Brush Up Your Paint Brush Knowledge

Having a successful painting experience depends on using a quality paint and a quality applicator. If you use a cheap paint brush, you'll have to live with the results - specifically, annoying bristles that break off and stick to your painted surface or unsightly lap marks that mar the looks of your finished project.

To avoid these problems, it's well worth it to spend a few extra dollars for a quality paint brush.

The basic elements of a high-quality brush are materials and craftsmanship. The materials that make up a brush include: the brushing material or stock, whether natural bristle or synthetic; the plug; the insert; the epoxy compound; the ferrule; and the handle.

Quality brushing materials are essential. Natural bristles generally come from Chinese boars and fall into three categories: natural white, natural black and natural oxhair. China bristles work best in oil and alkyd paints and stains, varnishes, shellacs and lacquers. It is recommended that natural bristle brushes never be used with latex coatings.

The stock for synthetic brushes also falls into three categories: black nylon, dyed nylon and a dyed nylon/polyester blend. The latter is the most popular because of superior stiffness and retention.

Nylon filament brushes work well in latex paints, oil and alkyd paints, and some stains and varnishes. Polyester filaments work in most paints, stains, varnishes, shellacs and lacquers.

The ferrule - the metal piece that joins the brushing stock with the handle - works best when it is composed of stainless steel. Inside the ferrule is the plug. The plug is composed of wood strips that separate the brushing material into rows, creating a small reservoir and maximizing the amount of paint held in the brush.

Wood handles are preferred by most painters. Hardwood handles minimize the penetration of liquids and reduce swelling if the brush is left overnight in water. Lighter handles are preferable, since they give the brush balance and facilitate control. Lighter handles also reduce hand cramping and fatigue.

So select the right brush, and you may find the next painting project you tackle is a lot easier than you could have imagined.

Courtesy of the Paint and Decorating Retailers Association -