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.

Adjustable Heavy Guy Wire

How to make an adjustable guy wire for heavier branches instead of using a turnbuckle.

Using 3 mm aluminum wire make up two Bonsai Stakes as described in a previous post below. Extend the wire lengths for your guy wire application. Slide a thin washer with a 1/4″ hole over one stake and then slide the stake into the other stakes looped end so the wire ends are opposing. The washer must be around both wires. Note: The outside diameter of the washer does not matter.

Pull the wire stake looped ends towards each other while letting the washer move freely between them. The washer will want to bind against the wires so keep the washer perpendicular to the wires to allow for free movement. Next, with the looped ends positioned close together install the guy wire on the branch and anchor point. Bend the branch while guiding the looped wire ends farther apart and freeing the washers grip. Pull the washer down at an angle and it should grab both wires tightly when you release pressure from the branch. Position the washer as close as possible toward the bottom loop.

Guy Wire Re-tightening Widget

If you don’t wish to bother with undoing guy wire tie points to re-tighten them, or, maybe there is no more twist left in spiral twisted guy wires give this method a try:

Form a piece of 3 mm aluminum wire shaped like this.

Slip the guy wire between the handle bars.

Now turn the handle bars wrapping the guy wire as if on a spool.

The guy wire will remain wrapped in place when it is set (locked) against the rounded end of the re-tightening widget.