Hats, hats and more hats

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Project by StevenAntonucci posted 07-17-2010 03:22 AM 2626 views 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hat #1 was made to be for my son. It was thin (or so I thought) but it would not bend at all. It weighed 9.6 ozs. He looked at it and said “Indiana Jones”, so I let him play with it until I finally cut it in half (I have enough failures laying around the shop)

Hat #2 I made the next day. I lost focus for a blink of a second, and lost the rim, but managed to salvage it by cutting it down an inch. This hat was much larger than the first, but still weighed 9.5 ozs. I cut it in half (yeah, I do that a lot) when one of my buddies told me that they need to be 6-7ozs to be wearable. In the lower section, it was 55/1000” thick, but gradually went to 180/1000” at the top of the hat.

Hat #3 is on the table on the left. It weighs 7.5 ozs, and is larger than #2 by almost a full inch at the brim. I made it for myself, but it didn’t warp enough along the grain to fit my head. Sizing is still somewhat of an art.

Hat #4 is on the table n the right. I pushed myself to get the weight down. It weight 6.4 ozs, and is the widest brim, but smaller crown than #3. I have a few elements that I will be taking from #3 and #4 for future hats. if you look closely at th brim on the #3 hat, it has a small bead that I like. Same on the top of the crown. The shape of the crown is better in #4.

#3&4 have not been cut in half, but neither one fits the people they were made for. #3 was made from my measurement, but best fits my 4 year old son and acceptably fits my 9 year old daughter. #4 was made for my daughter, but better fits my other 4 year old son. At 4 years old, a wooden hat wouldn’t last…

Comments welcome

-- Steven

15 comments so far

View Hacksaw007's profile


619 posts in 3702 days

#1 posted 07-17-2010 03:44 AM

Looks like a lot of work. Nice job, and thanks for sharing. Ever eat a wooden hat at high speed? I bet they blow up once in a while…..

-- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

View Dan Hux's profile

Dan Hux

577 posts in 3887 days

#2 posted 07-17-2010 03:47 AM

great hats,,what keeps them from splitting and cracking open? looks dangerous,,there was a recent lumberjock that had a bowl explode and chew up his hand..

-- Dan Hux,,,,Raleigh, NC

View a1Jim's profile


117722 posts in 4090 days

#3 posted 07-17-2010 03:47 AM

Very cool steven

View RWJones's profile


127 posts in 3390 days

#4 posted 07-17-2010 03:51 AM

There’s a lot of things I’ve never seen in this ole world, but now there is one less. A wooden hat? Wow, what beautiful work, really amazing!

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3531 days

#5 posted 07-17-2010 04:03 AM

Nice work! There is a guy in Jacksonville who makes hats and he said he gets the brim to curl by wetting it and putting a large rubber band around the hat to force/encourage it to curl, then when it is dry he takes the band off. I did not know if you knew about this trick so I just thought I would mention this tip.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 4598 days

#6 posted 07-17-2010 04:38 AM

There’s a world of precision cutting in those. Very impressive, Steve.


View christopheralan's profile


1126 posts in 4233 days

#7 posted 07-17-2010 04:42 AM

Very nice! Well worth the mess!

-- christopheralan

View Bob A in NJ's profile

Bob A in NJ

1251 posts in 4512 days

#8 posted 07-17-2010 05:04 AM

Wow, nice work Steve. I see a new topic for a club meeting. I’ll be in your neighborhood on Sunday at Simon’s place, can you stop over?

-- Bob A in NJ

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 4287 days

#9 posted 07-17-2010 05:10 AM

Very unique. You should do a blog on how you make these. Thanks for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3628 days

#10 posted 07-17-2010 11:22 AM

I´m sure you will get there
they are already looking impressive to me
just keep knocking on that door
and before you know it you are in the hot zone


View sedcokid's profile


2735 posts in 4111 days

#11 posted 07-17-2010 12:54 PM

I wouild like to watch you make a hat sometime. They are very nice, Great Job!

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4395 days

#12 posted 07-17-2010 01:57 PM

Amazing. Just simply amazing. Looks like fun.

Thanks for the post. I would like a blog on it too.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View StevenAntonucci's profile


355 posts in 4451 days

#13 posted 07-17-2010 03:45 PM

Thanks for all the comments- some answers to questions:

I am using a lot of the same techniques that Hannes Michelsen uses, but I haven’t followed his procedure 100%. He makes hats ( almost exclusively…I just wanted to see if I could. The jury is still out on that!

I have never “eaten” a hat, even the two catches I had on the #1 and #4 hat didn’t disintegrate them. Both catches were relatively small, and I am an experienced turner, so the damage was minimal. The hats are much stronger than you might imagine. I have no doubt that you could blow one up if you were not as careful as I am. Kids know that they are not allowed in the line of fire, but my daughter was sitting behind me watching #4 get cut.

When I teach, I emphasize tool control. It is the single most important thing you can master quickly with proper instruction. Once you understand the do’s and don’t, the number of catches is greatly diminished. These hats cut from a 40-50 pound block of wood to about 8 ozs in under 2 hours, and would be much faster if I had a bigger lathe to work on. You do need to pay attention, but the cuts are all very simple- and I only use a 1/2” bowl gouge for the entire hat. (That’s right, one tool) I sharpen a lot to maintain a perfect edge, especially as I get closer to final thiickness, which is somewhere around 50/1000” or less than 1/16”.

As far as a blog, I am not ‘good enough’ to describe how to properly make a finished, wearable hat. In addition, I think there are enough hat guys out there that have probably already done it in some level of detail. I will tell describe for you quickly what I do, and encourage anyone who wants to try it to give it a shot. (BarbS- I know Molly’s lathe has the capacity!)

Because of the 16” capacity of my Nova, I very carefully chainsaw a blank of wood to round. If you have any points on the round, they hit the ways, and you can’t turn the lathe on. Any way you can, get it round and mounted. I used a 6” face plate, but the last one was done on a 3” faceplate because you can see the transition at the top of the hat when you get that far in.

I work to round and balanced as quickly as I can. Once I am round, the speed goes up to about 1000 RPM to remove as much material as quickly as possible. If I turn any faster, I have shavings EVERYWHERE. At 1000RPM, the streamers only fly about 20’, and are stopped by the far wall on my shop. The idea is to rough down to a “fat hat” shape approximately 1” thick at the brim. By now, you’ve probably cut 2/3 of the mass of the block, and depending upon your lathe, taken 20-30 minutes. If I had a bigger lathe like the Powermatic, I would guess I could do this in 10 min.

From this point forward, it becomes about making finer cuts in the right order. As you thin the brim, you work from the outside to the inside, perhaps an inch or less at a time. At 1/4”, a strong light behind the hat will serve as a thickness gauge. You have to turn to the color of the light, as it is a semi-reliable source of information. What I found over the first 4 hats was that what looked thin in hat #1 was still 3x too thick by hat #3. The brightness that is ‘right’ is a little bit nervewracking, but the only way to make them thin enough to wear.

The inside of the crown is cut the same way (with the light), but in small “bowl sections’. I work down about 1” at a time to final thickness. There is no ‘backtracking’. Ever. You also need to recalibrate light colors here, since light will pass through end grain (crown) differently than side grain (brim). Simply put, much brighter inside the hat than on the brim to get the right thickness.

When I get to the bottom, I clean up the inside to my best guess. I reverse the hat with a set of cole jaws on my chuck, using the tailstock to apply light pressure. I have a little nub at the center that I break off and flatten with a cabinet scraper and I am done with the lathe.

As Bearpie mentioned, the large rubberband in my shop is a band clamp. If you’ve cut the hat correctly, it should be springy and flexible. The band clamp can curve the sides up like #3 and #4 (notice #1 and two are still flat?). Both #3 and #4 sat in that clamp overnight, and were completely dry (I was weighing them to check) in 24 hours. they lost somewhere between 1-1.5 ozs after being taken off of the lathe. I did try steaming #3 to get a more aggressive bend in the crown, but it started to crack, so I took it out of the steam. I have also started using clamps to gently squeeze the crowns to elongate them more than just the wood’s shrinkage, and I know that Hannes has a rig that does all of this, but I am trying to avoid building one more thing to hang in the already overcluttered shop…

That’s most of what I do. It’s not as hard as you might think. Give it a shot.

-- Steven

View mmh's profile


3679 posts in 4235 days

#14 posted 07-17-2010 09:10 PM

What intriguing pieces! I love wearable art and these are truly worthy of admiration. Thanks for showing all the shavings as it’s hard to see how much work one puts into a piece without the “behind the scenes” shots. Quite the collectable wood item!

I wonder if you applied glycerine to the finish if that would keep the wood supple for such an item? I ask this because I treated my Christmas wreath by soaking 1 TBsp. of glycerine in a large plastic trash bag w/ 1 gallon of water to refresh and keep the needles on. It’s mid July now and after 102F heat, the needles are brown but still plyable and on the wreath. In fact I’m trying to get them off so I can salvage the metal frame but they’re not coming off very easy. (Another project, for another day.)

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Leonard5's profile


377 posts in 3206 days

#15 posted 02-06-2011 04:24 AM

At least they look cool.

-- Leonard H.

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