It was the National Painting and Decorating Show on the 15th and 16th of November. You knew that didn’t you? Well it was. I went. It was fascinating. So read on.

Thanks to the Sat Nav I ended up in Tesco’s carpark, scrambled down a muddy bank, under the train tracks, past a discarded trolley, and at last into the doughnut. (The Ricoh Arena, Coventry)

As happens with these things, as soon as I walked into the exhibition hall I was turned into The Prisoner – barcoded, scanned and congealed into a marketing statistic. As recompense for this indignity, I was given a carrier bag with some decorating goodies (including a key ring, how exciting), and some leaflets to start the fire with. (I mean the fire at home, I didn’t indulge in exhibition arson.) Actually, I must admit, I’ve kept all of the leaflets to read on the loo, as us men tend to do.

Job one: send tweets to several decorators and exhibitionists (sic) that I’d arrived, and was anyone free for coffee? They weren’t yet, so I went to Job two.

Job two: wander aimlessly around a bewildering maze of stands that made me feel like Harry Potty in that Alleyway... what’s it called...? Ah yes, the Alley of Decorating Sundries. I remember from the film now. Delightful and confusing it was: wand (brush) shops with wands made out of various woods with various fibres (see, just like Harry Potty); broom (cleaning material) shops with the Nimbus 2000 Solvent Free Wipes (definitely in the second film, I assure you) and so on. Enough Pottyness (Ed.).

Now, I’m not really into shopping (I would rather apply a blow torch to my head than spend a Saturday in any town centre) but when it comes to my work, if I see a product I know will make life easier, or the job quicker, or be more environmentally friendly, my little elf-like ears go all pointy. Dare I say it, I get a bit excited – in a nerdy-decorator kind of way.

So, what got me drooling? And did I buy?

As I wandered around, looking over people’s shoulders (not difficult, I’m six foot four) at demonstrations of various products, a few things magically leapt into my shopping bag:

Ooh, Olfa snap off knives that don’t blunt after 5 seconds. (Kerching! £15)

Ooh, Axus synthetic filament sash brushes (more on that later) (Kerching! £15).

Ooh, an Axus 9 inch (I like having a long one) filling blade just like the tatty one I have but all shiny (Kerching! £7).

Ooh, something that looks like you pee into it but actually makes cleaning rollers quicker, easier and use less water! Sounds good! But it only takes 9 inch rollers, and I use 12 and 15 inch ones (see, told you I like long ones). (No kerching there then – sorry Dulux Decorating Centre – big ones next year please!)

I bought wipes. Yes, Big Wipes. £15 of Big Wipes. They’re good, alright! Get off my case! Let’s move on. (Twitter: @BigWipes, if you’re that way inclined.)

Several decorators had told me on Twitter about virtually dust-free sanding. Now I’ve always loved just using a good piece of ‘scratch’ (aluminium oxide, or ‘sand’ paper) in my hand, so I can feel the contours and bumps on a surface. But it does produce a lot of dust, especially if you’re sanding a freshly-filled ceiing. I dutifully trotted off to the Mirka stand and tried their sanding machine and hand sander. I ordered the cheapo option (£28) instead of the full monty (over £500). It’ll fit onto my Henry (not a euphemism; will you behave!) and I can rub down and suck at the same time (I said stop it! You lot are worse than Kenneth Williams, you are). It has yet to arrive – although a tweet to the supplier today produced a promise it’ll be with me in a day or two! (Ah, the power of twitter!) I’ll review it on here once I’ve used it a bit.

I’m going to quickly gloss over the paints and fillers. There are several new brands and products which I’d like to try, and when I do I’ll blog about them – particularly Mythic Paints, KrudKutter products, Dulux Trade Ecosure range, a new formulation of Dulux Trade High Gloss, Colourtrend (scrubbable, earthy paints from Ireland), Tout Pret fibred crack filler (I know, that sounds about as exciting as watching a pair of pants dry; but I really rate their exterior masonry filler, I’ve used it for 7 years.)

The best bit, by far, about going to the show was not buying bits and pieces – it was meeting people. A lovely conversation with Bryony Christie (Twitter: @ChristieDecor) about taking a pride in one’s work, marketing, and looking after hedgehogs! Chatting about twitter, paint trials and knobbly knees with Lara (@TradeXpress). Chinwagging with Kim Teasdale (@LadyPainterDeco) and her friend about eco-paints, dust-free sanding and the awe-inspiring night sky in the South African Northern Cape (I have so many stories about that, maybe some other time). And finding out about intriguing new products from Matt James (@MythicPaintUK) and Ed James (@KrudKutterUK). 

There were quite a few seagulls (decorating students) at the show, wheeling around the various stands, grabbing as many scraps (freebies) as they could. A couple of the exhibitors to whom I was talking were obviously getting a bit narked at the fluttering, eager faces trying to get as much free stuff as possible, whether or not they’d actually use any of it or buy it in future.

The World Record Speed Wallpapering on one of the Dulux stands was amazing to watch – three sheets in (if I remember correctly) I minute 18 seconds! Mind you, there were a few bubbles, but still very impressive to see the teams of two go at it with rollers, brushes, straight edges and knives.

The biggest stand was that of Leyland-Johnstones parent company PPG. Lots of grinning chaps were very happy to be photographed next to the shiny Leyland Lovelies (‘are “those” real?’) and have a go at challenging a rotund gentleman named Andy Fordham at darts. Let’s just say that the stand was ‘not my type’, although it seemed very popular with many of the lads. I used to use Johnstones paints, but after a few disappointing results many years ago, particularly with exterior paints, I haven’t returned to them.

Dulux had several stands – and their staff were very helpful with answering a few technical questions I had. It’s a brand I’ve grown to trust as being reliable and good value for money. There are new products and paints from other manufacturers that I’d love to try, but they’re up against stiff competition on durability and covering power with Dulux Trade paints (@DuluxTrade). (No, Dulux haven’t paid me to say that!)

I nearly forgot; I was going to say something fascinating about brushes and bristles. Don’t you remember? Try to pay attention! Something I’ve been trying to find for ages are sash brushes with synthetic filaments (bristles). Now, some people may say ‘natural is best’, but I think otherwise for three reasons. The first is ethically – yes synthetic filaments are made from petrochemicals, but at least they are not made from ‘natural bristles’ – usually hog hair pulled from live or slaughtered pigs (predominently from China, where animal husbandry techniques are not known for high ethics). Also, synthetic fibres have come on leaps and bounds, and I think create a lovely soft finish. Finally, synthetic filaments are about five times more durable and don’t spit bristles so much – so they last longer - therefore you buy fewer brushes – saving money and the carbon footprint of a new brush. Win, win, win. (By the way, I was nearly swayed by some new ‘eco-brushes’ until I found out they contained some hog hair – no names mentioned!)

I didn’t see many of the master classes being presented. I’m sure they were good, but I didn’t have time!

I’ve a few products to trial, and more are being sent to me. I’ll try them, and review them on this website as scientifically as I can (I knew a science degree and masters degree would come in handy one day!)

So I planned to stay for two hours, and ended up at the show for six. It was worth it. I learned a lot, and however much you trade banter and tips with people online, there’s nothing like meeting someone face to face. And I won £25 worth of Purdy brushes too! (Which will make the professional decorators reading this green with envy.) I’ll definitely be going again next year.


I guess most people reading this blog are professional decorators, amateurs looking for tips, or potential customers of my brush-wielding services! Whoever you are, you are most welcome, and please send me feedback about this blog or any part of my website. Email me on: or tweet me

Here's me flirting with the Glidden Trade Paint tin. I didn't know it was a male tin until afterwards. 
(I should've guessed by the knees.)