The term brush refers to devices with bristles, wire or other filaments, used for cleaning, grooming hair, make up, painting, surface finishing and for many other purposes.
Configurations include twisted-in wire (e.g. bottle brushes), cylinders and disks (with bristles spread in one face or radially).
A common way of setting the bristle in the brush is the staple or anchor set brush, in which the filament is forced with a staple by the middle into a hole with a special driver and held there by the pressure against all of the walls of the hole and the portions of the staple nailed to the bottom of the hole. The staple can be replaced with a kind of anchor, which is a piece of rectangular profile wire that is anchored to the wall of the hole, like in most toothbrushes. Another way to attach the bristles to the surface can be found in the fused brush, in which instead of being inserted into a hole, a plastic fibre is welded to another plastic surface, giving the option to use different diameters of bristles in the same brush
Brushes for cleaning
Brushes used for cleaning come in various sizes, such as very small brushes for cleaning a fine instrument, toothbrushes, the household version that usually comes with a dustpan, or the broomstick. Hallbrooms are even larger and are used for cleaning large areas. Cleaning brushes also include brushes for cleaning vegetables, cleaning the toilet, washing glass, finishing tiles, and sanding doors.
Paintbrushes are used for applying ink or paint. These brushes are usually made by clamping the bristles to a handle with a ferrule.
Short handled brushes are for watercolor or ink painting while the long handled brushes are for oil or acrylic paint. The styles of brush tip seen most commonly are:
- Round: Long closely arranged bristles for detail
- Flat: For spreading paint quickly and evenly over a surface. They will have longer hairs than their Bright counterpart.
- Bright: Flat brushes with short stiff bristles, good for driving paint into the weave of a canvas in thinner paint applications, as well as thicker painting styles like impasto work.
- Filbert: Flat brushes with domed ends. They allow good coverage and the ability to perform some detail work.
- Fan: For blending broad areas of paint.
- Angle: Like the Filbert, these are versatile and can be applied in both general painting application as well as some detail work.
- Mop: A larger format brush with a rounded edge for broad soft paint application as well as for getting thinner glazes over existing drying layers of paint without damaging lower layers.
- Rigger: Round brushes with longish hairs, traditionally used for painting the rigging in pictures of ships. They are useful for fine lines and are versatile for both oils and watercolors.
Some other styles of brush include:
- Sumi: Similar in style to certain watercolor brushes,also with a generally thick wooden or bamboo handle and a broad soft hair brush that when wetted should form a fine tip.
- Hake: An Asian style of brush with a large broad wooden handle and an extremely fine soft hair used in counterpoint to traditional Sumi brushes for covering large areas. Often made of goat hair.
- Spotter: Round brushes with just a few short bristles. These brushes are commonly used in spotting photographic prints.
- Natural bristle brushes should be used with oil-based rather than water-based paints such as latex. Water tends to make natural filaments become limp and moppy. A natural/artificial hair brush utilized in one medium (oil paint, acrylic, watercolor, etc.) should not be used again in a different medium, unless the nature of each medium and accompanying solvent affects the hairs of the brushes differently. Using brushes across media can cause them to age prematurely. This information does not apply to synthetic hair brushes.
- Paint and solvent residue should be cleaned from brushes after use. After removing most of the paint from the bristles manually with an appropriate solvent, detergent and water should be used to clean the brush further. After a thorough cleaning, natural hair brushes benefit from using a brush conditioner on the hairs to restore oils. A conditioner can be worked into the bristles which can then be shaped to a point and left to dry. Before the next painting session, the conditioner should be removed with water.
- Brushes should not be left bristle-end down in solvent for a prolonged period. Doing so will cause distress to the brush shape and may cause the bristles to splay out and lose their shape. Methods of suspending brushes in solvent include a metal spring, a mesh or a clamp. These grip brush handles and do not allow the bristles of the brush to touch the bottom of the solvent container. Also, leaving brushes in solvent for a prolonged period can cause damage to the bristles themselves by stripping oils and swelling, to the ferrule, to the adhesive used to hold bristles in place, and to the wooden handle.
- An environmentally friendly way of removing oil paint from brushes while paint is wet is to immerse the brush in a container containing vegetable oil. The oil will naturally cleanse away the oil paint.
Manufacturing Process of a Brush Handle
The first requirement when manufacturing a cleaning style brush is to start with the brush block. This can vary in wood type, the most commonly used handles comes from maple. Once the wood type is selected it is then cut into planks with in a certain width requirement. Throughout this process workers mark down where the cracks or knots are in the wood and draw a red line across the flaw with a special wax crayon. A laser can read this line as the planks are moved forward, cutting the line with a saw. Shortly after the blocks are cut to the appropriate length, moving on to the shaping of the block known as molding.
Once the wood block is set in place for molding, a series of saws cut the block to the required thickness. A machine called the shaper follows this action. The brush handle is placed in the machine, revolving and slicing away the outside edge. This only cuts away half of the block. To keep in good profile the same actions are done to the opposite side. Each model uses a different shaper machine. The machines must stay sharp for the blocks to remain smooth and accurate. Carbide cutters are used in these machines rather than steel because carbide is much harder and more durable.
The sizes of brushes used for painting and decorating is given in mm or inches, referring to the width of the head.
Common sizes are:
- ⅛ in, ¼ in, ⅜ in, ½ in, ⅝ in, ¾ in, ⅞ in, 1 in, 1¼ in, 1½ in, 2 in, 2½ in, 3 in, 3½ in, 4 in.
- 10 mm, 20 mm, 30 mm, 40 mm, 50 mm, 60 mm, 70 mm, 80 mm, 90 mm, 100 mm.
Bristles may be natural or synthetic. If the filaments are synthetic, they could be made of polyester, nylon or a blend of nylon and polyester. Synthetic filaments last longer than natural bristles. Natural bristles are preferred for oil-based paints and varnishes, while synthetic brushes are better for water-based paints as the bristles do not expand when wetted.
Artists' brushes are usually given numbered sizes, although there is no exact standard for their physical dimensions.
From smallest to largest, the sizes are:
- 10/0, 7/0 (also written 0000000), 6/0, 5/0, 4/0, 000, 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30. Brushes as fine as 30/0 are manufactured by major companies, but are not a common size.
Sizes 000 to 20 are most common.
Artists' brushes are most commonly categorized by type and by shape.
Types include: watercolor brushes which are usually made of sable, synthetic sable or nylon; oil painting brushes which are usually made of sable or bristle; and acrylic brushes which are almost entirely nylon or synthetic. Turpentine or thinners used in oil painting can destroy some types of synthetic brushes. However, innovations in synthetic bristle technology have produced solvent resistant synthetic bristles suitable for use in all media. Natural hair, squirrel, badger or sable are used by watercolorists due to their superior ability to absorb and hold water.
Shapes include rounds (pointed), flats, brights (shorter than flats) and filbert. Other shapes include stipplers (short, stubby rounds), deer-foot stipplers, liners (elongated rounds), daggers, scripts (highly elongated rounds), egberts and fans.
Bristles may be natural — either soft hair or hog bristle — or synthetic.
- Soft hair brushes are made from Kolinsky sable or ox hair (sabeline); or more rarely, squirrel, pony, goat, mongoose or badger. Cheaper hair is sometimes called camel hair, although it does not come from camels.
- Hog bristle (often called china bristle or Chunking bristle) is stiffer and stronger than soft hair. It may be bleached or unbleached.
- Synthetic bristles are made of special multi-diameter extruded nylon filament.
Artists' brush handles are commonly wooden but can also be made of molded plastic. Many mass-produced handles are made of unfinished raw wood; better quality handles are of seasoned hardwood. The wood is sealed and lacquered to give the handle a high-gloss, waterproof finish that reduces soiling and swelling.
Metal ferrules may be of aluminium, nickel, copper, or nickel-plated steel. Quill ferrules are also found: these give a different "feel" to the brush. The top of the range brushes, however, usually have ferrules made from transparent plastic tightened in place by thin wire.