Overview of Brushes

The brush is said to date back at least thirty thousand years. The brush was probably first developed for the purpose of writing and later evolved into a tool for drawing and painting. Originally, brushes were made from plants or feathers. The bamboo brush is an example of a plant brush that is still made today in Japan. It is produced by sticking one end of a short stalk of bamboo into moist earth and leaving it to decompose. The ground surrounding the bamboo is kept moist for three to five weeks. The end of the stick is then sufficiently decomposed so that it can be mashed with a mallet to form strands of fibers that resemble coarse hairs.

The earliest records of brushes made with hair are found in Chinese writings dating from about 250 B.C. Commercial brush making in Europe did not begin until the late eighteenth century. The Max Sauer Company of France, one of the oldest brush makers in the West, established in 1793, still produces brushes under such names as Raphael, Sauer, Renard, and Gerard. The Raphael name is used primarily for its artists’ brushes. Today, however, there is a proliferation of brushes in the marketplace sold under many company names; in reality there are few companies that actually manufacture the brushes available under their names. This makes it possible to see the same style and quality of brush sold under different names and for different prices. Although the reputation of some manufacturers can help in making a decision about buying a particular brush, this is still no substitute for basic knowledge of how to test for quality and performance.

The purpose of this section is not only to show you how to get your money’s worth, but also to help you to acquire the correct style and type of brush to accomplish what you wish. After all, what is the point of getting the best value in a brush that will not do the job?