Make a Traditional Hearth Broom

Learn the nearly lost American art of broom-making.

February / March 2018
By Brett McLeod

Brooms

Photo by Bob Cerelli

Sweeping with a handmade broom can connect you with the long history of brooms made out of natural materials, from improvised brooms crafted from broken branches to rural artworks featuring decorative stitches.

I’ve been making brooms for several years, and one of the most common questions I hear while demonstrating my craft is, “What plant material is used for the bristles?” The answer is broom corn (Sorghum bicolor, also called Sorghum vulgare), which is a variant of the sorghum grown for sorghum molasses. Broom corn is an annual and looks like sweet corn from a distance. Upon close examination, however, you’ll notice there are no cobs along the stalk — just a large tassel on top with a swollen knuckle at the intersection with the stalk. That tassel is what you’ll need for making brooms. You can also use other natural materials, but in this article I’ll focus on how to make a traditional corn hearth broom.