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The Trials and Tribulations of Hat Stiffener

Discussion in 'Hats' started by Bruce Wayne, Apr 13, 2011.

  1. Bruce Wayne

    Bruce Wayne My Mail is Forwarded Here

    I broke out my Peters Brothers hemp straw Indy hats today & it was a little wonky form storage so I went to the hardware store & I bought a 1/2 pint of clear shellac & som denatured alcohol as well as a small spray bottle. I mixed up 8 ounces of shellac to 4 ounces of alcohol & it seems to have done the trick of stiffening it up. even thought the liquid is a tan colour, does anyone know if I can use this on felt & other straw hats?

    Thanx!!!
    Charlie

    P.S.- I read about doing this online.
     
  2. fluteplayer07

    fluteplayer07 One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,844
    Location:
    Michigan
    Sounds valid enough... I think that's all they used to do back then. Although maybe just a simple steaming could do the trick of reactivating the existing shellac in the felt ones? I think next time you steam the hat you did this to, unless it was evenly applied, it'll be stiff as a rock around the front of the brim.
     
  3. Aureliano

    Aureliano I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,751
    Location:
    Macondo.
    Bump. I'm curious about this subject.
     
  4. ScottF

    ScottF Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,720
    I had a wool hat with shellac mixture sprayed into the crown to hold a simple crease - as wool is tough to bash, this worked well, but I didn't like the feel of it.
     
  5. fmw

    fmw One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,017
    Location:
    USA
    For the record, they don't use natural shellac any longer primarily because it has a color and can discolor the hat. These days they use a synthetic resin. While old fashioned shellac would certainly work since that's what they used in the pre-plastics era, I would suggest buying something like Kahl hat stiffener, which is one of the modern resins. One nice thing about it is that its effect is rather mild. You can keep going to get more and more stiffness but you won't face the problem of applying it once and having a helmet on your hands. I think there are other comparable brands. Kahl is the only one I've used and I've used it successfully on both straw and felt.
     
    Antinomy likes this.
  6. Bruce Wayne

    Bruce Wayne My Mail is Forwarded Here

    I tried to use kahl & I applies 20 coats (yes, twenty) & it still was not hard enough to make any difference.
     
  7. Rick Blaine

    Rick Blaine My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,950
    Location:
    Hillbilly Heaven
    :arated:

    I used SCOUT® stiffener on a pre-war Borso w/ a brim that was just a bit too floppy. Worked wonders, very pleased with the result. Seems to work well on straw too.
     
    Dm101 likes this.
  8. riccardo

    riccardo Practically Family

    Messages:
    515
    Location:
    Sicily - Italy
    Hi to all,
    I would like to restore a cheap steton straw hat, I've search for shellac in my dictionary: shellac=ceralacca...
    I really don't know what shellac/ceralacca is...could anyone put a pics of it?
    Maybe a shellac bottle pics...
    Many thanks.
    God bless you.

    Riccardo.
     
  9. Maj.Nick Danger

    Maj.Nick Danger I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,469
    Location:
    Behind the 8 ball,..
  10. Many Western shops that carry Cowboy hats will carry a spray stiffener.
     
  11. majormoore

    majormoore Vendor

    Messages:
    802
    Use (Bulls Eye Clear Shellac) and denatued alcohol, the ratio you were using is ok, always shake well before spraying, I have used this many times, and works good. But use the brand Bulls Eye Clear Shellac.

    Major Moore

     
    Dm101, Fed in a Fedora and Moviehats like this.
  12. Knobscobber

    Knobscobber New in Town

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Visalia,Ca
    Darn hat stiffner is gettin pricey! I put it in a spray bottle so you get more at one time,i redo old cowboy hats.But i can only get about 3 hats done with that small bottle.
     
  13. memphislawyer

    memphislawyer Practically Family

    Messages:
    762
    Location:
    Memphis, Tn
    I am glad Major Mike popped in. I am not at the stage of needing any restoration work on my hats, but if so, having him about an hour from my home, I'd drive up on a Saturday and let him look at the problem. Worth paying a few dollars to get it done right rather than me messing it up. Then again,I have 3 rabbit felts and two straws and all of them are 3 years old or less, so I am not at that stage.
     
  14. Rick Hartigan

    Rick Hartigan New in Town

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Hi everyone. I've been wearing the same old crappy hat for over thirty years. It's the only one I've ever owned, except ball caps.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    About a year ago I started shopping for a new and "good" hat. Happy to say I purchased a fairly nice fedora recently and love it.
    [​IMG]

    Now for the reason for this post. Since the old hat was such a wreck, I decided to see what I could do to fix it and thanks to the information I have obtained from this site and others around the web, I decided to take the leap. God knows it couldn't be any worse.

    I'm a woodworker and since I was using shellac on my current project, I decided to whip out the old hat and have a go at it during my slack times. I read a lot about the fact that there are so many different recipes for shellac on hats and never ever found even one, so, I decided to use my current open container. I started out by using my HVLP sprayer. I did not like the results. Even at very low pressure, I observed a fairly heavy build up in certain areas. It looked sort of like rime and was most unpleasant. Since then, I have taken to a hair bristle brush for applying the shellac.

    Initially, I used a 1 to 1 ratio of the shellac product below. After awhile, I decided to go on to use it full strength. I liked the results much better. This shellac is a 2lb. cut. Most others that you buy at the big box stores (in the cans) are a 4lb. cut. That difference is not so much an issue as the fact that they have wax in them. You can dilute any of them, but I think the inclusion of wax might be an issue. We have learned over the years that the wax in shellac is what leaves the nasty rings on your coffee table when you leave a wet glass there. This new product is wax free, and since I wear my hat in the woods when it's raining and snowing, I think this could be an issue.
    [​IMG]

    So, after much cleaning, forming (I removed the pinch just for fun) and shellacking, this is where I am now. I know it looks terrible in this photo, and it is pretty bad, but it doesn't look this bad in person. I'm wearing it as a work hat and when I go photographing in the woods and mountains, so beauty is not an issue. However, there are some things that need to be dealt with and I'm not sure where to go from here, so, maybe some of you guys can steer me in the right direction.
    [​IMG]

    The questions are these:
    Is there a way to get some uniformity to the finish?
    Is there some product to use to finish the hat after shellac to help with scrapes and scratches?

    I've cut a new sweatband, ribbon and bow and they are waiting to be installed, but need to get this thing straightened out first.
     
  15. moehawk

    moehawk I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,807
    Location:
    Northern California
    Hey Folks!

    Long time lurker, first time poster here.

    I saw this thread and had to reply. I am a recent convert to fedoras and Irish caps (used to wear a battered old baseball cap exclusively) and since I don't have much money I have bought more than a few old felt hats from thrift stores. As these hats are never in the best of condition, I have done quite a bit of experimenting with cleaning and reshaping them. I have found that clear spray shellac, applied lightly and them sprayed with 99% ethyl alcohol (supermarket pharmacy, not backwoods still variety) allowed to dry and then repeated until desired stiffness is attained works quite well. I also have found that the alcohol will soften a stiffened hat to easily reshape it. It also has the bonus of drying quickly.

    Unfortunately, not all of my experiments have been quite so successful...
     
  16. Rick Hartigan

    Rick Hartigan New in Town

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    An update on the old "Indy Fedora", as my wife has come to call it. Seems I've created a monster here. She seems to always catch me working on the darn thing.

    Anyway, beware, ye neophyte hat rehabbers! Easy on the shellac. I think the product I was using is fine, and I prefer the brushing method vs. the spray method, but I have embedded way too much shellac in this hat. This weekend it is going into an alcohol bath and then starting from scratch on the shaping end. The excess of shellac has created splotches where it was applied too heavily, and thus a nasty cosmetic appearance in some areas. I will be attempting to "wash it out" with an alcohol bath. I have no doubt this will have to sit for many hours to be successful, but I believe it will work fine. After I have it back to where it belongs it will be going to Batsake's in Cincinnati for a new liner and sweatband. Wish me luck.
     
    Dm101 likes this.
  17. Cornshucker77

    Cornshucker77 One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,484
    Location:
    Northeast Nebraska
    Good luck Rick. I am interested to see how this turns out. I have an old wool hat on which I applied too much shellac.
     
  18. LoveMyHats2

    LoveMyHats2 I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,196
    Location:
    Michigan
    I am sure NOT an expert, and wool hats are a pain to do anything with. However, even a hat that is old. Real Old, should always have some of the original stiffener in the felt from when it was made, unless maybe if the hat has been cleaned maybe too many times with Naptha as some of the fellows here on the Lounge do to hats that are in real sad dirty condition. If you use steam on the hat you can reshape it, including the brim. My husband has a non aerosol spray bottle of the Scout Stiffener, used it on a fedora he had years ago. It made the brim stiffer but he later learned if he just would have used a steam iron and cloth to keep the iron off the brim, he most likely would have had the same results. The use of any products like shellac or a stiffener should be done I would think, slowly and lightly. That stuff sure feels like some really sticky and gooey glue. Reminds me of a nasty batch of "peanut brittle". lol!
     
    -30- likes this.
  19. LoveMyHats2

    LoveMyHats2 I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,196
    Location:
    Michigan
    What size hat do you wear?
     
  20. Mr.Astor

    Mr.Astor Banned

    Messages:
    246
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I use the all purpose hat stiffener spray from Judith M millenery supply, works very well! Shipping cost is a bit high. It is worth it you have more control applying. Hope this helps
     

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