Monday, April 2, 2012

Paint Brush Handles. Why Wood?

This article/letter is a call for action directed towards paint brush manufactures like Purdy, Wooster, and Pro Form technologies to produce a better paint brush handle.

Dear Manufacturer of Paint Brushes,

Why in the world are paint brushes manufactured out of wood?

The only reason that can be presented for this is that wood handles on paint brushes is such a powerful
schema in the consumers mind that if professional paint brush manufacturers switched their handles over to plastic that the professional painting community would reject them instantaneously. Sales would be lost and companies would fold overnight.

When you think about construction tools across all other industries it is hard to find wooden handles being used in any other trade on hand tools. Think about it... when was the last time you bought a screw driver with a wooden handle? The first trade that comes to mind, with regards to cleaning their tools with water, made the switch to plastic or even metal handles is the drywall industry. Painters and Drywallers have one commonality among them: Water! Both trades wash their tools in water or the appropriate cleaner to clean them of drywall mud or paint. Drywallers must have come to the conclusion that plastic handles on their knives held up longer after multiple washes and was more comfortable to hold. All the drywall tools in our tool box have plastic handles. And yes they are  pro rated Goldblat brand drywall knives.

It is also understandable why wood was used in the first place in paint brushes. It was the one of the cheapest and easiest to produce material at the time of the invention of the paint brush. Plastic was not even a choice as a raw material when the paint brush was invented. The materials at the time were wood, hair, and steel. Hair was the bristle of choice because we didn't know any other. Metal was used for the ferrel and the nails. And wood was an easier material to shape into a handle that was comfortable. It just made sense from a manufacturing point of view.

Wood doesn't make sense at all as a material constantly exposed to water so why use it? 

Wood swells when it is exposed to moisture. It expands when wet and contracts when its drying eventually splitting and failing. It absorbs stain and paint beautifully, as any wood would, and is almost impossible to clean to its original state. Its interesting that stain absorbs so well into the wooden handle. It is a well known fact that unstained wood decks and fences will fail in a short amount of time if exposed to the elements with out a protective stain on them. Companies like Trex decking even makes plastic deck boards to reduce and eliminate the need for staining. Great idea! Some brush manufacturers have even lacquered their brush handles in an attempt to fix this problem. Why beat around the bush and just admit that wood was not the best choice for handles and switch to plastic. They will certainly last longer.

There has to be at least one manufacturer making a good brush with a plastic handle. Right?

The Ace Hardware "One Coat Supreme Brush"  is by far the most comfortable brush on the market. Opinion yes but go out and buy one and you will also agree with the previous statement. To bad that this brush is also made with the lowest quality bristles ever and by no means is rated for every day use by the professional painter. The plastic handle is also rubberized plastic that even has ergonomic cut outs for your thumb. It is incredibly easy to clean the handle and is locked into the ferrel with out any indication of ever becoming loose. The ferrel does not even have nails to hold it to the handle. That's how secure it is. The brush also used to come with a sweet plastic brush cover that would snap tight over the bristles. It has every thing going for it a great handle and brush cover. (Wink wink Wooster, and Purdy or any other manufacturer reading this). Why cant we as professional painters have these features? Are we not worthy to have a comfortable handle? It seems as if paint brush manufacturers have not thought about this.

Well this is certainly not the case as some pro companies have put some thought into this. Just not in the right market. Wooster makes a brush called "The Short Cut", model number Q3211-2, and can be purchased at Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon, Ebay, Ace Hardware and just about any store that would sell paint. It almost like Wooster has admitted that a plastic handle may be a better choice. Okay so maybe they didn't come out with a press release last month. Although they are the only company that produces a pro brush with a plastic handle. Too bad that this handle is stubby and has poor balance and is limited in sizes. Only home owners and DIY would ever find this to be an advantage to get into "tight spots". It really seems like a marketing gimmick. It has also has a proper blend of  bristles on the brush and will hold up well after multiple washes. But the handle will not fit into a brush spinner so cleaning it is going to be a chore and next to impossible so just plan on throwing it away.  Its interesting to note that the packaging of this product is also marketed towards home owners and DIYers. As if they seem to inherently know that plastic is superior to wood and that the pro painting community just fails to realize this.

So again the question arises:

"If Wooster makes a professional brush with a plastic stubby handle called "The Short Cut" and Ace makes a  plastic handled brush for DIY and home owners called "The One Coat Supreme" then why can't Wooster, Purdy, Pro Form Technologies, or any other paint brush manufacturer make a professional brush with a kick ass ergonomic, easy to wash, and rubberized handle?"


Khaki Pant Painter

So what do you think? Do we as professional painters deserve a better quality paint brush? Are we behind in the times? Please leave your comments below. 


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