Making a Western hat by hand?

Discussion in 'Hats' started by Yahoody, Feb 15, 2018.

  1. Hat and Rehat

    Hat and Rehat Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,441
    Location:
    Denver
    I have a hat from Down Under made of Jackaroo fur. It's too small. I'd love to reblock it but there are grommets at the brim break.
     

  2. Did you use an acid dye? We’re you able to get the dye to penetrate all the way through the felt? I haven’t had the best luck dyeing felt, but my next effort will be with an acid dye and a pressure cooker.
    I wonder how BSHW is doing it?
     
  3. I hate that spongey type of felt. It sounds like you have had some bad experiences with custom hats.
     
  4. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,641
    Location:
    vancouver, canada
    I used the special dye for natural fabrics...wool and fur felt. We have a shop here that specializes in this and has a great website with clear instructions. No I didn't get it to penetrate all the way through the brim and had to bind the brim to hide the white core that the dye did not reach. I am going to try again but this time cut the brim to the desired width first. Also I wanted a light grey so did not leave it in the black dye that long. Next time I will just let it simmer for a while. The dye job worked well except for the lack of penetration and I think that was operator error.
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  5. At about 1:30 you see John Wayne’s brim fold up in the breeze before returning to position. I can understand that not everyone wants this kind of western, but it’s what I want, and I’m not alone. Watching older westerns you see the easy way hats distort and then return to shape. The felt was certainly different back then.

    https://youtube/KvfIsbhIQLA
     
    jlee562 and Gobi like this.

  6. I remember this now. It’s nice to have local knowledge to assist you. Rick has a 100% nutria body of mine in dark green that I want to take a shot at dyeing black.
     
  7. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,641
    Location:
    vancouver, canada
    I bought a dark olive felt from Agnoulita that I have yet to work with. It is almost black but in certain light you can see the dark green olive tones. It really is a great colour. So even if your felt doesn't get totally black it may still come out looking great.
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.

  8. Is that an antelope/suede finished felt? I’ve been thinking of one last Agnoulita and that would be it. It’s a shame that his source for 100% hare felts fell through as they make excellent hat.
     
  9. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,641
    Location:
    vancouver, canada
    Yes, it is the Antelope. I really like these felts and may still use him as a source.
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.

  10. I’d love to have a had made from it. If it isn’t spoken for I’ll commit now. The velour was disappointing, but the Antelope is quite nice.
     
  11. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,641
    Location:
    vancouver, canada
    Super, I will put is aside for you.
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  12. jlee562

    jlee562 I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,493
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    I obviously can't speak to the preferences of working cowboys at any time period, only my preferences as someone who likes these old hats.

    Perhaps there's more of a middle ground here though. My 1920's Stetson ranger hat/sort-of-Austral hat has a stiff brim, but the crown is shapeable. Of course, that could be it being 90+ years old, but I suspect on certain models where a stiffer brim was desirable, they simply added more stiffener to the brim.
     
    Hat and Rehat likes this.
  13. Yahoody

    Yahoody Practically Family

    Messages:
    758
    Location:
    Great Basin
    "At about 1:30 you see John Wayne’s brim fold up in the breeze before returning to position. ".

    Poor quality felt no matter who wears it..Custer or JW is still bad felt. 1956 movie prop hats (the Searchers) ? I'd bet there was some high quality felt there :)

    "Do you think this dyeing process and the re-felting made the hat more impervious to rain and in any way improved the quality of the felt?"

    Likely depending on how much heat was used and how long. You can over do the felting process and end up with a sub par body.

    "no matter what any hatter does with current Winchester it can’t duplicate what we’re after"

    I certainly don't think Winchester beaver as it shows up as a blank the end all of good felt. It is what the hatter is able to do with it that impresses me about any 100% beaver blank or hat for that matter. But also don't find you comment my experience. Got two new 100% beaver hats sitting here I don't use to that support my comment. And I could easily make another from a Winchester beaver blank.
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  14. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,641
    Location:
    vancouver, canada
    It is a question I am unable to answer but it sure does intrigue me. I have custom hats from 10 different hatters....most of the them are Winchester beaver. Some are stiff as boards while others have a softer almost vintage feel to them The unanswerable question (so far) how much is the hatter trapped by the felt he is working with? Is the variance within the Winchester offering that great? Or is it just the hatters ability, approach, sensibility that determines the final product?
     

  15. I get that it’s not the type of felt that you like. I can see how it wouldn’t be ideal for what you might use your hats for. To many of us, however, that IS the kind of western felt we prefer and it was very expensive in its day and very expensive when you find it on the vintage market.

    John Wayne often provided his own hats for his movies, and some of the high dollar western hats of the time and earlier had that same kind of felt as in the movie clip. I also have first hand knowledge (albeit not as extensive as I would like) that the more expensive western hats of the golden era were/are not at all like what Winchester puts out.

    I currently have a gifted hatter making me another custom western and I went with Winchester, but that’s due more to lack of options. I know what it is and I know it won’t be my ideal felt, but I also know it will be durable, look good, and meet my expectations. For me, just speaking for myself, I have never seen or felt a modern hat that is as nice as the better vintage hats...not even close.

    There are hundreds of posts here on The Lounge where we lament the decline in the quality of fur felt. We speculate on what the differences are and why it declined. We search for new sources of felt looking for something better (I have high hopes for the 100% nutria that Sunrise is selling). We search the vintage market looking for the great hats of the past. For what many of us look for you just can’t get there with current Winchester beaver fur felt; western or dress.

    I’m not looking for an argument, and I’m not looking for a hat for working cattle in the desert sun. I don’t need stampede strings or a stiff brim. I wear hats for style, comfort, and a bit of sun protection. Really stiff hats don’t have much appeal to me. If they work best for you then you’re lucky that they are available and affordable. Winchester felt makes a good hat, and apparently they make an excellent stiff western hat. They don’t make the western felt that I’m after, and no amount of tools, skills, time, or effort will make a Winchester felt into the equal of a prewar beaver western. I’m not making a dig on the quality of your hats. Your hats may be perfect for your application an/or personal preferences. They are not what I’m after. I can appreciate them, but they aren’t for me.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2020
  16. Yahoody

    Yahoody Practically Family

    Messages:
    758
    Location:
    Great Basin
    "is it just the hatters ability, approach, sensibility that determines the final product?"

    Yes...by far.

    A good beaver blank doesn't trap you. It gives you all sorts of options depending on your skill level as a hatter. They are a pleasure to work with. Literally, like putty in your hands". Stiff? Soft? Unless there is something seriously wrong with the hat body (you got ordered a western body but a dress body) they are all just a blank canvas.

    One of my custom hats is on the smaller side. 4" brim and a 5" crown. Knowing what I know now I bet serious money the hatter decided to pinch a penny and ordered a dress body and not a western body from Winchester.

    Might have happened on the 2nd hat as well as it isn't a big hat either. I'll need to take a look. Never occurred to me before actually that a hatter would do such a thing.
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  17. Yahoody

    Yahoody Practically Family

    Messages:
    758
    Location:
    Great Basin
    Deadly?

    Here is where I think we disagree and why. I make my own hats from felt bodies.

    You on the other hand, " currently have a gifted hatter making me another custom western."

    I get it, different options based on different experiences. We can agreed to disagree. I don't sell hats and I sure don't need to convert you :)
     
  18. Gobi

    Gobi One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    103
    I often wonder what they used as movie prop hats but I've seen that quite a few were decent Stetsons of that time period.
    One of my favorite TV hats and characters is Festus Haggen. You might not immediately think of quality when seeing his hat but you can tell it actually is a good quality hat. I recently learned that it was a Stetson 100.
    The hat appears as though it might be stiff but there are several scenes where you can see it is maluable. There was even some reinforcement fabric glued to the brim inside the dog ears to help hold it's iconic shape. Probably more so due to the cracking on the edges.
     
  19. suitedcboy

    suitedcboy One Too Many

    The expectations for a hat do vary widely. They vary widely for me. I love a fedora to have the malleable felt and to have that soft as a baby's behind feel. I always wear my fedoras snapped but stiff would not work for a snap brim fedora. I want my western hats that I use outdoors to be stiff and stay on my head. I can't keep a wide brimmed western hat on my head in the wind here or when riding a horse at a brisk pace if it is floppy. If the brim flopped down and obscured my vision I'd be pissed. Yahoody can speak to this better, but any flat brimmed Great Basin buckaroo hat I have ever handled at a hatter 's place in that part of the country were stiff brimmed for brim control. The custom hats I have gotten in the last 10 years all have a dense felt but I'm unsure as to what degree they were fired or if they were stiff from the felt supplier (pretty sure it would be Winchester) or stiffened by the hatter. I have done some shallac brim stiffening on a couple of them. All of these hats are 4 1/2 inch brim to 5 inch brim. The wider the brim, the stiffer they need to be to work for me. I have a few beaver westerns that are not as stiff but they are not my horse riding hats but I still want them enough to hold brim shape that I like and to not be floppy in the wind when worn as a dress hat. I have a Bandora vintage western and a Stetson 100 vintage western and they are fedora like in feel and are thin felts. They are fine like they are. I wouldn't ride in either or wear them if going out on a windy day. Gobi, how recent is your experience with the custom beaver hats?
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  20. Yahoody

    Yahoody Practically Family

    Messages:
    758
    Location:
    Great Basin
    I worked on a couple of movies back in the 70s. Most movie prop stuff is pretty "iffy" unless you are a main character and even then just depends on what is required of the character . Of course John Wayne could wear any hat he wanted. I'd bet the Searchers hat was not one of his. Simply not his style prior or after. I'd bet the hat was owned by the prop master for John Ford.

    The conversation does put a smile on my face however. My oldest hat these days is my Dad's 20x Stetson bought new in the late 50s. Still close enough to new when I got it. I reblocked 30 years ago and used it some. But these days I'd consider it too soft for my use.

    old days051.jpg

    That hat now is not what that hat was new. It is way, way softer now. I have a 5 year old 100% beaver from Winchester that does indeed flap in the wind now. Didn't when it was new either and the hand of that felt is darn near as nice as that 70 year old 20x Stetson. I could get there with a hat brush and some elbow grease I bet or I could re-felt it and keep using it.

    I have a two year old, commercially made, 100X Winchester that will flap in the wind when new. Super soft hand on that one as well. Feel that hat in had and it is obviously a "dress body" just by the thickness of the felt. I actually fired that hat when new to stiffen it up some. It did, "some". But not enough. It will still flap in the wind and will snap right back to it's original shape. I'd doubt it would so so that after a good soaking however.

    I have another soft, commercially made 100% Winchester, and again you can feel the body is not as thick as my other 100% bodies. That one I put a few cans of lacquer on to get it where I'd use it. Hat is like a board now and pretty useless. Likely need to take the lacquer back out of that one and just make it a "dress" hat.

    No question folks use hats for different things. A fashion hat a round town. Or a working hat in the field. Depends on what you require. I don't believe the Stetson Open Road was never intended to be a "working" hat. Unless you worked in a Dallas, Houston or Denver office :)

    Earlier this month we were out for a long day. Water was scarce and it was hot, 100+. When we got done the horses still had a couple hr trailer ride back to usable water. Only easy way to water them there where it was needed, with no trough or bucket, was out of your hats. We were in Sunbody straws which worked just fine for the job. But I'd have done the same in any felt I own. Plays hell on hat liners and sweat bands, but they are easily replaceable as required. A good beaver felt? Would never have soaked through and the would have dried quick enough in the heat, shape still in tact, if you just took a few moments to get it right. Do that to any good felt a few times and you'll have that floppy beaver hat you are looking for in short order:)

    IMG_1955 (2).JPG
     
    BobHufford likes this.

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