We are fortunate here at David Morgan to be located near a small river called, “North Creek.” For many years the Army Corps of Engineers and the local municipal governments and businesses have worked to improve the quality of the watershed. Not only has the salmon population returned, but many other species have taken up residence along the creek and the adjoining ponds. Below are just a few species.
If you ever drop by our store, take a few minutes to take a walk on the paths along the North Creek!
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.
The conformitor atop Will Morgan’s head.
Slipping the paper into place. The cork frame then is pressed down to get the conform.
Close-up of the conformitor with paper. The impression is called the conform.
Paper conform trimmed around the perforation made by the conformitor’s pins
Formillion keys aligned with the conform.
Formillion and conformitor
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:
Hitched horsehair belt (three sections of the belt)
Hitched horsehair hat band
Hitched horsehair quirt
Domingo and David
Domingo, Pablo, David and Alfredo
Meagan, David and Pablo
Below, Pablo’s rawhide work. The colors are obtained from coffee or walnut shells.
Hatband, eyeglass holder and lanyard
Knife handle wrap and scabbard
Reins with quirt end
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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.
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