Andrew Hall 12 June 2008

Andrew came down from County Durham with his friend John, who regularly travelsSee Andrew's Photos with him to his woodturning demonstrations. Before starting the turning he gave us a brief history of his background – he first started turning when he was 14 and went into joinery on leaving school. In his early twenties he went on to teach woodworking in schools and only started turning hats four years ago. His interest in the hats was inspired by an article in the Woodturning magazine written by Johannes Michelson; after reading this he tried his hand at turning hats but had many failures. It all changed when he went to see Johannes demonstrating at a seminar in Ireland where he attended every one of the demonstrations that Johannes gave.

Andrew started by mounting a large sycamore log on the lathe which he turned round and then into a cone shape. He then concentrated on the underside of the hat (at the headstock end) but had problems with a couple of bark inclusions which fortunately he was eventually able to turn away, although it was touch and go for a while as it started to look as if they were going to go too far into the wood. Naturally, Andrew had come prepared for this with another piece of wood already turned to a cone.

Andrew’s attention was then turned to the top of the hat (at the tailstock end). He removed a ring of wood, so he could get the general shape of the hat without wasting too much wood. He did this with a parting tool by first cutting in from the end then came in from the side to meet the first cut. He donated this ring to the raffle for someone to turn into a mirror.

The next stage was to measure the size of the hat using a flexible curve to measure the head of the person it is being made for; he takes three measurements and uses the average of these three. He used the flexible curve to draw the shape of the head onto a piece of card then added ⅝” to this for the outside measurement. After turning a spigot on the top of the hat to hold it in the chuck, he turned the top of the hat down to the correct size then put some shape into the brim in order to get a curve in it, making it into a sort of ogee shape. He finished shaping the crown, turning an indentation into the edge of the top of the hat and leaving a flat strip above the brim for the hat band which he coloured using artists colouring pencils. Before turning it round on the lathe Andrew removed the core from the inside of the hat.

To finish the brim Andrew shone a light behind it so he could gauge the thickness of the brim and kept it sprayed with water to stop it distorting; the eventual thickness was approximately 1½mm. He then removed the wood from the inside, again using a light to gauge the thickness.  Andrew sanded the brim of the hat holding a piece of sandpaper on each side using equal but light pressure, he usually starts with 40 grit and works up to 180. The rest of the sanding is done off the lathe.

Andrew removed the hat from the lathe and mounted a home made light box onto it, this was made from green mdf with foam wrapped round it. A light on a long copper tube was then threaded into this box and through the headstock. The hat was put onto the light box and lightly held in place by the tailstock. Finally Andrew turned the top of the hat using the light inside it to judge the thickness.

Andrew ended the evening by explaining that he would normally leave the hat to dry for about three hours and then put it into specially designed benders to shape the brim. The time the hat remains in the benders depends on the temperature, humidity etc. This was a very interesting project; quite different from the usual bowls and boxes one tends to see, and Andrew is a very professional and accomplished demonstrator.

Lorrie FlanneryTop of Page

SWC Club Member