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How to care for sable brushes

Kolinsky sable is long-lasting if treated with care. Please follow the guide below to preserve its fine quality.

We have been as comprehensive as possible. What follows is mainly common sense and very straightforward in practice.

First time use

The tuft of a new brush is gummed into shape. This protects it and shows how the brush will look when wet.

The gum should be dissolved in clean water no more than lukewarm.

Avoid excessive pressure on gummed hairs, since this may damage them. Simply move the brush back and forth until the stiffness has gone. Then work it gently against the side of the container.

It is normal for a few stray hairs to come free at first. This should quickly settle down.

If you are not using the brush immediately, dry and store it according to the instructions below.

While painting

A rough painting style will shorten the life of any brush.

Sable brushes can be used with thin paints other than watercolour, but if you do use them for watercolour, reserve them for that medium alone. Other paints can degrade the fineness of sable.

Never use a working brush to apply masking fluid. Use an old brush reserved for that purpose.

Do not leave a brush standing in water when you are not painting. Allowing it to remain damp between sessions can promote decay of wood and hair inside the ferrule.

While painting or cleaning, do not press the brush down so hard that the hairs are forced out at a sharp angle to the ferrule.

Do not allow paint to dry on the brush. Always clean it after use.

Brush cleaning

Rinse in clean water. Never hot – it should be lukewarm at most.

Avoid cleaning agents. A tiny amount of conditioning hair shampoo may be added if necessary, but never use anything stronger such as washing up liquid, household cleaners or fabric detergents.

Pay attention to the area where the hair enters the ferrule. Allowing paint to accumulate here will cause the tuft to splay permanently. However, do not force the hairs sharply outward at the point of entry.

Finish with a rinse in clean water.

Drying and storage

After cleaning, shake out excess water with a few flicks of the wrist.

Larger brushes can also be pressed lightly with a clean, lint-free cloth.

Form the hair into a straight pointed shape by lightly drawing the brush between the thumb and adjacent two fingers from ferrule to tip. Do not squeeze, wring, grip or tug.

Stand the brush with the tuft upwards where it can dry naturally.

Do not use direct heat to force quick drying.

Do not leave the brush in direct sunlight or near a radiator. Short-term, these do little harm, but they degrade the hair over longer periods.

Preserve from dust, but only put the brush away when it has fully dried. It is best if gradual air circulation is possible – store in a drawer, cupboard or canvas/bamboo roll for example, not in a sealed box.

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