A brief HISTORY of
A.S.Handover Ltd. is a British brush making business located in London and Hertfordshire. It is the result of a merger, in 2002, between Edward Mason Ltd. and A.S.Handover Ltd.
Edward Mason Ltd. was a family concern which 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 and 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.
Handles at the time were made of wood and ferrules of tin, aluminium or nickel-plated brass. Various types of natural hair such as hog bristle, pony hair, squirrel hair, ox hair and sable were used to fill the brushes and, despite the hostilities, raw materials continued to be available and of high quality.
Shortly after the war, Alan Handover started selling decorators’ brushes from a small hayloft in Highgate Village, North London. With widespread rebuilding in bomb damaged London, there was plenty of demand but over the next few years Mr. Handover identified a wider demand, from professional users, for high quality artists’ brushes in a range of applications which included graphic artists, poster writers, sign writers, animation studios and advertising companies. So he recruited a talented young brushmaker to help him meet this demand.
In the post-war years production costs increased steadily for both companies and it became more difficult to find young people to train to the necessary level of skill. Raw materials also became sporadically scarce, their prices fluctuated and, in some cases, became exorbitant but demand remained strong during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
In 1980 a new era started for both companies when Edward Mason passed away and his daughter and her husband took over that company and moved 15 miles north of London to a new factory in Welwyn Garden City. In the same year, Mr. Handover 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, signwriting and poster writing to name but a few.
Both companies therefore concentrated their efforts on the quality rather than quantity end of the market and found niche areas such as fingerprint brushes, specialist decorating, gilding, theatrical make up and high end signwriting.
The brushes continued to be made by hand with the only machines being those required to crimp the metal ferrule to the wooden handle and another to stamp the company name onto the handle. The hairs used still included the old standbys of bristle, squirrel and pony but to these were added an increasing array of synthetic filaments which have developed from a very unsatisfactory start to a point where there is now a suitable “hair” available for almost every application … and of a quality which is almost, but not quite, as good as the natural hair that they are replicating.
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 but her daughter makes brushes for the company to this day.
In 2003 Edward Mason’s daughter reached retirement age and with no family members who wished to carry the business on they contacted the owners 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 great team of highly skilled and motivated people who continue to produce high quality brushes in a wide range of weird and wonderful shapes – as well as the standard pointed artist brush of course!