Sims demonstrated the making of a heather besom and heaved a
bundle of heather from the back of the shed. There were
about five bundles remaining from the load he had cut in
October. He put on his thick canvas apron and began to give
me a running commentary as he worked.
untied the bundle and began to take the heather one piece at
a time, picking the longer pieces to begin with. He stood in
a bent position picking with his right hand, placing the
pieces across his lap with the heather heads to his left,
keeping the heads level. These he held in position with his
left hand, and to these he kept adding more working them
together to his satisfaction, until he had the required
amount. The heather was in a flat bunch and as the side
against him was not as neat as the side- away from him that
he had carefully watched he gently layed this bunch on his
bench-seat with the even side underneath. Mr. Sims would not
tell me the reason for this as he wanted me to see for
he started again choosing the shorter pieces, reminding me
that he wasted no heather. He picked up a smaller bunch this
time, holding the pieces against him as before, but this
time working the heather into round bunch. This he placed
carefully onto the centre of the bunch on the bench. Mr.
Sims explained that the small bunch of heather was the
secret of good foundation.
picked out and worked a third bundle in an identical manner
to the first flat bundle and this was placed, neatest side
uppermost, onto the bundles on the bench. Mr. Sims then
carefully picked up the whole together and worked them in
circular motion in his lap.
next stage is to put the bond onto the butt end of the besom
head. (The butt is the end where the bond and handle are
attached, I.E. the root end of the heather stems). In years
gone by the bond was always a six feet length of willow or
hazel, but since the Second World War, Mr. Sims has used
mainly 16 gauge wire. It is cheaper and quicker to use. The
bond is pushed into the butt approximately nine inches from
the top and is pushed under seven or eight twigs of heather,
away from the body. The rest of the bond is then bent away
from the body, round the butt several times and twice
threaded throughout the first bend. Nr. Sims then pulled the
bond tight by standing with his left foot on the broom head
and his right foot against the butt, pulling the loose bond
end with a pair of pliers. He then neatened the butt end by
chopping of the uneven ends on a well worn chopping block.
Sims then hammered a nail through the head of the heather
besom into the handle to hold it secure.
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