sucks. Living without a kitchen for a month because the cabinet guys got behind sucks. But we’re through all that now, and getting settled in, thankful to have it all behind us.

Back in May, I was moving our hoarder starter set from the attic to the garage for an eminent, though, eventual garage sale. To make room for the attic stuff, I had to move garage stuff. In the stuff shuffle, I stuffed a pair of Christmas wreathes on a shelf that held bonsai stuff. Which became top-heavy from being stuffed with stuff, and it all came crashing down onto the garage floor; in a space that was somehow free of any stuff to break the fall.

The result? Stuff everywhere, mame pots somehow avoiding any damage, but the tools didn’t fare as well. I’m pretty sure the only thing left in my tool kit was a packet of mayonnaise used for cleaning up after working on pines. It also caused a malathion spill big enough to keep bugs at bay for a year, but fortunately the lime sulfur lid held. And therefore, thankfully, the house sale went through.

Some of the damage is difficult to photograph, but a couple of the obvious chips were worst on the stainless tools:



So, for my birthday, a box of new tools arrived from Kaneshin. A brand recommended by several, and used by at least one nursery in Osaka; good quality for the price.

As I get the opportunity to work with the new tools, I thought I’d share my thoughts on them, by comparison to their predecessors; some of which I’ve had for 10-20 years.

First up, tweezers. Ok, truth be told, I didn’t break the tweezers, but my previous pair was a bent-tip Masakuni, 200 mm long, and cost around $42 in 2010 (they’re $55 now at California Bonsai Studios). These are fantastic tweezers. They have a good feel in the hand, and are plenty stiff; meaning the tips don’t buckle and splay open when the handles are squeezed together. For needle-pulling, I wanted to try a pair of straight-tip tweezers, and the pair from Kaneshin was 210 mm, $26.


Here is what you don’t want tweezers to do (cheap pair from somewhere); handles are too flexible and the tips don’t meet over enough surface area to be effective.

I used the straight tip tweezers to pull needles on my black pine, and they were strong, gripped reliably, and didn’t splay open. The handles are 10mm longer, wider, and are thinner steel. This made them a bit clunkier in my hand, but they gripped well and did a good job. With the tips closed, the handles were pretty close together:

Masakuni (below), by contrast, has slightly shorter handles, more rounded grip, and a slight bow, so when the tips are closed, the handles are a bit further apart. The forging is smoother on the Masakuni, so if form and feel is important, Masakuni has a better feel in the hand:

Are they worth twice the price? Not functionally, but as a tactile experience, Masakuni is superior. If I had the Kaneshin tweezers first, I wouldn’t have gone for the Masakuni. Time will tell, but so far, I think it’s easier to see the target needle with bent-tip tweezers, but the straight tip ones are a bit faster and more precise.

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