I am one of those people who hate to admit that they don’t know how to do something as simple as purchase a paintbrush. I can’t tell you how many paint brushes I have purchased over the past 30 years. That is because when I buy paintbrushes, I either never seem to get around to cleaning them properly, in which case after about 2 weeks the bristles have about the same hardness as my ballpeen hammer or, they look so terrible when I am finished with them I just throw them out, which us not usually to hard to do as I didn’t pay that much for them in the first place. Then I began to realize that the crappy brushes I was buying were not helping me in getting a nice finish on my woodworking projects.
Unfortunately I had got myself into the bad habit of buying cheap paint brushes when they are on sale, even if I didn’t need any because I knew I could always throw them out when I do use them. I even try to have a few of the foam bushes around in case I need something in an emergency. I don’t know when painting would become an emergency, but it’s a good excuse to buy paint brush supplies.
Now all of this may not seem like a problem to you, but the real problem is I now know, that my finishes on my projects are not as good as they should be, not because I’m not buying the right stains and finishes, but because my brushes have elevated my frustration level to the point I am not able to do a good job, because I am using the wrong tool for the job. Here is what I discovered when I took the time to “listen” to my paint supply person.
Brushes with natural bristles are best for finishes that use petroleum based paints and stains. This is because the natural bristles ooze the paint out smoothly and do not “react” to the oils in the finish like some synthetic brushes might. They also clean up nicely when done.
Brushes with synthetic bristles should be used with water based paints and stains. This is because if you use natural bristles with water based products, the same thing happens to the natural bristles with water as what happens with your hair when you get out of the shower, your hair sticks out in all directions (this is assuming your hair is natural and not synthetic). Synthetic bristles keep their shape more readily when used with water based finishes.
Foam brushes are disposable, and are more suitable for small jobs, particularly if you are using clear finishes. They tend less toward depositing little air bubbles on your finished work. But if you really want my opinion on all of this, I still maintain that a nice can of spray paint is pretty tough to beat (an no brushes to clean either).
Now to compound all of the above, just recently some manufacturers have introduced a type of “hybrid” brush which is actually a synthetic brush that acts both like a natural bristle and like a synthentic so it can be used in both mediums. The problem is identifying the a good quality sythethic and not poor quality one … so, unless you can do this, for now, try to stick to either natural fibre for oil based finishes and a synthetic brush for water based material … TAKE THE TIME TO CLEAN THEM NICELY … and you will have good quality brushes that will last for many, many projects.