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Don’t Give Me The Brush Off

It is hard to imagine that 35000 years ago, in caves stretching from Europe to Asia, Paleolithic man was busy painting pictures. The images were mostly of animals and hand prints and were generally created using fingers, sticks and leaves with some outlines scratched into the rock surface with stones. For thousands of years, subsequent generations worked hard adding to these cave paintings and today, the reasons that they were made remains a mystery with endless speculative explanations.

Imagine too that, one day, along comes a “techy geek” with a new invention: a twig with a bit of fur or bristles stuck in the end. A very early brush! At that time, some of our ancestors may well have rejected this new fangled gadget as a bit of modern day tom foolery that simply wouldn’t work and certainly wouldn’t last. Thousands of years later, the brush is still used by artists all over the world. There are now computer programmes and apps to assist in drawing images but, ironically, they still require the artist to use fingers and thumbs in much the same way that cave paintings were created. Yet another case of “what goes around, comes around!”

In the home, you can find brushes for all sorts of uses, all carefully crafted for specific jobs. Amongst the most common are tooth and hair brushes, toilet brushes, washing up brushes and sweeping brushes but there are also far more specialist ones. The camera lens brush, the espresso machine nozzle brush, the Venetian blind brush, the Velcro cleaning brush or the book brush. Add in the cat, dog and horse brush, the make-up brush, mascara brush, eyebrow brush and shaving brush and you begin to see just how many brushes you can find in the house. In fact most homes have well over thirty different brushes.

To make this point more sharply, challenge anyone to list their brushes and then surprise and impress them by adding all the brushes that have been forgotten. They’re likely to have omitted brushes for shoes, pastry, cobwebs, cleaning vegetables and wire ones for barbecues to name just a few. They’ll almost certainly have overlooked the radiator brush, the plug hole brush and the tiny little brush for cleaning an electric razor and will definitely have passed over the brush that is used to clean other brushes. Only those keen on the sport of curling will mention the special brush used to help the stone move faster and straighter and point out that it is fitted with a stop watch half way down the shaft. If the witch’s broom (or besom) is not included, it may be safer not to mention it…just in case!

Brushes are amongst the most universal household tools and have been for over a thousand years but perhaps because they are so common, they are rarely thought about and so have become virtually invisible. Only when you start to consider them does it become clear just how useful and important they are in everyday life.

Nylon and plastic brushes are today mass produced but many of the more old fashioned wooden handled and bristle brushes are still made by hand and have been made in the same way for generations.  This makes them special and means that highly specialised brushes can be produced in small quantities.

Apart from finding out just how many brushes your friends and family own, please let us know of any unusual, special function brushes that you have at home. You may even surprise yourself with just how many you have.