Monday, January 27, 2014

Broom Making

Over the holidays we attempted our first broom. All in all there were things I was proud of in this first attempt, and many things that we can improve on.

First we soaked the broom corn to help make it pliable. About 4 hours. 

We started by making a foot tension winder. Simply put, it was a 2x4 board cut about 1 1/2 ft. Then we wrapped a whole spool of nylon cord around the center of the board. This board and cording is placed on the floor and held on each side by the feet.

We use our feet to hold the cord taught so we can cinch up on the broom. The to let more cording out, we release our feet and let it un-spool a few times. This simple tool replaced a broom making table.

Then we drilled a small hole in the broom handle a few inches from the bottom end where the broom bristles will be attached. The nylon cord is knotted through this hole and wrapped around the broom handle about 5 or 6 times. Then we started adding broom corn stalks, lining the fibers up as we went around. Each time a new stalk was added we cinched up on the nylon using our feet to hold the board and cording steady, and pulled with our arms. We had to be careful not to pull too much and cut through the stalk.

We both agreed that one layer of our broom corn was going to make for a pretty skimpy broom, so we decided to add another layer.

Once both layers were on, we wrapped the cord carefully around several times to hold the stalks in place. Then we began weaving the stalks both for decoration and functionality.

And finished with more wrapping. We tied the nylon off on a few of the stalks and tucked in the tail.Then we cut the stalks at an angle toward the top of the broom handle.

I wish I would have taken more photos of the process, but we both became enthralled with getting it to work, and since neither of us had ever made a broom, there was a lot of doing and un-doing.

The broom's not done yet, Zach is going to forge a broom needle and I want to stitch the bristles flat then trim the ends even. I'll write a post about both of those processes too.

Things I would do differently:
First, our broom corn doesn't seem to be as substantial as some of the broom corn I've seen elsewhere. So we have to work on our growing methods. Perhaps improving the soil so we get more robust stalks, or trying a different variety. We grew a decorative variety this year, and next year I think I just want to grow a broom corn meant for broom making.

Second, I would use a more contrasting color nylon thread. The tan I choose blends in to the broom and doesn't make the weaving stand out as much as I'd like.

Third, I would also have soaked the stalks differently. I soaked them in the sink, but they floated and the stiff stalks didn't soften as well as I would have liked. I need to use a deeper vessel like a 5 gallon bucket and weigh them down somehow so they stay submerged.

But we're learning and though it may not look as perfect as I'd like it to, I think by the end, it will work as a functioning broom.

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