Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Product review - brushes by Back-to-Base-ix

Hello there. Before we start, I'd like to remind you that from February I've moved the updating schedule back to Tuesdays and Thursdays, so if anyone missed me yesterday that is the reason. The updates will of course continue, I just need more time due to working full-time again and some other major commitments. So stay tuned, another unit project for the orcs is upcoming!

Today I'd like to talk about a set of brushes recently released by an Australian company Back-to-Base-ix. I know not many of you know about them, but I sincerely recommend you look at what they offer; some of their products provide an interesting alternative to what we know. What is evident in their entire range is a well-developed thinking process behind their merchandise. They sure have some inventive minds in the land down under. I have more of their products, but today I'll talk about their newest - the Hobby Brushes.

The brush set arrives very well packaged in its own shrink-wrap. In addition, each brush is open, in its own, hard plastic tube. The brushes are made from hard, robust aluminium with a plastic handle. They have, of course, natural hair bristles. The set contains all six (more are mentioned to be upcoming), ranging from size 000 to 2 and a small drybrush. 

Now, when I say 'open', I actually mean a very distinct feature of the BtB brushes: the work part is tightly screwed into the handle and is able to unscrew and be stored inside the hollow handle, making this line a great product for all of you travelling painters out there. Also, if you have a break from painting, you can just "fold" the brushes and never fear for their safety. Definitely an interesting, original idea and one that is actually useful.

Also, the brushes are not ordered in accordance to numbered size, but rather have quite intuitive names such as "Rank and File" or "Robots and Monsters". If you prefer the numbers they are fairly easy to deduce and also provided on the BtB website. 

Putting it into use
While I'm not a showcase-level painter, I applied these brushes (and these alone) to a side project I'm preparing for the Warhammer Battle Reporters forum painting competition. Naturally, it was not a rank-and-file model, but a showcase one, demanding my best. I will of course show it to you, but as of now, on to the brushes.

First of all, these brushes are heavy, heavier than wooden ones. But this is actually a bonus: they lay excellent in the hand and are very-well balanced, making for a tool that is very hand-friendly. One problem I had, however, was a small knurl just where the "work bit" meets the handle. Holding the brush in this place quickly results in a painful knuckle.

This bit does not like your fingers and they do not like it.
Now, as far as actual painting goes, there can be no mistake - these brushes are professional-level tools. They hold their point very, very well. The bristles can handle turning, side strokes and all manner of operation in painting. Having said that, the bristles are rather soft. While this is not a problem with typical work (just load the brush with a lesser amount of paint and you shouldn't have any problems; the softness is actually a good thing as far as brush bristles go), it becomes an issue with the drybrush. These bristles show signs of bending after just four or five fairly modest drybrushings, which, bearing in mind the nature of work, is not very impressive. One solution, on the users' side, is to utilize a dedicated brush restorer. I have the Vallejo one and it seems to be working on the drybrush quite nicely, but I can also see that the brush won't serve me for much longer. In this respect, the Army Painter line of drybrushes is better.

I'll interrupt myself here to give you an example on how well these brushes are made. One of them arrived to me in no working condition: due to a shipping accident (which was truly nobody's fault), the protector of one of the bristles simply slipped off and the brush has been bumped on the bristles quite severely. I dipped it in the brush restorer and after a thorough soak (and a wash with brush soap) the brush held perfect point. As if nothing ever happened to it. It might be due to the restorer's superior abilities, but I think it's more due to the brush' superior quality. Extra kudos for that.

How much is it?
As with any upper-shelf, quality product, you have to expect to pay a premium. These brushes are no exception. The entire set (six brushes) will set you back 49 euros plus shipping from Australia. It might be pricey for a set of brushes, but these babies are definitely, definitely worth it. And of course buying them as a set is a bargain in comparison with buying individual brushes.

Here I have to take my hat off and express my greatest gratitude to the BtB team for sending me the set  for testing absolutely free.

How is it useful? Who is it for?
Well, these are really, really good brushes for a price that is affordable. Treated well, they will last you a long, long time (the drybrush aside, but drybrushes are not meant to last gods know how long to begin with). For truly casual painters these are a considerable investment which perhaps can be skipped. If, however, you are a professional painter or, like me, are serious about raising your level, these are a real benefit. I know that brushes do not make a painter, but a craftsman is only as good as his tools.

I sincerely recommend giving the Back-to-Base-ix Hobby Brushes at least a try and grade them at a well deserved five stars out of five.

1 comment:

Fayte said...

Interesting review. You'll have to let us all know about the longevity of the brushes after use. It sounds like you have seen it on the drybrush, but the normal ones as well.