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Stiffener composition

Discussion in 'Hats' started by tonyb, Jun 12, 2008.

  1. Anybody know what felt hat stiffener is made of? You know, like the stuff you can buy at the Western wear shop for way too much money.

    Or at least it seems like way too much money. Could be that its main ingredient(s) is (are) expensive. But I wonder. If those ingredients are available in larger quantities for markedly less dough, well, I'd buy 'em.

    The standard answer is that it's some kind of shellac. But what kind? Where might I get some? And how would it best be prepared and applied?
  2. KY Gentleman

    KY Gentleman One Too Many

    I don't know what its made of but I have been considering testing regular fabric stiffener out on a cheap hat. You can buy fabric stiffener cheap at craft stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby. After I try it I'll post results.
  3. According to Ermatinger's Scientific Hat Finishing and Renovating..Stiffener is made by disolving orange schellac in alcohol. You can buy orange schellac flakes at several sites on the Internet, which sell wood finishing products.

    I get mine from hatsupply.com, premixed by the gallon. Sandra says that hers in the same stuff that is used as preservative coating for Apples and other fruit.
    It does have an orange cast to it though. I've thought about ordering some shellac flakes myself to give it a try.

    Check this out... http://www.hockfinishes.com/
  4. Fedoraphile

    Fedoraphile New in Town

    Prepare to cover your eyes, for my suggestion you may wish you hadn't read!

    I used some hair gel on an el cheapo Indiana Jones look alike to stiffen it. Just slathered it generously on the underside of the hat, including inside the crown. Let it dry, and then shaped it while steaming it over a pot of boiling water.

    Worked just fine for me, at practically no cost.

    Is it for you?

    Well, I'd try it out on an el cheapo first...

  5. Mark G

    Mark G A-List Customer

    Stoney, yup it's shellac. If you're going to buy the flakes I suggest you get the blonde. the lighter collored shellac has more of the impurities taken out. It will work better for the lighter colored hats. It has a shelf life, so I suggest you label it with a date. You can expect to get about 6 months out of a batch, it will refuse to dry when it's old.

    It's even considered a food product by the FDA. It's what coats M&M's.
  6. Dear kabuto,
    you're on the right track but off on the amounts. In order to rinse out the stifner it would take a fair amount of wood alcohol. Art Fawcett wrote that he took a Western hat and soaked it in a closed top bucket overnight then poured several gallons of the alcohol thru the hat to get the shellac to rinse out.

    The shellac will eventually shatter in the felt and the felt soften up. If the shellac gets melted by alcohol but not rinsed out it will melt back together and restiffen the hat.
  7. RPeers

    RPeers One of the Regulars

    So do I melt down my M&M's or just crack the shell off...lol

  8. Ah ha, A food product. Perhaps Sandra Leko's special stiffener is nothing more than standard shellac and alcohol. I can tell you for sure that alcohol is the primary ingredient in her stiffener and it has an orange cast to it as well....

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