Friday, June 22, 2012

Glory Days of the Size 1 W&N

I've been having trouble doing detail work with anything bigger than a 000 lately. I found it odd that I just couldn't get the paint control out of anything larger anymore. Then, perusing a prior post on my blog, I came across this picture:

Hold the phone...
Let's take a close look there, shall we?

Hello, beautiful!
There it is, my W&N Series 7 size 1 brush, in all its new glory. I loved that brush. There was nothing it couldn't do.

Fast forward to now, and I look at that same brush again.

The thrill is gone, baby.
What happened to my poor brush?! What sort of abuse have I visited upon that brush to bring it to such a sorry state. These brushes are supposed to last for years, and I maybe got two years out of this one. I thought I had cleaned it often and adequately, so maybe this is just the natural decay over time.

Looks like someone needs to buy a new brush.


  1. If you're cleaning it "often and adequately", that might be part of your problem. One thing I learned at a painting class last Summer was the fact that natural hair brushes are made of (duh!) natural hair. Ergo they contain oils that keep them supple and healthy. Depending on what kind of cleaner you use, it's likely that these oils have been steadily leeched out of the bristles over time, drying them out and making them brittle. Every time you draw the brush over a surface, the bristles bend and eventually snap. Another sure-fire killer of expensive brushes is the trusty paper towel/blotter. If you rinse your brush and then fold and roll it in a blotter to dry it, you're probably accelerating the bristle breakage begun by excessive cleaning. You're exactly right. These brushes are meant to last for years, and usually take several months to break in properly. To help them last, try a more gentle and loving approach. When you paint, never dip the brush deep enough that paint rises into the metal band that holds the bristles. The paint collects, dries, and causes the bristles to fan out. Second, rinse the brush in water often, swishing it rapidly and vigorously without mashing the bristles against the side or bottom of the cup. If you think you have the brush clean, rinse it for another 30 seconds to a minute. When you want to remove the water, gently lay the bristles horizontally on a blotter and let the capillary action draw the water. Don't drag or rub the bristles. When you're done painting, thoroughly rinse the brush with water ONLY, remove the water and allow to dry after shaping the bristles into a point. Store the brush bristles up and using the plastic cover that likely came with the brush (or a replacement if the original is lost). Finally, OCCASIONAL cleaning is good, but only bi-monthly to quarterly (or less if you are the kind of painter who only paints a handful of minis a year). When you clean the brush, use either a gentle dish soap or, even better, shampoo (I find Hotel's are great providers). Gently work the bristles through the shampoo on your palm. Rinse often and repeat until you're sure the bristles are clean (you will often see tiny bits of dried paint. This is a good thing.) After the final rinse, condition the bristles with a conditioner of your choice (again, hotels are your friend). Shape and let dry, and then give the brush a quick rinse before you use it again to make sure the bristles are clear. If I've given you information that you already know, I apologize. I was thrilled when I learned this and I take every opportunity to spread the word. Good brushes ain't cheap, and we gotta stick together, right? Happy painting! OH, one more thing. Once or twice a year, instead of shampoo use The Master's Brush Soap (it comes in a little tan jar and you can find it at any good art supply shop or online). This stuff is amazing. I've rehabbed old brushes that I thought were beyond hope. It even gets paint out of the ferrule (but you have to wash the brush repeatedly for a long while before it can work it's way past the blockage. I digress). Now I'm done. Sorry.

    1. That is excellent information. Thank you! I've been so worried about paint getting in the ferrule that I have abused the poor bristles to a brittle death. The "often and adequate" cleaning was just rinsing and the occasional soaping with The Master's Brush Soap (every month or so.) I also have some of the W&N brush cleaner liquid that people on the cmon forum swear by; suspend the brush point down in the cleaner overnight and it flushes tons of paint out of the ferrule. Again, pointless for fixing a brush fluffy from bristle abuse. Come to think of it, I even have some of that blue brush conditioner that I bought ages ago.

      This gives me a new focus on how to care for my brushes. Thanks so much for the great comment.

    2. Oh, and I think my main offense was spinning the brush at a 45 degree angle against the side of the rinse cup, then dragging it across the paper to dry; repeat until no paint comes off the brush. Ouch. My poor brushes.

  2. Yep. Sounds like that's the culprit. I hadn't heard about the W&N cleaner. I will check that out. Thanks!