Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush Range

Winsor & Newton’s Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush Range is respected the world over as one of the very best for watercolour painting. But what exactly is so special about a Series 7?

Series 7 Kolinksy Sable Brushes

Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes are made from only the finest Kolinsky Sable hair in rust-proof, seamless nickel plated ferrules with black polished handles.

The classic black presentation box for larger sizes of the Series 7 range

True Kolinsky refers to the hair of the Mustela Sibirica or siberian weasel or mink. The guard hairs from the tail of the winter pelt of the male Kolinsky provide the very best quality hair for the manufacture of artists’ paintbrushes. This is as a result of the way the hair grows to protect the animal against the consistently low temperatures of the Siberian region in which it lives making the hair robust, able to trap warm air and hold water away from the animal’s skin.

Illustration of a Siberian weasel

Kolinsky hair is very fine and has tiny, overlapping scales covering the surface of each hair which are what traps the water. It is only slightly conical and has a natural thickness at the belly tapering off to a fine tip at the end.

These characteristics mean that the hair has great spring, the ability to hold lots of water and, placed properly, the tendency to form a natural point. It is this strength, spring, and absorbency that make the Kolinsky hair the best for Watercolour painting.

Each brush comes to a crisp point and snaps back into shape during use, with the right degree of spring to allow superior control between the brush and surface. The colour flows evenly and consistently from the point, with enough colour carrying capacity in the belly of the brush to allow flowing gestural strokes.

The fantastic water-carrying properties of the Series 7 brush

However, because the best hair comes from this limited source and is much sought-after, the hair is around 3 times more expensive than gold gram for gram. Some lengths of hair are only available in the severest of winters when the mink’s fur is stimulated to grow longer and this leads to a rarity of the bigger sizes which is reflected in the cost.

You may find many lower cost sable brushes on the market but it should be noted that the term sable can be applied to many species of mink or weasel and related to many parts of a pelt where the hair does not have so many of these characteristics. Therefore, a cheaper sable will not behave as well as the best quality Kolinsky will.

A cutaway showing the construction of a Series 7 brush

The construction of a Series 7 is of a high standard too. Each Series 7 Brush is hand-made and hand tested in Lowestoft by a small team of expert brush makers.

Winsor & Newton moved to this UK fishing village in 1946 in order to give employment to the local work force whose years of making and mending fishing nets meant they had the manual dexterity and attention to detail required for making brushes by hand.

Each brush maker making the Series 7 today has over 10 years experience and every brush over a size 4 is packed into an individual box with a tag indicating the name of the Series 7 brush maker who made that particular brush.

Brushmaking in Lowestofty in years gone by

The hair will go through a number of stringent processes including selection, cleaning, grading, combing and straightening before being handed to the brush maker. The brush maker will then select the correct quantity of hair for the size they are making and tie the tuft with a piece of linen thread before gently rolling and twisting into the precise dome shape required for the perfect brush.

The resulting taper-dressed brush will offer the watercolourist great control and accuracy in their mark-making

A Series 7 in the making – the various processes

At the end of the process, each brush is hand tested by loading it with water and applying it to watercolour paper to ensure that a good point is achieved and holds whilst in use.

Once a brush has passed this ‘wet point’ test, it is then dressed with a diluted gum arabic solution and given a plastic protector to protect the brush head in transit.

Brushes in sizes 000 to 4 and all sizes in the Miniature range are presented in a plastic brush tube whilst all other brushes from size 5 are presented in the famous Series 7 black box.

Series 7 – by Royal Appointment

Finally, there is the Royal seal of approval. The exacting standards expected of Series 7 were set in place in 1866, when Her Majesty Queen Victoria gave orders that Winsor & Newton should produce the very finest water colour brushes in her favourite size, the No.7.

With the same standards that Victoria demanded having been successfully maintained for 150 years, the reputation of the Series 7 is justified and set to endure.