Hat Making Tool: Prototypes #1 & #2 of the DeCou Studio Formillon and Conformer

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 08-26-2008 03:39 AM 14173 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Update 2-19-2009:

For photos of the restored Maillard Conformateur & Formillon

For photos showing another restored Maillard Formillon here

And photos of a Carrying Case for the Maillard Allie Conformateur and Formillon

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——sorry photos aren’t loading, I’m working on repairing this——

This blog is to show the progress on some special new hatmaking tools I am building that custom hat makers can use to take a customer’s head size and shape, and convert the head shape to a hat shape. This custom shaping makes hat customers very happy.

The big ring around the outside with all of the fingers is an aparatus that I’m calling a Conformer at this point. The elliptical shaped thing in the middle with all of the small fingers is called a Formillon.

Of all the hat tools I’ve made in the past months, this Formillion/Conformer contraption has been the most sought after tool by hat makers finding me on the internet, and so I’m hoping they will still want one after they see photos and pricing.

These three photos are just some quick shop photos of the Conformer & Formillon sitting on the Centerline Platform, with my off-shaped head used for testing it out, 7-1/8” size if you gotta know. If you are an interested buyer looking for a Formillon/Conformer, let me know and I can send other photos, or more details directly through an email.

There are antique Formillons, Conformers, and Conformatuers out there that need some repair work, or replacement parts made for them, and I’d be happy to do that for you if you wanted to send it to me. Several hat makers have asked in the past if I would do that, and now I feel that I’m ready to say that I can handle the repair work.

Yea, But Why?:
Ok, for the non-hatters out there, I know you are asking yourself, “Why would any self-respecting Hatmaker want a contraption like that one?”

As hatmakers have written and phoned me over the past year looking for custom made tools, many have expressed that the problem with making a custom hat, is not so much getting a customer’s head size, but rather getting the “head shape” and finding a working tool to do the job. To make a hat really fit well, it takes a lot of skill, and some specialized tools. Those that do it well and have the tools have customers that want that service.

Ok, So I’m Probably Not Alone:
In the process of my constant tinkering with this contraption, taking my own head shape measurements, I discovered something that apparently I had to wait until I was 44 years old to figure out.

My head ain’t symmetrical.

The problem for wearing a hat is that the right side of my skull is bigger than the left side, by quite a bit.

If you draw a center line from between my eyes over the top of my head, to the center of my neck, the left side doesn’t look like the right side. That might explain some things, but I’ll let the rest of you make the jokes, I’ve probably already heard them all anyway.

Ok, so now it makes sense why I have never been able to wear a baseball cap without the Bill sitting crooked on my head. Now, I know.

I can put on a hat, get it straight while looking in the mirror, only to find the next time that I looked in the mirror that the hat was crooked on my head.

I could never figure out why…..until now.

I’m guessing that there are probably a lot of folks out there with odd shaped heads that can’t figure out why their shelf-bought hats don’t fit, or sit crooked on their head.

Well, this tool is designed to give the custom hat maker the ability to take a customer’s head shape and size, and convert that information into a hat that fits like a “glove.”

Ok, But Why Me?:
This is not a new concept, there are French antique examples of this type of tool, but I haven’t discovered that anyone else has tried to design a contemporary version of this tool….....until now.

And after making a be-jillion little keys and parts that didn’t work well, I can understand why nobody else has been crazy enough to try designing and building one of these rigs.

I think though, as a project, it fits me pretty good.

I’m a woodworking Mechanical Engineer that got sick of sitting in desks, and so doing some fiddling with a little contraption like this that is made mostly of wood is sort of right up my alley. It’s been fun to figure out, but for every mistake I’ve made, or better idea that I developed, it caused about three more days work to make new templates and fixtures, and so this has sort of been a long process.

I think I’m about on top of it now, and to the point that I could actually sell one of these babies. So, that’s the silver lining to this sweaty August.

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Here are photos of the Prototype Version #1:

——sorry photos aren’t loading, I’m working on repairing this——

There are 40 little fingers on this First Pass prototype Conformer, with 46 little fingers on the prototype Formillon.

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Ok, so how does it work?

Well, the Hatter places the Conformer on the customer’s head. Carefully, makes sure that the brass centering pins are lined up between the eyes, and at the center of the neck. This gives the centerline measurement, so that the hatmaker has a reference to use. Then, the wing nuts on the Conformer are tightened to clamp the fingers.

The Conformer is then placed on the Centerline Platform, and the Formillion is placed on it’s platform. All of these components are kept centered to each other with line-up pins on the Platform. The Formillion wing nuts are loosened, and the fingers are pulled out to touch the fingers of the Conformer, copying the shape of the head.

The Formillion wingnuts are then tightened, and the Conformer is removed from the Platform. Now, the shape of the hat crown can be ironed out against the Formillion Fingers, translating the customer’s head shape to the customer’s new Hat shape. The centerline of the Formillion is marked on to the Hat Felt with a tailor’s chalk to use for reference when sewing in the hat band, and finishing up the Crown Shape.

The key to the whole rig is the Centerline Platform which keeps the Formillion in position with the center of the Head measurement, so that the hat can be shaped and the hat band sewn in with the proper orientation. No more guessing, or telling a customer that they will just need to, ”....wear the hat for a few days to get it shaped.”

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Here are photo of the Prototype Version #2:

Taking what I learned on the first one, and making some improvements, this second prototype is designed to be the upcoming “Economy Model,” where bolts/wing nuts allow the clamping of the fingers. This model has 46 fingers on both the Formillion and the Conformer. I’m using Walnut and a black lacquer finish, but any wood, or color could be used. On the version #3 of the “Deluxe Model,” I’ll be using spring loaded handles to do the locking/unlocking mechanism, but I don’t have that prototype ready for exposure yet.

——sorry photos aren’t loading, I’m working on repairing this——


Artisan Hat Tools by Mark DeCou Studio
(Do you want to see More? Just follow these links):

ARE LISTED IN MY ETSY.COM ONLINE SHOP, click here to check inventory

Collector’s Edition Model Rounding Jacks:
  1. Ebonized Walnut Clockwise with Laser Engraving
  2. Walnut Counter Clockwise w/Laser Engraving
  3. Walnut Uni-Directional Cutter
Deluxe Model Rounding Jacks:
  1. Maple Deluxe Model, Counter Clockwise Cutter
  2. Maple Deluxe Model, Clockwise Cutter
  3. Walnut Deluxe, Counter Clockwise Cutter
  4. Walnut Deluxe, Clockwise Cutter
Hobbyist-Hatter Model Rounding Jacks:
  1. Walnut Hobbyist-Hatter Model, Counter Clockwise Cutter
  2. Walnut Hobbyist-Hatter Model, Clockwise Cutter
Bench-Top Display Stands for Rounding Jacks:
  1. Walnut Bench-Top Display Stand
  2. Oak Bench-Top Display Stand
    Click here to check inventory
Customized Rounding Jacks, Personalized for Specific Hatters:
  1. Spradley Hats in Apline, TX
  2. Rachel Pollock of La Bricoleuse
  3. Brainpan Hat Shop in Sumner, WA
  4. Steve Delk's Adventurebilt Hat Co.
  5. Marc Kitter's Adventurebilt Hat Co.
  6. Pyrate Trading Co.
  7. Hatman Jack at Wichita Hat Works
  8. Inaaya Hat Co.
  9. Penman Hat Co.
Formillons & Conformateurs:
  1. Complete Restoration of a Maillard Conformateur and Formillon
  2. New DeCou Formillion & Conformer, Prototypes #1 & #2
  3. Custom Designed Conformateur Carrying & Storage Case
  4. New Plot Base Board for the Maillard Allie Formillon
  5. Maple Wrench for Tightening Formillon Thumbnuts
Foot Tollikers:
  1. Left-Handed & Right-Handed Foot Tolliker
  2. Foot Tolliker: Elk Antler & Birch Wood, on a Display Stand
  3. Foot Tolliker: Walnut Wood, on a Display Stand
  4. Foot Tollikers: Three in White Birch Wood
  5. Foot Tollikers: Walnut Wood Set of Four
  6. Foot Tollikers, Birch Wood Double Set, on Display Stand
Brim Edge Curling Tools:
  1. Hinge-Shackle Curling Tool for the Homburg Hat
  2. Full Circle Shackle Curling Tool
  3. Half Circle Shacking Curling Tool
  4. Groove Tolliker Curing Tool
Band Blocks:
  1. Thick Poplar Wood, Various Sizes and Oval Shapes, with Tapered Sides
Hat Block Spinners:
  1. Hard Rock Maple and Walnut Ornamentally Turned Hat Block Spinners
Puller Downers:
  1. Puller Downers, made in Birch & Maple
Pusher Downers:
  1. Pusher Downers, made in Walnut, Hard Rock Maple, & Poplar
Stainless Steel Slip Stick:
  1. “Coming Soon”, please check back.

My Website with other woodworking, including furniture, walking canes, scrimshaw artwork, custom knives, and other misc. items

Mark DeCou Studio Website

(Note:This project story, project design, and photos are protected by copyright in 2008-2010 by the Author, M.A.DeCou., all rights reserved, no use allowed without expressed written permission.)

use is allowed.)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

5 comments so far

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

657 posts in 5219 days

#1 posted 08-26-2008 04:42 AM

Mark, I must say you are just too GOOD! Very nice!! Good Luck with that patent.

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View Karson's profile


35273 posts in 5486 days

#2 posted 08-26-2008 05:23 AM

The engineer at play. Way to think outside the boxie head.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14189 posts in 5068 days

#3 posted 08-26-2008 06:04 AM

fun stuff Mark, where did you get your inspiration ? cool niche.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View DrBill's profile


1 post in 4646 days

#4 posted 08-26-2008 05:56 PM

Positive mention of the Flint Hills always gets my attention! Thanks!
So happy it brought me to your site. Looking forward to the Flint Hills blog you plan to do!

Our 22 county Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. promotes visits to the Kansas Flint Hills – the website is:

Best wishes!
Dr. Bill ;-)
Personal Blog:

-- Dr. Bill, Kansas Flint Hills,

View dennistoll's profile


3 posts in 4671 days

#5 posted 08-26-2008 08:24 PM

I never knew hats were such an engineering feat. Looks cool.

I am looking forward to the Flint Hills post!


-- Dennis Toll,

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