Hat Block Resource

Understanding Hat Blocks

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Repairing Hat Blocks

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Here are a few suggestions for repairing damaged blocks. Maybe you are considering a block on Ebay or other source that has obvious damage and trying to decide if it is worth your investment. Can you repair it or will you need to find a professional woodworker to do the job?

I made these repairs using Elmers Carpenters Glue, several grades of sandpaper, a selection of wood files and SculpWood, a moldable epoxy putty recommended by a local woodcraft store. A package of SculpWood is approximately $35.00. It contains two puttys, one white and one tan which you will mix or kneed equal parts until thoroughly mixed using latex or nitrile gloves, then molded into the cavity or shape required. SculpWood is easy to work with and remains pliable for 15 minutes or more. Do not mix more than you will be using in a short time. SculptWood cures in 4 hours however I let it cure for 24 hours or more. Then sand or file to restore the block shape.

Block 927:

Damage included a one inch chip out of the left side of the pinch at the front of the crown and a 2 to 3 inch crack further along the left side or the recess ridge.

I decided to drive two bank pins in to the block to give attachment support for the putty filling on the vulnerable recessed edge of the crown. This block is made of high quality dense wood so I carefully tapped the bank pins into place with a small hammer. If I had determined the wood of this block was of insufficient strength I would have used a small drill bit and drilled two holes for the pins first and then glued them into place so as not to risk splitting the wood.

The cavity was filled with epoxy putty and left to cure for 24 hours.

Then sanded as needed to restore the original shape of the ridge on the crown.

Block #506

Damage included splits in front and back and a previous repair which had come loose.

Repairs included pulling out the earlier repair wedge, roughing it up with a file, slicking it with glue and returning it to its original positioning.

Then the splits front and back were filled with SculpWood epoxy putty, pushing as much epoxy material as possible into the crevasses with a toothpick and left to cure for 24 hours.

The block was then filed and sanded to the original contours of the block.

Block #631

Damage included large and small chips out of the edge of the brim.

Repair required inserting 3 strong bank pins in the large chip area to support the epoxy putty patch.

Careful sanding and filing to restore the top brim edge and the string line on the underside.

Written by Wayne Wichern

January 18, 2021 at 6:27 pm

Revising and Altering Hat Blocks

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This summer I purchased a large collection of hat blocks from a factory in Pennsylvania. In the collection was a number of hat blocks that I determined would more useful if  redesigned or revised, so in early December 2009 I traveled to Seattle to work with Brian and Sam, two expert woodworkers, to alter 22 hat blocks.

Early in my career I would never have considered altering a hat block. I considered it sacrilegious, but over the years I’ve become more pragmatic. If a block isn’t useful it is either changed or passed on to someone who does consider it useful.

Brian and Sam are boatwrights and, while expert woodworkers were unfamiliar with hat blocks and their uses. I blocked several felt hats to show the functions of  hat blocks. Then we set to discussion of the new design lines and shape changes I wanted. Brian and Sam were very enthusiastic and quick on the concepts and we rapidly developed a collaborative working relationship. I taped or drew the new brim profiles and string line placements directly on the blocks, and as Brian and Sam carved, gouged, sawed and sanded I was available to make on the spot decisions to refine changes to the blocks.

Nine of the blocks I intended to change were deep bowl-shaped bretons and not useful for my needs in designing for a contemporary millinery market.

Below are 3 photos of Block 265 in its original form.

Block 265 was a symmetrical bowl-shaped breton which I decided to change by keeping the full height at the front of the hat block and carving a new design line with an angled shorter profile and a narrow brim at the back of the hat.

The 4th photo is upside down to give better understanding to the new asymmetrical changes to the block.

The same changes on Block 2205

and the changes to Block 2205

Block 2658

The changes to Block 2658 are more dramatic and make it much more versatile. I decided have Sam cut away the bowl curve of the brim, changing the profile to an angled straight plane, and tapering down and narrowing the back of the brim. This brim will now create both an upturned brim as it was originally designed for as well as a down turned brim.

Written by Wayne Wichern

January 17, 2010 at 8:08 pm