The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Hat block making

 

The making of the blocks, either in wood or metal, on which hats are made.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category Stockport and Luton
Historic area of significance Wiltshire, West Midlands, Bedfordshire
Area currently practised Structured hats and felt hats were worn as early as the 16th century, which would have needed wooden forms to create the shapes that are depicted from that age.
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 3 businesses
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
2
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

A hat block is used to shape and stiffen hat forms. Each block is created to form a style and size. Some hats require a block for the brim and a block for the crown, dependent on the style of hat being formed. Crowns have measured holes in the bottom, these are for hat stands which makes the hat easier to be shaped when they are blocked and to enable newly formed hats to be pulled of the block with greater ease.

The types of wood used to make the hat blocks often depends on the country of their origin. Aluminium is a more modern process. In the process of forming a hat block, measurements must be carefully taken, ensuring that all of the pieces align. Some blocks are divided into sections, commonly five. This allows the different pieces to be taken apart and assembled back together and allows the block to be removed without deforming the hat.

Metal tooling enables hat manufacturers to supply the high street (mass production), and wooden hat blocks are essential for milliners to make hats (small bespoke commissions.

 

Techniques

  • Experience with traditional hand woodworking tools
  • Ability to work to fine tolerances and finishes
  • Joinery
  • Wood-carving
  • Sculpture
  • Wood turning
  • Hand tools used include: planes, spokeshaves, gouges, hand saws, rasps.

Also need to have experience using common woodworking machinery including planer/thicknesser, bandsaw, lathe, sanders, routers etc. as well as hand operated power tools.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

 

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Boon & Lane Ltd – based in Luton, Bedfordshire. The only manufacturers to make both wooden and metal hat blocks.
  • Guy Morse Brown – based in Chippenham, Wiltshire.
  • Hat Blocks Direct – based in West Midlands.

 

Other information

An ability to work accurately and efficiently to technical drawings and written instructions is important, also able to streamline processes and work schedules to improve efficiency, making improvements – good at problem solving.

 

References

  • Stockport Hat Works Museum