Brush Care

Ugh! Nothing good will come out of this…

About 25 years ago, I started ordering decent-quality tools to help my woodblock printing. As you probably know, there are so many variables and learning this stuff takes a lot of faith and delayed satisfaction.

One of the things that really discouraged me was when one of my maru bake brushes started to develop cracks which leads to the inevitable and dreaded mange.

The obvious problem was that the wood expanded with the water (as wood does) and where the hair holes and hanging eyelets lie, the cracks tended to develop.

Maru bake and hanga bake brush rack in order of size (top to bottom) and color (left to right).

The most simple way to minimize this is to let the brushes dry with the wood handle UP- if the hair side is up, the water tends to settle in the holes.

The second (and I can’t remember who showed me this) to prevent cracks from happening is to bind them with twine (I prefer polyester twine- around 1/2 mm thick) that you can pick up at a local hardware store) and seal them with marine varnish.

When I was printing in Tokyo, a veteran printer looked at my ‘bound and sealed’ brushes and said “sugoi!” which meant ‘impressive!’ 🙂

Heres the steps:

Dehumidifier with mesh shelves.

At the end, I dry on top of a dehumidifier. Incidentally, I also use this to dry my brushes after I have cleaned them out with soap and water.

Since doing these things, I haven’t had a brush crack… I did notice that Woodlike Matsumura is now carrying plywood maru bake brushes which are cheaper and claim not to split… If anyone finds out about these, please tell Tanuki!

Notice that I also put a color dot sticker on the brushes to identify them. I have brushes in order of Black, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple.

Additional links to brushes on this blog are:

Softening Brushes Using a Sharkskin, Brush Jig, and A Trip To a Brushmaker in Asakusa

Oh, and Happy New Year- I hope 2020 will be a great year for you!

Next post: Adventures in Bookbinding


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