View Full Version : Varnishing Brushes
03-10-2005, 02:36 AM
Can anyone recommend their favourite varnish brush and why it is good for them.
03-10-2005, 07:15 AM
Is this in the FAQ?
03-10-2005, 07:20 AM
For smaller jobs, a canoe or kayak, I have only ever used a 2-3 inch foam brush.
1 or 2 uses only though.
03-10-2005, 07:30 AM
As my father used to say, the one at hand is the best there is! I spent $35 on a fancy-schmancy varnish brush and had better luck with your basic $5 model. As with tennis, photography, and lots of other things, I really don't think the tool makes that much difference unless you're a real pro. I've played some of my best tennis with the cheapest of rackets, taken some of my best photographs with the cheapest of cameras, and done some of my best varnishing with the cheapest of brushes. It's more about the mix, the prep, and the temp.
I guess the idea of a varnish brush is that it holds so much varnish you can make an entire stroke without having to refresh it. But in my humble experience that usually doesn't happen anyway.
For me the most important quality for a brush is its ability to hold on to its bristles. finding loose hair in the wet varnish is a pain in the----. :(
Joe ( Cold Spring on Hudson )
03-10-2005, 08:50 AM
Someone is gonna kill me for saying this but I use cheepo foam brushes and throw them away. I also use cheep varnish MCluskies (sp) Man-O-War $30 a GALLON !!!!. Sorry guys but Iím not going to spend $45 a quart and $20 for a badger hair brush to apply something Iím going to sand down and do again next season.
03-10-2005, 09:00 AM
This has been beat up and down in the past many times so the search function should yield lots of reading. I expect it's also covered in the FAQ's. Many good varnishers use foam brushes at least some of the time, but in IMOOP the wise ones know which sorts of varnishing jobs foam is good for and when an expensive brush will do a better job.
03-10-2005, 09:37 AM
Note that those cheapo brushes are from Indonesia. There are tricks to keep the bristles in, a dab of varnish up the heel ahead of time. There is an ecological reason to use um and toss. When Im done with a paint and varnish project I make like the flintstones and split.
John of Phoenix
03-10-2005, 10:40 AM
Get Rebecca Wittman's book "Brightwork" from our sponsor's book store. She uses "Jen poly-foam brushes".
Accept no substitute. ;)
03-10-2005, 12:58 PM
My favorite varnish brushes? Why Great Uncle Dick's of course. They are now serving their third master, and served them all well, might I point out. I just whisper the magic incantation and those fifty plus year-old, well-trained brushes get right to work while I supervise with a nice cool stout in hand.
Oh, and stay far away from those foamie brushes. I just picked on up one day and I could hear Uncle Dick tossing in his grave.
03-10-2005, 06:07 PM
The foamies have their uses, for patching in and quickie jobs on small pieces. But for large surfaces and no-run jobs I prefer good china bristle brushes. You can buy really expensive brushes, but IMO you don't have to go beyond Hamilton, Epiphanes or Omega to get the best job you can do.
03-10-2005, 06:55 PM
I like the natural bristle brushes by Purdy. Still hand made right here in Portland, OR. On another note the Jen foam brushes do not turn to mush in epoxy like some other brands. I buy them at the craft store. Way cheaper than anywhere else.
03-10-2005, 08:36 PM
I guess a lot of guys like the foam brushes. But, I really like my forty six year old Linzers. They aren't made any longer but the closest you can get are made by Hamilton. Another good brush are the ones made of badger bristle with the square soldered ferrul. The best varnish brush is one that will hold a full load of material without drooling and dripping from the can to the work surface and will feather the flow out evenly. I just can't get foam brushes to do that. They don't offer the control needed cause the varinish lays on the surface of the brush and not within the fibers a bristle brush has. Incidently China Boar Bristles are best because the ends are split into flags. That make varnishing the pleasure it should be.
03-14-2005, 07:18 PM
Originally posted by Victor:
"... that much difference ..."
If you are painting a lot, the brushes get thrown away very quickly if the timber is rough, rough is timber sanded with #180 or less, for a brush. It just grinds good brushes away, cheap brushes have no chance.
"... taken some of my best photographs with the cheapest of cameras, and done some of my best varnishing with the cheapest of brushes."
That's the thing about an artist, the genius if it is in the artist, can get it right.
"... so much varnish you can make an entire stroke without having to refresh it."
I only work on boats up to 18ft, if the gunnwale is 18ft, and just say it is timber, the dress stroke on the gunnwale should be 18ft long.
I like good brushes, Purdy in the US make excellent brushes, hand signed by the maker.
Purdy make, Pro brushes, Extra Pro and Pro Elite brushes, I think that's how they grade them. They also have a large range in China bristle. Bristol stocks Purdy brushes in Oz.
Good brushes don't swell and they regain their shape quickly. My brushes last, every time I use one, I don't let it soak and I might comb it out many times in a morning. A dozen times in a day with the poly some days, when the high temperature can skin then starts to set the paint in moments around the bristles ... at the high tide mark.
A needle sharp paint comb, the sharpest one you can buy, is very good if you are a brush user, if you don't use one already. Don't forget how sharp the combs are, they spike this user a lot.
[ 03-17-2005, 04:51 PM: Message edited by: Wild Wassa ]
03-14-2005, 07:23 PM
Foam rollers and foam brushes.
Clinton B Chase
03-14-2005, 08:16 PM
When I switched from the high quality foam brushes to "First Mate home & marine" brushes and put a maint. coat on my toe rails it brought tears to my eyes the results. A striking difference between brushes! (The First Mates are a 100% China Bristle).
03-15-2005, 08:30 AM
I don't choose favorites but ...
I spent 8 hours using a cheap ($.50) 1/2" brush varnishing some flat work. The results were acceptable.
[ 03-15-2005, 09:30 AM: Message edited by: George Roberts ]
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