Hat maker, hat maker, make me a hat...
March 22, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Make/Carpentry Filter: I am a milliner (hat maker) and I desperately need some new wooden forms. Here's the rub...

There are precious few people in the world currently making hat forms - none of whom are in the West. The vintage ones are going for exorbitant prices ($300 > by the time the auction ends) on ebay and such and besides, I can't really find the shapes I need.

What I think I've figured out is that I need a skilled carpenter with a lathe and a bit of patience in the L.A. area that I can work with closely. Help?!

I'll be watching the thread closely for any questions - so ask away.
posted by Sophie1 to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This may sound crazy, but go into your local Woodcraft store and speak to one of the employees. Tell them what you're looking for. They may be able to recommend someone to you. (I checked and they have one in the 90001 zip code. You may be able to find others closer to you.)

I wanted some custom made muddlers and I wanted to pick out the wood used for the pieces. I was able to get some beautiful wood for the muddlers and one of the Woodcraft employees was very skilled and made them for me for a price I found reasonable.
posted by onhazier at 10:27 AM on March 22, 2010

I couldn't find the 90001 location - it doesn't seem to be listed on their locations - the closest one to me is about an hour away in Ventura County. BTW - I'm in Burbank, just for reference.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:31 AM on March 22, 2010

Sophie, I don't think a lathe is going to do what you want unless your forms are rotary symmetrical. So, don't specify "lathe" when you speak to someone about this project.

What is more likely is that you'll find someone who can create forms by gluing up (laminating) slices of wood in a sequence of shapes, then smoothing the stairstep edges. This is basic woodworking stuff. You should be able to supply a series of tracings describing the shape you need.

If you want your forms to be beautiful as well as practical, you'll spend a lot more.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:32 AM on March 22, 2010

I don't particularly care how pretty they are. Just practical. Thanks for the advice on the lathe - a few of them will be symmetrical but not all.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:34 AM on March 22, 2010

Have you looked on Etsy? The vintage section always has a wooden hat form or two, often times more. Search hat block too.
posted by iconomy at 10:37 AM on March 22, 2010

Also, you could contact this Etsian - he specializes in wooden hatmaking tools.
posted by iconomy at 10:40 AM on March 22, 2010

Etsy has been far, far less successful than even ebay. The selection is so small.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:40 AM on March 22, 2010

Rockler Woodworking is by you in Pasadena. They might have some leads for you.
posted by Vaike at 10:44 AM on March 22, 2010

Try the Woodworker's Guild of Los Angeles. There is a similar organization in my city and there's hundreds of woodworkers in it; many would probably meet your requirements. There are others mentioned here; don't know what's close to you.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:48 AM on March 22, 2010

RikiTikiTavi - Awesome! There's a guild meeting around the corner from my home. I'm definitely going to give them a call.

Keep the leads coming.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:51 AM on March 22, 2010

Maybe I am way off, I don't know anything about hats or woodworking, but you are in LA right? Don't movie costume makers need to make hats for costumes etc? Maybe you can look into Costume Designers Guild for where they get their supplies? Maybe they could give you some leads?

Lol, I pulled that link without looking at it, but their headline article today is about Millinery. HA!

PS - after thinking about it... is one of those featured Milliners you?

posted by DetonatedManiac at 11:43 AM on March 22, 2010

The dollar is strong against the pound at the moment so buying from the UK may be cheaper than you think. There are lots of manufacturers here in the UK.

Provided the cost of shipping works out, you could go somewhere like here, here or here or here or here.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:46 AM on March 22, 2010

Ask around on thefedoralounge.com: they have hatters, vintageople, and hat nuts.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:19 PM on March 22, 2010

Muffin Man: The UK sites I've seen in the past have been FAR more expensive than the U.S. makers but I've never seen half of those sites! Thanks for the new referrals and some of them may actually work out to be worth it!

I'm still going to need some made since I already have the basics and really my question was about some very specific forms that are rarely, if ever, manufactured or seen in auction but the Woodworking guilds may be very useful for that.

If people still have referrals (or you are a craftsperson that is looking for a challenge), please keep sending them along!
posted by Sophie1 at 12:49 PM on March 22, 2010

When I was looking, I searched "hat mould" on eBay, which got me a Canadian seller. No one else was searching on that unusual spelling, so I got 2 nice blocks for $62 total. Sweet!

Lacis, in Berkeley, rents out blocks. I don't know if they'll ship, but you might as well call and ask. You can also ask if they have any advice for your area. I have called antique stores to see if they have any sitting around and asked them to keep an eye out for me. I have also called hat shops and asked if they had any old blocks sitting around that they don't use anymore. A bunch of places that used to make their own hats stopped and they were willing to let me come by and take a look. I know Manny's in NYC has a ton of old blocks, but that is not very useful to you right now.

Other than that, I guess you could try to find or create a millinery community in L.A. You could spread out the expenses by purchasing a variety of blocks amongst yourselves and sharing them.
posted by CCCC at 3:36 PM on March 22, 2010

You need a wood patternmaker, a woodworker who specializes in the making of forms. Here's a job description for a foundry's wood patternmaker to give you an idea of the necessary skillset.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:13 PM on March 22, 2010

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