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The Art of Brushmaking


The Gramercy Tools Finishing Brush

The Types of Hair Used in Finishing Brushes

Almost any type of hair can be used in a brush and most types of hair have at one time or another. Below are the most common types of hair you will find in a finishing brush. The both the length of hair exposed from the tang and the shape of the tip of the brush is variable and is set when the hair is inserted into the ferrule during the brushmaking process.

China Bristle is the most common hair found in finishing brushes. Made from Chinese boars it has the characteristic of being inexpensive, and available is a wide range of weights and stiffnesses. While nowhere near as fine as the classic finish brush material, by "whipping" the brush after manufacture the hair can be split making it feel and perform as a finer brush.
European Ox hair is exactly that. Made from the hair found in the ears of European Oxen it is the finest hair used for finishing brushes. Before spraying finish was invented, finshers in both the woodworking and enameling industries (including early automobile makers) looked for the softest fullest brushes to apply the best, brush-mark free finishes possible. European Ox, Badger, Squirrel, and Fitch were the favored choices. Of these types of hair only European Ox is still available in the quanity and at the cost to make an affordable, yet high performance brush.
In this brush china bristle is heavily whipped in order to break down the fiber and create flags, making for a finer brush. Then a black streak is painted on the brush to simulate Badger hair.
This is real Badger hair. It's actually a picture of a shaving brush. You don't find genuine first grade Badger in finishing brushes because it is several times more expensive than European Ox hair dispite its similar properties. It is still used in artist's brushes.
Chinese ox hair is a finer hair than China bristle and is commonly used for less expensive brushes of medium quality.
Squirrel hair is used here along with other hair to make a traditional shellac mop. Another fine hair in the same class as European Ox it produces a brush of similar characteristics except it is substantually more expensive and is typically only found is small shellac mops and artists brushes.
While paint brushes of all kinds are made from Nylon and other artificial hair, Golden Taklon is the best of the artificial hairs for finish brushes. The hair is very fine and is especially suited for water-based finishes. The major problem with these brushes is that they do not hold very much finish and require constant redipping.