Kalish Finest Brushes is an import operation led by Harry and Ruth Kalish in New Jersey (USA), who are the sole US and Canadian agents for a brushmaking manufactory in Ireland. The natural hair is purchased from a British wholesaler; Kalish designed the brushes and is emphatic about the high quality of kolinsky hair used, but of course that is only one part of the total brush performance. Kalish has an online catalog and toll free ordering number.

Kolinsky - Kalish's top end brush is the Kalish Series 1 kolinsky sable round, a nicely turned kolinsky brush with a full sized tuft. Handles are black lacquered wood with a lightly double crimped nickel ferrule; total length of the #12 is 23.8cm. The tufts are well shaped of evenly sized hairs, tightly packed at the ferrule edge, 32mm long and 27mm around at the ferrule with a 9mm wide belly when wet. The hairs are relatively fine, with average stiffness. These softer hairs do not snap to a precise point when wet, instead forming a "shovel" tip that appears to point from one angle but looks rounded when viewed from a quarter turn. But the brushes point well when charged with paint, release paint well and produce an excellent variety of cleanly controlled strokes. Sizes range from #00000 to #24. Prices: #6, US$16.50; #12, US$78.50.

The Kalish Series 7 kolinsky designer is also a round brush but with a slightly longer, more tapering tuft: total length of the #12 brush is 24.2cm, with a tuft length of 37mm, 28mm around at the ferrule, and a 9mm wide belly when wet. The tuft is as resilient as the regular round, tightly packed at the ferrule edge, but because of the longer length it produces a more cursive brushstroke and has a slightly larger capacity. As with the Rekab 346 riggers are among my favorite long tufted brushes. Sizes range from #0 to #12. Prices: #6, US$22.70; #12, US$101.00.

Kalish kolinsky rounds (#6 & #12)

The Kalish kolinsky flats are available in both the rectangular ("one-stroke") and square ("bright") profiles, in the standard widths plus 3/8" and 5/8" (one-stroke only); as with all the other Kalish brushes, the handle is black lacquered wood with a double crimped nickel ferrule. Kalish Series 2 kolinsky one-stroke is a generously proportioned flat brush. Total length of the 1" brush is 22.7cm, with a tuft 35mm long and 26mm wide at the ferrule, with a 6mm belly when wet; the edge snaps to a beautifully crisp edge about 17mm wide. The eight sizes range from 1/8" to an unusually large 1-1/2" (the kolinsky brights go as large as 2"); the brushes hold a moderately good charge of paint and release evenly across the stroke. Prices of the one-strokes: 1/2", US$35.50; 1", US$120.00.

Finally, the Kalish Series 5 kolinsky oval wash is a very effective wash implement and a beautifully made brush. The tuft is generously cupped with fine hairs that are almost as soft as a squirrel or cosmetic brush. This is a great brush for applying and working washes, particularly gradient washes that require careful brushing to smooth out the texture. The seven sizes range from 1/8" to 1". Prices: 1/2", US$37.80; 1", US$123.00.

Kalish makes a full range of other kolinsky brushes, including spotters, riggers, brights, cat tongues, angle shaders, lettering and fan brushes.

Kalish kolinsky flats (#10 & #20); Kalish kolinsky oval wash (1")

Other Sable - At a substantially lower price point, there is the Kalish Series 11 red sable round, like the kolinskies made with a black lacquered wood handle and double crimped nickel ferrule, but with a slightly coarser and shorter tuft. Sizes range from #1 to #14 in even numbered sizes. Prices: #6, US$10.80; #12, US$55.70.

The Kalish Series 13 red sable bright is the only flat offered in red sable. The standard five sizes range from 1/8" to 1". Prices: 1/2", US$13.50; 1", US$52.50.

Other Natural Hair - The Kalish Series 99 squirrel mop is an inexpensive and beautifully soft wash brush that is only available in a 1" size. Price: 1", US$10.30.

Synthetic - Kalish makes a wide range of synthetic watercolor brushes. The Kalish Series 21 golden synthetic round, the Kalish Series 22 golden synthetic one-stroke and the Series 23 golden synthetic bright are their most popular synthetic watercolor brushes. Sizes of the rounds range from #000 to #20. Prices: #6, US$3.20; #12, US$6.50. The one-strokes flats are available in eight sizes, from 1/8" to 1-1/2" (the bright is also available in a 2" size). Prices: 1/2", US$6.10; 1" US$11.00.

Kalish also offers riggers, oval wash, cat tongue, filbert, broadstroke (wash), angle, liner and lettering brushes in the golden synthetic bristles.

Kalish brushes are very good value for the money. The company tries to keep prices down through limited marketing activities, selling instead by word of mouth, their web site, trade shows and other direct-to-artist channels. By eliminating much of the glitzy marketing paid for by "famous brand" companies such as Daniel Smith, Isabey or Winsor & Newton, they can keep costs low without compromising brush quality. Well worth checking out the next time you shop for brushes.