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  #1  
Old 12-18-2003
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Cleaning badger hair brushes

I''ve been varnishing with good traditonal spar varnish for several years now, and I''ve used those cheap bristle brushes, foam brushes, and $30.00 a piece badger hair brushes. Being a brightwork fanatic I strive or perfection, and it kills me to use the cheap stuff. Trouble is, I''ve never figured out how to clean the badger hair brushes sufficiently, without dumping out a gallon of acetone or thinner in the process, and even then the brushes get stiff if I don''t use them every other day. How the heck do real brightwork afficianados, who use good quality brushes, clean them? I''m dying to find out, so I can use them too. Just hate using the cheap stuff and throwing out a brush, a pair of latex gloves, a strainer, and a pile of 400 grit sandpaper for every coat.
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Old 12-18-2003
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Cleaning badger hair brushes

The ''secret'' for a cleaner brush is to do what a chemist or mathematician would call an ''aliquot washing''. Such a washing will mathematically result in an exponentially better cleaning:

Use the SAME amount of clean solvent that you would normally use for the whole cleaning BUT wash the brush many many more times .... just using less solvent for each individual wash. Using the same total amount of solvent each time (and disposing of the solvent each time for each wash cycle) .... six washings instead of three washings will result in a brush that is ~10 times cleaner, ... using the same total amount of solvent. ~10 washings (again, same *total* amount of solvent) will approach ~total cleanliness, etc. etc. etc. You use CLEAN solvent for each wash.

Without getting into the mathematics of "serial dilution" or exponential decay, etc. .... the MORE wash cycles (using the same total amount of solvent as before) will result in an infinitely cleaner brush.

Dont believe me, try this experiment on the ''film'' that forms on the inside of automobile windows. Using "Windex" and paper towels, etc. --- On the same side, divide a window in half. Wash one side once with a large amount of window cleaner and let it dry. Wash the other side 3 times (using clean towels each time and using 1/3 the amount of windex each time), let dry. Put a strong light on the opposite (outside) side and find: ..... Viola, the side that you washed three times is infinitely cleaner than the side that was washed only once .... and BOTH portions were washed with the **same total amount of Windex**; ..... same with cleaning brushes (or anything else!).

Moral: The MORE times you wash is much more important than the QUANTITY of ''wash stuff'' that you use.

When fully cleaned store the brush in mineral spirits so it doesnt dry out (for short term storage, wrap in aluminum foil and put in the Freezer). IMHO, once you ''wet-out'' a badger brush never let it ''dry out'' until you throw it away.

Hope this helps.

BTW - Think about using an "air-brush" for varnishes and the modern 2-part clear coatings --- you have to mask-off anyway!
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Old 12-19-2003
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Cleaning badger hair brushes

Hi, I have several high quality badger hair brushes that are about 8-10 years old & still in great shape. I clean them in inexpensive kerosene, using the same method as RichH, except that after cleaning I store them in the original cardboard covers(or similar). When using a 2-part finish I first clean with the correct solvent, then finish up with kerosene. There''s nothing like a good quality brush
Marc
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Old 12-19-2003
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Cleaning badger hair brushes

Good info! Thanks guys.

OK, Jim again. I get the theory. Now give me practice. Say with Epiphanes, what solvent should I use for cleaning, and then....dunk the brushes in a coffee can half filled with it? Hold the brush over a sink and pour solvent on? Not trying to be obtuse, but I need directions like a child would.

So I guess there''s no way to avoid using the cleaning solvent and dumping it. Too bad - for some reason I feel funny about washing these chemicals down the drain (or in the neigbor''s garden). My concern makes no sense, in light of the gallons of other stuff I put into the environment - varnish dust, bottom paint, "bio" antifreeze, etc.

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Old 12-19-2003
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Cleaning badger hair brushes

I''ve had good success cleaning my brushes in lacquer thinner and spinning them clean/dry with a brush spinner (available at most paint stores for about $25)

I initially wipe the brush as clean as I can, let it soak in lacquer thinner for a few minutes.I use a small vessel to hold the thinner, so it doesn''t take much to just cover the bristles. Remove the brush and spin it dry. The spinning is done with the brush in a 3# coffee can so the thinner collects in the bottom of the can. I re-use my thinner by saving it in a closed can. The varnish residue decants to the bottom, so the re-used thinner is clean enough for the intial brush cleanings. Pour the remaining thinner from the soaking vessel into the coffee can and pour in "clean" thinner. Soak the brush for a few minutes and then spin again. repeat 2 or three times, combing the brush between each soaking with a brush comb.(again, available at most paint stores)

The final cleaning is done with new, fresh, thinner. After spinning dry, I wet the bristles with light oil, wrap them in heavy brown paper, and store the brush until I need it again.

Jim
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Old 12-20-2003
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Cleaning badger hair brushes

I''ve had good results as follows: three rinses in laquer thinner followed by three rinses in mineral spirits. Store in original cardboard cover. Regards,

Mike
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Old 02-21-2006
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Artists use neetsfoot oil to keep the brushes healthy after washing them in harsh cleaners. It also keeps them soft ,you have to wash the oil out but the brush will last a very long time. When you feel the brush you will know it is soft and ready for the next job "Rembrant"
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Old 02-22-2006
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I don't clean them! (Well almost never) I use the Epifanes brush keeper. While I am working on a project I keep paint thinner in it (the cheap stuff). For long term storage I use diesel in it. When you remove it from the thinner, work out the thinner by painting newspaper turning the page regularly. When through using it, simply hang it back in the keeper. When removing it after long term storage, you have to clean out the diesel with several rinsings with paint thinner. Since my son gave me one for a Christmas present it has simplified my life enormously. The only drawback is that they are pretty pricey - about $40 at Jamestown Distributors.
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Old 02-23-2006
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that Jamestown brush keeper is a rubbermaid bread box (literally) with a hanger arrangement inside. You can buy the box and make your own hanger with stiff wire, or starboard, or whatever you have at hand that is solvent resistant. The breadbox alternative is about $35 cheaper than the Jamestown version .
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Old 02-25-2006
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About 4 coffee cans

The first one empty.
The second one about 1/3 full of mineral spirits.
The third one about 1/3 full of stuff that used to be in #2.
The last one about 1/2 full of stuff that used to be in #3.

Rinse the brush first in Can #4.
Then rinse and wash it in Can #3.
Then Rinse and Wash it in Can #2.
Then put new, clean turpentine in Can #1 and wash it and rinse.

The varnish from previously washed brushes settles to the bottom of the cans.

Put a few drops of oil-even machine oil, on the brush and comb it through the bristles.

Wrap the brush in a wax paper package, securing the wax paper with a rubber band.

That's what I do with expensive badger brushes. Have kept them a good 12-15 years.
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