Introduction: Cheap and Easy Hat Steamer.
Following on from my hat stretcher 'ible I had planned to do one about stretching & reshaping but decided instead to start a project that I've been thinking about doing for a while now.
Wherever you look online for information about reshaping hats you will find people suggesting using a kitchen kettle to steam them, I've done it myself & it does work but there are a couple of limitations to the method.
Firstly if you want to get your steam onto a particular part of the hat without getting too much onto other areas it can be quite difficult to do so over a kettle, the steam comes out in a huge plume & will not only get to pretty much all of your hat at once it also has an unfortunate tendency to do nasty things to unprotected areas of skin that may inadvertently get in the way.
Secondly kettles have this annoying habit of switching themselves off when they come to a boil & your supply of steam gets cut off, it is of course possible to stop this, you could jam something in the switch for example or if you are a bit more electrically competent you could bypass the cut off switch, both these methods would work I know because I have also done them but neither will really do your kettle much good in the long term & neither will resolve the first problem of not being able to control the steam.
What you really need is an easy way of getting your steam from the vessel to the hat without scalding yourself or worse still setting fire to your kettle/kitchen/house.
Milliners & hat shops use purpose made steamers that give a directed gentle jet of steam leaving both hands free to manipulate the hat but even a fairly basic model like the Jiffy J1 will set you back up to £200.00 which is ok if you are going to use it all the time but for the kind of occasional use someone at home would need it is a big lump of cash to pay out.
With this in mind & decided to make one for myself and as usual I wanted to do it for as little cash outlay as I could & preferably for free.
Step 1: Getting Things Together.
What will you need.
Something to generate steam.
I was fortunate enough to to have this already, my better half Joanie works as a volunteer in our local charity shop & someone had brought in a faulty ready meal heater, the shop couldn't sell it but thinking I may be able to "use it for something" she paid a couple of pounds & brought it home, a few minutes with a screwdriver sorted out the fault and I was in business; any kitchen steamer would do the job really so look out on your local Freegle or Freecycle group or check out the charity & second hand shops or boot sales.
Heat resistant hose.
I used an old washing machine hose, this had the added advantage of already being fitted with a suitable coupling which by a happy coincidence fitted perfectly on the next item on my scavenging list.
Something to attach the hose to the steam vessel.
Much like many people who use a garden hose a lot I have a box in the shed full of various hose adaptors & couplings, a few minutes rummaging produced the perfect part, of course what you use will depend a lot on what hose you have, what you have available or are prepared to buy.
Something to protect your hands from the hot hose.
Your hose is going to get very hot so some sort of grip is needed to come between your fingers & the hot surface, I had a roll of gutter mesh sitting idly around the workshop which looked up to the job so a couple of feet found its way onto the bench.
Something to hold the top down.
You don't really want all your lovely steam escaping so if like me your vessel has a fairly light lid you will want something to hold it in place, I had some bits of an old folding umbrella which I had been planning to make some lock picks from (just to see if I still can) but I decided they would be perfect to make some clips for the lid. of course you may not need them or you could simply tie the top down.
Pliers to bend & cut the clips.
A 25mm spade bit..
Anything else really depends on you & what materials you are using.
Keep it safe.
Drill bits are sharp (or at least they should be), bits of bent metal can cut & stab especially when it is sprung steel & you are bending it around, steam is hot & if not treated with respect can result in nasty & lasting skin and tissue damage.
Finally but most importantly electricity can make you very very dead that would spoil your day & that of all your friends & family; this 'ible involves bring water & electricity into the same environment, if you are in the remotest bit unsure what you are doing then DON'T DO IT speak to someone who knows about these things.
Your safety is far more important than any hat so please exercise caution & use the relevant protective equipment in your workspace.
Step 2: Fitting Your Hose.
How you do this will of course depend on what kind of fitting you have but in my case a 25mm hole was required.
Carefull use of a 25mm spade bit & cordless drill produced a nice neat hole, a little tip here, when drilling through plastic always support it underneath with a block of wood it helps to prevent bending & possible cracking or even shattering.
My lid had a couple of venting holes but I want all my steam going through the hose so these were closed up with a couple of old rubber feet from some long deceased gadget or other.
Pop the coupling through the hole & its ready for the hose.
Next job is to protect your hands from the hot hose I wrapped a couple of feet of gutter mesh around mine & held it in place with two cable ties & a strip of duct tape, very simple and does the job admirably.
Once I had screwed the hose down the lid was ready to fit.
Step 3: Holding It All Down.
I had planned to use two clips but I found that far too much steam was escaping through the sides so took things a little further & made clips for each corner too.
As you can see in the pictures they are simple enough clips, bent to around 80-85 degrees with a further small bend at the tip to press down on the lid, after a few minutes trial & error I got a nice tightly fitting lid that lets out very little steam.
The two clips that pass through the handles catch on notches under the base & inside the handle to stop them slipping & are easily strong enough to hold the whole thing together when it is lifted with the top handle.
Step 4: The End Result.
Once it was all together it was time for the moment of truth.
With the top clipped in place & around 400mls of water in the vessel it took a few minutes to come up to temperature but fairly quickly I had a nice jet of steam I can control easily without covering the whole hat & without ending up with burns or blisters.
I am planning to make another rigid hose around 125mm long which I can use more like a shop bought steamer with both hands free but having tried this one out on my twenty odd year old Rockmount & had some very nice results I can say I am more than happy with how it has turned out.
So bearing in mind I wanted to make it as cheaply as possible how much did it cost?
The meal heater cost about £2.00.
The hose was left over when we bought a new washing machine so essentially it was free.
The gutter mesh cost me about £1.00 for around fifteen feet so less than 14p for the couple of feet I used.
Rubber bungs free.
Bits of old umbrella for the clips free.
And that's pretty much it, easily less than £3.00 for a perfectly serviceable hat steamer & I can still use it for steaming veneers in the workshop, now I can get started on my hats & my better half can still bring me tea in the workshop.
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