Restored Maillard Allie Conformateur Hat Making Tool Head Measuring Equipment Millinery Sizing

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 03-01-2011 08:23 PM 15721 views 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The Conformateur, is a French Designed and patented tool used to measure the head size and shape of a person, so that a custom made hat can be built by a hat maker. They really are a marvel to look at and use, and the process of restoring and calibrating them is time consuming, but rewarding. I’m a history buff, so I enjoy bringing back to working life, old scientific and industrial equipment such as the old Conformateur, and mating Formillon.

I have restored several of these old Maillard Conformateurs in the past two years, this model is older and more intricate than most, so I decided to document this restoration with some photos.
In an older posting, I have included more history on these tools, and more about how they are used, and if you are interested in learning more, you can click here to see another restored Conformatuer

This particular Conformateur is the oldest model that I’ve worked on. The features included 60 fingers, mother of pearl washers, mother of pearl decoration on the tips of each finger, German Silver and Brass metal parts, and many interesting design details that Maillard changed over the years. The later models are less fragile and seem to measure as well, and would have been much less costly to build. It’s hard for me to date this item, but I’m guess that it is prior to 1850. I’ve worked on others that ranged from 1850-1910, with similar designs, but with better built, less intricate, parts.

The “Before” photos, show some pretty bad damage to this Conformateur. In fact, after tearing into it to do the inspection, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to repair it satisfactorily. In restoring these tools, the customers expect them to look “right” and retain their vintage appeal, as well as work flawlessly, and measure a customer’s head size and shape accurately. These restored Conformateurs return to the Hat Shop, and are used daily to measure customer heads for new hats. If you have never worn a Conformed Hat, you should try it, nothing else fits like it. There are not many antiques of this age and complexity that are still in daily use today, and I’m glad to show that I brought another back from the “grave”.

As you can see in one of the photos, the one with my check list and reference chart showing, that someone previously tried to repair this intricate wooden oval ring with polyurethane Glue (gloopy yellowish material). There are places for every type of glue to be used, but expanding bubble polyurethane glue is not recommended for this type of repair. This previous repair by someone else, took me quite a bit of time to remove and fix, and it would have been better if I had gotten it first. I have a whole shelf of different glues that I use for different situations, and I rarely use the polyurethane glue bottle for anything other than outdoor furniture joints (well, there goes another endorsement deal…..).

After many hours of sitting on my shop tool, I was able to piece this Conformateur back together, and calibrate it to measure accurately, and shipped it to the owner in Colorado.
If you found this project posting while doing some google research of your own, I have another Conformateur Restoration here
I know that it may seem odd in the era of free youtube videos for just about anything you want to find out about, to read that I’ll only share the finished photos for history’s sake, but I will not do free appraisal work, nor will I tell you for free how to restore and calibrate your own Conformateur & Formillon, nor will I provide you with the details of how the tools are used to make an accurate head measurement. Some things aren’t free. Sorry to be such a mean-sounding guy, I’m not really, I just can’t afford to help for free all of those people that contact me about these rare and expensive tools.

Thanks for looking,
Mark DeCou

(Note: project story, photos, and design are protected by copyright 2012 by the Author, M.A. DeCou, and no unauthorized use in total, or part is allowed without expressed written permission.)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

7 comments so far

View tdv's profile


1203 posts in 4119 days

#1 posted 03-01-2011 09:24 PM

Goodness me how on earth did you work out how this works? That is some innovation. Respect

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5454 days

#2 posted 03-01-2011 10:14 PM

Thanks TDV. I have a lifetime history of taking things apart, and some of them I actually got put back together. If it doesn’t have a circuit board, on a computer, I can probably fix it. I spent a lot of time on the first Conformateur restoration learning it, and how it works, and how to fix it. The rest of them have been variations, and not as scary. This last one was scary though due to the badly broken top plate board. I’d show more about how I fixed it, but I don’t really want to give away the special fixtures and tools it takes, as I do this for a living.

thanks for your comment.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Bertha's profile


13615 posts in 3742 days

#3 posted 03-01-2011 10:41 PM

So incredibly cool. Awesome project!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 4085 days

#4 posted 03-01-2011 11:56 PM

Mark, you need this sign! WOW!

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View Karson's profile


35270 posts in 5449 days

#5 posted 03-02-2011 12:13 AM

Mark: A great restoration. Nice job.

-- 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 Greg's profile


335 posts in 3922 days

#6 posted 03-02-2011 01:12 AM

WOW, Mark, another miracle recovery. Nice job. That things looks like new. That is on econfusing looking contraption. Looks more like a torture device! This is one to be proud of indeed.

-- You don't have a custom made heirloom fly fishing Net?

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4352 days

#7 posted 03-02-2011 03:20 AM

now that is cool and looks like some fun…great job …this certainly is not the run of the mill wood working job…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

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