View Full Version : Varnish Brush

06-23-2002, 03:21 PM
Even though I'm an Old F..t, am new to varnishing, and need to question old hands on the subject. Has anybody used the "Purdy" line of brushes (Bristle) from Home Depot, and how do they compare to the Epifanes Brush?
Also.....is there any difference in white bristle versus black bristle?

06-24-2002, 06:42 AM
OK, so I've given one of those 'Orange store' Purdy brushes a try. Not bad in paint, actually I'm pretty pleased with it for oil trim paint in the house. I can't comment on it for varnish. Blonde bristles help if one breaks off in the wet varnish & you miss it, you can't see it when dry. IMO I think I'll be sticking with my varnish brushes for varnishing though, just kind of used to them.

[ 06-24-2002, 07:42 AM: Message edited by: nedL ]

06-24-2002, 06:45 AM
Have you tried foam brushes for varnishing. I used to use expensive varnish brushes before I tried the cheap foam ones. You may want to try one out.

Scott Rosen
06-24-2002, 08:08 AM
I use Purdy brushes for paint, and they work well. For varnish I use those expensive China bristle European jobs, like the kind they sell through the WoodenBoat Store. I love them. I find they are far superior to foam brushes, except for small trim, in which case the foam works fine. But for large areas, especially vertical areas, I can't get a good result with foam.

Ed Harrow
06-24-2002, 08:39 AM
And you can have Uncle Dick's "Magic" varnish brushes when you pry my cold, dead fingers from them.

Bob Cleek
06-24-2002, 04:34 PM
Purdy brushes are the industry standard for professional painters hereabouts. Make sure you use natural bristle for oil based paints. Waterbased, use the nylon. Jen brand foam brushes (the "expensive" 59 centers) are great for use up to around 2 or 3 inchers. They don't carry as much varnish as you'd usually like in the larger sizes, though. They make sense, though because they are "clean" and not full of whatever you didn't wash out of them last time, and cost less than the solvents necessary to clean a good brush.

06-24-2002, 09:01 PM
Unless you're a dyed in the wool brush man, seriously consider the Jen brushes. Scott's right that you don't want to do large areas - I've given up on the 3" foam. Just how they're constructed makes it impossible to lay an even path, but the 1" and 2" are the cat's meow.

I did a tremendous amount of interior work today and there's something that even Ed's magic brushes can't do, and that's use the top corners to catch a drip or fix a heavy spot by a fitting. tongue.gif

When you get a spot on too heavy, just flip the foam brush up (I don't mean fling varnish), just turn the brush up and ta da you've got two perfectly good and dry corners to use to cut in with and neaten things.

Margo's secret varnish trick #67 - (Yet another one born of sheer desperation) Work with two foam brushes, one wet and one dry. I'm right handed so I have the varnish cup in my left hand and a second brush held tight. When I get a heavy spot at a corner or a fitting, I make a swipe or two with the dry brush and then move on. If its a big project, you'll find that about the time your dry brush becomes a wet brush, your wet brush is a saturated mess. Toss it. Dry is now wet and a new dry comes out of the box.

Everyone's using the number of .59 each, but not if you buy by the box from Jamestown or similar. And even at .59 each, $2 - $3 worth of brushes to change a job from an "Oh geeze, I hope no one looks too close" to an "Oh YEAH!" is a great investment in your investment. smile.gif smile.gif

Scott Rosen
06-25-2002, 02:49 PM

I always have a dry foam brush with me when I varnish. You're right about it being handy to catch drips, etc.

Now that you're using Crystal varnish, do you still like the foam brushes? I find that the Crystal likes to go on thick, thicker in fact than I can easily lay down with a foam brush. The exception is small trim, especially the half-rounds on my cabin. I find the bristle brushes are too clumsy for those applications. I varnished my floor boards with four inch foam brushes once. I took the boards home, laid them horizontally on horses and literally poured the varnish on them from the pot. Then I used the foam brushes to spread the varnish. That worked well.

I'll tell ya, though, A two-inch China bristle brush holds more varnish than an entire box of two-inch foam brushes. And if you are varnishing flat vertical surfaces like cabin sides, when you apply any pressure to the foam brush, all of the varnish pours out and drips, just like if you were varnishing with a sponge.

I buy my foam brushes by the box from Jamestown. They end up costing $0.28 each for two-inchers.

Ed Harrow
06-25-2002, 03:28 PM
No drips, no runs, no errors. These guys is good. ;) They were working before the Babe started playing for those New York upstarts. Think one of these foamdangle brushes will outlast even you, LOL.

Now, on a slghtly different, but related topic. Any body tried applying varnish by rubbing it on???

Dave Fleming
06-25-2002, 03:40 PM
Ed, you talking about "French Polishing"?

06-25-2002, 03:46 PM
Scott, I have had a dismal lack of success cleaning brushes so I HAVE to like foam. If knowing your weaknesses counts for anything, I know for a fact I can't clean a brush for crap and forget parallell parking or backing the trailer in any resemblance of a straight line. But I can jacknife one in a heartbeat :D

I tried everything I heard or read on brush cleaning. Even spent $20+ on one of the brush spinning do dads. Actually, it's been a couple of years since I abandoned the effort, and I probably should give it another try. I doubt I'm any smarter or better, but my patience seems to be improving with age ;)

I really didn't notice much difference in heavyness of the Crystal varnish, but was working on a mile of half-round and trim and a 3" cockpit coaming. The bow sprint doesn't count because I have to sit on the top rail, hook my ankles around the lower rail for stability, and varnish (or sand) upside down around way too many fittings. It is and always will be a tremendous source of embarrassment.

- Margo

Ed Harrow
06-25-2002, 04:20 PM
Dave, no, I don't think so. Essentially, take some varnish and rub it on the surface with a rag. Sounds rebellious as hell to me. I've picked up bits and snatches of the technique, but not enough to try it out.

Margo -

Now I don't know what Uncle Dick (really great uncle, I guess) used, but I was taught to wash them with Kwikease (sp?) brush cleaner (actually just a passive soak, in two diffent containers, the contents of which are NEVER mixed nor used for paint (until later when to dirty for varnish). I tyically do over night in the first, and no more than 24 hours in the second (the cleaner solution of the two).

Then I wash them in damn hot water with Ivory Snow or the like until they rinse clean (which seems to happen pretty quick with varnish brushes so I do it a lot of times to be certain. Then I wrap them cylindrically with Saran wrap, to hold their shape, and hang them until dead, I mean dry. After that I redo the wrap to seal the end and keep them clean.

There are, of course, the suspension techniques, where they are kept immersed in fluid, but I have no experience with them, nor do I know if the brushes have had such exposure in the past.

Scott Rosen
06-25-2002, 04:37 PM
It took me many years to get the nack of brush cleaning. What it really came down to was money. For too many years I was tight enough on my budget that I skimped on the solvents. The trick to good brush cleaning is the willingness to use a lot of solvent. Kwikeeze is really good stuff, but expensive at $21 a gallon. Sterling is good too, and a little cheaper at about $15 a gallon. I like lacquer thinner at about $8 a gallon. All three work well, but if truth be told, the Kwikeeze and the Sterling leave the bristles more supple than lacquer thinner.

There's certainly more than one way to skin this cat. I do three separate rinses. First rinse is in "used" lacquer thinner to get the heavy stuff out of the brush. Then a spin. Then a rinse in clean lacquer thinner. Spin. Final rinse. Final spin. I always smush and work the brush in the rinse pot to work the LT into the heel of the brush. I always use a clean pot for cleaning brushes. When I'm feeling flush, I'll splurge for the good stuff and buy a gallon of Sterling or Kwikeeze.

Before a critical job, I'll give the brush a rinse and a spin just before starting the work, just to get rid of any dust or residue that may have hardened in the bristles. Lacquer thinner and the Sterling and Kwikeeze dry very fast.

Also, you need a large bucket handy to spin the brush in. Otherwise you'll splatter varnish and paint everywhere. I did that once when I was a little kid, about nine or ten years old. After my best friend and I painted our "raft", we cleaned and spun the brush in my friend's garage. Everything, including his parents' car, got permanently speckled. We got in big trouble.

Wild Wassa
06-25-2002, 04:52 PM
Ed, yes, to rubbing the varnish on, hand burnishing and palm rubbing. Not on boats though. It's more like rubbing it in, than putting it on. One of the advantages is you can't see the coat. Well done it looks like a fine satin wax.

Bristles are fine, I just prefer the golden nylon. Often called false sable. I still use sable (old brushes) but only in smaller brushes. The golden nylon I feel is true quality. The trade brushes are resilient reservoirs and can take prolonged use. I don't need to work quickly or in large swathes. If I did I'd use a trade brush (or spray).

I have found that if I place a new (damp) foam brush or roller (I'm not a big fan of foam, brush or roller), in Polyurethane paint, fully submerged then rinsed well (before using, when dry) the foam will last ages compaired to, if I didn't. Quality foam rollers (diagonally wrapped not with a horizontal seam) are not cheap in Oz.


ps, The varnish doesn't 'really' get into the wood. Neither does my epoxy, even when using the 'west', a technique. Not the manufacturer, West. When ever I read 'west' on the forum, I have to stop and check.

pps, There is a slightly rougher bristle (possibly a white nylon) called Taklon, as well, that copes with oil based materials. I don't know this type. Who uses the hair of a goat?

[ 06-25-2002, 08:43 PM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]

06-29-2002, 05:54 AM
Thanks all for the deep skinny on subject. Hope to have folks pause in awe at my boat someday.

On Vacation
06-29-2002, 06:15 AM
As I have said before, we have our own "Ask Martha" on varnishing. But what I would like to know is how much money did you make on that stock trade? ;) :D

jason stumpf
06-30-2002, 07:44 AM
hand-rubbing varnish is actually a good option sometimes. i use the following technique very often on my the furniture and cabinetry that i build: mix one part varnish to one part tung or boiled linseed oil, thin 10-15% (i use naptha when its cold, min. spirits when hot). apply liberally with small piece of folded cheese cloth. wipe the surface dry with clean rags. if it needs it, hit the surface with fine paper or steel wool between coats. the down-side is that this method requires at least half a dozen coats- more is better). it doesn't look like much for the first few, but have faith. the up-side is that its easy, and dust is never an issue. the result has that "glow" that we furniture makers get all excited about. btw, you can use any oil based varnish or poly with good results.

Paul Scheuer
06-30-2002, 10:08 AM
I may be a complete heretic, but - I use cheap china bristle brushes that are sold everywhere, even in grocery stores (as basting brushes). When I'm doing a project, I freeze the brush between coats, and discard when I'm done. I have dripped a little varnish (with an eye dropper) in the roots of several brushes, prior to a big project to solve the shedding problem inherent in the cheapies. I still have to pick out an occasional bristle, especially in the early going. For the freezing, I put the brush in a sandwich bag, and squeeze out all of the air.
I once did a whole damn piano (upright) and bench that I could shave in, if I was of the shaving persuasion
- signed - Anonymous -

Art Read
07-01-2002, 12:17 PM
Paul... You're not alone, brother... I use those "chip" brushes for everything from applying CPES to red lead to even the first few "sealer" coats of varnish or Deks Olja if I don't have any foam on hand. I even use those little, tin "acid" brushes for really small jobs. (Horrors!) I LOVE the varnish in the ferule idea! I've always just assumed a few stray bristles would get past my "quality control" checks and figure I'm gonna be sanding again anyway... Gonna try your idea next time. For the last few coats of varnish, at least on large areas, I'm going to experiment with a "good" brush to see if I can notice enough difference to justify giving up the convenience of being able to just toss the foam brush when I'm done. I've also finally given in and got a little, disposable roller with a bunch of replacements for the Kirby's paint I put on my trunk cabin top's underside as well as the most recent coat on the hull's topsides. Didn't have a good brush handy to "tip" it off, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results. A little bit of "pebbling" on the surface that I suspect would have been avoided by thinning or adding Penetrol, (both of which I forgot to do...) but not bad at all! It sands smooth again with a few swipes of 120 grit. And it's one hell of a lot faster than just brushing it on with "quality" brushes like I had been doing. I'm converted. For the finish coat, I'll make sure the paint is thin enough and tip it off well as I go. Sometimes it really pays to break a few of the "rules" that you've always slavishly followed just to see what happens. Nice thing about finishes on wooden boats - If you screw it up, it's NEVER the "last" coat anyway ! ;)