Demonstration by Jonas Dupuich – Carving Basics

On September 24, 2019, Jonas Dupuich, author of Bonsai Tonight, performed a demonstration on carving basics for the members of the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS), in Santa Rosa, California.

Jin is a bonsai deadwood technique used on branches or the top of the trunk (the “leader”). A jin is meant to show age, or show that the tree has had a struggle to survive. Jins are created in nature when wind, lightning, or other adversity kills the leader or a branch further down the tree.1

A shari is deadwood on the main trunk of the bonsai. A small shari usually runs vertically on or near the front of the trunk – shari have little aesthetic value at the rear of the trunk, where they are rarely viewed and are obscured by branch growth.2

Carving basics for bonsai involves the creation of deadwood features, jin and shari. By incorporating these deadwood features into the design of your bonsai you are creating character, age and interest.

Jonas began his demonstration by showing a slideshow of various images taken of natural deadwood on Bristlecone pines located above 10,000 feet elevation in the California White Mountains and Sierra junipers located above 8,000 feet elevation at California Carson Pass. These trees displayed dramatic deadwood features, the result of many years of adverse weather and environmental conditions. The slideshow also provided images of Japanese bonsai on display at Kokufu Ten Bonsai Exhibition and Taikan Bonsai Exhibition organized by the Nippon Bonsai Association, both being leading bonsai exhibitions in Japan. The bonsai exhibition images depicted natural and carved deadwood features.

Jonas explained there were three elements of good deadwood carving: movement, twists and interest. He talked about natural occurrences in creating deadwood, that is wind direction. The design must take into play the direction or flow caused by the wind or design. Carving deadwood features should have a story or reason. For example, jin at the top of the tree might have been caused by lightning and shari in front of the flow of the tree’s movement caused by wind.

Carving tools may include: root cutters, pliers, jin pliers, knife or box cutters, and wood carving tool chisels.

Jonas said one should start out by cleaning the life line of the tree in order to find where the deadwood is located on the tree. Dead branches or stubs of former branches in a row on the trunk of the tree is a good indication of where to find deadwood on the trunk. Begin by scrapping away the bark attached to the deadwood. Use a tool like a jin loop or jin knife to determine where the deadwood and live wood are located.

Jonas advised to use wood carver’s gloves for safety.

Jin the lower branches on junipers and other species. These are branches located 1/3 to 1/2 up the trunk that when wired downward would be touching the soil.

A jin is started by taking a sharp knife or box cutter and cutting into the bark at the base of the branch and trunk. Cut completely around the branch. This will stop the bark from being pulled into the trunk area when stripping the bark off the branch. Use a pliers or jin pliers to squeeze and crush the bark away from the branch. Then remove the bark. It is best to create jins in the spring when the water flow is present and the bark is easily removed by your fingers. Otherwise, a jin knife or loop must be used to remove the dry bark. Once the bark has been completely removed, then shape the jin to a pointed end in order to eliminate the tool cutting mark. If bark fibers remain on the jin section, these can be removed best with a wire brush or by burning them. Care must be taken not to burn foliage or live wood. After burning the fibers, a wire brush is used to remove the burn marks.

A shari is started by using a Sharpie ink pen to outline the area of bark to be removed from the trunk. A sharp knife or box cutter is then used to cut into the bark. Score the bark along the outlined area. Then, the bark can be removed by pealing back the bark and working with the wood grain. Use a scissors to cut any portion of the bark that does not peal off easily.

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadwood_bonsai_techniques

2 https://en.mimi.hu/bonsai/shari.html

Brick Fundraiser Drive

The Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt has been raising funds for its Garden Revitalization Project (GRO). This project aims to upgrade the display benches and stands, watering system, pathways, and much more, in order to meet the challenges of caring for and maintaining the historic and legacy bonsai collection in a professional and museum quality manner.

As part of this, they have initiated a recognition brick fundraiser drive in which individuals, clubs and businesses can purchase a variety of state of the art engraved bricks, and the proceeds will go towards the GRO Project. GRO projects include laying cement pavers for all pathways within the Bonsai Garden, and the engraved bricks will line a special pathway.

For information http://www.gsbf-lakemerritt.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Bonsai-Garden-of-Lake-Merritt-Brick-Flyer-09-11-17.pdf

Sample Engraved Brick

 

Intermediate Workshop, Thursday, September 21, 2017

On September 21, 2017, I went looking for the REBS Intermediate Workshop held at the Bennett Valley Senior Center, 704 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA. I parked my truck at the rear parking lot and entered the building. Several groups were conducting meetings at the Senior Center but it was easy to find the room where the REBS members were working on their own bonsai. Senior Instructor Ivan Lukrich was there working with each individual member. Michael Murtaugh was assisting Ivan. There were six members with several bonsai each to work on. I arrived about 7:45 pm to observe their work.

Kurt and Sally Kieckhefer were assessing an old cedar (Cedrus sp.) that appeared to be a collected specimen. It had two primary branches forming a big “Y” and interesting deadwood features. With Ivan’s help, they tried to angle the tree in a manner that would best show off the trunk and branches and foliage. It was difficult finding the right angle to set the tree. Another approach was to separate one live branch from the deadwood and twist the live branch towards the center to fill a large gap. This was the approach taken and Ivan skillfully separated the live branch using a large root cutter. A guy wire was used to hold the live branch in place. Now, the big “Y” was less apparent.

Suzanne Waxman had several bonsai at the workshop. I stopped by when she was working with a small Junperius chinensis procumbens nana or garden juniper that she was cleaning and thinning. A dozen years ago we would be pinching the foliage tips. Now we use a sharp scissors to cut and remove the center foliage tips and leave two prongs in the thinning process. It is tedious work but it so much improves the growth of new foliage and helps in the overall styling of the bonsai.

Jim Gallagher was working on his tall, cork bark elm (cultivar Ulmus parvifolia ‘Cork Bark’). Jim was thinning the foliage and cleaning the bonsai.

Michael was helping Mike Nelson work on his newly acquired cork bark elm (cultivar Ulmus parvifolia ‘Cork Bark’), which he purchased from Lone Pine Bonsai Nursery. A little soft wiring was applied to some of the branches.

Jim Scholz was observed wiring his Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii). Jim said he has worked on this black pine for over 20 years. The bonsai was wide open with lots of negative spaces between branches. Michael was helping with the wiring. One section of wiring was complete and other branches still required some wiring.

Finally, new member Chris Garrett had two bonsai, a small, oak (Quercus sp.) and redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), which he purchased from the member sales at the REBS annual show in August 2017. Ivan worked with Chris, showing him how to cut and shape the raw materials. Slight wiring was done on the redwood to put movement in the young branches.

The Intermediate Workshop is scheduled for every third Thursday of the month. A small fee covers rent of the room. Members are required to bring their own tools, wire and bonsai. The workshop is from 7 to 10 pm. Everyone seemed to get a lot done on their bonsai. It was rewarding to observe the ongoing bonsai work and training.

— George Haas