There are many different kinds of broom shafts available from every company that makes curling equipment. From the traditional wood to carbon fiber, the prices are wide ranging. Wood is cheapest, but it's major drawbacks are weight and bulkiness. It's being used less and less. Another downside is that technically they can break. PVC is also inexpensive, and is a common alternative for new curlers and club brooms. Premium materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber have been used to make broom shafts for years. Carbon fiber is superior in weight to strength ratio. The price of both has come down considerably compared to a decade or so ago. There are also composite blends using both materials which are more economical than carbon fiber only. Brooms are often available in 1 inch or 1 1/8th inch diameter. New models sometimes taper down the shaft with the narrowest part near the head.
There are also many different styles and types of broom heads available to curlers. There are two types: swivel or fixed; and many shapes: oval, rectangular, circular, boomerang, and many more. Competitive curlers mostly use a swivel head with an oval shape based on World Curling Federation (WCF) regulations. Swivel heads offer much more flexibilty than fixed heads and can be turned to sweep in much tighter spaces. Oval shape is traditionally most common, but other shapes have enjoyed popularity. The apogee of curling brush innovation occurred during the 2015-2016 and afterward the WCF developed strict rules on the requirements of approved sweeping devices. At the GFCC, we use the recommendations for recreational curlers developed at that same time. It may be interesting to experiment with different types of manufactured broom heads, but know that many are no longer approved for competition.
The evolution of brush pad styles and materials has evolved considerably over the years, and is ultimately what sparked the 2016 WCF sweeping summit and the new regulations regarding equipment. Traditionally, corn brooms were used on the ice and their "thwack, thwack" sound reverberated in the arena. The technique was difficult to master, but for those that did were fairly effective sweepers. Later, these brooms were wrapped in a soft fabric for better control and to keep shards of bristles off the ice. In the 1970's and 80's, hog hair brooms largely replaced the corn brooms because of increased effectiveness. These stiff brooms do have the downside of loosing hair, and they have the tendency to pick up a lot of dust and dirt over time. As curling emerged as an Olympic sport, a pad design using Cordura fabric and a foam became popular. In 2015, a few equipment manufacturers led by Hardline curling developed plastic inserts that drastically altered the effectiveness of sweeping. They allowed curlers to effectively "steer" their rocks simply by brushing.
Today those plastic inserts are banned in competition and generally not allowed in league play. At the sweeping summit, the WCF developed strict regulations on materials allowed. Previously, the only rules were that equipment "can not cause damage to the ice surface." Hair heads and corn brooms are also no longer allowed in WCF competition. The everlasting icon of the corn broom remains a unique symbol in our sport. Even though the WCF refers to brooms as "brushes" and the motion as "brushing," old traditions die hard. Broom and brush are often used interchangeably by many curlers. The former nomenclature of brooms and sweeping will probably remain for some time.