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Friday, May 17, 2013

Kolinsky Sable Brushes - Not Banned in the US and other comments

I had an email from Anne this morning and she mentioned that CMoN was no longer carrying brushes and that she had heard that Kolinsky sable had been banned in the US. That certainly concerned me since I had seen Reaper Miniatures mention that they were unable to get Kolinsky brushes from their supplier and were looking for a new source. So I did some research this morning thinking that I might have to start stockpiling brushes and being thankful that I had just received a bunch of brushes from the Games and Gears Kickstarter.

The gist of my research indicates that sable pelts can no longer be imported to the US and there are some other comments there which would allude to the fact that items made from these pelts would also be banned from being imported. I was concerned for a moment. But Kolinsky Sable brushes are not made from sable, they are made from weasels and are part of the mink family and do not fall under the ban. I'm not sure why supplies seem to be drying up though. If you are thinking about getting new brushes I would do it!

Dick Blick is one of the best online sources for Kolinsky sable brushes for those in the US. They carry the three brands, Da Vinci, Raphael and Winsor & Newton, favored by many of the miniature painters that I know. I know some painters also swear by the Rosemary & Co Kolinsky brushes but I haven't tried them. I do know that there is a US distributor for these brushes now: Legacy Art Products.

I stick to three primary sizes for painting my miniatures: 0, 1 & 2. I also have a selection of nylon and older, past their prime, Kolinsky brushes that I use for base coating. My mantra is learn to paint the smallest detail with the largest brush you can. That's the advantage to using a good kolinsky brush they hold a good point while you are painting. As long as you have a good point on the brush you should be able to paint just about any detail you can see (although I do see a lot less these days). I like a nice round, fully bellied, brush. This will hold the point I need and plenty of paint which keeps you from having to refill your brush with paint as often. My personal favorite brushes are the Da Vinci brushes as they have these characteristics and I like the shape of the handles.

Let's take a look at some pictures and prices (current as of 5/17/2013 from Dick Blick online and Legacy Art Products for the Rosemary & Co).

Da Vinci
Da Vinci Full Belly Rounds

Series 35
0     $13.95
1     $14.21
2     $15.29
Series 1505 (similar to the 35 series but with shorter bristles)
0     $10.35
1     $10.92
2     $11.99
Restauro (shorter handle and shorter bristles)
0     $10.92
1     $11.48
2     $13.08

Raphaël 8404 Fine Pointed
Raphaël 8408 Extra Fine Pointed
Series 8404 Fine Pointed
0     $12.35
1     $14.92
2     $16.87
Series 8408 Extra Fine Pointed
0     $12.35
1     $14.92
2     $16.88

Winsor & Newton
Winsor & Newton Pointed Rounds

Series 7
0     $14.84
1     $17.11
2     $20.41
Series 7 Miniature
0     $11.46
1     $12.58
2     $13.25

Rosemary & Co
Rosemary & Co Short Handled Red Sables
Short Handled Red Sables
0     $7.50
1     $8.00
2     $8.75

I should mention the Games & Gears line of brushes as well. This is a UK company that is making "reasonably priced" Kolinsky sable brushes. Definitely aimed at the painting gaming community. I don't think their brushes are up for general sale yet as they are still shipping the rewards from their kickstarter. I can find them on facebook but I'm unable to locate a regular website for them. If anybody has it send me the URL and I'll add it.

I haven't had much chance to work with these brushes but I have been a bit frustrated with the PS1 brush that I have been using.


  1. Or you could just start hoarding sables (or ferrets or whatever) ;) I know I buy really cheap brushes because there is no way I could paint any kind of detail with a 0, 1, 2 size brush.

    1. I think you would be surprised at what you could do with a good brush. One good Kolinsky brush will last far longer than any of your cheap brushes. In the end you would be saving money and have a better tool!

  2. Wow, interesting Kris. Imagine what such a ban would do to this hobby.

    1. It would definitely have a serious impact, there would definitely be a big scramble to look for a reasonable replacement.

  3. Thank you Kris.

    With the pics you've posted I can see why the Da Vinci and the Winsor Newton are better than the Rosemary & Company. I've been using Rosemary & Company and they're okay, but they don't last long.

    Sent you an email!

    1. The Rosemarys do look a bit thin. The picture doesn't show the actual size of the brushes so its a little hard to compare but they seem thin compared to the others.

  4. Every brush no matter what make I buy doesn't seem to last that long, perhaps I'm doing something wrong???

    1. It depends on what you are doing to it Ray! My main Da Vinci brush, a 1, is now getting to the point where its not holding a point very well. Its about two years old and I have probably used it on most of the miniatures I have painted. Since that includes my ACW army its probably been used on 800 or so miniatures. I do use brush cleaner soap at the end of a long painting session. And I do occasionally shampoo my brushes, something with conditioner (it is hair after all). The biggest brush killer is paint down into the ferrule of the brush. That's hard to get out of there and if it drys there the bristles will splay out. Also if you are just buying cheap sables or nylons, they just don't hold their points for very long. So what brand of brushes are you using?

  5. How odd, and rather worrying, especially since the Da Vinci Maestro Series 11 is my favorite brush.

    I use brush cleaner soap and hair conditioner as well. Keeps my good brushes working well and makes the mediocre brushes usable.

  6. I tried to order brushes for the course I teach. No supplier had more than a few, and most had sold out (series 35 Da Vinci and some Isabey brushes). I tried Dick Blick, Madison Art Shop, Daniel Smith, etc. The ban by US Fish and Wildlife is indeed the reason that shipments of brushes have been delayed indefinitely. Please consider sending messages to US Fish and Wildlife asking the restriction to be lifted.

    1. Do you have a more specific address to send them to witin the Department? Games and Gears didn't have any problem get their brushes over here. Maybe just changing the name to reflect what they really are instead of calling them Sable would help speed things along.

  7. Hello, thanks for the write-up.

    I'm currently using Army Painter brushes due to the handle - the triangular shape is much easier to hold than the thinner-than-pencil shafts of a lot of the brushes I see. Are there any good sable brushes out there with ergonomic (or at least not super-thin) handles? Is there such a thing as a universal handle-thing that I could just put on any brush?


    1. My favorite brush is the Da Vinci Maestro series 35 which has a thicker handle that is slight triangular. While you can't change the handles you might try someplace like Office Max, Office Depot or Staples. I know that there are some things you can slide on to pens and pencils that make them easier to hold.

  8. Here's why we can't have good things (like sable brushes!) ):

    1. Thanks for that link, I do have that linked in one of my later posts on this particular subject. At this time it looks like at least one manufacturer is getting their brushes into the country. Raphael brushes are back in stock at Dick Blick.