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Best brush for oil based primers

Listed under Blog, brushes, Corona, Ron Taylor Posted Jul 30 2013

Traditional Painter and brush fanatic, Ron Taylor, reveals his best brush for oil based primer, based on his experience over the years.

Brushes For Oil Primers, Kenilworth When Andy Crichton asked me to do a Paint Brush Review for brushes in specific paints, I thought, great, I’d love to do that. Then I went away and thought how do I do that? After all, there are a lot of paints, and I’ve by no means tried them all, and a lot of brushes, (although I have tried an awful lot of those!)

Should I do a review of brushes just for trim paints, or one for wall paints as well? Should I include the use of brushes in oil paints as well as my normal acrylics?

In the end I decided to do a short written peice on brushes for oil primers (the only oil paint I use) and emulsion paints, (to follow).

Brushes for oil based primers:

I have used a lot of brushes but I’m guessing that some people reading this may not agree with my choices. But that’s fine. I’m just putting down the brushes I prefer in given paints and primers.

When I say oil based primerS, to prime new wood, laminate, problem surfaces or stain blocking, I would probably only be referring to Zinsser Cover Stain.

Zinsser Coverstain oil based primer + owatrol oil paint conditioner + ?

Cover Stain is a reliable product that hasn’t let me down yet. It sticks to a wide variey of surfaces and sands very smooth when it’s dry. It does dry a little faster than I would like straight from the can and I usually add Owatrol Paint Conditioner to offset this. The Owatrol also helps the primer to level out.

Purdy Pro Extra – So bearing this in mind, I think the best brushes for Cover Stain are natural bristle brushes and Purdy Pro-Extra. These seem to have the right stiffness that the Cover Stain needs to spread it about. I’ve found softer brushes bend and lose shape as the product dries on the outside of the bristle in use. It can also clog the inside of the bristle and make them part whilst using them on edge.

The term used in the US for this is ‘fish mouthing’ as it can look like a fish gasping for air.

Chinex – I have also used chinex brushes in Cover Stain (* Wooster FTP and Corona import to the UK) and they do work well if you are prepared to clean the brush periodically through the day with a brush comb and/or white spirit.

As you will read later I am a great fan of angled brushes, but not in this application as they can lose their shape quickly in Cover Stain and will wear faster to. So I nearly always use a flat, short handled 2″ brush for priming.

Purdy Ebony – Though I havent seen them in a while, I did buy a couple of Purdy Ebony (natural bristle) off Ebay and these have worn well for the times I have used them. White China bristle is of little use in a heavy bodied product like this and should be avoided.

Hamilton’s Perfection is a brush that has fallen out of favour a little of late, but I do remember it being a good brush and it should suit here.

Corona’s Morro Though I havent used it, this flat natural bristle brush would also be a good choice.

hamilton Perfection and Corona Morro pure china bristle brush

Pure China bristle brushes 2012. Corona Morro (right) and Hamilton Perfection (left)

Having said all that, my favouite brush for Cover Stain would still be the Purdy Pro Extra. It’s synthetic but it has the stiffness in the bristle to apply the product, and also keeps it’s shape very well. It also has a tendency to wear like oil bristle, ie curved on the edges, and this is what I want for this application.


Ron taylor hand painted kitchens warwickshireRon Taylor, a specialist painter and decorator based in Kenilworth, is the Traditional Painter responsible for hand painted kitchens throughout Warwickshire.

Ron is one of the UK’s leading authorities on the specification and application of water based and waterborne paints.


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One comment to “Best brush for oil based primers”

  1. Charles Budd

    Thanks for sharing your precise and useful knowledge Ron. I’ve been using Chinex brushes in oil paints but will definitely try the Purdy again.

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