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How to Make a Japanese Calligraphy Brush

Calligraphy brushes can be works of art themselves.
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If this is your first time making a Japanese calligraphy brush, you should make a chu-bude, or middle-sized brush, with a pointed tip. The varieties of Japanese brushes is as limitless as the expressive needs of the brush maker and the demands of the calligrapher, but a first-timer should limit themselves to one, common type of animal hair and a standard bamboo handle which can be purchased at most mid- to large-size art supply stores.

Things You'll Need:

  • Ash Or Rice Husks
  • Hemp Thread
  • Setting Compound
  • String
  • Hand-Sized Piece Of Leather Or Cloth
  • Bamboo Brush Handle
  • Animal Hair
  • Soldering Iron
  • Starch
  • Newspaper
  • Utility Knife

Selecting the Hair

Decide if you want a brush that absorbs more ink or one that absorbs less. This will allow you to choose an appropriate type of hair. Today, most brushes are made of animal hair, the majority being from sheep, dog, cat, rabbit, deer, goat or horse, with horse being the most common type of brush used in Japan. Brushes can be made of other types of hair, but cost and rarity may become prohibitive for first-time makers.

Purchase a large quantity of the hair. This will save you money and provide you enough material for several initial attempts.

Separate the hair into small piles.

Comb each pile carefully to remove curly hairs.

Preparing the Hair

Wrap each pile in newspaper and bind with string.

Place the newspaper-wrapped bundle of hair in boiling water for five minutes. Boiling will clean and straighten the hair.

Untie the bundle and spread the hair on a hand-sized piece of leather. Cloth may also be used if you do not have leather.

Sprinkle the hair with ash or rice husks, and then roll firmly in the leather to absorb any remaining water.

Cutting the Hair

Align the base of the hairs, and then moisten only the base with a drop of water.

Measure and mark the brush hairs for approximately 2.2 inches (or 5.5 cm) in length, this allows a portion of the base to being inserted into the bamboo handle, leaving a length of about 1.7 inches (4.5 cm) of hair, which is a good length for a beginning calligrapher.

Cut the base, being careful to ensure a clean cut with no ends sticking out longer than the others.

Tie the base with hemp thread.

Singe the base with a hot soldering iron, and then tie with another layer of thread.

The Handle

Insert the base of the brush hairs into the opening of a bamboo handle and then secure into place with a setting compound.

Shave the tip of the brush to the desired pointed shape. Be sure that all the hairs at the tip of the brush are uniform in length, with no individual hairs sticking out.

Starch the hairs, and then place a bamboo or plastic cylinder over the brush head to protect the hairs until use.

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