Artifact: Cincinnati Curling Club’s Stone and Broom

The Cincinnati Curling Club lives on thinning ice.
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Photograph by Aaron M. Conway
Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

The sport of curling was invented on frozen lochs and ponds in Scotland sometime in the 16th century. As native Scots settled in various parts of the globe over the next few hundred years, the game evolved from an activity based in farming communities to a full-fledged Olympic sport, with a particularly rabid following in Canada. Of late, interest has even bloomed south of the border. Operating out of the Cincinnati Gardens, the Cincinnati Curling Club has schooled more than a thousand aspiring curlers on the finer points of manipulating the sport’s two most important instruments: the stone and the broom.

rock hard
Each moisture-resistant granite stone comes from one of two locations: Ailsa Craig, an uninhabited island off Scotland’s western coast, and a quarry in Trefor, Wales. “When water freezes, it expands, and that can crack a rock,” says Jonathan Penney, president of the Cincinnati Curling Club. “That’s kind of important when you’re laying them on ice.”

keep it clean
The broom is used to manufacture heat, which in turn advances the stone quicker—and straighter—across the ice. Early on, curling brooms resembled their household brethren. “Back in the day, the broom was used more to clean cigar ash and stuff off the ice. They were not really generating any heat,” says Penney.

fast & furious
Speed and pressure is the name of the game when brooming, which is why modern broom handles are made of a lightweight carbon fiber or fiberglass material. The threads at the end of the broom can be hog or horse hair—or for the serious curler, a Swiffer-like waterproof fabric.

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