1902 Encyclopedia > Brushes and Brooms

Brushes and Brooms

BRUSHES AND BROOMS are implements composed of a solid basis in which a tuft or tufts of hair or of vegetable or other fibres are secured. They are mentioned by various ancient writers, as Homer, Sophocles, and Euripides. Perhaps the earliest notice is the figurative " besom of destruction" (Isa. xiv. 23). Brushes are of two kinds, simple and compound. The former consist of but one tuft, as hair pencils and painters' tools. The latter have more than one tuft. Brushes with the tufts placed side by side on flat boards, as plasterers' brushes, are called stock-brushes. The single tuft brushes, or pencils for artists, are made of the hair of the camel, badger, goat, and other animals for the smaller kind, and pig's bristles for the larger. The hairs for pencils are carefully arranged so as to form a point in the centre, and, when tied together, are passed into the wide end of the quill or metal tube and drawn out at the other end to the extent required. The small ends of the quills having been previously moistened, in drying contract and bind the hair. A similar effect is produced with metal tubes by compression. Compound brushes are—first, set or pan-work; second, drawn-work. Of the former, an example is the common house-broom, into the stock of which holes are drilled of the size wanted. The necessary quantity of bristles, hair, or fibre, to fill each hole is collected together, struck on the working bench at the thick ends, dipped into molten cement chiefly composed of pitch, bound round with thread, clipped again, and then set into a hole of the stock with a peculiar twisting motion only to be acquired by practice. In drawn-brushes, of which those for shoes, teeth, nails, and clothes are examples, the holes are more neatly bored, and have smaller ones at the top communicating with the back of the brush, through which a bight or loop of wire passes from the back of the stock. Half the number of hairs or fibres needed for the tufts to fill the holes are passed into the bight of the wire, which is then pulled smartly so as to double the hairs and force them into the loop-hole as far as possible. With all brushes, when the holes have been properly filled, the ends of the fibres outside are cut with shears, either to an even length or such form as may be desired. The backs are then covered with veneer or other material to conceal the wire and other crudities of the work. A process called trepanning is adopted with some small brushes. The drawholes come out at some inconspicuous part of the stock, and the hairs or fibres having been properly secured, the holes are plugged up in order to conceal them as much as possible.

The bristles used in this manufacture are imported chiefly from Russia and Poland, and are sorted into black, grey, yellow, white, and lilies. They vary in length, and are separated by the workman striking a quantity held in the hand smartly on a bench, the thick ends downwards. He then applies them to a gauge to ascertain the lengths of those that project, and, seizing them between his finger and thumb, draws them out of the bundle and places them with those of corresponding dimensions. They are sorted according to thickness by a process called "dragging," which, consists in passing them through a kind of comb, which retains those that are too stout to go between the teeth. By repeating this with finer combs the bristles can be assorted to any number of sizes required. Various other substances are now used in place of bristles, and this was greatly stimulated by the scarcity of these during the Russian war. In 1808 whalebone fibres were patented in England for the purpose, and in 1810 twigs of broom, mallow, rushes, and other shrubs and plants. In 1842 the shafts of quills prepared and split up, and in 1872 horn and similar substances were used in the same way. The latter are softened by steeping them in an infusion of sage leaves or plants of that class, then flattened, rolled out, and extended and moulded so as to disintegrate them into threads. In 1844 a brush was patented made of stiff fibre and bristles, hard in one part and soft in another, so that the softer parts should follow the harder, and take up what the latter left. The same inventor also made tooth-brushes on the same principle. The hairs of the squirrel, horse, badger, bear, and other animals are also used for brushes, and those from the ears of cows and from the ichneumon, amongst others, for artists' pencils. When necessary the bristles are bleached by sulphur or other chemical agents. In the United States a kind of sorghum or broom-corn is extensively cultivated for the manufacture of brooms, and especially by the Shakers of New York State. The seed of the crop alone, it is stated, often pays the expense of cultivation, being, when mixed with other corn, good food for cattle and horses.

One of the most important purposes to which brushes have been applied is that of sweeping chimneys. So far back as 1789 John Elin patented an arrangement of brushes with this purpose in view. He was followed at intervals by others, and the use of these machines having been found practicable, the Acts 3 and 4 Vict. c. 85, and 27 and 28 Vict. c. 37, put an end to the cruelties previously prac-tised, prohibiting the employment of children in sweeping chimneys.

Revolving brushes for cleaning rooms were patented in 1811, and others have followed. In 1825 they were con-structed to take the place of teazles for raising the wool or pile of woollen and other cloths, and they are now used for polishing and other purposes in various manufactures, The first patent in which they were applied to hair-dressing appears in 1862. The patented invention for sweeping and cleaning roads by means of revolving brushes and other contrivances are very numerous. The first appears in 1699. It is that of Edmund Henning for "a new engine for sweeping the streets of London, or any city or town." No specification was enrolled, but the invention included the loading and removal of the refuse " with great ease and quickness." A long interval elapsed before anything further was done in this direction, the next patent being that of W. Ranyard, on 1st November 1825, which consisted of a number of brushes mounted upon two rims or placed upon an axis, which was raised on a vehicle or barrow. Boase and Smith's followed in 1828, including scraping, sweeping, and watering. From 1836 a succession of inventors follow each other rapidly, amongst whom frequently appears " Joseph Whitworth." Some of the most recent patents are Greenwood's, 17th February 1873 ; Robinson's, 4th April 1874; Sinclair and Clayton's, 20th February 1875 ; Kitson's, 21st April 1875. Many of these inventions include the removal of the refuse, as well as scraping. Some propose watering in addition; but the simplest and most easily managed is that most com-monly used, which scrapes or sweeps the mud and rubbish to the sides of the road. A particular point in Mr Kitson's invention seems to be to clear out the dust and mud from between the joints of the paving stones.

An improvement in brushmaking was patented in 1830 by Timothy Mason, which consisted in cutting grooves in the stocks or bases of brushes instead of boring holes, the grooves increasing in width from the outer surface. The hairs or bristles are tied up into tufts or knots, dipped in cement, placed in the grooves, and wedged tightly by the use of a blunt tool, which operation causes the tufts to expand and hold firmly in the enlarged recess. Various contrivances have been patented by which brushes might be self-supplied with water, soap, paste, paint, and the like, when in use, by means of receptacles or pipes being attached to them for the purpose.

One of the greatest advances in the brushmaking of the present day is the Woodbury machine, an American inven-tion for bunching, wiring, and inserting bristles in the stock. In this machine a metal comb of uniform thickness is filled with bristles, holding them by the middle, so that one-half of the bristles appear above the surface of the comb, the other underneath. The comb thus charged moves in guideways, and discharges the bristles from each division successively into a channel in which, by an ingenious contrivance, they are brought gradually into a horizontal position and a proper quantity taken up to form a tuft, which is moved along an incline. At the bottom of this is a hollow cylinder that does not enter, but is placed firmly against the tuft hole in the brush stock. A plunger now acts upon the bristles. The end of the plunger is slotted crossways ; one slot receives the bristles, the other a piece of wire. The plunger is made to descend and double the bristles into a loop at the middle. Other mechanism unwinds the binding wire from a reel, straightens the wire, and passes the proper quantity through the enlarged upper portion of the slot, and at the same time cuts off the length required. The plunger now descends further, receiving a rotatory motion on its vertical axis, winds the wire by forcing it into the thread of a nut at the lower portion of the cylinder, and fastens it round the double end of the bunch. The end of the wire now acts as a tap, cutting a female screw in the end of the block, whilst the upper end of the wire thread, by expand-ing, acts as a pawl, and prevents the unscrewing of the tuft. This machine is described in the Scientific American, 1872, p. 31, with illustrations.

For further information on the subject of brushes, the reader will find the abridgement of specifications relating to brushing and sweeping, published at the Patent Office, a most useful mauual. (J. J. L.)

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