A small guide to brush care in a gilding workshop
Gilding brushes are important tools for gilders, church restorers and artists, and therefore require regular care. Only well-cared-for brushes allow for high-quality work. Brushes should always be carefully cleaned immediately after use.
Which cleaning agents should be used?
The answer depends on the materials used as well as the thinner and solvent used with them.
Water-dilutable liquids can easily be removed with water. Shellac brushes, on the other hand, can only be cleaned with alcohol. Oil and paint brushes should always be brushed out and pre-cleaned with a cloth. Then they must be cleaned with a suitable diluting agent.
Brushes made of hair, bristles and synthetic fibres will last longer if they are washed with a special soap, which depends on the degree of soiling and solvent. Wash the brushes thoroughly with the special soap in lukewarm water and then rinse them properly. Brush soap is moisturising and prevents the brush hairs from becoming brittle and breaking. The body of the brush must be washed out especially thoroughly when cleaning with soap. If material residues remain in the brush, the edge of the ferrule hardens over time. This destroys the brush, as the body of the brush becomes stiff and the hairs at the edge of the ferrule break.
After cleaning, squeeze the brushes with a clean rag and return them to their original shape. Ideally, the brushes should be hung to dry, and not placed on a heater, as the handle will shrink and the ferrule will become loose and start to wobble. Only after the brushes are completely dry should they be placed in a drawer, case or folio for storage.
Special treatment for gilder’s tips
The hair of gilder’s tips can be carefully wiped using a clean paper towel or a rag for cleaning. If heavily soiled, carefully moisten the hair with lukewarm water and brush soap, and then remove the residue. Rinse with clean water and place on a clean surface. Align the brush hairs and dab dry. While the gilder’s tip is still damp, place it between the pages of a telephone book for one day and weigh it down. The gilder’s tip will dry and the hairs will be pressed into a flat shape. Take care when cleaning to ensure that the cardboard cover of the gilder’s tip does not get wet and dissolve.