Paint Brushes


There are three elements essential to producing an optimum coating project result. These are the selection of a suitable coating product, the choice of the appropriate coating application tools and the working surface and its preparation.

At present there are many innovative high quality marine coatings and special purpose yacht paints on the market which are evolving on a daily basis and the end user would be well advised to carefully investigate the characteristics of the coating product in question to ensure a successful outcome.

Several examples of above the waterline marine coating products from reputable companies are; l ong lasting Coelan Coating which is both flexible and water vapor permeable; various Epifanes single and multiple component varnish systems of coating and thinners; Interlux Brightside and Perfection topside coatings and related cleaners and primers; Z-Spar enamels and their Flagship and Captains varnishes; all natural Le Tonkinois varnish; and Sterling Paint or System Three Waterborne Topcoat LPU’s. For top quality more traditional paints meeting the needs of the wooden boat market then the enamel paints from established manufacturers like George Kirby Jr. Paint Company are an excellent choice.

The largest paint expense on any yacht is bottom paint or anti-fouling paint and each product again has its own set of specialized preparation and application criteria. Bottom paints such as the Interlux Micron ablative or hard surface bottom paints or the more traditional Petite Trinidad cuprous oxide bottom paint and the innovative and environmentally friendly water based Aquagurd Bottom Paint are noteworthy. Consideration must also be given to hull material, geographic location, as well as the type of use the vessel is to undergo. A state of the art racing sailboat will not benefit from bottom paint used by a commercial or recreational vessel.

Investment in and application of these necessary and high quality coating products can be complimented by the selection of an appropriate bristle brush or roller from several established manufacturers. Numerous brush products are available: Omega Brush, Wooten Brush, Purdy Brush and the earlier mentioned high quality Redtree brush product line. These are amongst the usual first choice paint tool selections for professionals and knowledgeable amateur yacht painters or retail consumers. Whether the project requires premium coatings, urethane, enamel, acrylic or latex based paint a prudent user will investigate and invest in the appropriate tool.

Paint Brushes

Consumers may choose the inexpensive and disposable foam type “brush” or less expensive and lower quality natural or synthetic brushes from the so called “big box” stores. Here the user is well advised to be sufficiently versed in the characteristics of a quality brush as there is frequently little in the way of knowledgeable advice available. In many cases the least expensive product, poor technical advice or uninformed selection will result in the users inability to achieve the intended final appearance and longevity of service life.

A high quality and long lasting brush is the result of a synergy between the paint product and paint brush manufacturers resulting in a careful selection and assembly of several appropriate and often unseen components. An ergonomically comfortable and defect free handle of proper length that accommodates multiple hand positions or holds, a divider plug spacing the bristles, an appropriate type of bristle (synthetic or natural) of correct shape, stiffness, length and flagging and with base end or heal of the bristle firmly bedded in a epoxy setting compound along with a secure mechanically fastened ferrule that binds the entire brush assembly. The bristle end or brush head tips will be usually be trimmed even but may vary depending on design purpose. The bristles will be covered in a coated cardboard protective wrapper or “keeper” that not only keep the bristles free from dirt but also play an important role in maintaining overall bristle shape.

The paint brush serves two basic purposes. The first is to transfer the product or paint from the tin or mixing pail to the working surface. The second function is to have the brush spread the coating in a smooth even manner resulting in a properly coated surface finish. Both of these objectives are greatly influenced by the type of bristle used, its tip or head design and bristle flagging as well as bristle flexibility. The chemical formulation or makeup of the coating as well as the project surface orientation and user skill also influence successful application.

Synthetic brushes
Synthetic brushes
are made from nylon or polyester filaments or bristles. These filaments can be in various external tapers and cross sections and either solid, hollow or partially hollow and resist abrasion. The bristles will tend to have a shiny or gloss finished appearance. Synthetic brushes are used for many paint applications but tend to excel in applying of water based paints as the synthetic filament does not absorb water and thus the brush retains its overall shape and flexibility. The type and cross section of the filament also affects the service life of the brush.

Natural bristle brushes
Natural bristle brushes
are normally made from various qualities of animal hair with black or white hog hair, ox hair and badger hair being the most common. The less expensive brush will utilize lower quality more coarse bristles, often contain a mixture of bristle types and be fewer in number with poor overall bristle memory. Natural bristle brushes will tend to absorb water and as a result these brushes are preferred when applying oil based paints, enamels, stains, varnish and various coatings.

Chip brushes

Included in the natural bristle category are the least expensive, disposable chip brushes. These low cost tools are acceptable for application of oil based paints, lubricants, grease, and other materials where a fine or smooth high gloss finish is not the primary objective. Chip brushes can be made from mixtures of bristle types including lower grade hog, cow and other animal hair. These brushes tend to have a relatively poor flexibility characteristic and will deform very quickly with aggressive or extended use.

Chip Paint Brushes

Black China bristles brushes
Black China bristles brushes are a medium grade of hog hair and tend to be of comparatively stiff overall design. They usually have varying bristle or filament length and taper. These brushes are among the lower cost natural bristle brush range however they are an excellent choice when moving high volumes of paint to the surface and when applying heavier coatings, stains and paints: bottom or anti-fouling paints for example. A black china bristle brush while not made with a high count of multiple flagged or split end bristle but will none the less produce acceptable finished surface appearance. Due to its relative stiffness a black china bristle brush will require slightly more stroke pressure but they are capable of producing quality results regardless of their low cost.

Black China Bristles Brushes

White China bristles brushes
White China bristle brushes represent the mid to upper end classification of paint brushes depending on manufacturers quality control procedures and careful selection of premium quality white bristle hog hair. These brushes tend to have a softer flexibility characteristic and typically are very densely populated with finer multiple flagged and split tipped bristles. White China brushes are an exceptional choice for applications of varnish, shellac, urethane based coatings, lacquer and high gloss oil based enamels. When properly loaded they require very little hand pressure to create an ultra smooth evenly distributed finish. White China brushes from the top manufacturers are a worthwhile investment and with proper care will stand up to many years of professional use.

Badger Hair brush

Among the most expensive and finest brush constructions are the Badger Hair brush . In limited instances premium quality ox hair may also be used. With a high count of very flexible and well flagged bristles these brushes can produce mirror like finishes when applying varnish and polyurethane coating products. A well constructed Badger Hair brush is considered a life time investment again assuming proper preparation, cleaning and care combined with good technique or skill on the part of the user. Badger Hair brushes are often available in a variety of end shapes to optimize applications on all surface contours.

At the completion of the work day or application session each brush should be properly cleaned. Do not leave brushes soaking or standing in a cleaner solution as this will distort the ends of the brush. For synthetic brushes used for water based paints a thorough wash in warm, clean soapy water followed by a multiple clean water rinse cycle that produces no colored run off is desired. Natural bristle brushes should be cleaned using the solvent or thinner recommended by the paint product manufacturer and again the final rinsing should produce only clear solvent. Final rinse solvent and thinner based cleaners can often be re-used at least for the initial wash cycle after the next brush use. Run off from solvents and thinners should always be captured in an appropriate container and disposed of according to local disposal regulations. After the final rinse brushes should with the aid of a brush spinner then be “spun” to help remove excess cleaner as well as to promote drying while doing no damage to the bristles. Users may wish to employ painters brush comb on the bristles of their brushes and air dry them prior to fitting them back inside the original cardboard wrapper or keeper or wrapped in a few sheets of newspaper. Damp natural bristle brushes enclosed by a keeper or newspaper may mold or rot so ensure all brushes are dry prior to storage. Hang the dry brush enclosed in its keeper in a storage cabinet or dust protected area designated for this purpose.

Ultimately each style of paint brush is designed for specific user requirements and product applications. The user then must take the time to adequately prepare the brush prior to initial use, develop the proper application techniques which often differ depending on the paint or coating type and thoroughly clean and properly store the brush after each use. In doing so the user will not only have increased the chance for an optimum project outcome but have preserved their initial investment in a critical tool often taken for granted .

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The information supplied is provided with the best intentions of assisting the reader in their brush selection. It is not represented as being all inclusive nor is it legally binding as the characteristics of paints and coatings are constantly changing. In addition user skill levels greatly vary and project surface preparation and coating choice are beyond our control.