I received new brushes this week and I must say that I love them. My new brushes of choice are the Scharff Series 3000. But why change? After using the Raphael 8404 for close to ten years, why all of a sudden I would look for new brushes? The answer is simple: Raphael’s quality drastically dropped in the last months. The brushes that could hold a solid point for ages, no matter how you treated them, are now getting ruined in a day of hard work.
It is unclear when the change actually happened. From rumors I have read here and there, it would appear that the 8404 are now produce in a different facility and it would seem that the workers there do not have the skills required to assemble these high quality brushes. Fortunately, Raphael also changed the handle of the brush, making it easy to identify the good ones from the bad
If you brushes have the thin and straight handle you are good. If you have the bulkier pear shaped handle… well… get new brushes. If you have been sitting on a stack for a while, there is a good chance that you still have the good brushes but anything bought recently are probably from the wrong batch.
So, now was the time to find new and worthy brushes which is never easy as it is such a personal tool. Everyone have their favorites and adamantly defend their choices, not always with good reasons though… My main criteria were bristles of a good length and made of Kolinsky sable. These hair are the one to go to. Red sable are good yes but not enough. And do not even talk to me about synthetic. Yes the new “black” Taklon are supposed to be better but that is it. Supposed to be, not it yet. Here are a few choices that popped up after a quick survey.
The first was the good old classic, Winsor & Newton Series 7. I knew right away that I did not want them. Although being good brushes, the bristles are too short for my liking. The Series 7 were in fact the first good brushes I bought when I decided to move away from the cheap brushes. They lasted me a while until I discovered the 8404 from Raphael and start to really enjoy working with longer bristles.
Rosemary & Co. came up as well with several good comments. Unfortunately, none of their series offered the length I was looking for. The Series 22 do not have a size 2/0 and are a bit too short, the Series 33 are definitely too short and the Series 44 are simply too long for my taste.
The DaVinci Series 35 looked really good in terms of length. Having played with the new pear shaped handle of the Raphael 8404, I must admit I was not eager to try them as they have the same handles. Again, this is purely based on personal preferences and the feel of the brush in my hand.
Brokentoad also appeared to have good brushes. The length of the bristles and type of handle both pleased me. I have to remember to order a set in order to give them a try.
My final choice was Scharff. A small US based company I had never heard of. The brushes were recommended to me by a good friend of mine. The length of the bristle was exactly what I was looking for and they had thin straight handle. Furthermore, being a US based company, I was hoping that they would have more facility in term of distributing these brushes considering the new regulation in the USA which has really created a void of Kolinsky brushes here. Yes I am in Canada, but most fine arts store here get their supplies from the US distributors.
My thought was that if they were produced in the States, they must have gotten their ducks in a row in order to import the pelts. Turns out that the brushes are produced in France and then imported but I have been told by the company that they did not face any issue yet and that they have enough stock to last for years. I will hope you guys will not be running to their site and buy these wonderful brushes and deplete their stock.
Here are a few comparison:
The brushes were sent in a sturdy box and were all attached to this cardboard ensuring that the bristles were well protected.
You can see here the comparison between Raphael and Scharff brushes. The Raphaels have the black handle. Size 2/0 above and size 0 below. As you can see, the girth and length of the bristles are roughly identical. The Scharff are longer by a hair.
You can see a comparison between three size 2/0 brushes above. The Raphael are on top, Scharff in the middle and Winsor & Newton below. You can observe the drastic difference in the length of the bristles.
Overall, I am really pleased with Scharff Series 3000. They have all the characteristics I am looking for in a brush. Good length of bristles, a comfortable handle, a good taper on the brush and they hold their points no matter what. I would definitely recommend these brushes as a good replacement to the Raphael 8404.
You need to remember that brushes are a personal tool. We all work in different ways so we all are looking for something different in a brush. If you have been using the Raphael 8404 and like them, you can safely move to the Scharff Series 3000 without being lost. But it could be a good opportunity for you to explore other avenues and test other brushes of different sizes. You could find something more suitable to your style.
If you really cannot wait before getting these brushes, you can get them directly from the Scharff website. But, Secret Weapon Miniatures will be carrying them as of next week so you will be able to get them from you favorite supplier of hobby needs!
In the meantime, keep painting.