GreatArt UK

Making Paint Brushes

Making brushes the Da Vinci way!

How the experts do it!

Hair preparation
The hair must be carefully prepared before the start of the brush making. This phase consists of choosing the natural hairs, softening them and cleaning them by plunging them into warm water because they are fundamentally very oily. After a several hours of drying, the hair tuft is combed in order to eliminate the hairs that are too long, too short or upside down (root up, end down). The hairs are then placed end down in a brass mould which is tapped until all the hairs touch the bottom and are even. The hair tuft made in this way is then bound together as a bale with a thread.
Every hair must be in the same direction, with the roots facing down, this being the lightest and thickest part. Hairs which are upside down or have a wrong length which have slipped through the net in the first control are removed and the bale is then ready for the next phase of the fabrication.
Define the Perfect Amount of Fibres for the Tip
The bale is then spread and a specialist will divide it, with impressive precision, into portions that are intended to be a brush tip. Mrs Scharf  from Da Vinci is particularly skilled at this. The hands must be perfectly dry for this phase, as the hairs are very thin and sensitive.
Conditioning of the brush Tip
With the help of a brass conical mould with a rounded bottom, the brush maker will start to form the brush tip. The hair is placed, head down, in the mould and tapped until the hairs are evenly distributed. Once the hairs are well-placed in the mould, they are bound together again with a thread and the shape of the brush appears for the first time and can be held between your fingers.
Making Brushes
Putting Them into the Ferrule
The tip now has to be inserted into the ferrule, while making sure that the hair tuft is perfectly even. The rapidity and the precision of this twirling movement is stunning. This part of the process takes some very careful and controlled dexterity and is extremely difficult, but a skilled specialish such as Mrs Scharf from Da Vinci will hit the bull’s eye in just a second! The length of visible hair is measured and for a quality brush it must be equal to the length of the hair in the ferrule. For flat or fan brushes pliers are then used to flatten the end of the ferrule and form the tip. The flat brush is therefore always a round brush at first.
Meticulous Control of the Tip
The tip is examined and tested. This intermediate control aims to spot possible imperfections and check the regularity of the hairs, when dry or wet. Any undesirable hairs are removed with a small knife.
Gluing the Hair in Place
The hairs are fixed in the ferrule with special glue which is poured into the ferrule in order to penetrate the hairs and perfectly fix them. The tips are then placed into a 60° steam room for a 24 hours drying phase.
Making and Marking the Handle
The wooden handle for the Cosmotop Mix B series 5530 offers 2 characteristics: its hexagonal shape and its beautiful blue colour. The wood is polished in order to show the 6 barely visible flat zones on its thickest part, which improves the comfort of the artist when holding the brush and prevents it from rolling when layed down. The blue colour is the colour of the varnish in which the handle was dipped 5 times to coat it with 5 layers The marking is then done with a stamp under heat.
Setting the handle
Once polished, varnished and marked, the handle is set in the ferrule. The inner surfaces of the ferrule are coated with glue and set. The handle is actually a counterweight for the tip and ferrule and a crucial element in the balance of the brush.The brush is now complete.
The Final Touches
The tip of the brush is once again sifted through to eliminate the last stray hairs which are too long or were not glued securely. It is then dipped into a solution of gum Arabic (Watercolour and Gouache Binder), which will protect the hairs during transport, it is then left to dry for 3 to 4 days. The protective cap is then placed and the brushes are carefully wrapped. Now the brush is ready to create wonderful works of art however your creativity deems fit!

Louise from GreatArt

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