Edward Mason LTD and the making of our 2112 Series brush

Published on 11.11.2021 by Rachel

Earlier this week I visited the brushmakers to see just how Handover brushes are made, specifically the ever-popular 2112 series sable chisel signwriting brushes!

The name on the door still reads ED W Mason LTD.

Edward Mason Ltd. started at the outset of World War II when brushes were considered essential to the war effort – to the extent that brushmakers were exempt from national service.

Before the war, much of the requirement for artists’ brushes was fulfilled by brush manufacturers based in Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Eastern Europe - Edward Mason himself had been a representative selling brushes in the UK on behalf of a German maker. This supply was cut off by war but Mr. Mason was able to join forces with one of the many skilled brushmakers who fled continental Europe to escape persecution and brought their knowledge and expertise with them.

In 1980 Edward Mason passed away and his daughter and her husband took over the company and moved 15 miles north of London to a new factory in Welwyn Garden City. In the same year, Mr. Handover (who had been making and selling brushes since 1949) sold his company to the existing owner. The companies continued in friendly competition over the next twenty years, sharing raw materials and even brushmakers when necessary.

These years, however, saw major changes in the industry with an increasing flow of inexpensive brushes from China and the Far East where wages were substantially lower than the UK. Computerisation also transformed many of our customers’ industries that were the mainstay of the businesses - with skilled artists and craftsmen being replaced and superseded by computers in graphic art, illustration, litho printing, animation, signwriting, and poster writing to name but a few.

Both companies, therefore, concentrated their efforts on quality rather than quantity and found niche areas such as specialist decorating, gilding, theatrical makeup, high-end signwriting brushes and even fingerprint brushes for the UK police force.

Many of the staff who had started with Mr. Mason during and soon after the war, continued with the company until their retirement. Mr. Handover’s first brushmaker continued until her death in 1985 and her daughter worked with us until she sadly passed away in 2019.

In 2002 Edward Mason’s daughter reached retirement age and with no family members who wished to carry the business on they contacted the owner of A.S Handover Ltd. and the two operations became one.
Although the number of brush manufacturing staff has reduced greatly since the busy days of the 1960s we still employ a team of highly skilled and motivated people who continue to produce high-quality brushes in a wide range of wonderful shapes and sizes!

2112 Series

Our most popular brush series is the 2112. We have been making these signwriting chisels since the 1950s and very little has changed! They are made from the finest 100% pure Kolinsky sable hair which offers a high level of response and control, and are set in nickel-plated ferrules on black polished handles.

The making process begins by weighing the hair - the weight of the hair is used only as a guide. Working with natural materials means there will always be slight variations so each brush is “fitted”. This means making sure just the right amount of hair is in the ferrule (the metal part that connects the handle) to give it the right spring. Too tight and you won’t be able to pull it through properly resulting in the loss of the sharp edge, too loose and you will lose the spring.

It is then combed to straighten it before being inserted into a cannon - so-called because traditionally they were old cannon shell casings. It is tapped down into the cannon to level all the hairs. Then it is combed again and a knife is run across the top of the hair which draws out any blunt or turned hairs (hairs facing the wrong direction).

Next, the hair is inserted into the back of a ferrule. It is tapped through by hitting one hand against the other and then pulled through to the correct length for the brush that is being made.

The hair is then set in the ferrule with glue, once set, each brush head is combed again and individually trimmed. Only a fraction of a millimeter is removed from each brush to ensure a sharp chisel edge but without losing the natural taper of the hair!

While the brush heads were being made, the handles have been stamped on-site, and the two are put together, the final step is to crimp the ferrule.

Every 2112 brush goes through this process, they are all handmade by the small team led by Craig, who began making brushes in 1987 almost accidentally! His mother worked wiring specialist mop brushes for Edward Mason, and one evening, at the age of 17 when meeting her from work, he was shown around and simply told ‘you come back in the morning’. Craigs youngest son, Thomas, also now works here making him the third generation brushmaker in the family.


Product added to basket!

Shopping Basket