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It’s a funny thing that many of us, through much of our childhood, were enthralled by brooms. (Or, at least we used to be before cordless vacuums took over.) We would demonstrate our ability to use them as we’d seen parents do. We’d pretend to fly on one as the Wicked Witch might do. Some kids—ahem—might even occasionally have used the broomstick as a makeshift mic stand.
But, even as adults, probably only a few of us have thought about making a broom. Broom-making used to be a fairly standard undertaking, not unlike washing clothes by hand or growing food at home. In other words, it’s not overly difficult, and one might even derive some satisfaction from the accomplishment.
How does one make a broom at home?
The Easy-to-Do Besom Broom
As is the case with many items, decorative versions are much easier to make than the real thing. Likewise, they are much less functional to boot.
The besom broom is essentially made from twigs likely found in the backyard. They are bundled together with all the thick ends to one side and thin sprigs to the other.
The thick end of the bundle is crowded around the end of a handle, which can simply be a thicker, longer stick or branch.
With natural twine, the bundle is fastened to the handle by tightly wrapping the twine around the twigs and handle.
Broomcorn & Other Materials
One of the more popular, serious ways of making a broom at home is to use broomcorn. Broomcorn isn’t actually corn; rather, it’s a type of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). In general, sorghum is grown for grain, syrup, or broom bristles.
Growing broomcorn is relatively easy and very similar to growing corn. It gets to be quite tall (think 6-8 feet), and tassels pop out of the top. Unlike corn, there are no cobs here. Instead, broom makers are after the tassels.
To make a getting-the-job-done type of broom, a maker will need about 40-45 heads of broomcorn. Other materials needed will be a wooden handle (spindle but stout sticks make the broom cooler), a cord for tying, and natural string for sewing.
The tools necessary for making a broom are pretty basic. Scissors, a knife, a lighter, and a large needle will help will help with the cuts and frazzled ends. A stick for wrapping the cord around and holding taut when tying helps. And, you’ll need to drill one 1/8” hole in the handle.
Making a Kitchen Broom
Once all of the materials and tools have been gathered, the broomcorn needs to be soaked in water for 15-30 minutes. While that’s happening, one end of the handle should be whittled to a taper and a hole drilled right above where the tapering begins.
First, the cord is tied to the handle. Then, one at a time, the heads of broom corn are tied tightly around the handle until they completely encase it. Then, a second layer of “inner” bristles are tied around the first layer.
Before tying on the last, “outer” layer, it’s important to trim the top ends of the inner layers to taper towards the handle. The string should be wound tightly up the tops of the inner layers until reaches the handle.
For the outer layer, each broomcorn head is again tied individually until it entirely covers the inner layers.
Then, the string should be wrapped as firmly as possible around the broom head and handle about 10 times, squeezing the material to the handle. Move up a couple of inches and do the same thing again.
At this point, you could trim the bristles and have an old-timey round broom
Flattening & Sewing
But, crafty folks might want to take the extra step of flattening and sewing the broom to look like those we buy in hardware stores and supermarkets.
About midway down the bristles, fasten a simple homemade clamp: two boards wide enough to clamp all the bristles tightened with a bolt and nut on each end.
Using strong, waxed string and a long needle, it’s time to sew the broom flat. Wrap the string around it a couple of times, and start to do a basic stitch in and out of the bristle every half-inch or so. Most people do at least two, probably three, rows of stitching.
Get Swept Away
Once that first broom is made, for many, it’s tough not to make another. Whisk brooms, hearth brooms, and on the list goes. It’s easy to get swept away as broom-making is an alluring mix of creativity, skill, and self-empowerment.
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