Broom Making: "Sweeping into Action"

Photo Essay, Carroll County Times, November 29, 2009

By Ken Koons

John Buffington sews a newly made broom in his Westminster home. Buffington has been making brooms by hand since acquiring an antique broom-making machine.

Wire is wrapped tightly around the broom straw to hold it to the handle.

The strain of the work can be seen on John Buffington's face as he sews.

A final trimming evens the end of the broom.

The final products.

Documentary Film, Carroll County Times, November 29, 2009

By Ken Koons

Watch it on Youtube.

Article, Carroll County Times, November 29, 2009

By Brandon Oland, Times Staff Writer

Three years ago, John Buffington received an offer he could not pass up.

Longtime friend Buzz Shafer wanted to get rid of a broom-making machine. Buffington agreed to haul away the antique machine that he said is about 100 years old.

“I told [the Shafer brothers] if they ever wanted to get rid of that broom machine, I wouldn’t mind having it,” Buffington said.

He wound up learning how to make brooms along the way.

After Buffington set up the machine at his Westminster home, Shafer stopped by to show him how to use it. Buffington, a retired Eastern Airlines employee, discovered he enjoyed the process. He regularly produces brooms in his spare time using the machine he coveted.

Buffington seems to enjoy working with his hands. He has built and repaired clocks, many of which he keeps in his Westminster home.

He acclimated quickly to the hands-on process of broom-making.

Previously, Shafer and his brother Joe used the machine to make brooms. Buffington said the brothers probably tinkered with the machine in order to make it more efficient.

As part of a broom-making tutorial, Shafer traveled with Buffington to a Pennsylvania farm, where they cut broom corn. Buffington said broom corn grows like regular corn but does not grow ears. The broom corn grows at the top of the plants.

Buffington said he uses four bundles of broom corn in each broom. The broom corn bundles weigh a combined two pounds.

Before using his machine, Buffington hammers a large nail into the broom handle. Then he attaches the wire that he will use to wrap the broom. By turning a wheel with his foot, Buffington attaches the broom corn bundles to the handle with wire. He adds broom corn to make what he calls the broom’s shoulder at the top near the handle.

After completing the work on his machine, Buffington uses binder twine to keep the broom corn in the place. He repeatedly pushes a needle through the broom corn and attaches four layers of binder twine.

Buffington said he tends to break up his work. He’ll break up the steps and toil in his workshop for a few hours at a time on an antique machine he simply wanted to preserve and wound up using frequently.

“I wasn’t really interested in making brooms,” Buffington said. “I just wanted the machine.”