Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Best Watercolor Brushes of 2022

 Industrial Watercolor Brushes Gordon Brush Mfg. Co., Inc. Offers

To get beautiful results when using watercolor as a medium, it is imperative to use the best watercolor brushes you can buy, as watercolor painting is delicate and unforgiving in nature.

Natural bristle watercolor brushes are soft and have a much better liquid-holding capacity than watercolor brushes made with synthetic hairs due to their fibrous anatomies, which excel at picking up and retaining water for lengths of time. Natural bristle watercolor brushes feel more like extensions of the artist's hand since they're more sensitive to shifts in pressure.

Gordon Brush® manufactures watercolor brushes in a variety of shapes, sizes, costs, and hair types. When purchasing most kinds of art supplies, watercolor paint brushes ultimately come down to personal preference and cost. The choice depends upon techniques you like to use and how the brushes feel in your hand.

Pure Red Sable round brushes are the most versatile and widely used brush for watercolor painting. A round brush comes to a fine point and its stroke is more organic. Their shape makes them ideal for small details, delicate lines and for broader strokes and washes. Brushes made for watercolor are specifically suited to deal with the fluidity and delicacy of watercolor paints and techniques.

A good watercolor brush should have the following characteristics: (1) it should not shed more than a couple of hairs; (2) it should balance well in the hand; (3) the handle should not feel too fat, (4) the brush should be durable; (5) the handle should not come loose at the ferrule; (6) there should be minimal warping or swelling of the wood over long periods of soaking; and (7) the brush must also have a quality called "snap", which allows the brush to respond and rebound quickly as the amount of downward pressure applied to it on the surface of the paper is varied.

Snap refers to the action of the damp brush hairs snapping upright after they are pulled down and sideways to the handle. This is most important, for this resiliency allows the artist to create a variety of paint widths within the same stroke of the brush, sometimes referred to as "action". A brush with no snap bends and does not rebound at all. This is not a good watercolor brush to use because it has no action.

Gordon Brush® manufactures three beautiful series of watercolor brushes:

0430-Series (Pure Red Sable Round Pointer Watercolor Brushes

These brushes are made with a short black lacquered handle with a nickel-plated ferrule. This series is ideal for one stroke painting as well as many other techniques. 

0611-Series (Pure Red Sable Flat Watercolor Brushes

This series of brushes will retain its body when wet, which is the true test of a sable brush. The seamless nickel-plated ferrule and lacquered handle, make these brushes a great value. A flat brush is more angular, and the stroke appears straighter.

6146-Series (Pure Red Sable Scripto Liner Watercolor Brushes

These watercolor brushes are made with a black lacquered handle and a seamless nickel-plated ferrule. The extra-long liner is designed to hold a lot of paint so you can make thin lines longer.

So, if you want to be a famous watercolor artist like Winslow Homer (an American landscape painter and printmaker, best known for his marine subjects. He is considered one of the foremost painters in 19th-century America and a preeminent figure in American art); Georgia O'Keeffe (an American modernist artist known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. O'Keeffe has been called the "Mother of American modernism"); Andrew Wyeth (an American visual artist, primarily a realist painter, working predominantly in a regionalist style. He was one of the best-known U.S. artists of the middle 20th century); or even Vincent van Gough (a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in Western art history), you must purchase your watercolor brushes from Gordon Brush®.

Call us today at 323-724-7777 or email us sales@gordonbrush.com for all your watercolor, industrial, janitorial, electronic, and custom brush needs.

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Components of Artist Brushes

 Whether you are a professional artist, grandmaster, or like to paint for fun, the artist brush is the tool you need create your masterpiece. There are several components that go into the making of an artist brush.

The Filament

Filaments are the hairs or bristles of the brush. Because there are so many choices, it can be a bit overwhelming. Filaments are glued together at one end before being crimped into the ferrule.

Before deciding on the type of filament, it is necessary to determine your medium. Do you typically paint with oils, watercolors, or acrylics? Next, you’ll want to think about your level of expertise and what you wish to accomplish when painting.

One type of filament is a "bristle" brush. These are course and come in a variety of lengths. The shorter or stiffer bristles are usually used with thicker paints that require a lot of blending of the paints whereas thinner paints are best applied with longer or softer hairs that do not create texture.

Then there are natural filaments are made from the fur of an animal i.e. squirrel hair, sable, hog, badger, ox, pony, mongoose, mink, etc. They are very good at holding fluid because they are so absorbent. The natural brushes can be used for any medium whether it's oils, acrylics, watercolors, etc. They are super great for working with heavy bodied paints and work well on rough surfaces.

Natural brushes

·        work well with oil paints –oil conditions the bristles or hairs making them more pliable

·        work well with watercolors—really soak up water and redistribute onto canvas

·        are not super compatible with acrylics

·        tend to hold shape well-good shape retention

·        are more expensive

·        can become damaged by acrylic paints

·        tend to leave brushstroke marks—can be good or bad depending on your intent

·        animal rights and other environmental sustainability issues may be a concern for you

Synthetics filaments are man-made. They were developed to provide substantial use of the brush and can be used with any medium. Synthetic brushes are the workhorses for many an artist. Synthetic bristles have thicker filaments and are ideal for rough or hard surfaces such as ceramics and craft projects. Brushes that are "synthetic hairs" are softer and finer, hold a lot of liquid, and keep an excellent fine chisel edge. Synthetic hairbrushes provide a smoother stroke than natural bristle. They retain their stiffness and are very durable. They clean well with soap and water when used with acrylics or other water-based media. When used with acrylics, natural bristle brushes lose their stiffness, but they do hold more paint.

Synthetic brushes:

·        are made of nylon or polyester or mix of both

·        are budget-friendly

·        work well with acrylics, oils and watercolors

·        tend to hold and release a lot more paint

·        splay more easily/faster

·        leave a smoother finish, and few to no brush marks

·        don’t exploit animals

·        are good for all levels of expertise

The Ferrule

A ferrule is the part that connects the filaments with the handle. Ferrules will determine the size of the brush, the numbers of filaments in the brush. The ferrule is crimped at one end to hold the filaments in place; the other end is glued onto the handle. The ferrules can be made with either metal or plastic.

The Handle

Handles are usually made of wood or plastic. Wood handles are made of hard wood and manufactured both domestic and overseas. They are made proportioned to balance in the hand and to give optimum control when painting. The wooden handles are lacquered to prevent the wooden handle from swelling and to help prevent the handle from crackling or warping when in contact with a fluid.

Plastic handles will not crack or warp, and as a result, they usually cost more. The length and diameter of a handle is important in your selection. Long handled brushes are used when working with an easel; oil painters prefer long handles for this reason. Short-handled brushes are for working on a table and preferred by acrylic, watercolor, and craft painters. Large diameter brushes aids those with hand pain but they can be used by anyone. Different brushes tend to fit differently in the hand, thus giving good control when painting.

Choosing the right type of brush for your project is critical. Brush types include:


Flats are brushes with a straight chisel edge and square shaped filaments. These can be known as shaders if they’re in smaller sizes and washes/glazes if in bigger sizes. Large areas are painted with a wash/glaze brush whereas smaller flats are used for small areas of painting.


Round brushes have a large diameter of the ferrule, more so than a liner, which can be used for applying thick to thin lines, filling in odd-shaped areas, painting details and work great for lettering. Liners don't hold as much paint as a round, however, they are super great for creating lines or curves. Script liners are similar to liners, but the filaments are much longer and hold more paint. A round brush tapers to a pointed tip. Angle brushes are filaments that have been cut on an angle. These are excellent to use in small or curved areas of the painting.


Brushes with oval shaped filaments are known as filberts in smaller sizes and oval wash in larger sizes. Both shapes can be used for base coating, stroke work and more. There are filbert combs, filbert wash and more.


Mop brushes are great for blending and smoothing out small areas. They're also ideal for applying powdered pigments.


Specialty brushes are used for certain techniques and garner their own results: fan, deerfoot, scumbler, mops and more.

Other paint brush characteristics to consider are:


Brush Width

Brushes come in a wide variety of widths, commonly ranging from about 1 inch to 5 inches. You can apply more paint with a wider brush, but you should always match the brush width to the surface being painted.


Bristle Shape

Most paintbrushes available today are square-cut brushes. They are perfect for holding and laying paint onto virtually any surface. However, square-cut brushes don't provide as much control when painting into corners, up to adjacent surfaces, or along narrow edges or surfaces. For more precise control, use a sash brush, which has its bristles cut at a slight angle. Sash brushes are particularly well-suited for cutting in around the perimeter of a room.


Bristle Tips

Better quality brushes have bristles with flagged, or split, ends. Flagged bristles hold more paint and spread paint more smoothly. Some brushes, especially sash brushes, have tipped ends, which should not be confused with flagged ends. Tipped brushes come to a point; they're not cut flat and straight, as is a standard brush.

Gordon Brush® manufactures 255 artist brushes with a wide variety of fill material, handle material, shapes, types, styles, and sizes. Whether you are a professional artist, grandmaster, or like to paint for fun, Gordon Brush® has the perfect Americanmade artist brush for your project. Contact us at 323-724-777 or sales@gordonbrush.com, for one of our stock brushes or if you need a custom brush for any project or application.

(for a full read of the original article, please visit https://issuu.com/brushwaremag/docs/21v5_brm-digital?fr=sNjU2YTQxNDc3OTU - pages 25-27

Monday, September 13, 2021

More About the Nylon Fill Material

The specific application for a brush or how it is going to be used, determines the components that go into making a brush. The main structural components are the fill material and the handle, block, or frame material. Fill and handle material can be of many different substances. Nylon is one such fill material.

Nylon fill material is used as a brush because it is exceptionally tough, strong, flexible, has excellent elasticity, is durable, abrasion and chemical resistant, and able to withstand extreme heat. Nylon, an organic thermoplastic, comes in a variety of filament types. Common nylon filaments are nylon 6, nylon 66, nylon 610, nylon 612, nylon 11, and nylon 12. Each of the different filaments has a different abrasive capacity and grit. The properties of nylon brushes are related to their bristle grade, length, and diameter.

Handle, block, or frame material is either wood, plastic, or metal. Some brushes do not have a handle. These types of brushes attach directly to power tools or cleaning equipment. These classes of brushes include cylinders, large flat ovals, wheel shapes, centerless cylinders, cup brushes with or without a shank, and others.

Nylon can be adapted, shaped, and configured for many different types of brushes such as, scrubbers for floor machines, cylinder brushes, wheel brushes, cup brushes, twisted-wire-brushes, strip brushes, and hand brushes and have many different uses from ones that can clean your teeth to ones designed to remove rust, paint, grime, and contaminants. The wide use of nylon brushes is due to their many grades, grit types, configurations, and mechanical properties.

Nylon brushes can be used for many different purposes such as abrasion, washing, cleaning, various applications including, painting, applying coatings, getting into hard-to-reach areas, polishing, as a static eliminator, pipe cleaning, conveyors, and wood distressing.

These brushes are essential in many industrial processes such as aerospace, agriculture, automotive, firearms, food processing, medical supplies and instruments, and glass processing, the military, electronics, printing, among others. Regardless of the operation or application, a nylon brush is used to clean, finish, coat, or remove static and contaminants.

To read more from the original article, check out our published piece on the IQS Directory here: https://www.iqsdirectory.com/articles/brush/nylon-brush.html 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Gordon Brush Mfg. Co., Inc., Creating Jobs in the City of Industry


Ken Rakusin keeping business local

CITY OF INDUSTRY, Calif. — In 1990, Ken Rakusin took the position of president at Gordon Brush Manufacturing Company, but he was not sure what he was getting himself into.

The company was based out of a dark and rundown 15,000 square foot facility.
"We had 22 employees. I mean, this was a little, tiny company that was on the verge of going out of business, and every year, for the next six years, I was able to double the company's profits," Rakusin said.

Thirty-one years later, Rakusin said there are 200 employees in a 182,000 square foot facility where they make more than 17,000 types of brushes for many industries, including medical, aerospace, janitorial and military.

Other states recruit Rakusin to set up shop, but he remains committed to keeping jobs in the City of Industry, despite an increasing number of manufacturers going overseas for cheaper labor.

"I could put a lot of money in my pocket if I outsourced everything and I went to China, I went to Mexico," he said. "But I also have this loyalty to my employees. We have people that have been here in excess of 35, 40 years. Our plant manager used to be the janitor."

However, one challenge of staying put in the U.S. is finding workers who have the skills or the desire to work a blue-collar job.

"Nobody that works in a factory that when they were going through school said, 'Gee, I want to make brushes for a living,'" Rakusin said. "It doesn't happen."

It is an issue that Joanna McClaskey, the executive director of the Industry Business Council, is looking at as part of the Made in City of Industry initiative.

The goal is to keep existing manufacturers, which provide about 17,000 local jobs, or 25% of total employment, and attract new ones to the city.

"As far as employment goes, they are the biggest bang for the buck, so the more manufacturers you have, the more amount of people that you can employ in that space that you have," she said.
McClaskey said the council is studying the top industries in the city, determining which ones have the potential to grow and learning the demographics of the best manufacturing workers.

"Where do they live? What is their family size? How old are they? Where are they from? We've done a lot of things in the past through community colleges, and we're finding that that's not the demographic for a really good manufacturing worker," she said.

"There are so many people that college is not their first choice of what they should do in their life," Rakusin said. "They might want to work with their hands. They have this great mechanical mind, or they have this great mind where they love to see machines work and operate and design machines."

He ultimately wants to see more education in the U.S. geared toward those who work best with their hands, preparing them for blue-collar jobs critical to the economy.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Gordon Brush Acquires An Interest in P.S. Creations

P.S. Creations, LLC Manufactures the Award Winning Platescrape® 
CITY OF INDUSTRY, California, March 19, 2021 -- Gordon Brush® has acquired an interest in P.S. Creations, LLC, the manufacturer of the award winning, American made, Platescrape and other products for cleaning and sanitizing surfaces. The Platescrape, invented by Nate Stein, is a bucket and brushes tool for on-and-off-site pre-sanitation of dishes. The Platescrape can effortlessly clean stubborn egg, cheese, and dried on sauces, all while saving water, time and money and restaurants and catering services save thousands of dollars a year in labor, water, and energy costs. Gordon Brush manufactures the brushes that are used in the Platescrape system.

"The Platescrape is a revolutionary product that can save the environment billions of dollars and preserve precious resources," said Ken Rakusin, president & CEO, Gordon Brush. "As the manufacturer of the brushes for the Platescrape, we are pleased that our investment in P.S. Creations can help to develop and promote environmentally beneficial products to clean and sanitize, especially in during the COVID-19 pandemic", added Rakusin.

"Gordon Brush's investment in P.S. Creations will provide the Company with additional capital so that we can develop additional environmentally beneficial products to clean and sanitize and to market our existing products. Since founding PS Creations I have been committed to manufacturing in the United States, so I thank Ken and Gordon Brush for building a company that shares that commitment", said Nate Stein, CEO, P.S. Creations. 

About Gordon Brush®:
Gordon Brush Mfg. Co., Inc., an ISO 9001: 2015 certified company, has a rich history as an American brush manufacturer. Founded in 1951, Gordon Brush® includes two brands whose origin dates to 1855 and 1897. The company consists of 12 brands that operate out of its 250,000 square foot manufacturing facilities in Mississippi and California. Gordon Brush manufactures over 17,000 different types of stock and custom brushes with over 3,500 available for same day shipment.

Gordon Brush® is the 2018 recipient of the Made: In America Award and the 2019 recipient of the Armed Forces Award from Made In America.com.

Company President and CEO, Ken Rakusin, was presented with a special Congressional Recognition Award for his commitment to American manufacturing from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and local Congresswomen, Grace Napolitano. Mr. Rakusin was also the recipient of the 2019 Patriot Award from Made In America.com and honored as an American Made Hero by American Made Heroes.com.
About P.S. Creations:
P.S Creations develops, markets, and distributes water and energy conservation as well as cleaning and sanitizing products. The Platescrape® is the winner of the 2018 Innovation of the Year Award from the American Brush Manufacturing Association; the 2019 Most Innovative Product from the Green Restaurant Association; and the 2019 Best New Restaurant Product from the Sabor Latino Restaurant Association.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Medical Instrument Cleaning Brushes

Medical instrument cleaning brushes are essential to prevent cross-contamination and infection. That's why it is imperative to use the right brush to clean instruments thoroughly. Hospital personnel should be familiar with the length and gauge of the brush, and which bristle types should be used on each specific device.

Fill Material Used for Medical Instrument Cleaning

  • Nylon –Nylon is the most durable synthetic filament available. It has excellent abrasion and bristle bend recovery. Nylon resists most acids and will not scratch most surfaces.
  • Polypropylene – Polypropylene is one of the most chemically resistant synthetic materials and is resistant to most acids and bases. Since it does not absorb moisture, it resists fungi and bacteria, sheds dirt easily, and it's easy to clean.
  • Stainless Steel – Stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion, heat, and chemicals. It should not be used on insulated or coated instruments because it can damage them. Stainless steel is designed to clean instruments that have serrations or box locks. 

There are several guidelines that have been established regarding best practices for medical instrument cleaning and devices. These include the ones published by the AST (Association of Surgical Technologies), the ANSI (American National Standards Institute, Inc.) and the AAMI (Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation).


Manual cleaning is recommended for delicate instruments and devices, such as microsurgical instruments, lensed instruments, power equipment, and other instruments that cannot tolerate an automated cleaning process. For these delicate instruments, it is best to use a nylon fill brush first. If debris still remains on the instrument, then use a stainless steel brush.


Stainless steel brushes are designed to remove debris, stains, and stubborn bio-burden that the nylon brush cannot remove. Stainless steel is intended to be used on bone files, needle holders, burs, hemostats, reamers, scissors, serrated vascular instruments and orthopedic instruments.  


Medical instruments come in many shapes and sizes, so it is imperative for SPDs (Sterile Processing Departments) to have a full assortment of brushes specifically designed to clean them properly. For example, a brush too small for a cannula may result in inadequate cleaning, since it does not provide the necessary scrubbing action. Conversely, using a brush that is too large makes the bristles lay against the wall of the lumen. Even worse, the brush may become stuck inside the channel, ruining both the device and the brush. The bristle should be able to make contact with all the walls of the cannula at the same time.


Gordon Brush® manufactures a wide variety of medical instrument cleaning brushes. These include: medical applicator brushes; medical micro spiral brushes; ring handle medical spiral brushes; thread cleaning brushes; medical toothbrush style brushes; and block brushes; hand scrubbing brushes; vacuum brushes; and other instrument cleaning brushes that are both straight and curved.


If a brush exists, we have it…If it doesn't, we'll make it!

Call us today or search and shop for medical instrument cleaning brushes now!



Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Ken Rakusin featured on brushwaremag.com


A decade ago, Gordon Brush Mfg. Company President and CEO Ken Rakusin told Brushware that Gordon’s goal was to become “a dominant player in the brush industry…” En route to achieving that objective, the manufacturer of specialty and custom industrial brushes, based out of City of Industry, Calif., has acquired a dozen brand-name companies that have complemented or diversified Gordon’s product offerings. In totality, these brands under the Gordon umbrella manufacture more than 17,000 standard, specialty and custom brooms and brushes for industrial and commercial applications.

That Rakusin would even become a player in the brush industry was far removed from the career path he was on 30 years ago at Xerox in Los Angeles. However, he was looking for a change because he loved LA and loathed the idea of being re-assigned to Xerox headquarters in Rochester, N.Y. Thus, in late 1989, after responding to an ad from Gordon Brush seeking a new president and CEO, he was offered the job. Initially, Rakusin declined the offer, thinking the company was “too small” and “financially struggling” with perhaps six months remaining before going out of business. But “they talked me into it, and thank God they did,” he says in reflecting on a decision that eventually would lead to his building one of the brush industry’s largest manufacturing companies.

By Bob Lawrence
Founded in 1951 by Don Gordon and purchased by aerospace engineer William Loitz 22 years later, Gordon Brush didn’t begin making acquisitions until after Rakusin, and Loitz’s son, Bill, bought the business in 1998. The first acquisition occurred the following year when Marx Brush, a manufacturer of artist and cosmetic brushes out of New Jersey, was acquired. Three more acquisitions would follow during the Rakusin/Loitz ownership: in 2005: Milwaukee Dustless Brush (Milwaukee, Wisc.), a janitorial and sanitation brush manufacturer; in 2006: JEK Inc. (Diamond Springs, Calif.), a manufacturer of brushes for the printed circuit board industry; and in 2008: Redtree Industries, Inc. (Newark, N.J.), a paint applicator and paintbrush manufacturer and distributor for the marine and hardware industries.
Then in 2010, Rakusin became Gordon’s sole owner, setting the stage for a flurry of buys beginning the following year with Glen Ellyn, Illinois based Brush Supply Company, an industrial brush manufacturer. In 2012, he purchased FootMate System, out of Sarasota, Fla., a producer of brush and specially formulated gel for cleaning and massaging feet in the shower or bath.

Time Out 
A four-year hiatus in acquisitions then occurred while Gordon built its colossal new corporate headquarters and plant in the City of Industry and relocated from its Commerce, Calif., facility in 2016. This enabled the company to initially relocate Milwaukee Dustless Brush and Redtree Industries into the facility. With one exception, all future acquisitions would relocate there as well. That same year, Rakusin ramped up his buying by acquiring StaticFaction (Salem, Mass.), the exclusive authorized North American distributor of Thunderon anti-static properties, and J.B. Ward (Franklin, N.J.), the largest manufacturer of Thunderon brushes used to control static electricity in the electronics industry. In 2017, he acquired paintbrush manufacturer Kirschner Brush Mfg. Company (Bronx, N.Y.). Easy Reach, Inc., a manufacturer of wash brushes, extension handles, injection and foam molded brush blocks and other janitorial products was purchased the following year. Parker Brush, Inc., (Rocklin, Calif.), manufacturer of brushes for the agriculture, food processing and electronics industries was acquired that same year. Gordon’s most recent purchase came in 2019 with Spectrum Paint Applicator Corp., a Newark, N.J., manufacturer of consumer paint brushes, paint rollers and artist brushes. Also in 2019, the last companies that operated in their own facilities—Parker Brush, Kirschner Brush and Spectrum Paint Applicators—were relocated to the corporate plant. In every case except Easy Reach, the businesses Rakusin acquired had operated from leased buildings, and rather than having a number of leased locations around the country, Rakusin says it was “logical to move all of them to our new California location because we had enough space to accommodate them. More importantly, we had newer, faster machinery to manufacture their products.” While those relocated are part of Gordon, they continue to maintain their brand names “for now,” Rakusin says. Easy Reach remains in Hattiesburg because, as Gordon’s largest acquisition, “It made the most sense to not only buy the company but to also buy the building, which houses the operation,” Rakusin explains. “Easy Reach is a great company under excellent management and is located in a beautiful 66,000-square-foot facility with room for large increases in business that will occur either organically or perhaps through acquisition.”
How The Acquisitions Occurred
Although eight of the 12 acquisitions occurred during Rakusin’s 10 years of sole ownership, to him, it doesn’t seem like he went on a buying spree. As he explains it, “2010 was a year of many personal changes in my life. Subconsciously, perhaps, I was bored and needed new challenges and something exciting on which to focus!” He says that in the beginning, the many acquisitions made proved challenging to himself and the staff. “Once we figured out how to do it in a way that was best for our employees, customers and vendors, I took advantage of most of the opportunities that were presented,” he says. “There were a few that got away, but they must not have been right for me, otherwise I would have figured out how to get them.”

Each potential buy was either brought to Rakusin’s attention by the owner, an intermediary or a broker because he never sought out a company to purchase. “Most, but not all of them, had severe financial situations and the owner wanted or needed out. Often times, the owners were dealing for decades with the stress of wondering how they were going to make payroll and pay their vendors.” He says the owners were relieved to have someone take over their business and help their legacies continue. “In other cases, the viable and successful businesses we acquired were sold at healthy premiums, as their businesses were worth it,” he says.

ABOVE: Plant manager Ricardo Ruiz with Ken Rakusin
MIDDLE: Machine operator Kevin Garcia inspecting the brush dimensions
LOWER: Kevin Garcia observing that the machine program is staple setting the bristles properly
Valuing The American Brush Manufacturers Association (ABMA)
Rakusin says attending ABMA conventions and being involved in the association, including serving on the board of directors for 16 years, directly and indirectly, led to the acquisition of eight of the companies. Serving as its president, 2005-2007, and a member for 30 years, he’s been a “fanatical proponent of ABMA membership and attendance.” That he would become an integral part of the association was unforeseen when he joined Gordon, an ABMA member that had never sent a representative to its conventions until he decided to attend one in Scottsdale, Ariz., in March 1990, just six weeks after his employment began and even though he worried whether the financially-troubled company could even afford the air travel, hotel and his taking time off to attend. As he recalls, “I was afraid to go because I was naive and didn’t know anything about the industry or anyone in it. What I saw there were very powerful and impressive people. I was wowed by all the knowledgeable people I met, and the networking opportunities were like nothing I could ever have imagined.” 

Early in his ascendency in the association, he became disgruntled with the prior management firm’s inactivity to adhere to the board’s directives while it annually sought massive fee increases. Investigating, he discovered that ABMA “could save tens of thousands of dollars, become more efficient and get things done to benefit the membership.” As a result, former member David Parr won the bid to take over the association as executive director, “leading to its solvency and growth.”

Rakusin believes his involvement, which led to the majority of his acquisitions, is proof of one of the potential benefits of being a participating member. “As I reflect over time, I did not plan on buying these businesses; the deals just continued to fall into place,” he says. 
He explains that the first acquisition, Marx Brush, only happened because he was in the New York metro area for a couple of days before he went to Chicago for an ABMA board meeting. “While in town, I visited 10- 12 brush companies, met people whom I did not know and bought Marx,” he says “Nothing was planned, but if not for the ABMA board meeting, I would have flown home with my family and missed the opportunity.” Rakusin adds that the only reason he purchased Marx was because it was “a great deal.”
He says it turned out to be an amazing acquisition because of the timing, as it was purchased a couple of years before a significant recession dampened the United States economy. “The Marx business, as well as subsequent products that we made for its customers, generated a significant amount of revenue for Gordon,” Rakusin says. “This helped to rapidly pull us out of the effects of the recession.”

Rakusin’s connections within the association led to other acquisitions including Easy Reach, which two ABMA vendor friends told him about, one saying it was for sale, the other telling him about its “excellent management team.” Longtime relationships forged through the association have also created opportunities for Gordon’s growth. When StaticFaction’s Ian Moss, a Rakusin friend for nearly 30 years, and Ed Boscia of J. B. Ward, a friend for 25 plus years, were ready to sell their successful companies, Rakusin was ready to buy. The deal with StaticFaction actually occurred at an ABMA meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla., while he and Moss were sitting in chairs on the front lawn of the Renaissance Vinoy. “Once again, the value of my involvement with the ABMA cannot be understated,” Rakusin says.

Why Others Sold And Why Gordon Bought
“The main reasons that companies have sold their businesses to us is because the owners have wanted to retire and eliminate all the normal business issues including personnel, finances and the investments required to remain on the leading edge and competitive,” Rakusin says. “At Gordon Brush, we are always looking to make investments in acquisitions and machinery.” He says the company is well-capitalized and knows that personnel issues are solvable. “I also believe that the owners sought out working with Gordon Brush not just because we had the ability to buy them, but also because they were able to see the longevity and high standards of our company. I feel honored that they entrusted us to continue the legacy they had built,” he says. Rakusin adds that Gordon Brush has a proven track record of acquiring businesses and maintaining all the good things they were doing on their own and then improving. “Over my 30 years in the business, I have never sold anything, only acquired other companies,” Rakusin says. “My heart is in building and running an American brush manufacturing business, not as an investor where I’m looking to increase my profits by going overseas, but by maintaining the quality and standards of American manufactured products, as well as keeping jobs here in America.” He says that by making large investments in machinery, Gordon Brush is able to make products better and faster. “I can assure you that we have been able to craft even better-quality products than the prior provider,” he says.

Asked if any of Gordon’s other company purchases were of a similar nature to J.B. Ward and StaticFaction in that they were acquired to complement each other, Rakusin replies that “purchasing Marx in 1999 propelled Gordon Brush into the artist brush business and buying Redtree in 2008 moved us into the paint applicator business.” The Kirschner and Spectrum acquisitions created synergy for the artist and paintbrush manufacturing. “We have become more skilled at making both types of product lines, as our volume is now much greater,” he says. “Acquiring JEK, Brush Supply, J. B. Ward and Parker Brush have all improved the custom brush portion of our business, which integrates very nicely with the custom work we already produce at Gordon Brush.”
When exploring a company for potential acquisition, Rakusin begins by looking at its brand, product line, how long it’s been in business and its perceived reputation. “I then spend a significant amount of time understanding their financial position. I’m always open-minded when I first learn about a company, but as I explore the details, there are times when I have decided to pass on the acquisition for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the timing isn’t right, the seller might want a premium that is too high or perhaps I can’t see a road to profitability. Having stated these things, I still try my best to make a deal that will be a win-win.”
An “American Made” Champion
Paramount in Rakusin’s promotion of the Gordon companies is his strong belief that the US should manufacture products for home consumption on its own soil. As he puts it, “We are determined to build and grow our business in the United States.” This is opposite of the thinking of droves of companies that years ago abandoned America for cheap labor offshore. In explaining his philosophy. Rakusin says, “Without getting too political, I have always valued making products in America.” He explains that his companies are financially successful, and he values the employees, many having worked for Gordon for 30-40, or more, years. “These team members have given their lives to helping Gordon Brush grow and become successful. I make a reasonable amount of money, and being selfless, I enjoy doing things for others, whether it is for my employees, personal friends, other ABMA member suppliers or other brush companies,” he says. 
He says that making more money at the expense of terminating the workforce is not something he would ever be willing to do. “Having an extensive inventory and making things in the USA also allows us to be nimble and supply our customers quickly, especially compared to Asia,” he says. “I am proud that over my 30 years in the business, Gordon Brush has been able to have dramatic success AND still manufacture almost everything here in California.”

He also says that as the demand for American-made products increases, “Gordon is proud to be at the forefront of that movement,” an indication that Rakusin believes demand for American-made products will spark a return of manufacturing to the US. “In my opinion,” Rakusin says, “I hope that our experience with COVID-19 and our inability to source critical PPE here in the US have shown the value of American-made products and will lead the effort to move more manufacturing back to the United States.” He says that whether or not it happens, Gordon Brush will continue to invest in machinery so it can continue to grow the business domestically. 

A Dominant Player?
In the opening paragraph of this article, Rakusin was quoted as stating that Gordon’s goal was to become “a dominant player in the brush industry…” Asked if his company is there yet, Rakusin replies, “Gordon Brush will never be where we want to be as the bar keeps getting higher. Warren Buffett was the wealthiest person in the world, then along came Bill Gates, Bernard Arnault and now it’s Jeff Bezos. One learns over time that we are always in between. No matter how successful one becomes, there is always someone/something doing better. However, we will keep marching forward. We are proud of what we have achieved compared to where we have come from. I look forward to seeing what lies ahead.”

Given that the latest of the continuous string of acquisitions, Parker Brush, Inc. and Spectrum Paint Applicator Corp., occurred in 2019, Brushware wanted to know whether another acquisition announcement might come before the end of this year. Rakusin’s reply: “This is a tough question to answer because I’ve learned to never pre-announce what might happen. Let me close by stating that anything is possible as we continue to look for growth.”