It’s been a long year since you’ve seen this trident (and I know I promised to work on the tree in August but I didn’t get to it, my apologies dear readers) but I’m finally returning to it.
Acer buergerianum, trident maple, a tree that many people covet.
When they’re well done, they are awe inspiring.
When not, well, that’s brings us to our subject today:
Here was how we left the tree last year.
And today:
As I have said already, I should just cut it here-
But then I’ll have a tree much like many, many tridents out there already. And I’m not really interested, too much, in duplicating other bonsai and adding to the ubiquitousness of the cookie cutter mentality of many peoples approach to this “art”.
If art it is, which is another post I still have ruminating inside my little brain.
This sketch is my vision for the tree:
I have a long way to go.
The original post is here (Big Ol’ Trident Maple Project) if you wish to refresh the memory.
To tell the truth, I did no work on this tree all year.
I can give the excuse that I was letting the tree recover from the severe root pruning I gave it (which is valid) or that I was studying it (which I did every day. The tree literally sits to the left of my work bench.).
But those are excuses.
I just couldn’t see what needed doing.
I did need to carve it (that’ll happen in this post) but the branches just didn’t seem to be where I wanted them to be.
Suddenly, though, after looking through my old pics, I came upon the sketch (the one up there ^) and I had that “aha!” moment.
What does that mean for this tree?
This needs to go:
As does this:
This branch will be shortened:
Let’s get to cutting…’nuff talkin’
What you’re seeing is me cutting off those heavy branches I had left at the end of the previous post.
But, you ask, what about that one in the back?
I think I still need it.
But I’ll help its look a little (that’s what I’m here for).
It had a bud on top, which wasn’t working.
Fortunately, there are two on each side.
Which I will eventually cut back to.
For the time being, I’ll just give it some taper.
Now I’ll thin out the branches and do some clip and grow style pruning.
This branch-
is at the wrong angle.
It goes away:
As is the case with tridents, there is a bud that’s right at the junction of the branch I just removed-
It will be the new leader.
And I use these fortunately placed buds to guide the pruning as I go:
So on and so forth.
Next, it’s time to carve.
This is a somewhat controversial artistic feature I’m using on this tree.
Traditionalists will argue that a deadwood feature has no place on a deciduous tree.
I tend to not enjoy engaging in debate.
So I won’t.
I’m not using Jin on this trident (not saying I wouldn’t on another. I may, but not on this one).
I’m creating what the Japanese call a “uro”.
Basically it’s a hole.
These two areas are the places I’ll subject to my tender ministrations.
Using my trusty die grinder with a rotosaw-
I will say this, if the grinder looks as blurry as that photo when you’re looking at it, you either need your glasses or you’ve emptied too many beer glasses.
That’s my safety tip of the day.
Fortunately for me, I don’t need glasses and, unfortunately, I haven’t had a lick of intoxicating adult refreshment at all today (yet….a couple a’ more bad jokes and I’ll need one) I just took a blurry picture.
At least it looks blurry to me.
The trick of the day:
When carving, cover the soil!
You haven’t spent all that time sifting your soil or all that money buying your soil just to clog it with sawdust.
I recommend using a totally useless rag you might have lying around.
This’ll do:
You will thank me later.
The stub before:
And after:
The stub above was from the cut I did last year.
Below is the cut I just did:
And after the carving:
The tree will try to heal over that wound, a trident is kind of known for that. The wood on the inside will probably rot deeper too.
And that’s all ok, it’s the look I’m going for.
I want the viewer to see the hole, a mysterious, dark hole with undulating folds and crevices, that makes you want to poke your finger inside to feel what’s inside, but afraid to because it’s scary and unknown.
The suspense is terrible….I hope it’ll last.
I also carved out the branch ends on some of the big cuts:
It will probably heal over in that spot but it would be cool if it connected with the hole below it-
Maybe I’ll get the drill bits out…..
One more bit of carving:
This part of the nebari is a little coarse. A slight touch up…
That’s better.
Now we have a slight rain delay before I can get the final image…
Which gives me a moment to talk about turkey bacon.
Here’s my question: Except for the shape of it, it’s not really like bacon at all, so why bother calling it bacon?
I mean, really?
It has some texture similarities to all-you-can-eat buffet line bacon but I don’t even consider that stuff real bacon either.
Here’s an analogy; hot dogs are kind of like knackwurst, but we don’t call them American knackwurst, do we?
Let’s come up with a good name for these savory breakfast strips made from turkey besides turkey bacon.
Can I get a “Holla!” ?
Enough semantics, it seems that it has miraculously stopped raining just as I finished my rant.
The side:
The other side:
The sketch (which is the only thing so far in this post with any artistic merit)
And the end product:
Maybe I need another sketch?
Tridents are not very fast trees.
Definitely not like a ficus. But I should have something to work with by June.
I will be diligent with this trees development in the coming year because, truthfully, I feel better about it now than when I last left it.
Slow and steady.

10 thoughts

  1. Beautiful job carving the crevices! Where do they lead to? Perhaps a new dimension in time and space! Take us there Adam! My thoughts? Bacon comes in slices, but turkey bacon is not sliced turkey! What you say?


  2. Adam, I really loved this post on uro’s. I have some, but I certainly could use more guidance in how to design and execute them. Most instruction on deadwood is about jins on conifers, and all my trees are deciduous and tropicals (no deadwood on those, I know!) Mine tend to not be interesting – I start to carve using a dremel, and that smooths out the uro too much. I forget the name of the attachments i bought, but they look like a little red mace and one that’s elongated a bit. I don’t know if these details are pertinent. I try to make the outline irregular, with drainage at the bottom, but getting the levels is hard. Is it planning, technique, equipment, or just fate? Thanks Chris Dotterer (that’s Chris as in Christine, in case it matters!)


    1. Well Chris, it’s just practice.
      You have to study all you can in the wild and carvers of bonsai and try to imitate it.
      The bits you describe sound adequate. Just find a rotosaw type.


  3. I being new to bonsai, but I was wondering about all the carving? Do you have to worry about disease getting in? With that big of a opening….I guess because I was trained to never knick/damage the bark and cambium when regular tree pruning, I know that when you prune/cut or damage to bark and cambium, the tree starts to “wall-off” at the point of injury as soon as cut is made, but with that big of cut I am just wondering if theres a risk? but, I guess I am going to answer my own question; I know in nature, tree’s branches get torn off and lightning damage trees, bears scratching, etc.. know how to compartmentalize and heal, but doesnt it weaken the tree’s health over all and give it a shorter life span? (I guess it depends on the tree species too and how it responds? As you said tridents grow pretty fast and respond to walling off faster?) I am just fascinated! Beautiful work though and illustration too. Living sculpture!

    someone said to me that bonsai is the representation of purest form of love.

    Turkey bacon, like faken’ bacon? : )


    1. I could do that.
      At the moment they don’t bother me too much. They fit with the story, an older tree that suffered some trauma and lost big branches and therefore will have different size branches in odd places.
      I’m not going for a perfectly proportioned bonsai, I’m going for a natural looking tree.
      That’s not saying that they won’t come off later if I get better placed branches.
      Just not yet.


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