Hatters, those specializing in making men hats, have the most wonderful tools you would ever want to play with in your couture millinery workroom. Over the years, I have passionately studied hatting. As I've mentioned before, the fedora is my favorite hat. I'm sure it's because of my grandfather. I've seen where some have written that there are approximately 92 processes that go into making men hats. I'm not writing about those making men hats in the same manner women hats are made. I'm sure that these 92 processes probably start with the collection and processing of the wool or fur. Anyway, to your left, are a few of the tools I have collected over the years. With the exception of the wooden foot tolliker, these tools range from vintage to antique, and they really have the potential to make your job easier in the workroom. Following are short explanations describing what I use these tools for.
Hat Sizer: Used for measuring the inside head size after a hat has been completed. Remember that everything that we add to the inside of a hat (head size ribbon, lining, or brim lip under crown if they have been blocked separately) diminishes the head size opening. Therefore a slight stretching may be needed if these things have not been taken into consideration before blocking the hat.
Brass Band Block: Used to hold material inside the flange (brim block having a center head size opening) opening. Please view the video at the end of this post to see how the brass band block is used.
Foot Tolliker: Used to set a 90 degree angle from the crown to the brim. When I learned felt and straw blocking, it was required that the crown and brim be blocked separately, and that the crown or brim head size be wired. This ensured that there would be a 90 degree angle. However, today many of us block our hats in one piece, and if the hat is not blocked correctly, it will droop from the head size (when not in the design). I use the wood tolliker on straw and the iron tolliker on felt. Another way I use the the foot tolliker is to reduce the head size of a hat after it has been blocked. View this video for a demonstration on using the wooden tolliker.
Pot Belly Polishing Iron: I'm not sure if this is the correct name for this iron. I know that it is a polishing iron, and I call it a pot belly iron because the underside of the iron is curved. This is not a hatter's iron. I actually saw it in a vintage millinery book. I don't even know how milliners used the iron. However, I use the iron to curve brims without the use of brim blocks, as well as to iron dents and creases into hats, especially fedoras.
Below is a YouTube video that I fell in love with because I learned a new technique. I can bash an open crown (a man's hat crown having no dents/creases) as well as any man or woman, I'm proud to say. As a matter of fact I prefer hand bashed crowns on men. What I liked about this video is how the hatter blocked the crown on an open crown block, then put it on a pre-shaped fedora block having built in bash and telescope, and finally using the tolliker to set the telescope at the tip (top) of the crown. Just another way of doing it, although the end results is still a pre-shaped hat. Anyway, enjoy the video. Oh, if you are familiar with hatting or blocking in general or the difference between hat bodies and hoods, you may notice a few interesting things in or not in this video.