Sunday, January 10, 2010

We "Tie One On" Without the Master Craftsman Nearby, and It Comes Out Okay.

Been working on a new skill for the last several weeks. Back in September, took a broom tying class from Little John, arranged by the folks at Adams Forge. Didn't quite finish the broom we made in class, and needed to find the materials to sew it down. Which proved a but of an odyssey, but worth it in the end.

Tried making a broom needle out of various objects, but none did the trick. Finally orderd a flat steel "needle" that worked really well. Except that it had very sharp edges and a very sharp point and it had a tendency to cut the sewing thread. But what are a blacksmith's tools for if not making and fixing other tools. (Grin.)

So: filed off the edges and rounded off the point of the "needle" a bit, and it worked great. Used some heavy black hemp line from Michaels' for sewing down my first "class" broom ($1.50) and it worked great too. Trimmed the corn ends with heavy snips, and the first broom was done.

It was really fun to do, and the end product looked great, even if it was a mediocre outcome. So I figured I wanted to do it again. But one thing I had learned was that the proper equipment makes a big difference.
So, the first thing I needed was broom corn. Ten pound box from from an online store: arrived well before Christmas. Buying broom corn was far easier than you'd expect. Turned out buying the right twine was another matter.

The sewing line wouldn't work: Not really strong enough to support the needed tension. Couldn't find anything very workable or attractive in several local stores, but thankfully Little John made free with the name of his secret only-from-Mexico-in-10-mile-spools brand of nylon net-making twine. Now it isn't supposed to be available easily -- but one quick Google, and there it was, in 200 yard, $6.00 spools! That arrived just after Christmas.

Unfortunately, to properly tie a broom you need to pull on the string pretty hard while turning the handle -- which requires a "tying wheel."
This is basically a big spool that you can step on to hold down the roll of twine while you pull sharply. I had some ideas on how to make it, then I noticed that I had some barrel staves and a table saw . . . After a couple of false starts, I cobbled up this tying wheel: Solid oak, and it smells like wine. (Grin.)

So now I needed a handle.

We have some large branches of apple wood and also of holly, so I cut off a nice curved section of holly branch, sanded it down to near white (a little mottling for visual interest) and off we went.
Since I had a pile of undifferentiated broom corn I spent an hour sorting it into four piles: Small, medium and really long -- plus broken bits. It took a little while to do as I started out with "long" and "short" and discovered that the straw came in three distinct lengths, not two, so had to restart at one point.
After a while Hannah came out to help, and we made her a quickie "flying broom" out of a stick in the backyard and the broken broom corn bits. Turned out nicer than I expected, and proved that the tying wheel worked.

So, long story short, I finished the broom I started at home from scratch. It has some serious flaws in execution, most of which are not visible. I did leave off the second layer of straw, and so had to undo one whole layer, add the middle layer in where it belonged, and then redo the top layer -- but it made a big difference in the fullness of the broom.

At the end, I clamped the broom in the post-leg vise between two more barrel staves to sew it. Came out pretty ok, given all the oopses and redos.

Oh, and naturally I saved some of the seeds that fell of the broom corn and we will have to see what we can do with that this spring.

The Holly-Handled First Solo Broom


Anonymous said...

Nice work Roger! Now lets see some fire place sets. Glad to see the seed that I planted is still growing.

Keep on Broomin'
Little John

Ester said...

good work, its amazing to see that thing.