Sable brushes are not made from sable (Martes zibellina) but hairs from the weasel family. These hairs are less expensive. Kolinsky sable is the best hair, valued for its length, thick belly, fine point, softness and strength. Kolinsky is usually made from Mink and only the tail is used.
If you are buying a Kolinsky brush, first ask to dip it in water. Flick the brush aggressively in one sharp movement. The point should snap back into shape, if it doesn’t, it means that the brush does not contain enough male hairs, (The male hairs are very springy and snap into shape).
Bristle brushes are made from hog hair produced in china. The best hairs come from Chungking. These hairs are valued highly because of the long length of the split in the tip of the hair, known as flag. Without this flag, hogs hair brushes would drag and split when applying paint to a surface.
The flag also enables the paintbrush to load up and hold more paint. Brush makers will always imprint the handle, letting the consumer know if it is a top quality bristle. Cheap hogs hair brushes are cut into shape and don’t have any flag, this is easy to see if you look closely at the ends of the hairs.
If a brush is described as interlocked it means that the hairs have been worked into a curve. Each hair slightly bends inward helping the brush to keep its shape. The best bristle brush will be interlocked and titled Chungking.
Camel hair brushes are not made of camel. Camel has never been used as a material for brushes. The title signifies the brush is made of ox, pony, squirrel or a mixture of all of these. A nineteenth century brush manufacturer named Camel stamped his name on the brushes he produced because he did not want anyone to know what type of hair was in the brush. This practise continues today.