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Making a New Hat

mark alan

New in Town
Messages
18
Location
Salt Lake City, Utah
JW Hats is Jim Whittington's base of operation. He makes a lot of cowboy and western hats but told me he's making more dress hats every year. Last spring I decided to have him make a new hat for me. Yesterday I photographed the first steps. Next Friday, I'll photograph some more steps including the sewing room. In two weeks I'll get the last steps and the finished product.

Jim started making hats twenty years ago in about 1986. Before that he’d made baseball caps for several years. As far back as 1982, he had heard there was old hat making equipment from the old Symthe Brothers hat making enterprise somewhere in the valley. This was from an old firm located in the city for decades. The equipment was sold to an employee who moved it to an old barn in the southern, rural, part of the valley. He tried to make a go of it and failed. A friend told him all the equipment was left in a barn after the employee went bankrupt. Jim bought it for a song and then spent a year learning to make hats.

This is his place now.

JWHats1.jpg



As I’ve noted before, I had decided to have Jim make me a gray fedora this fall. Then I decided to document some of the steps.

Here’s Jim. He’s holding a very nice Cavanagh he cleaned and shaped for me. The nondescript thing next to it is my future hat.

JWHats2-1.jpg


Here’s his shop.

JWHats3.jpg


Notice the high quality machining tools, drill presses….??? Well it’s part of his shop but more about that later.

First we selected a hat body. I wanted a 4 inch crown and 2.5 inch brim in medium gray. He has a few bodies to choose from.

JWHats4.jpg


There are only 7-8 companies in the world that make hat bodies. In the last 20 years Jim has visited those in the United States, Ecuador and Russia. He can make any type of hat as long as he can find the appropriate body.

Having picked out the body he selects a block to mount it on. Here’s his set of hat blocks most of which are more than 100 years old. He can make new ones when needed.

JWHats5.jpg


Next he mounts the body on the block after giving it a vigorous steam.

JWHats6.jpg


JWHats7.jpg


Then it has to be tied on to the block so the crown can be pressed.

JWHats8.jpg


The crown iron was made in 1902. The block/body rotates at the end of the shaft while the pressing part moves back and forth and up and down the crown against the block.

JWHats9.jpg


Now, if you’d like your own machine to do this. Jim can make that too. In fact, that’s about 25% of his business. He set up 6 hat making shops in the US and Europe last year. Here are a few pieces of a new pressing machine he’s putting together.

JWHats10.jpg


I'll post the rest of the current sequence as a reply--too many images.

Mark
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know.

G Marx
 

mark alan

New in Town
Messages
18
Location
Salt Lake City, Utah
More on Making of a New Hat

After pressing the crown, he smoothes the crown. The body/block is mounted on a vertical spindle and while it spins he sands it with sand paper and finishes with a light spray of isopropyl alcohol and a very fine Scotch Bright.

JWHats11.jpg


JWHats12.jpg


JWHats13.jpg



Next the crown has to be pressed and smoothed. I’ll get the rest of the sequence up on this thread tomorrow.

Mark
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know.

G Marx
 

Razzman

One Too Many
Messages
1,357
Location
South of Boston
Welcome to FL. This thread is Great stuff, very interesting and informative. This is better than the Discovery Channel on TV. :eusa_clap As everyone seems to agree, keep it coming.:)
 

thefedorastore

A-List Customer
Messages
421
Location
Prosser, WA til fall
Sticky Material

I strongly suggest to the bartenders that this picture story be made a sticky. There are so many repeat questions that become new threads that would be answered with this pictorial. Awesome stuff!
 

mark alan

New in Town
Messages
18
Location
Salt Lake City, Utah
Part 2

It's time to work on the brim. First it has to be ironed. Jim picks out a plate for the particular hat from this rack.

JWHats14.jpg


He heats up the top plate on the top of the iron to somewhere around 200 degrees for this particular hat. Then he puts the block/body upside down through the hole in the iron leaving the brim on the bottom plate, puts the plate on top (I think I've got this right), pulls the big lever to increase the pressure on the brim and irons the hat.

JWHats15.jpg


Jim is very photogenic. This shows what a bad photographer can do to a good subject.

Next, after ironing, Jim cuts the brim to size. The brim on this hat is going to be 2.5 inches. He uses the brim cutter you see below. The design is an old one but he made this particular tool. After placing the block/body on the work table and setting the cutter diameter, he runs the base of the cutter around the base of the block body and in about 15-30 seconds has the brim cut to size.

JWHats16.jpg


The next step he is to sand the brim. Here you can see Jim using a small powered hand sander to smooth the top and underside of the brim.

JWHats17.jpg
[/IMG]

I don't have a photograph of the very last step because it was too subtle to show up. He removed the hat body from the block and about an inch up from the brim there is a small ridge on the crown. Jim put the hat body on another block to remove the ridge. I'll get a little more information about this next week. This is where things came to and end on Friday.

Thanks for all the positive comments and feedback. Next week the hat is off for sewing.

I'll add the new update to this thread next week.

Oh, yes. I'll get some photographs of the Cavanagh up soon.

Mark
 

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