A Different Kind of Artist Brush

by Breana Cronk, IQS Editor

Aside from raw talent, the most essential element of a painter’s toolbox is a plethora of brushes. While many see just a brush, the artist knows that each utensil has a different shape, size, material, weight and even a ‘feeling.’ Masters like Picasso, Monet and Rembrandt were keenly aware of even the slightest variations and how seemingly minuscule adjustments to the artist brush can create the vastly complex lines, dashes, dots and swirls used in the composition of every masterpiece. A brush in the hands of a skilled artist seems to come to life. This is the quintessential image, the essence of any brush based media. Or so it would seem.

Photos courtesy of Braun Brush Company.

While the creation of masterful art may be the most elegant application, brushes actually play a much broader role in modern life and industry. Take cleaning brushes for example. This broad category covers instruments of virtually every cleaning process from teeth, to cars, to sterile clean-rooms. Even this expansive grouping covers only a small fraction of industrial brush use. The artist brush itself is a common tool of industry as are brooms, sweepers, wheel brushes and more. Though the specific type varies considerably, these apparatus are used in ceramics, food processing, waste management, electronics, archaeology, textile, medical and aerospace industries just to name a few. In addition to painting and cleaning, cutting and deburring are often achieved with the use of brushes. In these contexts, a brush is more than what meets the eye; it is a precise instrument of industry.

Photo courtesy of Braun Brush Company.

Just like Van Gough and Da Vinci, industry leaders must have a feel for the brushes they use. Though many power brushes are attached to grinders, lathes, drills or other automated devices, it is important for users to understand precisely how a particular brush will affect the substrate it encounters. Much as with artist brushes, this depends heavily on the materials used in the brush bristles, or filament. These fill materials can be divided into three predominant categories: synthetic, natural and wire. Synthetics are man made plastics, such as nylon and polyester whereas natural brush materials include organic materials, such as horse hair or plant fibers. In many contexts, the two may be used interchangeably for painting and cleaning purposes with only minor difference in the outcome. Wire brushes, on the other hand, are often very specific to an application. Using durable metals such as steel, brass, bronze and copper, the material and force behind the brush strokes of wire brushes makes the difference between finishing a surface and cutting it. Though it is exaggerated with this particular brush type, all brush based media requires skilled workers who understand the relationship between the brush and the desired affect on the finished product.

Photos courtesy of Schaefer Brush Manufacturing.

The aerospace and automotive worker takes care to remove every burr that might impede the aerodynamics of a vehicle, whether it’s going to the highway or outer space. The dental hygienist ensures that tartar and plaque are eradicated for the health and safety of patients. The archaeologist removes the dust and dirt built up over centuries to reveal remnants of the past. While it is easy to recognize the Mona Lisa or Starry Night as memorable works of the brush, it might just be time to recognize the extraordinary work done everyday by those artists skilled with a different kind of brush.

Photo courtesy of Braun Brush Company.

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