Crag Hack: Extend the Life of Your Pricey Brush

Double the lifespan of your handy boar's hair brush.

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Back in the dark ages of climbing, fancy boar’s hair brushes for cleaning holds weren’t a thing. If you were “rich,” you’d buy a new stiff-bristled or medium-bristled toothbrush at the grocery store. If you were poor, you’d just recycle the one you used for cleaning your teeth once it was too blown out for dental work.

I remember the first time I saw a commercial boar’s hair brush—it was from the Slovenian hold company Lapis, and my friend Herm, an obsessive boulderer, had one on his chalk bag. “Here, use this,” he said, passing me the brush almost reverently so I could clean the grips on a sandstone boulder at Carter Lake, Colorado. “It gets the holds so much cleaner.”

And he was right—the longer, denser bristles did a much better job of getting chalk, grit, and grime off holds, penetrating farther into the pores of the rock than the nylon bristles of a regular toothbrush. I was an immediate convert, and any climber who’s serious about hold maintenance uses a boar’s hair brush these days as well.

But these brushes aren’t cheap—usually $5 to $10—and they wear out quickly, especially toward the tip where most of the brushing action occurs. However, there is a quick hack—literally, using a hacksaw!—you can use to extend if not double their lifespan. Here’s how:

1. Get your brush and a hacksaw—or any small saw of choice.

A well-loved boar’s hair brush and the hacksaw that will be used to retool it.

2. Saw through the brush head/neck roughly where the bristles begin to taper from full length to worn down—you don’t need to saw all the way through, but can just go partway then snap the end off.

Saw through the plastic head/neck of the brush about where the bristles begin to taper from full length to worn down, then snap the tip off.

3. Voila! Your spendy boar’s hair brush is as good as new—albeit a little shorter—and ready to clean the proj.

A little shorter, but as good as new!

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