Specializing in Woodturning Unique American Handcrafted Wood Cowboy Hats.
Wood Hat Process
Step-by-Step Process of Turning a Wood Hat
Sizing the Hat
Wood turned Hats are Conversational Sculptured Wood Hats to be Worn or Displayed. The process of transforming a piece of rescued wood (usually 18"- 20" in diameter & 20" in length, weighing around 200 pounds) to a spectacular sculpture weighing less than 12 ounces. Using a curvex flexible ruler, I measure the head to determine the exact shape of your head. A wooden hat must be carefully configured individually for each customer.
Selecting the Wood
The hats are fashioned from native woods, Pecan, Oak, Maple are some of the them, I spend a great deal of time appraising downed or felled trees to find the perfect piece. The wood must be green and free of cracks where the bream will be. The best wood for a hat is from a tree that doesn’t know it is on the ground. The beauty of the grain, the inclusion of bark, the imperfections of fungal invasion (spalting), the work of the Ambrosia beetle, and the burling of the wood all contribute to the magnificence of the art.
Preparing the Blank
Using a chain saw, I will cut the approximate size of the hat and also make the blank as round as possible prior to placing it on the lathe. Because balancing of the wood is of primary importance, proper preparation of the blank reduces turning time as well as wear and tear on the lathe and tools.
Rounding the Blank
The blank is placed on the lathe and carefully centered for weight. With the turning speed set at a moderate pace, the initial process of outer shaping begins. Shavings vigorously fly through the air and moisture being released from the wet wood is released. Care must be taken at this point to obtain a perfectly rounded blank with no torn grain, splits or checks.
Shaping of the Hat / Turning by Light
The type of hat to be turned determines the outer shape of the blank.
With the basic outer shape obtained, the hollowing process is begun. Wet wood is translucent, so a light is stationed behind the brim to give me a reference and establish a uniform thickness across the hat. Beginning at the outside of the brim and working toward the center of the hat slowly and careful removal of the wood is accomplished. During this process, I constantly measure the hat’s thickness with a final goal of 3/32 of an inch. Great care must be taken at this point due to the living nature of the wood which tends to move, depending upon the character of the grain, the direction of the cut, the type of wood selected and the amount of moisture contained in the wet wood as the piece dries.
Because of the shape the thickness of the entire hat cannot solely be determined by mechanical means, I must ascertain by feel, sound of the tools as they cut the wood, and by sight, the appropriate thickness of the hat. By placing a low-wattage bulb inside the crown of the hat and working in near-darkness, the turner uses light, sound and traditional measuring devices to guide him as he removes as much of the waste as is ‘right’ for that individual piece of wood. The light generated by the bulb causes the hat crown initially to appear a glowing red color. This gradually become brighter as the hat approaches the correct thickness.
Sanding is begun while the hat is still on the lathe. This allows the hat to rotate and the sanding to be even. I begin with a coarseness of #120 grit sandpaper and continue the mechanical sanding until a grit of #320 smooths the hat to a fine natural finish.
Burnishing the Hat-Band
The hat-band is approximately 1/32-inch thicker than the crown. This gives the appearance of an ‘attached’ hat-band. A contrasting colored piece of wood is used to apply the hat-band color (generally uses Ebony, Padauk, or Rosewood, depending upon the color desired.) The complementing wood is burnished on the raised hat-band and the color is miraculously absorbed by the hat.
Bending and Final Shaping
Immediately after the hat has been turned and sanded it is placed in a custom-made jig so that the bending and final shaping may begin. The brim is stressed and gentle side pressure moves the hat from round (as it came off the lathe) to oval (the shape of the customer's head.) Heat lamps are applied to dry the wood in an even manner. Rubber bands are used to assist in the bending and shaping.
Final Hand Sanding
After approximately 3-5 days of bending, shaping, drying, and constant around-the-clock attention, the hat is hand-sanded removing all imperfections and tool marks. This tedious but necessary work achieves a magnificent finish for the work of art.
Applying the Finish
Approximately 5 coats of Wipe on Polly is applied in a controlled environment, over a period of several days, depending upon the type of wood. Each coat brings out the natural beauty of the wood.