The Japanese Maru Bake brush is made of dense, coarse
horse hair embedded in a bamboo handle.
Prior to use, it needs to be conditioned by singeing, and later splitting, the hair
either on a hotplate, or with a flame. I chose the
hotplate method, thinking it would be easier to control.
I tied the bristles together with twine to make it more compact.
The hotplate is somewhat unpredictable in that it never
really got as hot as I wanted. But, eventually
the hair began to singe a bit.
Next, the brush needs to be soaked a bit in clean water
prior to the splitting process.
The brush is then vigorously rubbed on the dragon skin (a perforated metal plate),
rotating it in different directions as you go. I did this for about thirty
minutes before I noticed a difference in
the feel of the bristles. They were somewhat softer than
when I began. Larger brushes can take
as long as an hour or so to split.
Notice how dirty the rinse water is! I was surprised at how
much sludge was coming off the brush, not to mention the
“wet horse” smell!
In case you’re wondering, the point of doing this
is to soften the bristles so that they will absorb
more water/pigment during the printing process. This has to be done
periodically as the brush begins to wear down.