Bonsai Beginner Series - Structural Wiring

cracking Josh's progress and bonsai has

been pretty monumental to witness he's

learned how to select material he's

learned how to initially clean and do

some of the very fundamental pruning but

now we get into the nuts and bolts of

the structural wiring process and this

is the moment that we get to set the

shape and we're gonna start to talk

about and teach Josh the fundamental

concepts behind structural wire and some

of the nuances that allow him to have



and so when we talk about structural

wire we're talking about wires that you

shape the trunk the structure of the

tree or the branches that emerge from

the trunk these are the primary branches

of the tree and so as we take a look at

this you'll notice that a lot of the big

thick branches that come from the trunk

of the tree have much thicker wire on

them and this is really setting the

angles of the design so that we have

that position in place to be able to

create independent paths these smaller

branches on that wire that's a whole

different world

right that's secondary tertiary wire we

will get there so we're really looking

at defining the trunk line and defining

the shape of those branches that emerge

from the trunk as our structural wire

practice each of these turns has the

same angle ideal angle for structural

wire 55 60 degrees if we just go from

the top of one wire to another and we

gauge that spacing that spacing no

matter what turn exists in that branch

is equivalent across each turn the last

thing that you'll notice is that there's

a really nice contact between the wire

and the branch there's not any spaces

now what you'll also notice is that that

wire isn't really constricting the

growth of the branch so to get that

contact we're not cranking that wire

onto the branch so it's been a couple of

months now since we actually picked up

the trees from the nursery and I've been

excited to get into styling the trees so

finally being able to actually dig into

the design of the trees a little bit

more after finding the front on the

previous episode I'm excited to get my

hands back on my trees and really start

figuring out what the design is gonna

look like it's time to present you with

your wiring tools nice pair of pliers

really good pair of wire cutters and

your first set of perfectly in Neil's

beautiful copper wire this is a gauges

eighteen through six 18 16 14 12 10 six

these gauges are the best set for being

able to approach bonsai

when we first start to learn how to wire

so I've prepared a little bit of an

exercise here I've got a branch that

I've removed all of the the needles off

of and I've got a clamp here and this is

basically how I start everybody off

learning how to

why're we've got to be able to apply a

gauge of wire that allows us to hold any

movement we put into that some trees are

harder than others and a harder would

add more dense vascular fiber will

demand a thicker wire in order to be

able to hold it where we move it and

then the length the longer that that

branches the thicker the wire we need to

utilize because we have a lot of

leverage on that length of the branch

okay so I'm gonna go ahead and give

myself a length of wire that that is a

little bit more than the length of the

branch an extra 15 20 % in structural

wire we want a little bit of a longer

wire because we need the leverage of

that handle to be able to apply it and

use a leverage to make sure that that

application is smooth and really clean

so as I start to make this turn I'm

looking at achieving same angle on every

turn when I'm wiring particularly in the

application of structural wire moving

your hand in definitive planes notice I

move towards you down towards me up

towards you down towards me up and

notice each time that I'm making that

turn I'm stepping my fingers down to

maintain that contact towards you down

towards me towards you down towards me

up okay

this starts to give us that layout that

we're looking for same angle same

spacing and no gaps is really what we're

striving for in the structural wire

application so I'm gonna be holding here

I'm gonna be bending down okay and

notice how when I held there that wire

stretched work-hardened and held that

Bend okay this is the function of

structural wire but after that first

movement down we always have to bring

the branches back up towards the light

having that last turn across the bottom

allows us to bring that piece up trees

always growing towards light the desire

for those to photosynthesize creates

that strength throwing upwards if we

have that across the bottom we can

always mimic that natural behavior of

the tree that's the functional aspect of

why we ended across the bottom of the

branch cool all right

thank you sir let me just shift that out

of the way so that you can conveniently

access those tools I know it's hard to

not help me because I'm so helpless but

I got this right I know I know I got

faith I got a lot of faith Thanks

believe in Josh can I redo that you can

try that didn't do anything didn't work

this is a job Ryan it's almost like some

people have to really focus on this for

a profession yeah well right I yeah


I think that one of the biggest mistakes

that beginners make is they're afraid to

do right okay I applied the wire right

holy cow that was you know and it's in

and I've been there I was there when I

was 12 years old and that never stopped

until I was wiring trees daily at at

during my apprenticeship but when we do

get to the tree the goal of this

exercise is by the time you get there we

have some of that worked out so that the

tree doesn't become the experimentation

point for all of those errors yeah it

will be regardless because you're not

gonna be an expert at wiring but just

giving you some of those thoughts to be

considering as you're doing this kind of

bending is gonna assist in you doing

this better yeah this has been really

helpful because one of the things that I

was thinking before diving into this was

I've like made a kind of connection with

the trees that I picked out I don't want

to destroy them I like being able to

learn on a dead branch yeah before

diving into you know living tree

material imagine trying to learn

everything that you're learning here on

that tree yeah impossible oh it's just

like I'm gonna push it to it you got to

know yeah you've got to know you've got

to break these branches you have to yeah

it's a dead branch it doesn't matter no

this is not gonna make it unfortunately

this is not gonna survive this operation

so you might as well figure out what

does it feel like to break a branch what

happened right before you broke it the

distribution of forces across so much

tissue here the distribution of forces

across just a very minimal area here and

that's why that broke and that didn't

got it all right I also want to point

out that branches break in the wild all

the time and I think this is very

natural yeah yeah and chances are if you

want to know the truth if there were

needles on that that kind of a break

would absolutely survive oh really

yeah fifty percent not a pro

through actually going through this

process with dead branches it's reducing

a lot of the anxiety I have about

actually touching the trees so I don't

feel as bad about taking my time right

actually feel really good about it

the most defeating thing about bonsai is

having a tree that you found at the

nursery and you love and you're like I

can't wait to make this a good bone side

and then destroying it and it dying

struggling or looking terrible and then

you're like well hearing that this is

empowering you to feel more confident

that means that your success in bonsai

is going to grow as a result of this

this is a very effective way to ya the

wiring process


you've gone through the paces we've

discussed the fundamentals of structural

wiring mm-hmm

time has come my friend you're gonna

wire the trunk and you're gonna wire all

of the branches that originate from the

trunk this is setting structure focus

same angle same spacing no gaps in every

coil of the wire get to it and then

let's take a look at it when you're done


I'm all ready just like Oh God because I

was practicing upstairs and you weren't

around and I was like I think this is

the right gauge to practice with with

this side here's the beautiful thing

about your first tree you know it's

gonna be riddled with mistakes have fun

enjoy it learn from the process focus on

the fundamentals and this tree is going

to carry with it all of your marks of

growth so this first iteration is gonna

be something that you're gonna remember

forever the tree is gonna improve

regardless of what happens today there's

no pressure just really dig into the

wiring process and start to learn an



I'm trying to truly try and look at that

gap though I messed it up real hard and

now I'm gonna do a hard reset here and

cut this wire off and try again


I think I did it I probably put it on

you tight though


let's put some movement into this

professional sounds


there I don't know I want to be able to

make confident decisions that lead me to

a tree that I envision but I honestly

don't know if I'm even putting the wire

on correctly in order to have any kind

of vision becomes a reality


all right I see structural wire on it

how'd it go it went okay I think there

were some struggles along the way but I

definitely had some issues with getting

the right angle on the this the trunk

wire and then some big issues with

paring the the branches and I moved one

the other ones moving along with it

let's just take a look let's break it

down one at a time in any of these

junctions where we've got more than one

branch emerging from the trunk we need

to take off all the branches except for

the one that we want to keep and it'll

make your structural wiring far easier

it'll also prevent structural flaws from

forming then when we set this initial

wire on the trunk we've got to hit that

55 60 degree angle when we go past that

we start to create a really big distance

between the holding points of the wire

and that's what caused the spacing this

wire on the trunk also sets you up for

all of your structural wire on the

branches that emerge from the trunk and

so when we get the correct angle here

we're also able to pair these branches

here and when we pair these branches

here we want to be having at least one

full revolution of wire around the trunk

following that structural two pair one

branch to another getting that

revolution okay last piece of the puzzle

do we want to lower the branches or do

we want to raise the branches

traditional Japanese bonsai almost

always we have lowered branches when we

lower a branch structurally we have to

approach it from the top of the shoulder

when we raise a branch we have to

approach it from the bottom of the

shoulder and the shoulder being this

connection point of the branch to the

trunk so when we start to think about

that that guides how we put the wire

onto the shoulder of the branch it

starts to help us link branches that

exist beyond the full revolution around

the trunk I think it'd be really helpful

if you just kind of showed me how you

would wire this tree yeah so let's just

sort of take it apart and put it back

together all right sweet


I almost feel relief for this tree after

I worked on it it's like watching you

strip it away felt like you were

breaking it out of change yeah and I

like putting it into like a good

position but anyway yeah it's very

helpful for me to see how you linked the

branches right off of the trunk together

with the wire and the choices the

choices for the combinations right these

are things that we built

but understanding to lower we enter the

top to raise me into the bottom same

angle same spacing no gaps applies to

every wire we put on the tree and then

when we shape that tree those branches

exist where they occur right this is on

the left side of the tree this branch

exists on the left sided tree this is on

the right side of the tree that branch

will always exist on the right side of

the tree these are the fundamental

aspects of structural setting structural

wiring is this meshing of this

challenging application and this

beautiful ability to manipulate the

shape of the tree you've learned how to

apply it now we just have to practice

with it and continue to build our skills

we're gonna move into the repotting

process of this tree taking advantage of

the seasonal opportunity to work the

roots and then we're gonna come back and

show you the secondary tertiary wiring

that builds on that foundation you've

set and really maximizes the aesthetic

of the tree stay tuned build your skills

and we look forward to continuing the

process with you in the journey of

creating bonsai BAM