Scholla: Broom Making May 2, 1941

Scholla 5/2/1941 Broom making

One of the handcrafts that is rapidly disappearing is described in the following letter sent to the column by Frank W. Matz, of Mohnton.

Broom corn is a variety of maize and its cultivation is similar to that of ordinary field corn. However the seeds of broom corn grow on sprays and not on the ears. These seed sprays become top heavy as they reach maturity and stalks must be bent at the stem, causing the seed pods to hang downward almost perpendicularly. This will insure the development of straight straws. Once the straws are mature they are cut and dried. The seeds are removed with a curry comb.

The first process in broom making is to assort the straws into two classes, those with thick heart-stems and those that have thin heart stems. The latter will provide a finer texture of straw materials for broom manufacture. The ends of the stem are cut thin. The straws are tied into bundles according to the size of the broom that is planned. The thick stemmed hearts are placed on the interior of the bundle and the finer straws form the circumference.

The next step calls for the fastening a one-fourth-inch rope to a door or some secure place. The thinned stems which have previously been soaked in boiling water are wound tightly by wrapping the loose end of the rope around the bundle and drawing on it. In this way the bundle becomes a tight mass. At this point thick twine is wound about the straw bundle  and the rope can be removed. The result is a cylindrical broom, without a handle.

A pointed handle is inserted into the bundle and two nails driven into the end of which holds the broom straws.

The cylindrical mass must be flattened. A home-made clamp or press is used for this purpose.

The clamp is held on the craftsman’s lap while he sewed the ends of the straws together. After the broom is fastened securely in the press a twine is wound around the bundle where the stitching is to be done. Each stitch is looped through the surrounding twine. Small brooms usually have two rows of stitches and larger ones have three or four rows. A steel needle, about four and one-half inches long is used. The needle is bent slightly near the point and flat at the bend. After the sewing operation is completed the ends of the protruding straws are cut and a new broom is ready for spring cleaning.

Broom manufacturing in Kutztown courtesy of the Berks History Center.
Broom manufacturing in Kutztown courtesy of the Berks History Center.
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