View Full Version : AB After Action Report and a Theory

06-26-2012, 04:25 PM
This past weekend saw me wearing my Raiders' block Adventurebilt for the longest stretches of time since I've owned it and in somewhat less than ideal climates. It's the same hat I made reference to in my "Stretching a Quality Hat" thread.
There's been some discussion, and I couldn't find the exact spot or I'd have a link here, about why beaver bodied hats are so sought after. All arguments were very compelling. From bendingoak stating it's simply the best way to make the best hat and that he's out to provide the balance of a quality product along with the block shape you see on screen, to ( and I can't remember who to attribute this to ) beaver hats are just not going to make a good representation of what's on screen in Raiders.
I'll say that, for me, the well constructed hat made from the best components wins out. Without carrying on too much about it, I'll say I agree with the more practical aspects of wearing a rugged hat that is expected to last under the most strenuous conditions. However, in the realm of 'the hobby', I will agree also with the apparent lifelessness of beaver hats... to an extent.
And on that note, here is the meat of the thread...

I've had an Adventurebilt made on one of Steve Delk's earlier blocks for about three years now. I purchased it second hand and it was just a shade to small for me. I took it to a hatter to be stretched by a professional, and that worked for a time, but it eventually returned to its original iteration. bendingoak explained the reason for this in the thread I referenced earlier, and also offered some advice on getting a little bit of extra space. Well, John, I didn't follow your advice, as I didn't have any proper leather lotion on hand. I used a hat stretcher like this -


- purchased for twelve dollars at the western store. I put the hat on the stretcher dry and cranked it open until I was sure it'd snap like a guitar string. I left it like that for three days. The brim was ridiculously wavy and the crown took on an odd shape.
Saturday morning, I put it on. I wore that hat for fourteen hours, taking it off only to eat. The temperature hovered around a median ninety-one degrees during the day with outrageously high humidity.
It was about ten-thirty or eleven am when I had this picture taken. You can see I'm already starting to sweat through my shirt -


By about five in the evening, the cool stuff started to happen. I snapped this picture with a point and shoot in a little dive off the French Quarter where the shade made the only difference in temperature -


You can see that the crown has taken on a bit of a "bulge" on the right side of the hat ( picture left ).

When the night finally came to a close, I put the hat back on the stretcher and cranked it up. The following day, it was back on my head for about eleven hours, then back on the stretcher, then one more day of the same.
This morning I shot these pictures.


You can see, after as many hours, I finally got some sweat stains through that dense beaver felt. This is the only place, this hobby, where that would be a desirable effect on a four to six hundred dollar hat. Also, I'm starting to get some of that 'slope' away from the front crease on the right side without having shaped it in there by hand.

Here's a 360 -


In these next close-ups, you can see on the front and sides that the brim break relaxed some, but not on the back -


The guts: the liner, sweatband, and Mr. Delk's attention to detail and solid construction came through like a champ -


So, as you can see, while the beaver body won't flex and...squish like a rabbit hat, it will certainly assume the characteristics we associate with the Raiders of the Lost Ark hat, if worn under conditions similar to those depicted in the movie. I can only assume that, over time and more aggressive wear, the characteristics will become even more pronounced.

This brings me to my theory on the Raiders hat:

There's so much talk of the "lost" HJ blocks, the hat was bespoke, etc...
How 'bout this -
It's an off the rack HJ. The block matters little. Ford, Spielberg, Landis...whomever, comes into the shop and says, "That one."
Swales has his own blocks for customer refurbs and spruces up the hats, cuts the brims, and so on. Pressed for time, and really just not accustomed to devoting the kind of energy to blocking that Penman or the like are, the hat's don't really 'set' on the block the way they need to, so you're left with a hybrid block shape.
We all seem to accept that Ford is a 7 1/4. Let's say he's a "large" 7 1/4 and/or a long or even extra-long oval. Take all of these factors: smallish or otherwise ill fitting hat ( he's stuck between sizes, let's say...), a hat that was one way, re-blocked, and now trying to return to it's 'natural state', aggressive, longterm wear, followed by a rest - wherein the hat tries to shrink again - then more of the same.
It leads me to think there's less likely a block shape that's 'lost', and more a process that makes the Raiders hat. Our esteemed custom hatters, both here and elsewhere, are making blocks that are the end product of a process, not a starting point.
Just a theory...

07-03-2012, 06:14 PM

It's now a week since I had this hat on my head.
The "aggressive up-sizing technique" has held up and it fits like it was made for me, now.
I'd also like to add that, while the appearance has become somewhat more authentic looking, the texture and pliability has not changed. In fact, I might even go so far as to say it may have stiffened some, though maintaining it's 'off-kilter' look. I'm guessing the extreme humidity reactivated what stiffener was in the hat to begin with, and then returning to air conditioned environs at the end of every day caused it to set.
Now that I'm satisfied with the look and fit, I'll try breaking that stiffener down again over a few days.
The whole process was not without considerable reservation, as I've intimated in other threads, I love the felt of this hat and it is my favorite ribbon. I've effectively traded a marginally comfortable hat that looked ready for church for a fairly accurate representation of a Raiders hat. I know that reservation won't be met with much sympathy in this house. Buuuut... it's kinda nice having a toe over on the dark side.

12-17-2012, 06:18 PM
I think you have an interesting theory regarding the "lost block". I personally believe many of the "theories" and "hypothesis" surrounding Indy's gear over the years could be looked at more closely.

You've done pretty good with your fedora. I've found the beaver to be very stiff and not very pliable. It seems you've shown that if you get the starting block shape correct you can mold the basic bash to give a nice Raiders look. I wonder if beaver has a better memory than other felts like rabbit. Probably a question for John or one of our other expert hatters.

12-19-2012, 07:33 PM
I think its a good theory but don't agree with it. I can tell that one shot where there was what at one point people thought there was a wire to keep its shape. The line they are talking about is a poorly blocked hat and yes I did say the Raiders hat was blocked poorly. That line they speak of would come into play re-block a already made hat.

There is a lot of as if it comes to memory of a felt. Thickness, Stiffener used, etc etc. The reason he is seeing the beaver felt respond the way it is. That the felt ( beaver) is a denser felt then any rabbit felt could be. Just the nature of the hair. The other thing to key into is the aging/stable of the felt that steve uses.

I hope that helps.