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I hate cleaning brushes

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Forum topic by Shay posted 2341 days ago 1511 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Shay

59 posts in 2406 days


2341 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing

How many of you just go with foam brushes? It’s such a pain to put a coat of varnish on, clean the brush, then a few hours later put another coat on and again clean the brush. I’m not a fan of finishing in general but the brush cleaning just annoys me. I’m thinking of stocking up on a ton of foam brushes for small projects and Trim.

-BlackNoir

-- Centerville, MN - Hobbyist and DIYer


14 replies so far

View GaryK's profile

GaryK

10262 posts in 2593 days


#1 posted 2341 days ago

Anytime I see foam brushes on sale I buy a bunch of them. I usually average 10 cents each.

If you want an interesting brush for water based finishes try these:

http://www.easycleanpaintbrush.com

You hook up a hose into the handle for cleaning.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Shay's profile

Shay

59 posts in 2406 days


#2 posted 2341 days ago

:) If you do it I know I’m ok doing it..

I’m planning on ripping out all the trim in my house and doing Craftsman/Mission Style Trim throughout. I was NOT looking forward to all that brush cleaning.

-- Centerville, MN - Hobbyist and DIYer

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 2479 days


#3 posted 2341 days ago

Yep, foam brushes and spray equipment. You might want to consider spray cans of varnish – with a handle attachment and a little practice you can get a respectable coat.
handle attachment

If woodworking is a business, spending 20 minutes cleaning a $10 brush means you’re losing money – it makes more sense to do work that will earn money and just buy a new brush. If woodworking is a hobby, you should probably spend the time you have on the aspects you enjoy.

-- http://www.peteroxley.com -- http://north40studios.etsy.com --

View tenontim's profile

tenontim

2131 posts in 2349 days


#4 posted 2341 days ago

I don’t know if you would get as good of finish with a foam brush. I use them to put stain and dye on, but that’s about it. Pour your varnish in a larger can and store the brush in the can until you finish the job, then wash it or toss it.

View che's profile

che

123 posts in 2631 days


#5 posted 2341 days ago

Keeping a brush clean…

Take a clean 1 gal paint can and cut a hole in the lid a little larger than the handle of your varnish brush. Drill a hole in the handle of the brush so the brush is 1/4”-1/2” off of the bottom of the paint can with a piece of wire, drill bit, nail, etc supporting the brush on top of the lid. When your done with a coat of varnish slide the handle through the hole in the lid, slide the wire through the hole in the handle and place the brush in the can with thinner. The varnish will settle to the bottom of the paint can (which is why you suspend the brush). The lid will keep the thinner from evaporating too quickly (you seal the can with a rag or plastic if you want). This will keep your brush ready for a couple of days between coats without worry. When your done finishing the project clean the brush fully.

-- Che.

View Shay's profile

Shay

59 posts in 2406 days


#6 posted 2341 days ago

Don’t you have to clean the thinner off with water though before doing another coat of varnish?

-- Centerville, MN - Hobbyist and DIYer

View TampaTom's profile

TampaTom

74 posts in 2358 days


#7 posted 2341 days ago

For me, well, I’ve given up on brushed finishes (unless I’m painting). Just too damed hard to get the brushes clean, prevent brush marks and sags, etc.

Now, I thin everything and apply with a rag. Wipe on finishes have saved my sanity. I wipe the stuff on (shellac, oil/poly blends, thin poly) and go to town.

And, when I’m done, I just dry the rag out and chuck it in the trash. No fuss, no muss!

-- Tom's Workbench - http://tomsworkbench.com

View Greg3G's profile

Greg3G

815 posts in 2690 days


#8 posted 2341 days ago

That’s why I use a wipe on finish. I find that when I use a wipe on tech, I usually have to double the number of coats but each coat dries a lot fast, avoiding most dust nibbs. I can probably put on 6-8 coats in the same about of time it takes to put 2-3 coats of brush applied finish. I also avoid drips and runs by using this method as well. When I do use a brush, I still thin down the finish to wiping strength and use a foam brush. I’m with you, I hate cleaning brushes, almost as much as I hate brush marks in my finish. It just means more work rubbing out the finish.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View che's profile

che

123 posts in 2631 days


#9 posted 2341 days ago

This applies to oil based finishes.

No need to remove all the thinner from the brush. I usually shake (beat) most of the thinner from the brush but the brush doesn’t need to be dry. I usually add a little thinner to the varnish anyway. First coat is 50:50 varnish thinner to get a little more penetration into the wood. Additional coats are up to 25% thinner depending on the weather (usually about 10%). If your going to brush I suggest picking a varnish and thinner and playing with different mixes to see how it behaves. A brush is like any hand tool it takes a little practice to get proficient. A lot of marine (spar) varnishes have two thinners one for spray and one for brush. The brushing thinner takes longer to evaporate and allows more time to self-level and makes it easier to keep a wet edge.

-- Che.

View Harold's profile

Harold

310 posts in 2452 days


#10 posted 2341 days ago

I use brushes, if you are going to be applying several coats during the day, wrap the brush up tightly in plastic wrap, you can even use a plastic grocery bag, the brush will be fine. At the end of the day clean your brush. I don’t have anything really bad to say about foam brushes, other than the do tend to tear and shed at times. I may just be cheap, A good brush will last several years and I do prefer the way the brush flows, but I think of brushes, just like a chisel. If I take care of it, it will perform predictably.

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 2427 days


#11 posted 2341 days ago

My vote is with Che, if you are going to brush. The brush doesn’t have to have all the thinner removed, in fact it should have a mineral spirits residue on it (if you are using an oil based finish) before dipping into the varnish. You should never try to apply a varnish or poly with a dry brush. Foam brushes, while they are cheap, introduce air bubbles into the finish. If you are going to brush a good china bristle is good for oil base or nylon for water based finishes. In this case, much like any other tool, you get what you pay for. A good oil based brush should run $20 on the low end to $60 on the high end for a German import.

But if you are not going to spray then wipe on is by far quicker to apply (even with the multiple coats that are necessary), is self-leveling and dries very quickly so there is less chance of dust contamination.

But given a large project I would opt to spray.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

273 posts in 2358 days


#12 posted 2341 days ago

I soak the brush in thinner in between coats or wrap it in plastic wrap. Afte I am done for the day, the brush goes into the garbage. It is not worth my time to clean a brush that only cost me $2. If it is water based you can soak it in water between coats.

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

View Betsy's profile

Betsy

2913 posts in 2501 days


#13 posted 2341 days ago

I’m with you, I hate to clean brushes. I do the plastic wrap trick. You can keep a brush this way for quite a while. While I know, no one here would paint wood—- but if you were to do so. You can keep a brush with latex paint with no problem at least a week. Of course, after I wrap in plastic – I also store it in the fridge. They stay supple and clean up pretty well at the end of the project. But honestly, even as cheap as I am, my time is more important, so nine times out of ten I throw the brush away when I’m done.

-- Like a bad penny, I keep coming back!

View Sam Yerardi's profile

Sam Yerardi

244 posts in 2500 days


#14 posted 2340 days ago

One good method you can use to help with cleanup is to first saturate the brush with whatever solvent the material uses. For example, if I’m doing shellac, I’ll first saturate the brush with alcohol. I’ll pad out the brush with a cloth so it’s not dripping, etc. The alcohol gets wicked up into the brush and will help you later when you are trying to get the shellac out of the brush. The alochol won’t cause a problem as it is shellac’s natural solvent and will evaporate anyway. It will actually help the application go on a little smoother. With varnish, you can use mineral spirits, etc. With lacquer you can use lacquer thinner. Just make sure that the brush is damped out as much as you can before proceeding with it. I’ve done the same thing with water-based paints but I’ve never tried it with water-based finishes. I don’t think it will work the same. Water-based finishes are actually a lot more complex than oil-base finishes.

-- Sam

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