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Thursday, April 3, 2014

How Was It Made: Part One: A Custom Made Beaver Felt Hat From Leon Drexler, Toronto, Canada

I promised Stephen Temkin of Leon Drexler  that once the hat was finished and landed in Australia that I would accompany the article I wrote with a photo of myself wearing the hat with a bow tie and suit. Fortunately the beautiful hat arrived today and I was very very happy with it, but unfortunately summer decided to have one last hurrah over Sydney and the sweltering temperatures meant that I didn't want to get out of my polo. I am going to certainly post that photo soon but in the meantime, for visual reference I have asked my man servant Louis Rochechouart to hold on to the hat and wear it in the interim - as my muse, as my model. All jokes aside, I would not stow my stunning beaver felt hat with Louis, he's such a fumbly and chaotic little Frenchman that I don't trust him not to crush the sublime work of Mr. Temkin.

Before we proceed with the How To which Stephen has kindly written for us, let me just say that due to the volume of information on this post I will probably spread it over a few posts. Stephen has over 23 steps he has described. Here are the first 8 steps.

Owing to the heat in Sydney today I have employed my man servant Louis Rochechouart to be the interim model for Stephen Temkin's masterful beaver felt hat for Le Noeud Papillon of Sydney. 

STEP 1: Ready To Go

The blank beaver hat body and the chosen block. This is a block from the 1930s, fairly tall and gently tapered. For this hat, the full height of the block won't be used, so white tape marks the lower limit of where the felt will be tied off, a height of 5-1/4 inches with an anticipated finished height of 4-1/4 inches at the front peak of the hat when creased.

2: Steaming the Felt

The felt is made malleable and stretchable with about 20 seconds on the steamer.

3: Blocking the Felt

While warm and moist, the felt is pulled tightly over the block with the help of a curved wooden tool known as a "puller down."

4: The Felt Is Now Blocked

The felt is secured at the desired height with a cord. This forms the break line between crown and brim. It will now be left for a day or so to dry. What looks like staining on the brim is just water.

5: Pressing the Crown 

Different finishes for the felt are possible and are achieved through various means—sanding, brushing, shearing, the application of certain substances, etc. This hat will have what's known as a bare finish—the most typical finish for a felt hat—which provides a matte, smooth appearance with little or no nap. Ironing the crown is the first step.

6: Finishing

Once the nap is taken down and a bare finish is achieved, the crown is cleaned up with a steamy sponge bath and again left to dry. 

7: Pressing the Brim

When dry, the felt is removed from the block and a flat, oval "band block" is inserted into the base of the crown. This provides rigidity in the proper shape and size at the base of the crown for pressing and cutting the brim. The circumference of the band block is the customer's head circumference plus about half an inch to allow room for the sweatband. Of course, the hat body is initially blocked as close to that same measurement as possible.

8: The Brim is Pressed

The brim is pressed perfectly flat with an old 17 pound tailor's iron. The small tool to the right and in front is a hatter's tolliker iron, used to help ensure a clean, sharp break line between the crown and brim.

This concludes Part 1. Come back tomorrow to see Part 2. 

How Was This Hat Made By Leon Drexler - Click to go to each of the following parts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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