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VINTAGE/ANTIQUE HAT STRETCHERS

DRX

New in Town
Messages
6
I read through all the posts on Hat Stretchers from this forum, and across the internet. I can't find answers to the questions I have.

I needed a hat stretcher, but instead of buying the cheap-made new ones, I like the vintage/antique wood ones with the golden honey color that only comes from decades of age.

I bought two to start with, but seeing them in person now, I think I may have gotten them too small and may have to look for a larger size stretcher. I can download 3 different size conversion charts, and get 3 different, contradicting charts! (Mostly in what is considered S-M-L)

Converting CM to fraction sizes is a problem since they are different in UK and USA.
7 1/8 in UK means 7 1/4 in USA. I find it easiest to deal with metric CM sizes (58), but the vintage Hat Stretchers I find for sale online only show fractions that I assume are USA sizes, and that is where I think I went wrong, assuming 6 7/8 is only 1/8 from 7, and 7 wouldn't be TOO much smaller than 7 1/8, but also didn't take in account UK to US conversion, so 6 7/8 vintage US stretcher, is not size 56, but actually size 55. THREE sizes smaller than I need to stretch to! So the side alignment rails fall out of the stretcher by the time I get to my size! (and the other one I bought 6 3/4 is going to be a 54. oh no.)

QUESTION 1:

I figure obviously you want a size SMALLER than your hat size, else how to you fit the stretcher into a hat too small or tight, if the size marked on stretchers are the size when fully closed.
7 1/4 vintage stretcher US would equal size 58. (my size) So what would be ideal for me, 7 or 7 1/8 (US) for a vintage/antique hat stretcher?

QUESTION 2:

NONE of the vintage ones of hundreds I have seen, have any makers name or brand, how can one tell who made it and around what year or decade they were made? What range are the ones typically seen and found online? All Wood handles vs the Metal handles?

QUESTION 3:

Some of these old stretchers have small rubber or plastic round feet attached on back side, why are these there, to elevate the stretcher a few millimeters off the surface of a shelf or table while hat is on it stretching for a day or two? If so, why? Plus, that side would be INSIDE the hat while stretching, unless you are to put it in the hat with SIZE MARKING on stretcher INSIDE hat, which I never see anyone doing, and tapered ones would be backwards that way,

QUESTION 4:

Is there any old vintage or antique INSTRUCTIONS on how to use these, as I really don't trust the youtube videos of people using them on their baseball caps that don't even put them in properly and obviously have no idea what they are doing, yet feel they are qualified to make such videos to teach others. I want some ORIGINAL antique instructions, from the MAKERS of these ORIGINAL hat stretchers.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Thanks in advance for any answers to these questions, that will also help those searching for these answers via Google for decades to come and find this thread, the way I found this forum.
 
Messages
10,480
Location
vancouver, canada
I am a size 59cm and I own way too many hat stretchers, vintage and new. All the vintage are marked 6 7/8 and all of them work for my size 59 head except for one very old one that has short guide arms that do indeed pop out of the channel when opened up past about 58cm..
First thing you need to know: Are you a regular oval or a long oval? If you are a long oval then the standard two way stretcher is fine. It only stretches the hat north and south. The more you stretch the more you elongate the hat and you could be making it worse if you are a regular oval. If you are a regular oval you need to buy a 4way stretcher that sretchs both north/south and east/west. . I have a modern one bought on Ebay. It was $50 give or take, so very well made and is much nicer than the vintage ones I own. If you need the 4way let me know and I can dig out the name.
 

DRX

New in Town
Messages
6
I am a size 59cm and I own way too many hat stretchers, vintage and new. All the vintage are marked 6 7/8 and all of them work for my size 59 head except for one very old one that has short guide arms that do indeed pop out of the channel when opened up past about 58cm..
First thing you need to know: Are you a regular oval or a long oval? If you are a long oval then the standard two way stretcher is fine. It only stretches the hat north and south. The more you stretch the more you elongate the hat and you could be making it worse if you are a regular oval. If you are a regular oval you need to buy a 4way stretcher that sretchs both north/south and east/west. . I have a modern one bought on Ebay. It was $50 give or take, so very well made and is much nicer than the vintage ones I own. If you need the 4way let me know and I can dig out the name.
I have no idea what the classification of my head shape is, but even when a hat is sort of tight against my forehead, I can stick a finger in the side without problem, so my head is oval to somepoint.

And I read everything there is available on these (which is not much) and know about the problems of stretching more than 2 hat sizes larger, but none of that is a concern to me, I would only be using it for ONE size lower, but mostly just to get ones MY size stretched a bit because of shrinkage or whatever, I am not trying to buy small hats and make them 2 sizes larger.

My main concern is having to unscrew these vintage stretchers to almost their maximum, before I even get to start stretching.

I want it to just be slightly smaller than my size, to tweak it a bit to my size, and for this the 2-way vs 4-way is not going to be relevant for me, plus I will mostly be using these for flat caps, that are sort of floppy to begin with, no hard shape like in Bowlers or such.
 

DRX

New in Town
Messages
6
I think 99% of the vintage stretchers I see are marked 6-7/8. I assumed this the smallest size it would fit and would lengthen to accommodate larger sizes. Most have been a two-way stretcher with an occasional four-way popping up.

Are you seeing others with larger hat sizes noted?
Yes, most of the ones I see are 6 7/8 or 6 3/4, all 2-way, but I did see a 7 and something higher than 7, but they were in horrible condition, and I want them to be in great condition, other than natural, desired color aging. I don't want major scratches, holes, chips, or obvious repairs.

Considering how many are available, and at such reasonable prices, no problem to wait until a good one in the size I want eventually comes available, just need to know what size that should be, that I should start looking for. I had no idea HOW MUCH you have to open up a 6 7/8 just to get to 58, I figured it would just be a couple turns., but no.
 
Messages
10,480
Location
vancouver, canada
Yes, most of the ones I see are 6 7/8 or 6 3/4, all 2-way, but I did see a 7 and something higher than 7, but they were in horrible condition, and I want them to be in great condition, other than natural, desired color aging. I don't want major scratches, holes, chips, or obvious repairs.

Considering how many are available, and at such reasonable prices, no problem to wait until a good one in the size I want eventually comes available, just need to know what size that should be, that I should start looking for. I had no idea HOW MUCH you have to open up a 6 7/8 just to get to 58, I figured it would just be a couple turns., but no.
To repeat....all vintage stretchers are marked 6 3/4 or 6 7/8 and I have had no problems enlarging them to my 59cm except the one very old one. Before you buy just ask the question: Can this be opened up to 58cm? It is that simple.....just ask.
 
Messages
19,003
Location
Central California
To repeat....all vintage stretchers are marked 6 3/4 or 6 7/8 and I have had no problems enlarging them to my 59cm except the one very old one. Before you buy just ask the question: Can this be opened up to 58cm? It is that simple.....just ask.


I know JW offers them in every size. It’s designed to be used more like an adjustable band block than a traditional hat stretcher.
 
Messages
19,003
Location
Central California
I have no idea what the classification of my head shape is, but even when a hat is sort of tight against my forehead, I can stick a finger in the side without problem, so my head is oval to somepoint.

And I read everything there is available on these (which is not much) and know about the problems of stretching more than 2 hat sizes larger, but none of that is a concern to me, I would only be using it for ONE size lower, but mostly just to get ones MY size stretched a bit because of shrinkage or whatever, I am not trying to buy small hats and make them 2 sizes larger.

My main concern is having to unscrew these vintage stretchers to almost their maximum, before I even get to start stretching.

I want it to just be slightly smaller than my size, to tweak it a bit to my size, and for this the 2-way vs 4-way is not going to be relevant for me, plus I will mostly be using these for flat caps, that are sort of floppy to begin with, no hard shape like in Bowlers or such.


I personally think they are good for a fraction of a size…more just taking a hat that is wearable but a bit snug and bumping it up a small amount. If you try for even one whole size you will run the risk of damaging the hat and screw up the brim flanging. You can also cause a vintage sweatband to separate or the stitches to pop. I see a lot of used hats that also have
a ring impressed in the felt from the top edge of the sweatband after someone did some resizing.

It sounds like you have a long oval head shape. I’d suggest you look into a fitted band block rather than a stretcher.

https://hatterssupplyhouse.com/hat-blocks/hat-band-blocks/
 
Messages
10,480
Location
vancouver, canada
I personally think they are good for a fraction of a size…more just taking a hat that is wearable but a bit snug and bumping it up a small amount. If you try for even one whole size you will run the risk of damaging the hat and screw up the brim flanging. You can also cause a vintage sweatband to separate or the stitches to pop. I see a lot of used hats that also have
a ring impressed in the felt from the top edge of the sweatband after someone did some resizing.

It sounds like you have a long oval head shape. I’d suggest you look into a fitted band block rather than a stretcher.

https://hatterssupplyhouse.com/hat-blocks/hat-band-blocks/
Great advice. I have had way more success with a band block cut to my head shape. I can finesse an off the shelf regular oval into a long oval. Turn it from an ill fitting uncomfortable hat into one that fits and feels great. But the operative feature is I am not stretching it but reshaping it.
 

DRX

New in Town
Messages
6
QUESTION 2:

NONE of the vintage ones of hundreds I have seen, have any makers name or brand, how can one tell who made it and around what year or decade they were made? What range are the ones typically seen and found online? All Wood handles vs the Metal handles?
 

RickP

One of the Regulars
Messages
136
Ive been looking for a decent adjustable commercial hat stretcher for a while, and a friend over in North Carolina sent me a link to a local Craigslist add over there. Got ahold of the guy and had a nice chat. Short version of the story, is that its a working J&L heated stretcher in nice shape. Heavy cast iron base, thick aluminum forms, with a seriously heavy duty crank mechanism. Pics look to be in nice condition. It DOES heat up, and everythings there! Should be going into a box today or tomorrow and heading over to UPS for the trip here. Cant wait to do a little paint cleaning and aluminum polishing. Should be a cool addition to the toys
stretcher2.jpg
stretcher1.jpg
 

RickP

One of the Regulars
Messages
136
Ive been looking for a decent adjustable commercial hat stretcher for a while, and a friend over in North Carolina sent me a link to a local Craigslist add over there. Got ahold of the guy and had a nice chat. Short version of the story, is that its a working J&L heated stretcher in nice shape. Heavy cast iron base, thick aluminum forms, with a seriously heavy duty crank mechanism. Pics look to be in nice condition. It DOES heat up, and everythings there! Should be going into a box today or tomorrow and heading over to UPS for the trip here. Cant wait to do a little paint cleaning and aluminum polishing. Should be a cool addition to the toys View attachment 614418 View attachment 614419
Woo hoo! the J&L stretcher came in today. Works just fine... just needs a bit of buffing and cleaning



Compress_20240523_123233_3511.jpg
 

RickP

One of the Regulars
Messages
136
Time to expand our hat related knowledge! Does anyone have a solid guess for the age of this J&L Hat Stretcher? Its cleaning up nicely, and functions great, but there are no dates or patents listed anywhere. No plastic anywhere... all metal. It looks to me like the power cord may have been replaced at some time or at least serviced ( to me the cord looks too nice to be all that old... a bit dirty but nothing frayed) Maybe someone with electrical knowledge will have some insight. Personally I really dont have plans to do much with the heating part anyway, but im thrilled that it does heat up and seem to be fully functional. Its just a way cool looking piece of gear.

Any ideas?

Compress_20240523_185832_2697.jpg

Compress_20240523_184925_5847.jpg

Compress_20240523_163712_2814.jpg
Compress_20240523_184533_3756.jpg
 
Messages
11,202
Location
Alabama
I have a similar one made by Pioneer Display Mfg. The art deco base of yours and the shape it’s in really set it apart. The heating element in mine was functional but I removed it, the cord and all temptation during the cleaning process.
 

RickP

One of the Regulars
Messages
136
I got the plug and cord cleaned up and it looks a lot nicer now. I m glad the heating unit works fine, but I now that it looks better Im happy to use it without heat and avoid potential disaster. The design on the base really does look cool after a bit of cleaning
 

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