By Jerry Meislik
The key to shaping a bonsai and advancing any tree to a higher state of refinement is wiring. Shaping can be done by "clip and grow" but this is a longer term process and does not produce the smooth fluid look of wiring.
1. Wiring is a stress to a tree so only wire healthy trees and never one that is newly collected.
2. Wire the trunk first, then large branches, and lastly the finer branches.
3. Always anchor the wire into soil, or to the trunk, or to another branch. A loose wire never holds. Practice wiring two branches with one wire for efficiency. This saves wire and is neater and faster. Do not wire two branches directly opposite each other; the two branches must be offset.
4. Apply the wire firmly to the branch, but not too tight. Hold the preceeding turn on the branch as you create each new turn. Wire holds best at a 45-degree angle to the branch's length.
5. Do not wire the secondary twigs and foliage under the wire as these will die.
6. To determine the proper thickness of wire bend the wire, and then bend the branch to see which is stiffer. The wire must be stiffer if it is to hold the branch.
7. After three weeks or whenever the wire begins to cut into the branch, remove it and apply wire again if the branch does not hold.
8. Wire must be loosely applied on some trees due to quick growth, wire scars, breakable branches, delicate new growth, etc. Do not wire really thin branches or fresh green branches.
9. Wire the whole tree and do not bend branches as you wire. After the whole tree has been wired begin bending the trunk to your design concept and then bend the lowest branches to set them. Set branches from the bottom first. The lowest branch is the "key" branch.
10. Bend each branch once. Do not bend branches back and forth repetitively as the branch may die.
11. Wire scars are never desirable.
12. Wire that will not hold the branch in position on the first try is too fine. Apply a second wire along side the first wire, or remove the thin wire and use a heavier gauge wire.
13. Form the branch to shape by bending slowly. If you hear or feel cracking stop and slow down.
14. Wire applied to the outside of the bend is the safest. Use raffia, or other bark protectors when doing severe bends.
15. If you crack a branch but it remains on the trunk, stop bending immediately. Glue or cut paste the crack and leave the wire on the branch to make it stable. Do not bend at the cracked area for one year or more. Branch will be fragile for years.
16. Unwiring can be dangerous. Cut the wire off. Unwiring small wire is possible. Unwinding large wire will likely damage the new buds and branches.
17. Copper or aluminum wire is OK. Copper must be annealed.
18. Crossing wires is OK but not for exhibit. Crossed wire will be the first area to wire scar.
19. Wire when wood is firm enough to take wire.
20. Tie-downs will work to hold a branch to a position but cannot shape the branch.