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Hat blocking machine

Hat blocking machine, for two hats, spare pan and production example, metal, maker unknown, 1900-1930, used by A L Lindsay & Co Pty Ltd, Leichhardt, New South Wales, Australia, 1950-2007 This machine was used in the production of various dress-up hats for the Sydney toy and children's dress-up manufacturing company, A.L. Lindsay & Co. Pty Ltd, of Leichhardt, NSW, and is called a hat blocking machine. It was capable of forming two hats at a time. Blocking is the process by which a hat is given its shape. Hats were formerly hand blocked using wooden forms or blocks but with mechanical blocking cast aluminium moulds or pans were used instead. The hat blocking machine comprises a large press fitted with a foot pedal and hand wheel. There are two parts to the pan, one on the top, which is fixed to the bridge of the machine and does not move, and one on the bottom, which is attached to the bed of the machine. The pans could be changed to make different hat styles. The top pan on the right hand side of the machine has the name 'Godfrey & Co Sydney' cast into it. The lower pan was placed on top of a vertically moving shaft controlled by a counterweighted foot pedal. Heat was applied to the separate pans from gas supplied by a small vertical gas-fired boiler in the hat making room in the factory. The pans were heated to a considerable temperature, similar to the surface of a hot iron. A pre-wetted or steamed basic hat shape, called a hood, was pulled over the lower pan. The two pans were closed by depressing the foot pedal which pushed the lower pan towards the fixed upper pan. The pans were brought together using the screwed hand wheel. This controlled closing, with the outer edge of the hood secured, put tension on the material as well as defined the sharp edges of the hat. The hats were then trimmed and the edges bound. The straw or felt hoods were pre-coated with a stiffening agent or varnish during manufacture. These softened when exposed in the machine to heat and moisture. During the blocking process the material in the hood was exposed to steam and pressure and conformed to the pan shape. After a few minutes the pan was opened, the cord was released from its groove, and the hat was taken off the pan. The hat was soft and remained this way until cooled. There is an example of a hat made on the machine in 2007. It is a red straw cowboy-style hat with badge attached and cord.

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(Accession num: 2008/25/1)

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