A good paint brush can last you for many years given the proper cleaning and storage following use. You can always buy a cheap, throwaway brush for one usage only, but a high quality paint brush will hold more paint, apply it smoother, and will not shed so many bristles.
How can you tell a good brush? In the store, test it’s flexibility by giving it a few strokes on a firm surface like you were applying paint to it. The hairs of the brush should flex but not spread too wide and then spring back to shape quickly. Next, fan the brush bristles between your thumb and forefinger to check it is firmly bound to the stock and evenly set. The type of bristle will also affect the brush’s quality.
The filling is the part of the brush commonly miscalled the bristles. Actually bristle filling comes from the boars’ coats and is used in the top quality paint brushes. It can be colored white, grey, yellow or black. Individual bristle filaments are naturally tapered and have a fine split at the end making them perfect for laying down paint. Their surfaces are barbed, so they hold more paint than any other filling type. The only disadvantage of bristle brushes is that they may swell too much when used for a water-based paint.
Horsehair and Oxhair Brushes
Horsehair brushes use hair from a horses’ mane. It is smoother than bristle and lacks it’s superior paint holding ability and resilience. Horsehair is mostly used for filling out the bulk of brush fillings in combination with other types. Oxhair brushes are even coarser than horsehair, but make good signwriter’s brushes.
Badgerhair is soft and springy. You can always tell a badgerhair brush because the bristles have gradations from white to black. Both squirrel and sable hair fillings are soft and only used in short, thin brushes, like those of artists and sign painters.
Synthetic and Fiber Brushes
Fiber fillings come from palm tree stems; it is tough but inexpensive. Wall brushes that are used for rough surfaces and washing down brushes are made of fiber. It is also used blended in with other fillings to bulk them out. Synthetic fillings are used in the majority of modern paint brushes. These are usually nylon or other specialized filament, and apply paint well, since they are designed to mimic boar’s mane bristles.
Using a Flat Paint Brush
For applying gloss or semi-matt paint to wood, a flat brush, also known as a varnish brush, is your best choice. Here is how to use it for the best results.
Start by dipping one third of the filling bristles into the paint, taking care to not overload the brush. Dipping the brush too far in will make the paint start running down into the bristle root, where it is hard to clean off after use. Touch the brush on both sides on the lip of the paint can lightly to remove the excess paint.
Holding the brush such that it is easy for you to move the wrist in either direction, apply paint in even strokes. As you paint, flex the bristles against the surface of the wood so the paint flows down to the brush tip. Changing brush stroke direction often will help spread the paint more evenly.
Care of Brushes
To remove excess paint, wipe the brush off on some old newspaper before soaking in solvent. To protect paint brushes overnight between uses, suspend it in a container full of solvent by passing a thin dowel rod through the hole drilled in the brush handle.
Use turpentine or paint thinner for oil-based paint, and clean water for latex paint. Don’t use a plastic container with solvents; you might come back in the morning and find it dissolved.
After finishing a painting job, wipe off as much excess paint as you can and soak the brush in solvent for a while. Then wash the brush with soap and water to get rid of the solvent and any remaining paint. Dry the brush by shaking it our and blotting it with a dry rag or paper towel. For storing, protect the filling bristles after they have dried completely, by wrapping them up in brown paper or aluminum foil, secured with rubber bands at the ferrule.
See Also: Airless Paint Sprayers
Photo by Francisca Ulloa, Creative Commons Attribution License