Third Hand for Miniature Bonsai

Secure, tilt , elevate and rotate your miniature bonsai with this unique setup. It gives you plenty of room for your hands to get close in for pruning and wiring. Turn it like a turntable and lock it in place by tightening the wingnut under the cap.

Here’s how to make it:

Using the small bonsai wire straightener design in the previous post below, remove the knob and replace it with a flat 3″ PVC pipe cap that has been drilled with four 1/2″ holes equally spaced around the circumference and a smaller hole in the center bottom of the cap to use a small carriage bolt, washer and wingnut to attach to the hinge. The large 1/2″ holes allow routing mini bungee cords in and out to create taut hold down cords. Rubber bands or wire can also be used. Line the inside of the cap with a piece of round gap sealing poly foam, a sponge or cloth. This allows you to place the pot in any position while being firmly secured by the hold down cord(s).

Use a chopstick, dowel or long threaded bolt to adjust the elevation of the hinge as shown below. Use a 4″ cap for larger bonsai or a 2″ cap for the smallest bonsai.

Small Bonsai Wire Straightener

Here’s a way to straighten short, used pieces of bonsai wire using a hinge. The material consists of a 7″ long, heavy duty gate hinge mounted to a piece of 3/4″ X 5″ X 10″ cabinet grade hardwood plywood using five #12-3/4″ flat head wood screws. A wooden cabinet knob is attached to the end of the hinge with a screw.

How to use it:

Place the kinked wire under the hinge parallel and close to the hinge pin. Press down on the lever knob then release pressure and rotate the wire. Do this repeatedly moving up and down the length of the wire until it is straightened. For the greatest compression strength place the wire against the hinge pin joint.

Use it as a quick release vise to quickly grip the wire end letting you pull and manipulate the other end of the wire with pliers.

Yes, it does resemble a Morse code key!

Let’s take it up a notch for big wire!

Use a 10″ heavy duty gate hinge, an aluminum or steel bar stock spacer and a knob of your choice. Attach the spacer to the hinge with double sided tape. Temporarily mount the straightener to your work surface with a clamp or mount it permanently with screws.

Branch Bender-Super Sized

Make a large, adjustable branch bender with a 2 foot section of 1-5/8″ x 13/64″ Unistrut (aka Superstrut), two long 1/2″ bolts or threaded rod, four 1/2″ washers, four 1/2″ nuts and 1/2″ id automotive heater hose. You can also use this tool to bend, shape and straighten very large diameter wire.

Protective Bonsai Wire Sleeving using Paracord Material

The outer braided sheath of Paracord works great to cover bonsai wire used on trees with fragile bark. Just pull out the inner strands. It is breathable, reusable and comes in a variety of diameters and colors including camouflage patterns. A piece of #10 AWG copper wire is used in this example followed by a camouflage paracord sleeve over 3mm aluminum wire.

Gracie Bonsai Wire Straightener

How to straighten used aluminum and copper bonsai wire pieces (up to 4mm diameter) for re-use.

The Gracie Bonsai wire straightening device consists of a section of 1-5/8″ x 1-5/8″ or 1-5/8″ x 13/16″ steel Unistrut, One 1/2″ x 2″ hex head bolt and one 1/2″ x 1″ hex head bolt with 7/32″ holes drilled and chamfered in each (grade 5). One 1/2″ locking nylon nut, one 1/2″ standard nut, one 1/2″ threaded rod coupler(optional, or use a standard nut) and four 1/2″ washers. A 3/4″ box end or socket wrench is required to turn the capstan bolt. The operating length is adjustable by a movable bolt that clamps the wire in the Unistrut slots. Practically any length of Unistrut can be used. See a longer version below.

How to use:

Using a wrench tighten down one end of the wire under the movable clamping bolt and then place the other end of the wire through the hole in the rotating capstan bolt. Turn the capstan bolt slowly with a wrench. A significant amount of tension is applied to the wire by turning the capstan bolt. Once the wire is straightened cut out the straight section and remove and discard the end pieces.

Here is longer version using a 2 foot length of lower profile 13/16″ Unistrut. The wire shown here is 10 AWG non-annealed copper wire. Because of the lower, flatter profile I changed the threaded rod coupler nut to a standard nut.

Moveable clamping bolt
Rotating capstan bolt

To purchase a pre-drilled hardware kit (not including the Unistrut or wrench), or, a complete kit contact us for ordering information.

Elevated Bonsai Turntable

I was about to discard a used folding plastic step stool when I realized it could be used together with a plastic turntable to make an inexpensive indoor/outdoor elevated turntable that is easy to store when not in use. It shouldn’t cost too much to buy the items. The turntable is 10″ in diameter and its rated capacity is 65 lbs.

High Capacity Wire Holder

I was getting frustrated storing the bulk of my bonsai wire in boxes so I spent some time contemplating a low cost solution and this is what I came up with:

The high capacity wire holder rotates, holds up to twelve 1Kg rolls of aluminum wire and is very easy to re-load.

I used a turntable that I had previously made that is attached to an inexpensive folding step platform. I mounted four plastic containers that are about 3 1/2″ in diameter on top of the round disks left over from the holes made in the floating spacers. One long wood screw and washer is used to mount the container lids and round disks to the turntable. The turntable is 15 1/2″ in diameter and the floating spacers are 15″ in diameter. The holes in the floating spacers are 4″ in diameter.

Any container of the right diameter for your wire rolls should work. Possibly PVC pipe could be used instead of the plastic containers but the PVC end caps may be too wide for this application. I didn’t have any at hand so I used pond fish food containers and a plastic sauce container.

I used a 4″ plumber’s hole saw drill bit to make the holes (a saber saw will also work).

Add eye screws and your done!

Simple Wire Holder-Feeder

Here’s how to make a simple, inexpensive tabletop wire holder-feeder.

I usually buy 1 Kg wire rolls to keep costs down. However, 1 Kg wire rolls are bulky and heavy. Instead of holding the wire roll when I perform wiring I place it on a temporary, fixed holder that is clamped to my outdoor bonsai workbench.

The materials consist of a 5″ x 10″ piece of wood, eye hook screw, pan head screw, washer and a used plastic jar.


Any plastic jar will work. It just needs to fit loosely in the wire roll center. Drill a hole through the jar’s cap and then screw the cap to the wood base. Re-attach the jar to the cap. If you leave the screw slightly loose the jar will turn more freely with the wire.

If you choose, mount the jar and eye hook directly to a work surface or shelf, use taller jars to stack more wire rolls on top, or, mount multiple jars on a longer piece of wood to make a horizontal wire caddy…. Be creative!

To Pot or Plant? That Is The Question

I have a few dwarf conifers that I can never decide where best to plant them so some go into spare bonsai pots to trial as potential bonsai. This one is a dwarf Canadian Hemlock, which appears to be the cultivar ‘Cole’s Prostrate’.

The tree has been in this pot for a few years now. It is a very slow grower. Surprisingly, some Club Moss has recently appeared on its own. I’ll leave it in hopes that it spreads and begins to look like a fern covered forest floor.

I had purchased this tree in a nursery pot from Scott White at Bucks County Bonsai (Perkasie, PA).

Going forward, I’ll try to mention the origin of my trees.

Simple Gate Project

I wanted to add a privacy gate to my existing middle gate which separates two areas of my garden. I found a nice looking prefabricated cedar panel on a big box store website. The manufacturer is located in the North Western US area. They make products like this one and larger fence panels from recycled lumber cutoffs that are too short for use by other wood product manufacturers in the area.

To help keep the lightweight panel square I attached two pieces of 1/8″ aluminum strips that run the length of the bottom and top sides of the panel leaving an inch or so of the aluminum strips extended to mount to large post hinge screws .



I added a wood strip to cover the top aluminum strip and used a piece of rope and attached an old stamped steel circular saw wrench to make a latch that works from either side of the gate. Just lift the rope over the raised metal tab (former wrench). Note: The rope is nailed to the opposite side of the post using a copper roofing nail.

I patiently wait for the elements to weather the gate to match the rest of the structure.