Get the most out of your brushes

Make your quality bristles last



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As the son of a painter, I’ve learned to use and appreciate high-quality, natural-bristle brushes. Sure, a synthetic brush is necessary with water-based paint, but again, I go for quality. Higher-quality brushes produce better results and, as long as you clean them properly, they’ll last a lifetime.

We all hate to clean brushes, but it is much easier than you might think. Between coats, my brushes sit in a container of the appropriate thinner–mineral spirits for oil-based finishes; water for water-based; alcohol for shellac; and lacquer thinner for lacquer. A plastic bag over the top and an elastic band keep the thinners from evaporating. Sitting in thinner, the brush is ready for use. When pulled out of thinner, a brush-and-roller spinner removes excess fluid from the bristles.

When sitting in varnish for a long time, a lot of sludgy solids form on the brush. A brush comb has stainless-steel prongs on one side to pull the excess sludge off, and brass bristles on the other side to knock off smaller particles. Dip the brush in the right thinner and give it a spin again. The brush will be ready for action. A couple of times a year, I’ll give each brush a more thorough wash with soap and water. Let it dry flat, and it’s good as new.

A disposable brush is fine for things such as epoxy, but a quality brush can be used for a long time and will put down the smoothest possible finish. It doesn’t take much to keep a good brush at its best.

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