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Archive for 'David Morgan History'

In the days when hat stores were as common as coffee shops today, most hatters reserved a part of the store for renovating and shaping hats. While ninety percent of customers could walk out the door with a pre-blocked hat, the remainder needed extra shaping. Heads can range from slightly wide or long to potato-shaped.


The shape of the hat does not come from the crown. It is actually the brim that holds the shape. For example, when we steam a hat into a long oval, we smooth out the ripple that forms from deforming the shape of the brim.


The device used to modify a hat is called a conformitor. It is made up of two parts: the conformitor and the formillion. The conformitor sits atop the head, one quarter inch deeper than where the hat would sit. This pushes the keys out in accordance with the variations of the head, which moves the pins at the top.


A piece of paper called the conform is placed at the top and pushed onto the pins. Think of the paper as a negative. When removed, it is cut just barely outside the perforated ring. Then the formillion sits atop the paper conform. Each key is loosened and pushed inward till it just touches the edge of the paper. When all the keys are in place, the thumbscrews are tightened.


The formillion is placed inside of the hat after the brim has been warmed. Warming the felt softens the felt and makes it pliable.


Once inside, a device called a tolliker is used to push at the upper side of the brim. This smoothes out the brim, which then holds the crown shape.



conformitor atop the head

The conformitor atop Will Morgan’s head.



slipping paper onto conformitor

Slipping the paper into place. The cork frame then is pressed down to get the conform. 


conformitor with paper

Close-up of the conformitor with paper. The impression is called the conform.



paper 'negative'

Paper conform trimmed around the perforation made by the conformitor’s pins



formillion aligned with paper

Formillion keys aligned with the conform. 


conformitor and formillion

Formillion and conformitor



oddly shaped heads

Conforms of various head shapes, taken from the book, “Scientific Hat Finishing and Renovating” by Henry L. Ermatinger, 1919. Many head shapes are uneven.



We were recently honored by the visit of two highly distinguished cowboy arts craftsmen.


Alfredo Campos, from Federal Way Washington, is one of the world’s foremost horsehair hitchers. In 1999 he was honored with a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. David and Alfredo have known and encouraged each other for a very long time. Alfredo provided a quirt or two for our old Ballard store.


A couple of weeks ago Alfredo brought his Argentinian friend, Pablo Lozano to our new location in Bothell. He was accompanied by translator and Floridian cowboy Domingo Hernandez.


Pablo learned much of his craft from Luis Alberto Flores of Buenes Aires whom David had corresponded with from 1966 until recently. Luis Flores had hosted Bruce Grant in Argentina and taught him techniques which appear in the Encyclopedia of Leather and Rawhide Braiding. Pablo showed us a braid (using kangaroo leather!) that Bruce Grant had not documented in his book.


Pablo is a member of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association.


We had an excellent time exchanging braiding tips and looking at the gaucho’s amazing work.


You can get some idea in the photographs below the patience and skill invested in creating these beautiful pieces.


Below, Alfredo’s hitched horsehair work:


Alfredo hitched horsehair belt

  Alfredo hitched horsehair belt

Alfredo hitched horsehair belt

Hitched horsehair belt (three sections of the belt)

  Alfredo hitched horsehair hat band

Hitched horsehair hat band

  Alfredo hitched horsehair quirt

Alfredo hitched horsehair quirt

Hitched horsehair quirt


Domingo and David

Domingo and David


Domingo, Pablo, David and Alfredo

Domingo, Pablo, David and Alfredo


Meagan, David and Pablo

Meagan, David and Pablo


Below, Pablo’s rawhide work. The colors are obtained from coffee or walnut shells.

Hatband, eyeglass holder and lanyard


Hatband, eyeglass holder and lanyard



Knife handle wrap and scabbard

Reins with quirt end


Reins with quirt end





Braiding Leather

Kangaroo Lace

A Well Kept Whip

This ten foot bullwhip arrived for a fall replacement.  The owner tells us that it was purchased in 1984 and put through heavy use.  What a pleasure to see it in such excellent condition.  Notice the darkness of the leather.  This comes from both exposure to sunshine and the vigilant use of leather conditioner.





Pecard Leather Dressing

Joe Strain of Northern Whip Co stopped by the store last week and introduced us to his wife and daughter.  Joe and David’s friendship goes back many years, when Joe was just beginning to braid whips.  Meagan and Alex met Joe for the first time.  A pleasant day for everyone!

Joe and David

Joe and David


Joe, Meagan and David

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