Splitting Hairs

Singeing the horsehair (smelly!), originally uploaded by pejnolan.
Today was just beautiful: sunny, cool, but not cold. I decided to fire up the grill and reshape my brushes before winter set in.

The first step is to soak the brushes. This plumps up the horsehair fibers and cedar handle so the hair doesn't become loose in its housing.
Heating the cast iron skillet on the grill.
Next, I heated the outdoor grill to high and place my cast iron pan directly onto the rack. I let it heat up for maybe 15 minutes until it was HOT! I know it is hot enough when I place the damp brush on the pan surface and it sizzles. The hair will pucker and curl, then turn a light brown.

Eventually it starts to smoke. I watched it closely to make sure the brush didn't flame up. Then it is placed in some more water. The smell is bad, but not horrible.

Dragon's Skin
On to the the dragon skin. Traditionally shark's skin was used, but I like to let the sharks keep their skins. (They write me thank you notes regularly.) Dragon's skin is a sheet of pierced metal that has been stapled onto a board. Kind of like a cheese grater.

As I stroke the brush over the dragon's skin, the singed areas are removed and the individual hairs are split. They become soft and velvety. I brush in one direction about 20 times, turn the brush slightly and brush again... over and over and over... about an hour for each of the large brushes and about 30 minutes for the smaller ones.

I'm left with a wonderfully beveled, soft, feathery, yet still stiff maru bake brush perfect for moku hanga! If you want to find out more about how to shape your brushes, visit iMcClains.com here.

Test prints using Payne's Gray watercolor on newsprint paper.
After reshaping my brushes, I couldn't wait to use them, so I made a little Christmas block. If you would like to exchange cards, email me your address. Please contact me via blogger or by visiting www.erinknolan.com !

In the evening I started filling out scholarship applications!

That's how my day went. How was yours?

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