On brushes…

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in a post on general leather care that the single most important investment for the upkeep of your leather goods, whether they be shoes or belts, is a proper brush.

Indeed, when I first started collecting leathers a few years back, I though the most important thing was an adequate conditioner…but once I took to brushing, there was no looking back.

Anyway, I just received another horsehair brush today, and thought I could share some thoughts…

It’s another Fuller brush!

Probably my favourite brand of horsehair brushes as far as vintage brushes go.

Famous in the US for their Fuller Brush Men and Women who sell Fuller products door-to-door, these pre-90s Fuller brushes are one of the more collectible horsehair brushes around.

These ones made in the 70s to 80s are very distinctive, with natural coloured horsehair on a walnut hardwood handle.

Fuller brushes from that era certainly compare favourably against other vintage (and modern) horsehair brushes – I feel that the quality of make is higher, and the darker coloured wood is a very nice touch in contrast with the pale, characterless woods that are commonly seen on other brushes.

The fantastic thing is that, due to natural variations in the grain of the wood, each one is noticeably different from another:

The horsehair is full and securely attached.

The hairs are soft but strong, and the difference in brushing is very obvious especially if you’re used to using poly/nylon brushes.

An important point in choosing a brush is the groove in the handle.

Much harder and more tiresome to use otherwise.

Like many horsehair brushes then and now, it’s made in Israel.

I have to say, in terms of vintage brushes, in many instances the made in Israel ones are a slightly better make than made in USA ones (IMO from an impartial Aussie :P)

Horsehair is unmistakable once you know it’s touch…avoid poly/hair blends.

The applications of horsehair were many, from dusting to shoe polishing – used on hair combs and billiard table brushes alike.

For myself, I only use horsehair as a general leather cleaning brush. For brushing garments or polishing leathers, I use boar bristle brushes.


Of course, the 70s Fuller brushes aren’t quite the ultimate in horsehair brushes.

There are a few earlier makes that are very impressive in the off chance that you find one in a satisfactory condition.

Though, for me, the ultimate brushes would be the rare, professional sized ones from the days when shoe shining was still very much an occupation.

E.g. this earlier Atco “The Professional” from the 1950s, 8 inches with maple (?) hardwood handle, showing nice bits of ray flakes:

The later iterations of “The Professional” no longer have the same elegant shaping or the nicely grained wood, looking a little more garden variety.

8″ brushes are not easy to use unless you’re very practised in leather brushing (or unless you’re a larger bloke) – best to start with a standard 6″ 😛

And you thought the Fuller brushes were full sized…


2 thoughts on “On brushes…

  1. Hi thanks for this post. Just a quick question re brushes – I own a few pure horsehair brushes purchased from montana pitch blend web store. I found they work perfectly for my cxl boots and most other leather goods that i own but tend to make slight hairline scratches on my kawatako leather wallet. Is kawatako leather particularly sensitive or is it a case where pure horsehair doesn’t guarantee a good brush appropriate for leather?


    1. Mmm, that’s very interesting. I had a look at their web-store and it seems as if their horsehair brush uses bristles with a harder temper, designed as an applicator rather than a brush.

      Is your Kawatako wallet made of Tochigi leather or some kind of bridle from Europe?
      I wouldn’t consider these particularly sensitive or soft-grained leathers.
      I’ve used horsehair brushes on more sensitive leather before, and never had an issue with hairline scratches (which I sometimes do with boar hair.)
      Perhaps try another make of horsehair brush?
      It would be somewhat difficult to find a hair with a softer temper but still rigid enough to be used on a brush.

      You probably know this, but brushing wallets/belts require very little force and is done in a “wiping” fashion rather than a back n’ forth rubbing, a much gentler process than brushing shoes.

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