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I wear western/ cowboy hats, like a number of us here do. Today I had the opportunity to go see Mr. Moore at Buckaroo Hatters in Covington, TN and take a few photos during the process. I've purchased hats from Mr. Moore before, and he's my go-to guy when I need one. He keeps a stock of hats they've made, but if you want something specific (most of their customers do) then you figure out the color, shape, sizing, etc and place the order, then there's a wait while the hat is made. They're a very busy shop. I had a very unique opportunity today due to some special circumstances to see and take a few photos of my hat in progress. This is far from a "how to" or even step by step breakdown of the process, but literally just some photos I managed to take amongst everything else we were doing.

The hats start out as furfelt bodies in various colors from a supplier. All the custom hat makers use the same supplier, there's only one. :) Located in Winchester, TN too. Due to the special circumstances I mentioned above, I didn't get the opportunity to take a picture of the rough body.

The body is fitted with the correct size block, then placed in a special press to set the break between the crown and the brim. See above, no pictures of that either. Once the hat comes out of the initial press, it has a full size (of the correct size) hat block placed in it and then it gets pulled. Hat pulling machines are very rare. Even when they were new technology, they were very expensive so not many were sold. As a result, there are almost no used ones available and nobody currently produces one. It's estimated that there are fewer than 20 custom hat makers with hat pulling machines. Most places have to do it by hand, which means steaming the hat to soften it and physically pulling the hat down on the sizing block. It's very difficult work, and the hat always ends up just a little misshapen because human hands gripping in various place are far less consistent than a machine.

This is a hat pulling machine.

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This is my hat body being pulled. The first photo doesn't show the wooden form in the hat, but it is inserted and then the machine applies hot steam to the hat body as it's pressed. You can see some forms in the background.

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This is the pulled hat, with the wooden form inside. The string around the hat helps to hold it onto the form through the next steps of the process.

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While it's hard to see in the photo, the hat body at this point is very fuzzy. It has to be physically sanded. In the following photo, Rocky is sanding the crown of the hat. The hat and wooden form inside rotate on a machine built into the workbench, and the arm he's pressing against it is a sanding block. That's followed by various stages of handheld sandpaper while the hat spins on the machine.

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This is the sanded crown. If you look closely you can see a difference between the crown and the brim.

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The brim has to be sanded as well, but that requires a different tool to do. In this photo, the flat surfaces you see sandwiching the hat brim have sandpaper attached to them and are moving back and forth as Mr. Moore rotates the hat between them.

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At this point the hat is ready to start being shaped. The brim is uneven and wavy, it gets trimmed down to whatever size the customer wants. I didn't get a picture of that. Once the brim is cut down to size, the hat has a sweatband sewn in and is ready to be creased. There are multiple ways to do that, including wooden forms or old fashioned hands on forming. In this photo you can see Rocky putting the finishing touches on the crease by hand. There's a form inside the hat. There are tons of crease options, for this hat I went with a "cattleman's crease", the "normal" hat crease. If you poke around on the Buckaroo website you'll see a whole slew of different things that can be done.

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Once the crease is shaped appropriately, the brim is shaped. The shapes, measurements, etc are all up to the customer, one of the joys of having a custom hat made. You don't have to fit what the factory cranks out, they make the hat to fit what you want. All of the shaping on the hat is done by using steam to heat and soften the it, in this picture you can see Rocky applying steam to the brim to work on it.

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When the hat is finally shaped and formed, the liner is installed inside the hat body.

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The final, finishing touch on the hat is the band. There are more hat band options than we could fit on GTT, for now I went with a low- key option.

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The finished product.

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This hat is meant to be an everyday work hat. For that reason, I went with a wider brim in the front to block more of the sunlight. After wearing it for a bit, I believe I'll make a few changes to it; I may turn the front down a bit more and bring the sides up some. With a quality hat, modifications are pretty simple with steam- out of a tea pot on the stove. :) The Stetsons/ Resistols/ etc that you find in tack and feed stores aren't the same quality of material, they're a wool felt instead of fur felt and won't hold up to multiple shapings, or hard wear. While they may look similar side by side, a few rides in the rain will have a tack store hat losing color and falling apart, where a real fur felt hat will be sopping wet but otherwise fine. Ask me how I know. :laugh:

In any case, that's a basic walkthrough of how a hat is made. I'd never seen the entire process before today, and really had a great time. :good2:
 

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Web site is an interesting read/education! Thanks!:thumbup1gif:
 

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Very Cool! I am going to have to put that on my To-do list next time I'm in TN.
 

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Very interesting. How long does the entire process take?
 

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Awesome! Thanks 56.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Very interesting. How long does the entire process take?
I didn't think to ask, and yesterday wasn't a good example to go by. The measuring/ fitting process took about 45 minutes, but I already had an idea what I wanted which helped speed up the process a little. Yesterday was an unusual day, there was a lot of time not working on the hat due to some other things going on.

From start to finish, on days they're not open for customers and just work on hats I would guess that it takes about 2-3 hours per hat, depending on how quickly the hat dries, how complex the shaping is, etc. Current wait time for ordered hats is 8-10 weeks.


Very Cool! I am going to have to put that on my To-do list next time I'm in TN.
It's a neat place to stop by. Took me three and a half hours, one way to get there. They're only open to customers Saturday and Sunday, and unless you find something on the wall that you like don't expect to walk in and walk out with a hat. There's a good chance you'll see something you like though, the variety and number of hats they have ready to go is impressive. Even then, things like crown and brim shape can usually be modified without too much trouble.
 

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I've always liked distinctive non-stock hat bands and I don't get around places that sell them anymore, anyone know a web source for them?
 

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Thanks so much for the pictures, and great writeup.
 

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56FG,

So I visited the web site and poked around for a bit. If I may be so bold, I noticed prices are all "available upon request". Are one of these hats in the few hours salary range, few days, heaven forbid few weeks???? I really wish I lived in Texas (don't we all) so I had more of an excuse to wear a cowboy hat.
 

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56FG,

So I visited the web site and poked around for a bit. If I may be so bold, I noticed prices are all "available upon request". Are one of these hats in the few hours salary range, few days, heaven forbid few weeks???? I really wish I lived in Texas (don't we all) so I had more of an excuse to wear a cowboy hat.
I would like an excuse too, but I'm cheap. Maybe I can get one to wear outside to keep the sun off. There are enough guys in this area from Texas and Oklahoma working in the natural gas fields, that I guess I could get away with it. I'm also old enough that most people would just look at me and shake their heads. Some people do without the hat.:laugh:
 

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I live in a state that is 180º attitude-wise from Texas. However, both states are in the U.S.A. :usa

One thing I've learned from my 73 years is that wearing a Western hat (or a pork pie or beanie for that matter) no matter where you live is something one can not be faulted for. People that give me a ration of poo over my hat are gone, there's plenty of tolerant minds out there... :good2:
 

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I would like an excuse too, but I'm cheap. Maybe I can get one to wear outside to keep the sun off. There are enough guys in this area from Texas and Oklahoma working in the natural gas fields, that I guess I could get away with it. I'm also old enough that most people would just look at me and shake their heads. Some people do without the hat.:laugh:
Get a pair of western boots, no one will question it.
 

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Get a pair of western boots, no one will question it.
Unless your jeans are too short to wear with those boots! That's a dead giveaway one is not a real cowboy! :flag_of_truce:
 

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Unless your jeans are too short to wear with those boots! That's a dead giveaway one is not a real cowboy! :flag_of_truce:
They probably should have a Wrangler label on the back also.
 

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56FG,

So I visited the web site and poked around for a bit. If I may be so bold, I noticed prices are all "available upon request". Are one of these hats in the few hours salary range, few days, heaven forbid few weeks????
It depends. While the hats are made of fur felt, there are various grades of that felt. 10X is the low end, it's followed by 50 and 100X. The X denotes the amount of fur in the felt hat body. 10X hats, while being the lower end of the custom hat world are still miles and miles nicer than wool felt.

The hats are expensive, but quality costs. On average, a nice wool felt Stetson from a tack store in the $60-150 range would last me six months to a year. The color fades, the brims get hard and crack, and they're not as easily repairable should one get stepped on by a horse. However, that's hard wear. That's day in, day out in the sun and rain, dust and dirt, mud and diesel exhaust. That's a hat getting pulled off by the wind, or lost when a rider gets ejected from a less than compliant horse. If you just want a good looking hat to wear to a rodeo or strutting through downtown Nashville and then put it away, then a custom hat may not be for you. My last hat from Mr. Moore has been through every weather condition we get down here, including setting fenceposts in a torrential downpour that left me soaked to the bone for a few hours. It still looks good. :good2: I expect to get 10-15 years out of my custom hats.

The other advantage of going custom is the hat fits. Real hats, not ball caps, are sized. You may be a 7, 7 1/4, 7 3/8, etc and you can get cheap hats in whatever size you are. However, size is determined by the overall diameter of your head. It doesn't take into account the shape. There's a regular oval shape, and then there's a long oval shape. Then there's the long oval with a push (kind of like an extra long), and even other unusual head shapes. When you get a custom hat, it will fit your head, not just the size form at the factory. They even have measuring devices for folks with non-symmetrical head shapes, where one side may be different than the other. As if that wasn't accurate enough, if you pick up your hat in person they'll steam it and then put it on your head the way you want to wear it and fit it exactly to you.

With Mr. Moore's hats, there are various options that can change the cost. As you saw on the website, he offers multiple brim widths and options. A bound edge on the brim costs more, and depending on what type of hatband you select that will change the price as well. Hatbands are a whole world in themselves, his options run from the simple two-string ribbon that I got to custom hand made beaded bands and horsehair bands that are hand woven one at a time by inmates at a prison in Montana.

As of yesterday, a basic 10X hat is $240. If you want a wider brim that adds a little, the bound edge (if you want it) adds a little, etc. A 100X hat is somewhere around $450-475, I don't recall exactly. The two tone hats even in 10X run $350+, because they have to literally make two different color hats, then cut them apart and put them back together. He has a ton of hats in the shop though, ranging from $5.00 to over $1,000 for a handmade 100X hat with an equally custom beaded edge and band.

Yeah. Ever wonder why a cowboy can be so sensitive about his hat? That's a part of it. :) Most folks that go for custom hats will have one or two, and that's their hat. It stays around for years, even now I have two hats my of my grandfather's from way back when. As for the particular dark gray hat I had made yesterday, due to some highly unusual circumstances and a few other things, Mr. Moore and I reached an agreement that was beneficial to the both of us. :hi:
 
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