Bonsai shears, also called bonsai scissors, are the most often used tool in creating and maintaining our small trees. Many artists have more than one pair. Different sizes make different jobs easier.
When using the wrong size tool, we often make mistakes. In addition, using the wrong size can easily damage your shears.
If you're a beginner, one pair if medium size bonsai scissors - used for general pruning things such as young branches - may be adequate.
An additional pair of small shears, although not necessary, could be a convenience for trimming leaves and the tips of new growth. (Also known as bonsai "bud scissors.")
The larger shears can often do the job of both. The smaller one, however, should never be forced to cut more than it was meant to trim.
Never force any tool. It can be an expensive mistake.
Someone wrote online, you should "never use household scissors" on bonsai. Remember, there is no magic in using bonsai tools. The key is to keep all tools sharp and clean. In any horticultural hobby, dirty tools can transfer dangerous pathogens from one plant to another.
If you have one little tree that occasionally needs a trim, special tools may not be necessary. As your bonsai collection grows, you will find value in having "real" bonsai tools. In the meantime, a pair of sharp, clean household scissors may work just fine.
As your hobby develops, you will know when you need additional tools.
If you are shaping, styling and creating new trees, you will need other tools. In addition to the bonsai shears, another of the 'first real bonsai tools' is the concave branch cutter.
That one is difficult to duplicate. A branch cutter will make removing the branches you don't want, much easier and quicker than using heavy duty garden shears.
Lots of folks use chopsticks to help remove soil, or even use them when adding soil to a container. It's an easy to find, free tool. Take some home from your favorite Oriental restaurant. You will use them more than you think.
The 'Magic Cloth' is another highly recommended free "tool."