Kolonok 5-piece Kolinsky Red Sable Starter Set
by Gregory Conley, B.A. in Studio Arts
"These are real
Siberian Kolinsky red sable,
the best natural resource this planet
has for watercolor artists."
Serving Russian artists for over 70 years
The Kolonok.com 5-piece Red Sable Starter set contains a #4 flat (1/2" wide - 5/8" hair length), and rounds: #0, #2, #4, #8 and retails for only $29.95 with free shipping (07/09/2004). The overall construction and quality is very good. Earlier efforts from this Russian manufacturer, Artistic Brushes Enterprises (Yarka brushes) had suffered from occasional lapses in quality control, but with new management and renewed commitment to quality, their art products have improved by a leap or three.
Elena at Kolonok informs me that double-testing of each new brush is now standard procedure. Kolonok's staff in Russia (not manufacturer!) is testing each brush before sending it to the USA, where quality is again checked before they are available for sale. Each brush is tested in water at least one time. Customer satisfaction is very important to Kolonok as their 30-Day Unconditional Money-Back Guarantee confirms.
Is it worth it?
If you are looking for a set of higher quality Kolinsky Red Sable brushes you really can't beat the price. The Kolonok.com brushes I received are of the same if-not-better quality as most of the Grumbachers, Langnickels, and Winsor and Newton Cirrus series I have laying around here.
Piecing together a similar store-brand or alternate brand set can run you anywhere from $50 (Pearl Art Supplies) to $125 (Raphael Brand) for the same quantity and size of brushes. So we're talking the low end of the REAL Siberian Kolinsky red sable price spectrum. Which isn't a bad thing because of the inherent high quality of the hair used. I can't attest to long range durability but with proper brush care they should last years.
The set has standard short handled "albata" style handles lacquered black with gold imprinting. The shiny finish is fairly thick but you can see the graining if you look closely. The brushes are well finished and should last longer than the old Yarka brushes, but they are still not as highly polished or grain-free as the most expensive brushes out there. All of the Kolonok brushes have a well balanced weight and "feel" in your hand.
The ferrules appear to be nickel and are of Japanese origin. They still have that unique Yarka crimping that looks like tiny teeth marks around the ferrules. The hair quality is decent, short, and obviously a good grade of red sable.
These are real Siberian Kolinsky red sable, the best natural resource this planet has for watercolor artists. They are a mix of 60% male Kolinsky Sable tail hair and 40% of the female Kolinsky Sable tail hair so the points and edges hold their shape very well.
Rating the set
The #8 Kolonok Series 1001 only rates 4 stars out of 5 in the "tap test". When saturated and tapped dry it did manage to form a sharp point but some shorter hairs on the outside of the body frizzed out a little bit. Still, the hair is very resilient and keeps both shape and alignment when wet.
The rest of the round brushes (#0, #2, #4) in this package are of the same high quality in regards to construction and usefulness. They are great for smaller watercolor sketches or fine detail work. All the small rounds rated 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
The #4 Kolonok flat Kolinsky red sable brush is a surprisingly useful addition to this package deal. It is a good size for laying down larger blocks of color and it holds quite a bit of paint before reloading. The Kolonok #4 flat holds it shape very well and is good for rendering architectural subjects, angular lines and sharp-edged shapes. The Kolonok #4 flat red sable brush rated a 5 out of 5.
The Bottom line
A 4 1/2 out of 5 star overall rating. An above average rating for overall value. The Kolonok.com set is a very affordable Kolinsky Red Sable watercolor brush starter set. For students, "Sunday" painters, and crafters these can serve as your primary brushes or your first red sable upgrade set. For professional artists these are an inexpensive alternative to the premium brush sets where you pay a premium price for a name as well as a product.
WatercolorPainting.com considers Kolonok Kolinsky Red Sable Starter Set a very decent, and solid value for the price. If you want to upgrade to real Kolinsky Red Sable brushes or need to supplement your personal red sable brush array, this is the way to do it without much pain at all.
As I stated before, when this set isn't available, an equivalent of the Kolonok.com 5-piece Kolinsky red sable watercolor starter set can be purchased individually for around $37.53 (February 2003). Kolonok.com features a wide range of sizes, sets, and styles of brushes on their www.kolinskyartbrushes.com site. If you don't have tons of cash and want some very well constructed red sable brushes "on the cheap", pick up some Kolonok's Kolinsky Sable watercolor brushes.
Greg Conley, 2004, 2005
2005 Update: The price is still the same. Good work Kolonok!