Types of Brushes

As painters, at Faraday and Kent the tool we are most acquainted with, and reliant on, is the paint brush. Of course, not all brushes are created equal, nor are all types of brushes suitable for the same tasks. Here we'd like to talk about the many different types of brushes that exist, and what those different types of brushes are for. We'll also talk about how to properly maintain, store, and generally take care of your brushes, because a good brush should last!

The New Tools Replacing Old Types of Brushes

Of course, the paint brush is no longer the dominant tool it used to be. Historically, painters typically used the paintbrush and the fabric roller, and these are the tools that most people think of when they think of painters and decorators. However, in recent times the foam brush has emerged as an equally essential tool in the painter's arsenal. They are great for precision jobs that require a straight line, and because they use less paint than most types of brushes, the paint dries faster and creates a much smoother surface. And, in common with fabric rollers, they can create patterns in the surface being painted. Professional foam-rollers are not like those you may have encountered in the supermarket. Rather, they incorporate a range of high quality materials that deliver a high standard of application. Though foam rollers are extremely versatile, they are especially suited to painting doors, as they typically leave the surface with a very smooth finish.

Of course, foam rollers are not the only technological innovation to come to the world of painting and decorating. Over the years, Faraday & Kent have seen the tools of our trade change dramatically. The trend toward standardisation in manufacturing has been reflected in the production of many types of brushes as well, with the result that many older types of brushes have fallen out of use. Indeed, entirely new technologies have emerged in the world of painting and decorating: many painters now use spray guns, which use a motor (powered by a variety of sources) to pump paint into a gun via a hose. The gun then atomises the paint into an extremely fine spray. These airless spray guns allow painters to efficiently paint huge surfaces in next to no time at all. This is a huge time-saver when efficiency, rather than aesthetics, is the prime concern. Of course, it's still not as simple as 'point and shoot' – if the spray is not applied in the right way, it can be distributed unevenly, and can then dry in such a way as to produce unsightly marks or patterns on the surface being painted.

Common Types of Brushes

Of course, although no longer as central to a painter's work, the venerable paint brush is still very much alive and kicking, and that is unlikely to change any time soon. However, some once-common types of brushes have been replaced with more modern types of brushes, as manufacturing techniques have advanced.

The ground brush (sometimes called the pound brush) was once one of the most common types of brushes for painters to use. It was usually round or elliptical, and was typically bound by some kind of wire or cord (possibly metal). They were rather heavy, and due to their stiffness took a lot of work to break in. You had to be very meticulous in doing so, as if you did not break them in evenly, you would end up with an uneven bevel, creating a pronounced point on the brush, which would make it unfit for purpose. Their heyday was before the advent of modern paint-manufacturing, when hand-mixed paints were the norm, as these paints required a lot more work in order to create the finish. Some painters still use ground brushes when applying primer, as the stiffness of these types of brushes makes them very useful for getting primer into the grain of the wood. One of the smaller, similar types of brush was the sash tool, which was often used when working with sash or the bars on windows.

Both these types of brushes required a large investment of time and skill, so much so that a painter's skill in bridling his brushes was considered indicative of his skill overall. However, the modern varnish brush has since largely superseded both these types of brushes. This is the most common of all types of brushes today, and is used for varnishing in addition to painting.

How to Store all Types of Brushes

At Faraday & Kent, we have a lot of respect for our tools, but many people don't know how to look after their brushes. Irrespective of what types of brushes you have, some care and storage techniques stay the same. The best way to store brushes is to put them in a purpose made brush keeper, which is little more than a box upon or across which a wire can be suspended. By threading the wire through the handle (now you know what that hole is for!), you can suspend the brushes in a cleaning solution. That way the brush isn't sitting at the bottom, and its bristles won't spread. At the same time, the cleaning solution will stop the bristles from becoming hard, as well as doing a lot to stop oxidisation. The box should also have a lid, so dust doesn't settle on your brushes, and more importantly, get mixed up in the cleaning solution.

A good brush, that is well cleaned after use and stored properly, can last for years. These days, both exterior and interior paints are typically latex-based, which means that all you need to keep them nice and clean is some soapy water, a toothbrush, and a little elbow grease. If you happen to be using oil based paint, you may need to use some kind of natural or synthetic solvent, for example mineral spirits, combined (again) with a toothbrush. If there is any drying paint on the brush, special metal brush-combs can be purchased, which can penetrate the bristles and remove it.

So that's a little of information about the paint brush and other painters' tools we use at Faraday & Kent, as well as some advice about how to look after your own! Love of our craft is what defines Faraday & Kent, and we hope this article shows you just how much we care about the practice and history of our business.

Our Work

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P. Kane, The Patch

Thanks for being so considerate by fitting our job in with such short notice…a fantastic painter, and really a nice guy and a good clean worker.

P. Kane
The Patch

Professional Memberships

  • Master Painters
    Association, Melbourne
  • Painting and Decorating Contractors of America