Brushes have a very short lifespan in our woodshop. This is not their fault. And nor is it my Father’s. Regretfully, I have to take responsibility for these early deaths. I get distracted with something else and forget to wash them. If this happens, they solidify and die.

We tend to use standard brushes for most things, but sometimes we use the foam brushes for putting on stain or polyurethane. The foam ones have an even shorter lifespan, and that’s not even my fault. They have a weak disposition. If you’re made of foam, you’re not long for this world. I feel like they know this, so it’s not so bad.

Deciding what kind of brush to use and keeping your brushes clean is essential. If you use a rough, hard bristle brush for putting on a coat of polyurethane, you’ll end up with streak in your finish. Not ideal. Similarly, if you want a rustic shabby chic finish, you need a rough brush to give texture to the paint.

Brushes are not cheap, and they are integral to producing a clean, sharp finish. So why do I let them die? I get distracted. Something more exciting grabs my eye, like building the rest of a Cedar Hope Chest. All the while, the brush I was just using quietly shuffles off it’s mortal coil behind me. Not exactly a glamorous exit. What’s even worse is that when I eventually need the brushes to finish the next piece, they’re all dead. I get frustrated and sad because I neglect the very things that I will ultimately need. I’m impatient, and lazy. Washing them takes about three minutes. Those neglected three minutes turn into an unfinished Hope Chest, seven dead brushes and a thirty minute drive to Home Depot.

One afternoon, I had forgotten to clean my brush after using polyurethane. When I returned to the shop a few hours later it was as stiff as a corpse. My father took the dead brush and hung it up near the paint tins. Perhaps it was a warning to the other brushes, but i’m fairly certain it was a reminder for me.

I look at that hanging brush in the woodshop, and endeavor to clean my brushes. If I respect the smaller things in life, I can enjoy the bigger things that follow.

And above all, save myself a trip to Home Depot.


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