Finish Brush Cleaning & Care

Finish Brush Cleaning & Care

How to clean and care for finish brushes for woodworking and varnishing.

Craftsman Style

Brush-Keeping and Cleaning. Starting with a new varnish brush of good quality, the first thing to do is to carefully work out any dust and loose bristles with the fingers. Jar the brush by pounding it in the palm of the hand, but never on a board which will ruin the setting. When you have worked out as much of the loose material as possible, wash the brush thoroughly with benzine, working the fingers through the bristles while they are submerged in a pot of the liquid. Never put a brush in water for any reason. The bristles are little hollow tubes and if you fill them with water they will become soft and flabby, and you will lose the very much-prized spring of the brush, its elasticity. When the brush is as clean as you can make it dip it into clean varnish and work the varnish into the bristles by repeatedly dipping and wiping it out on the side of the pot. It is best to break a new brush in by using it for application of varnish under coats, before using it for finishing varnish coats. Never use it in paint, or in shellac, if you would avoid having it become "lousy" and worthless for varnishing. Little particles of shellac or paint work their way up into the root ends of the bristle, become dry skins, and you will have a time of it trying to get them out.

¶ When you have finished using a varnish brush and when you stop for lunch or any other reason do not lay a varnish brush down flat. It is sticky and will pick up grit. Hang it so the bristles will be submerged in the pot of varnish and let the varnish completely cover the bristles up to the metal ferrule. To keep varnish brushes when not in use never use an oil bath, which is good for paint brushes. The brushes should be suspended in a bath of varnish so the bristles do not touch the bottom and so the bristles are completely covered. The kind of varnish should preferably be what is called brush-keeper varnish. It is a long-oil varnish made without driers so it will keep its liquid form for a long time without skinning over on top or drying on the varnish ferrules. Next to brush-keeper varnish good quality long-oil spar exterior varnish is best. The brush-keeper tank should be covered up as tightly as possible to keep dust out and to prevent undue drying of the varnish supply. Picture 12 pictures a varnish brush-keeper of the large shop type and also a handy pot brush-keeper which can be used on the job.

Brush Keepers
Picture 12. Brush-keepers of Various Types. Filled With Raw Linseed Oil lor Paint Brushes or with Brush-keeper Varnish for Varnish Brushes.

¶ When no brush-keeper is at hand to take care of varnish brushes the only course left is to wipe out as much of the varnish as possible on the side of the varnish pot, then wipe as much as you can out on a board and finally wash the brush in a pot of benzine, working your fingers through the bristles submerged in the benzine, and finally, wash in a pot of turpentine. Shake out the liquid and lay the brush flat to dry. If the varnish is permitted to dry until it is sticky use alcohol to clean it.

¶ Varnish brushes which have been neglected until the varnish is hard dry in the bristles are ruined for further application of varnish. They can be cleaned out, however, for use on rough paint work by use of the following, which is called Downie's formula:

¶ Submerge entire brush in a metal tank filled with a solution made by thoroughly mixing: -
1 gal. denatured alcohol,
1 gal. water white benzole, 188 proof,
1 gill muriatic acid.

¶ If a small quantity is to be mixed keep to the same proportions.

¶ Soak the brushes in this solution for 24 hours. Then remove each brush and scrape out the paint using a putty knife or steel comb. Wash free from grit and small particles of paint by submerging the brush in a pot of benzine, gasoline or turpentine and working the liquid through the bristles with your fingers.

¶ By this method all old and neglected brushes may be redeemed and they will be found useful for some purpose or other.

¶ After cleaning the brushes in this manner they may be soaked with kerosene and laid flat on a shelf where they will remain soft. If the cleaning has been thoroughly accomplished the brushes may be stored and allowed to dry;the bristles will remain soft.

¶ Paint and varnish removers are successfully used for reclaiming hard brushes but as a rule they work more slowly than the above solution. And, of course, there are several patented preparations on the market made for this purpose. Usually they are successful and satisfactory.

Next Page: Brushing on Varnish.

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