Volume 7 | Issue 4 | Year 2004

Painters have a language all their own. For instance, a holiday isn’t a day off. It’s an uncoated spot that needs painting. If a painter gets a shiner, it’s not a black eye, it’s a spot that’s glossier than the area around it. To lap is to meet one coat with another. Orange peel is a texture that’s caused by using the wrong roller, or paint that’s too dry. When a painter comes across some rotted wood, it’s punky. After painting a room, all edges, walls and trim are carefully finished or cut in. A flag is the fine split end at the tip of the brush that holds the paint during application. And what’s the word for that metal part of a paint brush? Ferrule.

Another name that professional painters know is Purdy Corporation, the leading manufacturer of the tools of the trade.

Purdy Corporation got its start in 1925 when S. Desmond Purdy began making paint brushes in his converted garage in Oregon. Purdy believed that handcrafting was the only way to make a fine paint brush. The company grew and expanded through the decades but remains privately held, and dedicated to handcrafting the finest painting tools. What difference does a paint brush or roller make? “Understand that the applicator is every bit as important and only fractionally a part of the expense of doing the job at home yourself as a consumer,” says Bruce Schneider, sales and technical support manager. He notes that consumers are attracted to high-end designer paints that can cost $30 a gallon. “People buy quality paint because that’s what they want to see every day on the wall or ceiling. But they consider the brush as a temporary object that gets used and thrown away. If you spend a little more money on quality brushes and rollers, the job will go faster and the paint will go farther.”

Professionals already know that value equation. “We pretty much own the professional painter market. For them, it’s all about dollars and cents,” says Schneider, a former painting contractor himself. “If you use a cheap roller sleeve, you will either pull the paint back off the wall or dump the paint. If the roller is in the pan, you’re not making money. You only make money when it’s on the wall.”

Brushing Up
Materials and craftsmanship are the ingredients of Purdy quality. It starts with the people, many of whom have been with the company for decades. About 300 employees work in the Portland, Ore. facility, where approximately 35,000 brushes are made daily. An equal number of rollers come out of the Reno, Nev., plant, which employs about 150. Each facility measures about 90,000 square feet.

Production is done largely by hand, from inspecting the bristle quality to assembling the brush. Components include carefully tipped and flagged bristles, wood plugs that create a cavity in the brush to hold more paint, and aluminum inserts under copper clad or stainless steel ferrules. Handles are made of lightweight alderwood from a local supplier in Oregon. Bristles are either imported from China or synthetic, produced through a proprietary formulation from Dupont.

If you think about it, the function of a paint brush is paradoxical because it must be designed to both pick up paint and apply it. This dual challenge is met by fibers at the tip of the bristles. Purdy uses only solid, round tapered filament, not lower-quality hollow filament, in its synthetic bristles. Bristle ends are precisely tapered to create more surface area, like tiny fingers, to carry more paint or finish. “For a painter to make a living, after you lay the paint on to the brush, you have to lay it off smoothly and get brush marks out,” Schneider says. “With our brushes and rollers, instead of doing this two or three times, you may only have to do it once.” Purdy bristles are hand chiseled, shaped and finished to allow for precise “cutting in” — the fine edging of corners, trim and sashes. For professional painters or weekend homeowner projects, the advantages of Purdy are smoother, no-drag brush strokes, excellent paint distribution, superb paint lifting capacity, great overall coverage with less effort, greater efficiency and outstanding appearance.

Applying Themselves
Purdy makes a variety of brushes and rollers for any type of finish. Natural bristles from Chinese boars and oxen are traditionally used for oil-based paints; for water-based paints, pros use nylon, nylon/polyester or polyester blend brushes. But Purdy has revolutionized this approach by developing a “synthetic ox” brush using a new Dupont filament. “Until a couple of years ago, ox hair brushes were the best that you could use for solvent-based clear finishes, whether it was a varnish or brushable lacquer or polyurethane,” Schneider explains. “The problem is that natural bristles don’t work in water-based products — they react like your hair when it gets wet and turns into a mop. Because more and more water-based finishes are coming out and oil paints and finishes are going away, we developed a brush with a fine, synthetic filament and we made some modifications to our equipment so we could process it like all our other brushes in the tipping and flagging operations.” The result is Syntox brand brushes, which can be used for water-borne, clear finishes and also solvent-based finishes that used only oxhair brushes in the past. This meets the growing demand as more homeowners use water-based paints and environmental regulations further reduce the use of solvents. Brushes with Syntox synthetic filaments have all the benefits of oxhair brushes without any of the negatives. Syntox is softer than ox and more durable. It resists shed and lasts five times longer.

Choice of Pros and Cons(umers)
Purdy’s flagship line is its Pro-Extra rollers and brushes. Pro-Extra brushes are made from a uniquely formulated blend of Dupont Tynex‚ Nylon and Orel‚ Polyester and Chinex‚ the finest synthetic filaments. The combination results in the softness of nylon, the stiffness retention of polyester, and the cleanability of Chinex. The same handcrafted standards used in making Purdy brushes remain consistent in the production of rollers and roll covers. Every step of manufacturing is hands on with careful, quality control using only fine fabrics. Purdy rollers feature heavy gauge roller cages and comfortable handles. Smooth rolling and release, uniform coating, and proven durability are the reasons Purdy rollers are the choice of professionals.

Purdy’s Pro-Extra roller system enlarges the core diameter of the roller to increase the surface area covered. New roller fabrics carry about 35 percent more finish. These tools can increase a painting contractor’s productivity for a small additional investment.

Meanwhile, the consumer market is growing for Purdy. “Even when the economy is soft, we do well because people do what’s called nesting. For a paint brush manufacturer, it’s not a bad thing when people do projects at home instead of going on vacation,” Schneider says. “We are also taking consumer market share from competitors because we are more innovative. Consumers also recognize the best value, even though our prices are not the lowest. ”Of course, not all painters or homeowners are interested in doing a quality job. “The ‘blow and go’ guys are not buying our products,” Schneider says, invoking another phrase from the trade.

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