Wooden Hats

One of my hopes for this site is that visitors will get ideas for projects of their own. Quite often, I have gotten ideas for projects by looking at objects from other cultures, or other times. One set of examples of this are my wooden kayak hats.
           When I first started building baidarkas, and was researching their construction, I kept running into pictures of native Alaskans in their long-billed wooden hats. The hats looked unusual enough that I wanted to know more about them.
           My experiences in experimental archaeology have taught me that, if you cannot find something out through the historical record, then one solution is to set up an experiment. I set out to make my first wooden hat in order to test it so I could determine for myself what might have been the practical advantages of such headgear. I did not use the exact same woods (I used what I had at hand, as I suspect the original makers did) and I employed more steam bending than carving technique. What I made had as close to the same shape, size, and weight, compared to the originals as I could get, and then I took it out and tested it.

Double Baidarka with Kayak Hats

           As it turns out, quite a lot has been written about the cultural importance, and the potential spiritual importance of the original Alaskan headgear. A great book, which I only came across after starting these experiments is, Glory Remembered; Wooden Headgear of Alaska Sea Hunters, by Lydia T. Black (Alaska State Museum, 1991). There have even been speculative writings on the possible camouflage provided by these hats since they change the profile of the human paddler into something less recognizably human to the mammals that were the prey of the Alaskan hunter. What impressed me, however, was that this was a great and very practical hat for kayaking. Completely waterproof; it provides terrific shelter from rain as well as sun. It is cool, light, if you still think it looks funny; then it also provides entertainment value.
           I have grown so used to these wooden hats that, when I am in one of my boats, I feel totally exposed without one. Oh yes; you can also use these wooden hats as a spare bailer.

Wodden Kayak Hats

         Making wooden hats, like making wooden paddles, or making boats for that matter, is slightly addictive. Now I have a collection of hats.


One Response to “Wooden Hats”

  1. Thatcher Michelsen Says:

    hey those wooden hats look like fun. Great job.

    My dad is the Woodhat master. Johannes Michelsen checkout his woodhats at http://www.woodhat.com


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