How to Make a Broom

An expert broom maker explains the basic steps to making a functional and attractive broom.

| Dec. 29, 2008

  • Brooms by Little John
    With a few simple tools and materials, you can make your own brooms.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • broomcorn
    To make a hearth broom, 28 heads of broomcorn are used for the inside layers of bristles and 17 heads for the outside layer.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • inside layer of broom
    Before tying the outside layer, trim the ends from the previous two layers, tapering the material toward the handle. Be careful not to cut the string.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • broom layer two
    Place the outside layer of broomcorn heads with the pith (concave) side to the handle.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • broom-making tools
    Only simple tools are required to make a broom. Note foot held apparatus (for holding cord taut), left, and the sewing clamp, top right.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • tying a broom
    When the top layer has been placed all around the piece, wind the string around the broom at least eight times.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • broom clamp
    For making a flat broom, you'll need a sewing clamp (two boards held together with bolts and wing nuts).
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • stitching a broom
    Put the cord around the broom bristles and run the two ends through the loop. This is a called a lark's head knot, but it's more of a tie or a hold.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • plaiting a broom
    Plaiting works best with an odd number of stalks. If there is an even number, simply find the thickest stalk and split it in half with a knife or thumb nail. The green cord is used to pull the end of the cord under the band to hide it.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • broom stitching
    When you finish you will run your needle all the way through the broom the long way across. Cut your strings flush and start a new row.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • hearth broom
    Cut the bottom of the broom flat and thread a leather strip or piece of jute cord through the hole in the hand to hang the new broom.
    JOHN HOLZWART
  • lock stitch
    The lock stitch is used to sew the broom.
    JOHN HOLZWART

  • Brooms by Little John
  • broomcorn
  • inside layer of broom
  • broom layer two
  • broom-making tools
  • tying a broom
  • broom clamp
  • stitching a broom
  • plaiting a broom
  • broom stitching
  • hearth broom
  • lock stitch

You can make your own brooms! If you have a green thumb, you can start by growing your own broomcorn. But even if you can't grow broomcorn, you can order it from a supplier (see Resources at the end of this article). Photos for each step of the broom-making process are available in the Image Gallery; see link above.

Broomcorn

One of the most common questions I hear when I am demonstrating my craft is, “What plant material is used for the broom bristles?” The material is called broomcorn (Sorghum bicolor). This plant is closely related to sweet sorghum (Sorghum vulgare), which is the plant used to produce sorghum molasses.  Broomcorn is an annual and, from a distance, looks like sweet corn in the field. Yet, upon close examination, there are no cobs, just a large tassel on the top. That tassel is the part of the plant used for making brooms. Other materials can be used for the sweeper of a broom, but we're focusing on traditional corn brooms.

To make a hearth broom, 28 heads of broomcorn are used for the inside layers of bristles and 17 heads for the outside layer. Each head is measured with a cubit (the distance between your elbow to your longest finger). Put the knuckle of the corn, the place where the head meets the stalk, at your elbow. If the bristles, or brush, are past the tip of your fingers, that stalk is a keeper. If the material is too short, it will be used for a whisk broom later.

The broomcorn is prepared by cutting the stalks differently for each layer. Stalks are trimmed just past the knuckle on the stalk side for inside layers, but left longer for outside layers so they can be plaited. Place the broomcorn in a bucket of hot water with the cut ends submerged. The corn needs to soak for a minimum of 15 minutes.



Assemble the following materials before you sit down to make a broom:

  • Broomcorn (about 2-3 pounds per broom)
  • #18 nylon cord (for tying)
  • Hemp string for sewing (20 lb. test)
  • Wooden handle (18 inches)

Tools:

naturetravels
4/14/2015 8:51:53 PM

Approximately how many broomcorn plants are needed to make each broom?


Margaret6
3/15/2014 10:01:59 PM

There are 12 photos, which you can find by clicking on the "Slideshow" button next to the first photo at the top of this page


MaryBeth Adkison
8/28/2012 11:31:28 PM

great info, just wish there was pics to help visualize it.







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