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Hat Making Tool: Rounding Jack for the Infamous Hatman Jack at Wichita Hat Works, Wichita, Kansas

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 05-29-2008 05:48 PM 6438 views 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This Rounding Jack (Brim Cutter) was a commissioned piece, and so it has been sold.

If you would like something similar, please email me at

mark@decoustudio.com

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Video: What does this thing do? Watch this video by California Custom Hat Maker Tom Gomez from Premier Panama Hats using one of my Rounding Jacks on a felt body Hat. Here is a link to Tom's ebay Store

To See More Hatmaking Tool Videos from Tom Gomez:
  1. Foot Tollikers: click here to see
  2. Kettle Curling Tool: click here to see one
  3. Puller Downer: click here to see one:
  4. Pusher Downer: click here to see one

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This project is a “brim cutter” that hatmakers use to cut the brims of Fedora and Western style hats. Actually, any style of hat can be cut, with a brim size ranging from 1.25”-8”.

The wood used on this project is Kansas Black Walnut. The rest of the parts are yellow brass. The inlay piece is synthetic ivory with Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works logo scratched with a knife by hand in a scrimshaw style artwork.

Project Story:
Hatman Jack is not only a local legend, but he is also known around the country as a custom hat artisan. His resume includes movie hats, movie star hats, rock and roll musician hats, country music legend’s hats, and a long history of reputable and honest dealings with his customers. Jack starting working at the Wichita Hat Works while in High School, and shortly after High School, he bought the Hat store from the owner. So, he has done custom hats his entire adult life, and has a tremendous knowledge of the craft and about retail business.

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Hatman Jack’s-Wichita Hat Works
601 W Douglas Ave
Wichita, KS 67213
316-264-4881

Hatman Jack's Website

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I first met “Jack” in 1993, after my wife gave me a “coupon” for a custom hat to be made for me that would match my wool dress coat (I used to wear business suits a lot back then).

Never owning anything other than baseball caps, I was somewhat reluctant to pick out a hat, but my wife and I traveled down to the Wichita Hat Works shop. After walking in the door and being greeted and invited in by the “staff”, a handsome guy came up and introduced himself as “Jack”. I told him what I was wanting to do, and I brought along my Navy Blue wool dress coat to match.

He looked me and my coat over, and started searching for hats. About an hour later, I walked out with a perfectly fitting Fedora that matched my style, and my coat. Jack showed me how to wear the Fedora with just the right “tilt”, and how to hold my head, a little cocked to one side. Indeed, the hat looked great on me, and I’m not a handsome guy.

That was the single best buying experience of my life, not so much because I got a hat, but because “Jack” took the time to visit with me and to teach me about hats, and it was just a lot of fun. My wife was thrilled with how well her Valentine’s Day Coupon gift worked out, and she’s never been able to top that one in 15 years since.

So, several years passed, and I started making Walking Canes. I enjoyed doing it, and decided to make a few extra and to try and find a store that would sell them for me on consignment. So, I visited a place called Andy’s Woodworking in the old-town district of Wichita. That lady (Andy’s Wife) said that her husband wouldn’t allow any “non-Andy” woodworking to be sold in his store, but she was quite nice, and recommended that I visit “Hatman Jacks” store. I hadn’t even thought about walking canes in a hat store, Doh!

So, I carried three canes into the front door of Hatman Jack’s store, and immediately saw him talking with another customer, and as I turned to close the door of the shop, Jack said, “don’t go anywhere, I want to talk to you about those canes.” And, then went back to helping his customer. One thing I have learned watching Jack work the retail business, is that he is Very Focused on the Customer. A customer feels valued, honored, and taken care of in his store, and he does that on purpose. So, if I’m in the store to pickup a check for canes that have sold, I wait until he is free to visit with me. Customers come first, and that has been good training for me in my own business.

So that day with the canes in hand, after the customer bought his hat and departed, Jack starting asking me more about the walking canes, and told me about his desire to sell them in his store, if I would let him. Let him? I was thrilled, and Jack has sold a lot of canes for me since.

Being able to work wood, and showing up in a hat store regularly has presented several opportunities to talk about woodworking in the context of hat making. Most of the tools that Hatters use are all made of wood, and are all very old, and most of the time broken. Jack has also told me many times that Hatters can’t find good tools anymore, and that if I would start making them, they would easily sell.

I listened to him carefully, but didn’t do anything about it, until his employees decided to order 4 Walnut Tollikers from me for Jack as a gift for his Birthday last summer. I did those Tollikers, and posted them on Lumberjocks, and other Hatters have found them on Google, and that has sort of started a small avalanche of Hat Tool Work for me. Just as Jack said it would.

So, last week, I was back in the Hat shop and took along a Rounding Jack that I made for Brainpan Hats in Sumner, WA, to see what Jack thought about it. He took it out of my hands carefully, and asked if he could try it out on a hat. I was excited to allow that, so he quickly walked to the back of the store and found a hat that he could trim, cleaned off the work bench, set the hat on a tall Crown Block, adjusted the Rounding Jack to the desired cut, and carefully ran the cutter around the brim, expertly trimming the brim to the 3-5/8” cut.

After that, Jack asked me how much I was selling them for. I told him, and he ordered one. So, this week my wife delivered his Rounding Jack, complete with His Business Logo in Scrimshaw, and Bench Stand that he requested.

Don’t know about “Scrimshaw?” Click here to see my blog article where I will explain more.

Display Stand: The display stand is designed to sit on the hatmaker’s work bench and hold the cutter when it is not being used. The retractable blade can remain extended this way between uses. This particular stand shown in the photos is Red Oak. This display stand is meant to make the whole project look like a functional-art sculpture, while it serves it’s functional purpose of the Rounding Jack safely.

To make the cut. The blade guard knurled nut is loosened, the blade dropped down and the nut retightened. The slider nuts are loosened and the desired cut width is indicated by the pointer, and the slider nuts are tightened. The hat is placed on a wood crown block to give a firm resistance to the pressure being applied with the cutter, and the brim is placed between the bottom brass plate and the bottom of the cutter. Then, depending on whether the hatmaker is a Clockwise, or a Counterclockwise cutter, the Rounding Jack is slowly moved around the contour of the crown while pushing the cutter toward the center (head). Felt Hat Blanks are very expensive, so after the cutting is complete, a big sigh of relief is heard from the hatmaker.

The Adjustable Brass Crown Band on the front of the cutter is used when the brim is to be cut wider on the sides, than on the front and back. By adjusting the curve of the brass band, the cutter is pushed away farther on the wider curve of the crown sides.

This is the Tolliker Project that started the Hat Tool Work for me:
Click for details

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Here is a Slideshow with more of my Rounding Jacks Shown
Click the “Speaker” icon for music

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Artisan Hat Tools by Mark DeCou Studio
(Do you want to see More? Just follow these links):

NOTE:
ALL HAT MAKING ITEMS THAT I HAVE IN STOCK
ARE LISTED IN MY ETSY.COM ONLINE SHOP, click here to check inventory

Rounding Jacks, Collector’s Editions:
  1. Ebonized Walnut Clockwise with Laser Engraving
  2. Walnut Counter Clockwise w/Laser Engraving
  3. Walnut Uni-Directional Cutter
Rounding Jacks, Deluxe Model:
  1. Maple Deluxe Model, Counter Clockwise Cutter
  2. Maple Deluxe Model, Clockwise Cutter
  3. Walnut Deluxe, Counter Clockwise Cutter
  4. Walnut Deluxe, Clockwise Cutter
Rounding Jacks, Hobbyist-Hatter Model:
  1. Walnut Hobbyist-Hatter Model, Counter Clockwise Cutter
  2. Walnut Hobbyist-Hatter Model, Clockwise Cutter
Bench-Top Display Stands for Rounding Jacks:
  1. Walnut Bench-Top Display Stand
  2. Oak Bench-Top Display Stand
    Click here to check inventory
Customized Rounding Jacks, Personalized for Specific Hatters:
  1. Spradley Hats in Apline, TX
  2. Rachel Pollock of La Bricoleuse
  3. Brainpan Hat Shop in Sumner, WA
  4. Steve Delk's Adventurebilt Hat Co.
  5. Marc Kitter's Adventurebilt Hat Co.
  6. Pyrate Trading Co.
  7. Hatman Jack at Wichita Hat Works
  8. Inaaya Hat Co.
  9. Penman Hat Co.
Formillons & Conformateurs:
  1. Complete Restoration of a Maillard Conformateur and Formillon
  2. New DeCou Formillion & Conformer, Prototypes #1 & #2
  3. Custom Designed Conformateur Carrying & Storage Case
  4. New Plot Base Board for the Maillard Allie Formillon
  5. Maple Wrench for Tightening Formillon Thumbnuts
Foot Tollikers:
  1. Left-Handed & Right-Handed Foot Tolliker
  2. Foot Tolliker: Elk Antler & Birch Wood, on a Display Stand
  3. Foot Tolliker: Walnut Wood, on a Display Stand
  4. Foot Tollikers: Three in White Birch Wood
  5. Foot Tollikers: Walnut Wood Set of Four
  6. Foot Tollikers, Birch Wood Double Set, on Display Stand
Brim Edge Curling Tools:
  1. Hinge-Shackle Curling Tool for the Homburg Hat
  2. Full Circle Shackle Curling Tool
  3. Half Circle Shacking Curling Tool
  4. Groove Tolliker Curing Tool
Band Blocks:
  1. Thick Poplar Wood, Various Sizes and Oval Shapes, with Tapered Sides
Crown Blocks
  1. Long Oval Crown Block Sculpting Work
Hat Block Spinners:
  1. Late Turned Hat Block Spinners
Flange Stands:
  1. Heavy Duty Flange Stands
Puller Downers:
  1. Puller Downers
Pusher Downers:
  1. Pusher Downers
Hat Racks, Hat Stands, & Cedar Band Blocks:
  1. Hat Racks to keep oval shapes
Stainless Steel Slip Stick:
  1. “Coming Soon”, please check back.

(Note:This project story, project design, and photos are protected by copyright in 2008-2010 by the Author, M.A.DeCou., all rights reserved, no use allowed without expressed written permission.)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com





5 comments so far

View Karson's profile

Karson

34916 posts in 3155 days


#1 posted 05-29-2008 07:29 PM

Great looking. You need a picture of Jack’s logo also.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Greg3G's profile

Greg3G

815 posts in 2840 days


#2 posted 05-29-2008 07:52 PM

Great post Mark… wonderful story. Happy to see that there are people out there that still believe in customer service.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

649 posts in 2888 days


#3 posted 05-29-2008 11:36 PM

Wonderful story Mark! I wish I could make hats just so I could buy and use your hat making devices.

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View jockmike2's profile

jockmike2

10635 posts in 3001 days


#4 posted 05-31-2008 04:33 PM

Hatman Jack is keeping you busy lately huh buddy? mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View darryl's profile

darryl

1795 posts in 3081 days


#5 posted 06-02-2008 05:20 AM

that’s a fantastic story Mark. Jack sounds like a great guy for you to be working with.
Thanks for sharing.

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