It seems that when a new curler comes into our store invariably they head for the brushes. Why not? Brushes are shiny, multi coloured, they move, you can hold them in your hand, and most curlers, including the novice can sweep. Even though they might not accomplish that mighty double take out every time, they can sweep their guts out, drag the rock and make a contribution to the team.
First let’s talk about the head of the brush. Basically, there are two options: hair and synthetic. Keep in mind that the overwhelming consensus is that you can drag a rock further with a synthetic head.
Hair brushes have been around for a long time and are usually in a fixed stationary position. The main advantage of hair is for frosty ice conditions. The hair is able to clean around the pebble better. This is why you see competitive teams on arena ice utilizing the hair head in front of the synthetic. The same reason some skips will use hair because the house tends to frost up faster than the centre runway because there is less traffic. Hair brushes also have less resistance and are easier to push.
What are the disadvantages of hair heads? It is mainly the same problem that I personally have. They lose their hair. We have all had that frustrating situation where a perfectly thrown stone suddenly takes a wrong turn as a result of a “pick”. After turning over the stone, you find a piece of horsehair on the running surface. You look around and observe a sweeper walking down the sheet with one of those 15 year old hair brushes. GRRR!
Synthetic heads are made from treated nylon cordura. This product has remained unchanged for years and is used by approximately 80% of everyday curlers. Recently there has been a modification. BalancePlus has patented a system that claims to use a finer grade of nylon in combination with a reflecting material that heats the ice under the brush, allowing the sweeper to drag the rock further. This head is becoming very popular; time will tell whether the average curler deems this is worth the extra cost.
One disadvantage of synthetic is that on frosty ice they will get “soggy” and become more difficult to push. Most clubs have good dehumidifier systems that minimize frost. The other problem with synthetic is that the surface area in contact with the ice wears out and loses its effectiveness. The most common question we get in the store is “how long should the head last”? The answer depends upon how much effort you put into the brush, and how fast you move the head. Generally if you play a couple of times a week you should replace your head every year. If you do not replace your head, all of your extra effort while sweeping will be wasted. The cost is definitely a lot less than what the average golfer spends on golf balls every season.
The heads are attached to the handle in two ways. Either fixed or articulating. Some curlers prefer the fixed method if they use the brush for delivery as it is more rigid. By far the majority of curlers use the articulating head. It gives the option of having the head at different angles to the rock simply by means of turning the handle. You can turn the head 360 degrees.
The final part of the brush is the handle. The older brooms were made with wood and were eventually replaced with fiberglass. Today fiberglass is slowly being replaced with carbon fiber. The cost of a carbon fiber handle has declined and in some cases can cost less than fiberglass. The handles come in various composites and a plethora of colours. That is 30/70, 50/50 fiberglass to carbon fiber ratio or 100% carbon fiber. Cost and weight is directly related to the amount of carbon fiber in the handle. The lighter the brush the easier it is to push it. If you spend 8 ends pushing a nylon head attached to a wooden base on a fixed wooden handle, and then you do the same with a new heat creating, synthetic, articulating head on a mind-blowing multi coloured carbon fiber handle, your shoulder muscles will scream thank you! Most importantly your skip will hug you off of your feet for dragging that, obviously hogged rock, right to the button thereby winning the club Thursday Night League championship!