Jin, Sharimiki, and Sabamiki

Dead wood techniques

Among the tricks used to 'Age' a bonsai are the dead wood techniques. Used to give the impression of a tree that has perhaps been struck by lightning, or suffered some other trauma long ago.

That's not to say that a bonsai must have a dead wood effect to make it either a true bonsai, or better than other trees, dead wood effects are created where appropriate to the style. They are often used to mask a defect, perhaps an overlarge branch, or to reduce an over-tall tree, and give it a better trunk taper to height ratio.

Jin & Sharimiki, and Sabamiki are often used when creating a bonsai from either nursery stock or collected material.

Jins & Shari's are usually seen on conifers. Deciduous trees tend to heal over such wounds, shedding the branch in doing so.


However 'Jins' do occur on Deciduous trees as we see with this Oak tree.


Ideally dead wood effects should look weathered. Roughen, or carve the timber wherever possible.

The tree to the left shows a lot of both Jin, and Sharimiki. The lower branch on the right, showing a strip of living tissue wrapped around the branch, in much the same way as wire would be, This bark supports the foliage at the tip.

The tree was drawn from a photograph.

A more extreme illustration of both Sharamiki and Jin. While a lot of effort went into the tree to my mind it's "Over the top".and unnatural looking.


Sabamiki is generally used on collected material, with a large trunk.

So what is the difference between Jin, and Sharimiki ?.

Jins occur on either the top of the tree or as a dead branch.

Sharimiki is a dead area on the trunk, and is often described as 'Driftwood style' but is not a true style, more an effect that can be applied to a number of styles.

And here we have a tree with both

A little Juniper Bonsai. This time the dead wood hasn't been treated and to my eye it looks more natural than the stark white of a tree treated with lime-sulpher or painted as sometimes happens.

Trees with two leaders look unnatural. If you have such a tree you could consider turning the taller of the two into a jin, giving the impression of a tree that has suffered a trauma, such as being hit by lightning, adding to the feeling of age.


Sabamiki, or hollow trunk tends to be used to disguise the lack of taper in collected material, particularly decuduous trees, when that material may best be described as a 'stump'. This is not a technique for the faint hearted. Whenever I've made a 'Sabamiki' tree I've put the trunk in a 'Workmate', and carved it out with a power drill. I use a burr or router cutter for the actual removal of the wood. You can however carve it out with a chisel, and this is I feel a safer method, provided that you remember always cut away from you.

I have seen demonstrations where chainsaws have been used, to very good effect. On completion of the hollowing I've charred the inside if the tree with a blowtorch, then wire brushed the surface smooth then treated it with a preservative (read on).

The best time to do this is at repotting time when the roots are bare, but wrap them in a wet cloth to protect them.

The illustration to the left shows two cross section views of hollow trunks. How much wood you remove is down to your feeling on what will give the best effect, as much as your ability to remove the wood.

Remember to treat the wood with a preservative such as lime/sulphur designed for Bonsai, as shown below.

The dead wood is treated with a preservative available from bonsai outlets, it's a mixture of lime, and sulphur. PLEASE read the instructions carefully, and wear goggles !!

A bottle of lime-sulphur (I hope)

The practicalities

For practical purposes we will refer to Jin/shari/sabamiki as jins, and their creation is a two-stage process. Firstly the removal if the bark, then the carving.

When jinning a branch keep it simple. The illustration to the right shows a fully stripped branch, which you may consider looks good, but in nature you would not see such a complex structure survive. The smaller illustration is a more accurate image of what would have happened when the branch died, and its weight, coupled with the decay that would have occurred, caused it to snap off near the trunk. Remember one of the aims of bonsai is that the tree should look as natural as possible, not showing the 'hand of man'.

If you do carve a sharimiki, avoid running it up, and down the tree like a corkscrew. Remember it's the bark that carries the sap up, and down the tree, and making its path difficult will probably kill the tree. Yet again this looks contrived. If a branch were to snap off, dragging some bark with it, the tear would flow downward, below the branch.

Removing the bark is a simple process, but before you start you should plan out what you want to remove. Draw the tree how it will look when the work is done.

Start by reducing the length of the branch. It should be cut a bit longer than the desired length, as when it's carved the length will reduce.

As the branch came away it pulled the bark, and some wood from the bottom of the branch.

Next you should cut through the bark where the branch joins the tree, circling where the jin will end.

Now remove the bark. You may find it will come away if you pull it with your fingers, or you may have to cut it off.

The Jin will need to be shaped. you must make it look as natural as you can. Here I'm using branch cutters to pull wood off, and downward, mimiking what would have happened when the branch snapped.

Here we have the finished Jin, looking reasonably natural, it will need a few months to dry out before a preservative such as lime/sulphur is applied.

The wound created where the trunk was cut will heal over without further attention.

A Needle Juniper at a Bonsai Show, showing shari, and jins up the front of the tree.

A tree with a spiralling sharimiki. To my eyes it looks unnatural and the shari has been painted, as a coating of Lime/sulphur would not give a colour that white.


An extreme example, photographed in Japan and to my eye not natural looking, however the Japanese prize trees like this.

Allen. C. Roffey 08:24 16/04/2018