Here are some questions we’re often asked. Please don’t hesitate to call or email should you have any others that are not answered here.
What is form?
This is the shape of the block at the headband of the crown. Broad oval, slim oval and circular forms are available, with slim oval being the most popular. See choosing your blocks for more help on making your choice.
Do I need a string groove?
String grooves, sometimes known as rope grooves or string lines, are a useful addition to a block. They are usually found on brim blocks, but some milliners like them on crowns as well. They can be used together with pins, to provide a crisp, folded edge to a brim, or without pins if the design and type of fabric permit. The string holds the fabric in the groove while it is pulled from below to remove any creases. An alternative to having a string groove on a crown block is to use one of our blocking springs, the advantage being that it can be used on any crown block of the same size. See accessories. String grooves can be added and carry an additional charge unless stated otherwise in the block description.
I have a design which is different to any of your blocks, how do I proceed?
We will be pleased to make blocks to your design, send a photograph, sketch, a mock-up in blocking net (buckram) or an actual hat and we will quote for your requirements. It might even be just a simple change to a catalogue block that can be discussed over the phone. If you do hvae a hat or block for us to copy there are a few simple guidelines for photographing and measuring it here. You can see a selection of specials we have made on the specials page, which have included blocks for couture millinery, military headwear and historical costumes.
What size should I choose?
In general the size of your block should correspond to the headsize of the wearers head, however there are various techniques that allow you to increase or decrease the size of the hat you are making. Many customers choose the standard size of 22.5 inches (57cm) and work from there. For mens hats the most common size is 23 inches (59cm).
Can you tell me about the wood you use?
We use European lime wood which comes from a sustainable source. Our supplier is fully registered with PEFC, which is an organisation that promotes sustainable forest management – see www.pefc.co.uk if you would like more details. We also use some Obeche wood especially for the larger brim blocks. Both types are easily pinnable.
Are your blocks made from single pieces of wood?
Of course many of the smaller ones can be made from single pieces but it is unavoidable to use more than one piece in the larger blocks. In the past it was often the case that blocks were made from single pieces of wood where possible, which while ideal at the time, is not so necessary anymore. One of the main reasons would have been the lack of a suitable glue that would have held together even under extreme conditions including heat, moisture and steam. Today, thanks to modern glues this is no longer a problem. The glue we used has been fully tested in these environments and in fact one of the deciding factors was seeing a huge bridge constructed from timber glued together with the stuff. If a good glue is used then it can actually be advantageous to glue more than one piece together. The finished block will be stronger and retain its shape much better than a solid one will, and for some blocks we even glue in particular ways to increase the strength and longevity of the block. Think of a wooden kitchen work top – often called a laminate and made from many pieces of wood glued together. If it were a single piece of wood it would very quickly warp and crack due to the often damp and humid environment – not a dissimilar environment to where hat blocks are used!
Are your blocks varnished?
Yes, all our blocks are sealed against moisture but we always recommend that you cover your blocks with cling film before use.
How do I care for my blocks once I have them?
Timber is a natural material, which is affected by changes in temperature and humidity. We therefore suggest that you always protect your block from moisture and possible colour transfer from wet fabrics, by covering it with cling film or thin polythene sheet before use. When not in use, your block should be kept in a cool and dry environment and most importantly, out of direct sunlight.
Can you ship blocks to other countries?
We can and regularly do send blocks all over the world. Please contact us for a quote on shipping costs to where you are.
Can I visit your workshop?
Yes, you are welcome to visit us but please make an appointment first.
Sometimes there is uncertainty about what diameter means in reference to block sizes. This measurement is simply the width of the block (or hat) from one side to the other. In the example below you can see this and also realise that if it were to be measured with a tape measure over the block from one edge to the other, the distance would be much more than 380 mm because of the blocks’ height. This measurement could vary considerably depending on the height even if the ‘diameter’ was to remain constant.
When telling us measurements like diameter, brim width or crown height etc, then it should always be a straight, flat measurement made with a ruler rather than a tape measure that goes around curves. You can always put the hat or block on a piece of paper, draw round it and then measure the width.