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Heartbreaking story - happy ending! or How To Repair a Chipped Handle.

I thought I'd post this for posterity, because when it happened, I couldn't really find a good guide on here as to what exactly to do. (Maybe it's here, but my Google-Fu failed me.)

For the past few weeks, I've really really wanted to acquire a M&F with an L7 shaped handle. I've got two Emillions, a Rooney and a M&F. Both are unbelievably good, but I prefer the shorter non fan-shaped knot of the M&F, so I decided I would offer the Rooney Heritage up for trade. It is only a few weeks old, and it's barely been used, so I though a trade for a nice L7 would be pretty fair. So I got it out to take some pictures when tragedy struck!

My 6 year old son is fascinated with shaving. Let's face it, what 6 year old isn't? As I was getting it ready for pictures, he picked it up and dropped it. It was only a short drop onto the sink, but this was the result:


My heart sunk. I very nearly cried. Fortunately, I love my son more than a shaving brush, so he survived the ordeal. And it was an honest-to-God accident, so as angry as I was, I wasn't too hard on the boy.

Despite the fact that the knot is fine and only used about 5 times, I knew that the monetary value was at the very least halved, and that it was unlikely anyone was going to trade an M&F L7 for it, so now it's mine for all time. Of course, being mine, I very much wanted to repair it. Every time I looked at that chip, my heart broke just a little bit more.

I searched around, but couldn't really find a definitive guide for fixing such damage. There is plenty of advice on restoration, but nothing on how to repair a chip, which I have to think is a very common type of damage. So I figured out a technique on my own, and, not to toot my own horn, but I think the results are fantastic! It's still an absolutely wonderful brush, and while it's not "like new" now, I'll be able to enjoy it for years to come, and I can share my technique here, in case the same tragedy befalls another B&B brother. (Since this post is verbose, I'll probably boil it down a bit and add it to the wiki.)

So first off, I wanted to focus on not making it any worse than it already was. I repair computers for a living, (part of my job as a sysadmin) and the biggest rookie mistake (which I did a lot when I was a rookie!) is taking a small problem and making it worse. I've attempted a couple amateur razor repairs before, and one in particular left me with a puddle of molten slag on my workbench. :spockflam

The chip had not separated from the rest of the handle, but I could tell that structurally, there wasn't much holding it on. If I had left it, at some point in the future, the piece would have surely fallen out. So step one, I very carefully removed the chipped piece. I stuck the very fine point of an X-ACTO knife into the crack and applied a very slight force. Boom, the chip popped right out. (As I said, there wasn't much holding it in.)

The next thing I did was to clean both surfaces very thoroughly, while disturbing them as little as possible. It was mostly a clean break, but you can see in the photo that there were a couple secondary fractures, and I didn't want to knock them loose. They would probably be too small to glue back into the handle by themselves. So I used a little denatured alcohol and a Q-Tip to make sure both parts were very clean. When it comes to glue adhesion, cleanliness really is next to godliness. Even a small amount of dirt, or especially oil from your skin, will decimate the strength of the adhesion to the surface.

Next, I very carefully mixed up some clear, 5-minute epoxy. If you're trying this on your own, be very careful to ensure it's a 50/50 mix of resin and hardener. Any problems with the ratio and you'll either get sub-standard bonding strength, or the final resin will be cloudy. But a perfect 50/50 mix will dry clear and withstand anything you can throw at it.

With a toothpick, I carefully dabbed some of the mix onto the surfaces to be bonded. Since this was an absolutely clean chip, there wouldn't be much of a gap between the surfaces, so not much epoxy was needed. I did take care, however, to ensure that the entire surface was coated. Having any sort of air pocket within the fissure would be bad in the long term, so it's very important to ensure that the whole gap is filled. If you do it right, a small amount of epoxy should squirt out from all sides of the crack. While cured epoxy can be sanded off, I thought it was probably a good idea to save myself some trouble later on and wipe off as much excess epoxy as I could while it was still wet.

Then came the hardest part. I lightly clamped the chip in place and waited. I'm a little impatient to begin with, but it was pretty hard to just leave it alone. Even so, be sure to wait!! Longer is always better than shorter. It's called 5-minute epoxy, but that just means that you have 5 minutes to work with it. It is absolutely not cured in 5 minutes. The package lists the clamp time as 30 minutes, but that does not mean that it is cured in 30 minutes, either. If you proceed to the next step before the epoxy has completely cured, you will ruin your repair! The package says to wait a minimum of 24 hours before applying a load. Now, you know it's up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. If you feel that the bare minimum is enough, then okay. But some people choose to do more, and I encourage that, okay? You want to do a good repair job, don't you? :)wink:) I waited 48 hours before touching it.

Finally, the last step. This is the one that required the most finesse. That chipped piece was back where it belonged, and it wasn't going anywhere, ever. But it still looked pretty pronounced, and what's more, when I ran my fingers over it, it still very much felt like it was chipped. In my opinion, I feel in a repair such as this one, the tactile feeling is probably the most important part. Most people don't stand there and stare at their brush handles. (I did say MOST people...) But the whole time you're using it, you're going to have your hands on it. Therefore it is paramount that the repair feels smooth.

I took a very fine emery board. (Very fine. Don't use too coarse a grain, or you'll do a lot of permanent damage.) If you're serious about doing good repair work, then don't just grab an emery board out of your wife's purse. Go to a decent beauty supply store, and they'll have emery boards with the grit specified. I used 240 grit. You can also find 500 grit boards, and they will indeed work, but it will take a much longer time to remove the material, and we're going to polish it when we're done anyway.

Note: sandpaper can be used here (also be sure to use very fine grit) but I found that an emery board was easier to work with on the fine small space that I wanted to sand. Also, the good ones have that "spongy" backing, which will conform to the natural curve of the handle. Finally, I wanted to remove as little material as possible, and if you use sandpaper, you're probably going to take off more material to make it smooth.

Very carefully, I rubbed the emery board on the two joints of the crack. Since there was a little bit of epoxy in the fissure, the chip was raised above the surface of the handle by that amount. Probably a tenth of a millimeter at most, but more than enough to feel it. I took care to rub only the raised crack areas until I could no longer feel the fissure with my fingertips. As I said, this part requires finesse, so be sure to go slowly and check often. If you take off too much material, your end result will be just as bad and as noticeable as if you didn't take off enough.

At this point, the crack surface was perfectly even with the handle. However, 240 grit sanding on acrylic will remove material, but it will also leave the finish very dull. Nobody wants that. So I moved onto the last step, polishing. I used Wenol Ultra-Soft Metal Polish, (in the blue tube) because it's got a very, very fine abrasive. I also have some Simichrome, which would undoubtedly work too, but the Wenol, is gentler, and should remove less material. Again, your goal should be to leave as much of the original material as possible intact. Also remember, as with any metal polish, less is more. I didn't use more than a small dab of it, and I polished all the parts I sanded with the emery board. Be sure to use a fair amount of pressure, because the grit in the polish is very fine, and if you just wipe it back and forth, it won't do much of anything. This is also where you find out if you did a good job on the epoxy. If you did, you should be able to polish very forcefully without the chip coming loose.

So, remove the chip, epoxy back into place, sand smooth and polish. Here is the end result:


Note that I didn't use my good camera. I intentionally took the picture with the same camera under the same lighting conditions so that the comparison would be fair.

I'm pretty proud of the result. Of course, there is still a visible hairline crack, but it's not like I'm trying to hide it completely. I'm not even sure that's possible. (If there is some technique that I missed, please tell me!) But you'll have to take my word that by touch alone, you would never be able to feel this. It is absolutely, perfectly smooth and shiny. My goal was to keep the damage from getting worse, and to keep it from being an eyesore. I believe I accomplished those as well as is possible, and the epoxy should hold as long as the brush.

So there you have it. Comments are most welcome. If anyone knows something I should have done differently, or if there's something that can further improve the visible hairline cracks, please let me know. But I think that's about as good a repair job as could have been done by anyone.
Tough luck, as you say accidents do happen. That is a very nice repair, it's not to much of a stand out and it doesn't affect the brushes ability to do what it is supposed to do. If you can live with the aesthetics of it you've got a winner.

Well done.

Well, of course, I'd like to make it go away completely. :mellow: Realistically, I don't think that's possible. I know acrylic can melt, but I think the chances of some sort of heat-weld working are slim at best. And I don't want to do anything like paint over it, because that's just surface treatment, and probably wouldn't last long. One thing I know for sure is, that repair I did will last forever.
Also, the "after" picture is (intentionally) very harsh. At arms' length, you can't really even see it, unless you know exactly where to look, and know exactly what you're looking for.
Very nice! It's too bad you weren't replacing the knot also. You could remove extra material from the socket, sand it to a fine powder, and mix with the epoxy to reattach the chip. The thin epoxy line would be the same color as the body, and at worst, might resemble a light blemish. I have a ER 100 with a crack around the neck. It needs a knot and I've been thinking about trying this method. I'll have to find a cheap boar knot, so I'm not out any big money if it doesn't work.
I read about the whole "add some sanded dust to the epoxy" method, but I didn't have anything to sand off. :) I'm not sure it would have helped much in this instance. Even when I held the piece in place with no epoxy, the hairline fissure was still visible. The epoxy itself is crystal clear, and only a few microns thick. Adding a powder might​ have done more harm than good.
The powder would have worked fine, powder fillers of various types are commonly used to thicken and/or add strength to the epoxy. But the cracks would still be visible.

For clamping, you could have wrapped the handle with packing tape to hold the chip in place. It would apply even pressure around the chip allowing the epoxy to fill all of the crack. Or wrap in tape and then clamp. The cured epoxy will not stick to the packing tape.

You repair you made is probably now stronger than it was originally. It will break somewhere else next time. xD
For clamping, I used a small bar clamp with some wax paper. (Not very tight, so as to not squeeze all the epoxy out.) The chip was small enough that the rubber molded around both sides, so I *think* the pressure was pretty even throughout the piece. I didn't think about the packing tape, though. That would have been good, too.
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