08-16-2013, 07:42 PM
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When people come and ask how simple it is to replace a knot in an vintage brush many will jump in and state that every replacement goes well, it is easy as pie and so on.

Well, there is one thing I say to that, come in to the real world. There are many real world issues that affect vintage brushes.

Remember that many of these items are well over 50 and some up to 100 years old and they were meant to serve a single life use and not be restored decades later. Materials such as wood, Catalin, Bakelite and more modern Thermoplastics have obviously aged. With this aging, both deterioration and fatigue sets in. Some can be easily seen some cannot.

In addition to age and fatigue, some makers even used different internal designs and the brushes on the outside looked alike. Some of these changes were made to reduce cost and some were made due to issues with prior production methods. Either to improve a flaw, or to make assembly easier.

In both cases these flaws and issues may not be readily identified if they are internal to the handle and cannot be detected by visual inspection or by handling inspection.

Case in point, I had recently obtained two Lord Chesterfield two piece handled brushes. One had a white top and a butterscotch bottom and the other had a black top and a butterscotch bottom. They looked alike on the outside except for the color. Both brushes had Generation 1 Nylon knots.

The first one that I restored can be seen in the following thread.


The next one turned out quite differently. In this brush the top part of the handle had no hole. The knot set on a shelf that was integral or seamless with the top part of the handle. So when the bit was applied to remove the knot, the hidden shelf cracked and carried that crack along the top part of the handle. Now here is a before and after image.

[Image: 9525767981_9b0c18a259_b.jpg]

The first brush (white over butterscotch) had a thick top and a true hole and cavity existed that was filled with both the knot and fill material.

The second brush (black over butterscotch) had a thin top which had no open hole and no fill material. The knot rode on top of the uni-body top section of the handle. Any major disturbance of the knot was going to break the top part of the handle. So when I came along drilling out a pilot hole, the entire top section cracked. Now at this point someone might bring up the steam method, but since the walls of the handle were thin and the knot was merely epoxied on the top, the heat would have distorted this miserably.

The reason why I am posting this is not to "scare off" people from restoring brushes. It is quite the opposite. Why I am posting this is to show that the restoration of brushes brings a sense of fulfillment in bringing an antique or even a more modern brush back to a level of quality that can serve for years to come. However, you must take the bad with the good and if you restore enough brushes, you will run across design flaws, age and fatigue, and simply some brushes that were not constructed well in the first place.

The great majority of brushes can be restored with little to no issues at all, however, I think it is important that if you are busy showing off your successes, you should also show your failures to provide a true and balanced view. So if you find a person who states they restore brushes and have never had a failure, either they have not restored a large enough quantity to incur one, or they are merely stating only one side of the story.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I want to make it clear that this posting is not meant to be directed at any individual but is a general statement only.

1 2,827
 08-16-2013, 08:26 PM
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Gary, great information to pass on to us. Thanks for sharing! Biggrin

87 21,180
 08-16-2013, 09:31 PM
  • Fab
  • Active Member
  • New York, NY
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Thanks for sharing. I'm starting to venture into the restoration world and this information is very helpful.

10 486
 08-16-2013, 09:48 PM
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I steamed a giant pink resin brush made by Anthony at Penworks so I could slap a Shavemac knot in it for Karen.

Went to pull the knot out and the entire top of the handle snapped off!


Anthony put this 2 band 28mm knot in it and the loft was 50mm. And it had too much epoxy stuck in the base of the knot so the usable loft was about 20mm. Barely lathered my face once.

Damn I wish I had a lathe.

1 628
 08-16-2013, 09:54 PM
  • ben74
  • Senior Member
  • Perth, Australia
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RIP Lord Chesterfield!

Gary thanks for sharing all your great successes and now with this the very occasional failure.

101 18,029
 08-16-2013, 11:23 PM
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I've managed to destroy a brush via steam, so no method is perfect. It's nice to see you showing the bitter with the better. As you said, if you decide to restore a brush then you have to be prepared for the possibility of unforseen failure as well as successes.

My tapatalk-fu is strong.

6 327
 08-17-2013, 06:37 AM
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Sometimes it comes in just too small of a brush to begin with.

A gentleman in the U.K. had purchased a Rubberset brush and he wanted me to restore it since he had seen other restores. I reminded him of the risks and well as the rewards and he said this is a small brush but it had the knot cut off and it was worthless in the condition it was in so he sent it over.

Well, the knot was even smaller than 16 mm. So I showed him this photo of an attempted plan but stated that if this worked it would be more fortune than skill.

[Image: 9528570139_c0cd238922_c.jpg]

Well again, we agreed to proceed and so I got my Dremel and made a small pilot hole and then got the small sanding drum and went to work. I had the hole expanded and while doing so, unknown to me a metal ring was receiving stress and maybe even heating up. Suddenly here is what happened.

[Image: 9528570263_6c1e371554_c.jpg]

So both the owner and I were disappointed in the outcome, but he understood the risk and hoped for the reward. He is now searching for a larger Rubberset but he stated he wanted the right look (more than likely similar to this one) to try again.

It is a good thing to document your "failures" well so that you can review and learn from them.

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 08-17-2013, 01:28 PM
  • mikeperry
  • Senior Member
  • St Louis via the UK
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Hi Gary

It's definitely a (crying) shame when something goes wrong with a restore project, but at the end of day we learn so much more from those experiences... Thankfully such experiences don't happen to often, but as you rightly say, they do occur out in the real world...

Take care, Mike

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