I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!


How important were paint brushes during the period? We are familiar with the pens, but pictures of paint brushes are more rare. With the help of the guidance of Gary Golding, I have been busy this last year to accumulate–generally making–scribe tools: pumice stone, prickers, burnishers, straight edges and clothlets, as well as pens and scrapers. When they were all finished, there was no way to delay even more. No matter how much the process intimidated me, it was time to make a brush.

I began by reading DIY articles on making brushes. I cannot say that the brushes were entirely accurate, but I was able to take what seemed to work. And I did several, so I was able to take several different approaches. Some of the results I was not satisfied with, but they were not entirely dismaying!

Brushes were made from boar bristles or from squirrel fur. I was able to secure both, but the squirrel fur was intimidated me too much, so I still have a whole squirrel’s tale. I may use it someday, but I did find the boar bristles very easy—if frustrating at times—to work with.

I took the boar bristles and cut them to the desired sizes. They were cut a little longer than what the final result would be simply to be able to cut them down. I would take about twelve bristles, bend them double and bind them at the bend with hemp thread. Then, there were bent double. The bristles were obstinate, and this was not as easy as it sounds!

The handle part was a bit more iffy. I tried a wooden handle, and it was adequate but not satisfying. For the most part, handles were made of the quills—just like the quills used in making the quills—and vulture feathers were recommended. And then I discovered that vulture feathers were expensive! I bought one and used it. But frankly, I did not find that it was any more useful than the goose quills that were much less expensive. So most of the brushes I made were made from goose feathers.

The goose and the vulture feathers were treated in the same way. The feathery parts were stripped, which is actually a very simple thing to do. Pinch the barbs of the feather at the base of the shaft and just pull. It will usually zip off easily. Both sides must be stripped off. Then the open end must be reamed so that it is entirely empty. Some people say it must be soaked, but I found that a bit of overkill.

I took the bristle bundles and stuck them into the empty end. Ideally, you want to do so with about six benches, but the size of the quill opening determines how many are used for a brush. After a while, I discovered that a drop of glue in the empty space helped keep the bristles under control.

Then taking hemp thread, I would wrap the bristles. There is actually no way to describe what needs to be done to make it secure. You just see and feel it. I discovered that coating the thread in glue helped. Cheating? Maybe, but glue is my friend! It eliminated the need for knotting or otherwise securing the cord. I then put another coat of glue over the bound bristles just to make it more secure.

I was then able to trim the bristles to the desired size. I must admit that the bristles sometimes would not work together, so I needed to keep them together with little glue. The result was pleasing visually, and I used one a little but did not use any a lot. But for display, it was veery satisfying!

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