I’ve just acquired a vintage hat block. It’s still in beautiful shape but the wood seems a bit dry and I see a tiny crack appearing. It doesn’t seem to have any kind of finish on it. Should I oil it? If so, what kind of oil is best? Is there another type of treatment I should use? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Firstly, I would expect some level of cracks/ splits on a vintage hat block, it's the nature of wood - as it ages, it shrinks and moves. It's not always related to how the block is treated. Weather variations (humidity/ temperature changes) can contribute to blocks moving and cracking too.
If you'd like to oil your block, we recommend using Tung oil, following the directions on the can. Tung oil is a 'hardening' oil.
If you put any ordinary oil or beeswax etc. directly onto the timber, it will just soak it up and you'll never be able to remove it if you wish to varnish it instead.
Depending on the condition of the block, you may choose to apply two or three coats of wood varnish (make sure to clean it well first).
That being said, if the block has survived several decades as it is, just continue to keep it clean and dry.
I hope that helps!
Darryll Osborne, Hat Blocks Australia