Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting serious with broom corn

Thanks to the detective work by our own Lindsay, we now have an electric broom corn machine. In years past we did the demonstrations with a Shaker model from the 1860's. While really neat to have in the historical collection, it was risky to be actually using something so valuable. Not to mention, it wasn't easy using "the old method" when you know there is something out there that is much easier. That easier method is called a kicker machine. The big idea that made the kicker so much better is that when you are adding the wire that is at the top of the broom you can keep the tension very tight on the broom stick. Next time you are sweeping up, take a look at your broom. The wire that holds the broom straw to the stick is super tight. In the Shaker model this tension is all done by grasping the broom stick in your hand while winding the wire with your other hand. A hard job to do, even in the 1860's. The kicker machine held the broom handle in place while you stepped, or kicked the treadle. Each step on the treadle would cause the broom stick to make a 1/4 turn. Between each turn of the broom stick you would add more broom straw and then kick the treadle again until you had made all the rotations needed to fill out the broom. Lindsay's machine has one truly awesome upgrade and that is the kicker is motorized. The kicker machine and the accompanying deseeder are all from the 1930's and are electrically powered. Now here comes the scary/interesting part. Like most machines from that era, OSHA and operator safety was not part of the design work. The machines we got happen to be from the Ohio School for the Blind. Wow, learning by feel takes on a whole new meaning when you are talking about this kind of machinery. We are having a lot of fun working with our new set up. It is our hope to start making brooms from our farm and selling them in the gift shop. Now that would be "locally sourced"!