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It is conceded as an axiom, that theory and practice, in the pursuit of any object, are in their natures essentially different and distinct. But at the same time they long for a mutual understanding each to confirm the assertions of the other, the consummation of all practical results being the mutual embrace and perfect reconciliation of these two attributes.
The writer of these pages, being a practical hatter, desires to describe intelligibly his calling, dispensing with all technical terms, at the same time conscious of being liable to receive an unfair criticism from his brother tradesmen, although perfectly innocent on their part, resulting from the prejudices engendered by the many would-be secrets that pertain to the different work-shops, together with their various modes and methods of working, all of which most generally are but trifles merely to gain a name.
The practice of a trade without a knowledge of the why and the wherefore of certain usages is a sad defect in any workman, but more especially in certain trades: Hatting being one of those which depends upon second causes for its proficiency, we venture here an explanation with perfect confidence, hoping that the fraternity of hatters will be indulgent, and that they may profit by an experience of many years in the trade, and that for one error or omission in the writing of these sheets they will find compensation in the new ideas that will spring from their perusal, which may be an incentive to further improvements in the business resulting beneficially to all.
Theory without practice, or practice without theory, is like groping in the dark, and perfection in no trade can be attained till every effect can be traced to its cause, and vice versa.
It is much to be regretted that practical operative workmen are so diffident in writing and publishing their experience in their several trades and occupations, quietly permitting theorists ignorant of the business to glean as best they can from other parties the most intricate and complicated particulars of a trade, and hence the attempt to illustrate the most useful branches of an art often results in crude and even erroneous descriptions of things of the greatest moment, and the dissemination as correct, of that which is altogether at variance with the truth. In confirmation of the above, we may instance the manufacture of hats as described in a work of much merit, and which is accounted as worthy of all confidence, wherein the error above spoken of is but too plainly visible. Thus, in the supplement to the third edition of that most respectable work the Edinburgh "Encyclopedia Britannica," in the article Hat, an apology is made for the original treatise upon that subject, it being acknowledged as both defective and erroneous from the imperfect source of the information. Such a confession, and from such a source, sufficiently exonerates any one from egotism in an attempt to write a more perfect and correct description, coupling theory with practice; relieving the felting process from its misty obscurity by a faithful expose of the whole system: well knowing that an increase of business, like free trade, will be the result of a right understanding of a formerly supposed mystery, viz., the True cause of Felting.
Felt and felted articles being already in use, in many trades in addition to that of hat-making, necessitates a general and indeed a very full and lucid description of the materials of which they are made.


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