Tuesday, September 2, 2014

User guide for paint brushes

The quality of any paint finish depends largely on the quality and condition of the application tool – here is a users’ guide on paint brushes:

Choosing a brush

Brushes designed for painting normally come in widths from 12mm to 150mm. The smaller brushes are often known as varnish brushes, and the larger ones are called wall brushes. A brush has four parts – a handle made from wood or plastic, the metal heel or ferrule that holds the bristles themselves, and filler strips with the ferrule which plum out the bristles. When buying a brush, you should consider the following points:

The handle: This must feel both comfortable and well balanced in your hand.

The ferrule: This should be securely fixed to the handle with either nails or rivets and there should be no sharp edges.

The bristles: Traditionally, good paint brushes comprised bristles made of good quality natural hair, usually hog, pig or boar. However, most modern brushes have synthetic bristles, which vary in quality. Good brushes should have a generous number of bristles. Varnish brushes should have bristles that are bevelled towards the tip, while with wall brushes the length of the brush should be almost as wide as the brush. Flagged or split-ended bristles are superior, as they allow the paint to be applied more smoothly.

Inferior quality brushes tend to have bristles that splay out as you use them, are often hard to clean properly and they have a tendency to shed bristles. You can judge the quality of the brush by looking at the bristles and the way in which they are fixed into the ferrule – the bristles should be fine, densely packed and secure. A plump brush with fine bristles will hold more paint and require less recharging than a poor quality brush.

Brush sizes: A 12mm brush is ideal for fine mouldings, like glazing. When you need to work up to a line, for example when painting window frames, fitches or cutting-in brushes should be used. Brushes that measure about 38mm-wide are suitable for painting skirtings, though you may be able to use a 50mm brush, which is also ideal for door and window frames. Use a 75mm brush for door panels and anything up to 150mm for walls, choosing whichever size best suits your strength. Crevice brushes and right-angled bristles are available for painting behind awkward areas. Always try and use the largest brush that is suitable for the job – the less strokes you use, the quicker the job will be done and the smoother the finish will be.

Using brushes

When using a varnish brush, you should hold it almost completely by the ferrule, with four fingers on the one side and your thumb on the other. This will give you close control and enable you to flex your wrist in fine movements. On larger areas, first apply the paint in one direction, then at right angles, and finally lay-off in gentle strokes with the brush barely charged. Make the final strokes follow one direction to get the best finish.

When you are painting fine details or working up to a margin, use a well charged brush, held sideways, and try to allow the paint to just ooze out of the brush, ahead of it. You can tidy up any thick spots of paint by making an uncharged stroke just inside the margin. In the case of a cutting-in brush, keep the shorter bristles to the front of the stroke you are making.

To use a wall brush, hold the handle as far away from the ferrule as is comfortable. This allows you to perform the generous sweeping movements that are necessary when painting large areas. Walls must be painted in broad horizontal strips, in one movement so that there is always a wet area between strips, avoiding overlaps and differences in density. Cut in the margins with the brush held sideways and finish with light, vertical lying-off strokes.

Never over-charge you brush. Dip between a quarter and third of the bristle length into the paint and scrape off any excess against the inside surface, not the rim, of the container. Also, always flirt a brush before you start working with it – work the bristles against your hand to soften them and tease out the loose ones. Dampening the brush at the beginning will allow the paint to flow more easily when you start.

Maintaining brushes

In general, you must try and keep paint away from the ferrule and the top end of the bristles. To clean, scrape off any excess paint that has gathered on the ferrule with a blunt object and then clean the bristles thoroughly.

After using emulsion paint (PVA): Emulsion paint dries really quickly, and if you intend to take a break of more than 20 minutes, then you ought to scrape off any excess paint, wrap the brush in a damp cloth and seal it inside a plastic bag. When you are finished painting, then you can wash the brush under warm water and a little dishwashing liquid.

After using enamel paint: Although brushes that have been used for oil-based paint are more difficult to clean, enamel paint takes longer to dry and therefore, the brush can be stored temporarily without being cleaned immediately. To store an enamel-polluted brush, suspend the bristles (but not the ferrule) in water. Do not allow the brush to rest on the bristles. To do this, you can drill a small hole near the base of the handle and insert through this a short length of wire, from which you can suspend the brush in a suitable jar of water. Before using again, all you need to do is to shake off the excess water. Once finished, you can clean the brush by soaking it in turpentine, and once the brush is clean, you can wash the solvent out with soapy water.

To store a brush for any length of time, first spin it in your hand and then rub it on a clean rag to remove any excess water. Then smooth the bristles flat, wrap the brush in newspaper and lay it flat or hang it up – keeping the paper in place with a rubber band. If you intend to store a natural bristle brush for a very long time, it is wise to include some insect repellent, wrap it in newspaper and store it flat. Do not store the brushes in plastic bags, as the condensation will attack the bristles. - Antonella Desi


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