posted 29 March 2006 04:35 AM
I found this several years ago on the web, great info:
This is simply how I Do Tolex projects. This is not intended to be the definitive method, but rather what has worked for me so far. There are probably a hundred different ways to do this, so take this at face value.
There are three photo albums that accompany this text if you print them and this text and use it as a guide when doing your work it may be helpful, especially to the first timer. For the photo albums it is a good idea to use the "Thumbnail" and the "Show All" toggles at the top of the pages for easier viewing and printing.
I use DAP Contact Cement. There is also a water-soluble product that I understand works well but costs much more. Either Product requires adequate Ventilation. I use two box fans in a "Push Pull" configuration. There are some spray products on the market but they are a pain to work with, and set very fast. The best solvent to use is Mineral Spirits, it cleans brushes and spills, as well as hands. I like to use cheap disposable Brushes, and a 3" trim roller for large surfaces. These are available in most home centers, like Home Depot, or any hardware store. Wax Paper is great to cover anything that you don’t want the cement to stick to. You will also need a good sharp Razor Knife, or box cutter, a metal straight edge, pencils or markers that can be seen on the Tolex. A chalk string is good for long straight lines, and sometimes I find Masking tape helpful.
Before you can start to apply the Tolex, your cabinet must be prepared. Fill any voids caused by screws or other fasteners with some kind of wood filler or plastic wood. The same goes for any other irregularity in the surface or edges, such as small gaps in box joints, or damaged places.
It would be a good idea to avoid knots in your lumber if you are building your cabinet from scratch, but that is not always possible. If you have questionable knots in your cabinet you can secure them with "Super Glue" prior to final sanding.
I use 50/50 Bullseye Amber Shellac and denatured alcohol, or black spray paint to do the inside of the cabinet. This is mostly for cosmetic reasons and is not a necessary step, but I think the cabinet looks neater and is easier to keep clean with some kind of treatment on the bare wood.
I like to do most cabinets and amp heads with two pieces. One piece for the two sides and top, and a second piece for the bottom. First determine the length of the first piece. Let’s say you have a sample cabinet 18"h x 20"w x 10"d. This piece will need to be 62" long. That’s the two sides + the top + 3" on each end for overlap (to be trimmed later). Lay the Tolex piece out lengthwise and strike a line 3" from one edge then another line the width of the cabinet (10") and a third line 3" from that one (this is where I use the chalk string). You should have 3 lines running the length of your piece. Cut the piece to length and down the third line so you have a piece 62" long x 16" wide. Now two lines 20" apart in the center of the piece between the remaining two lines. This is where the top will go. Cut the bottom piece so that it is the length of the inside of cabinet bottom (20" minus the thickness of the two sides), and the same 16" width. Use a metal strait edge to guide your cuts. Check for fit.
Glue the Panels:
Lay the Tolex face down and apply the glue to the area in the center that is marked for the top panel with a brush or roller. Then apply glue to the cabinet top. You must apply glue to BOTH PIECES to be glued together. Cover the whole area, but not too heavy, let it dry to the touch before putting the two pieces together. Do not put the two pieces together when the glue is still wet. Use the lines to make sure the piece is aligned properly. Smooth the material with your hands, being careful not to stretch it too much. Now let it set up for 20 minutes or so. If it "puckers" or "blisters" you most likely still had wet glue, don’t panic, it will shrink back as it sets up. Just keep an eye on it and smooth it out occasionally with your hands and don’t do the next panel until it is set and the "puckering" has stopped. The Tolex material will shrink some, and tighten up as it sets.
Now glue the sides, one at a time, in the same way. Then glue the bottom in place. When everything has set up, fold the 3" flaps in on the bottom piece and glue them in the same manner. Now trim the side panels where they overlap the bottom piece so you have about a ½" overlap, and glue in place.
There are a couple of ways to do the side flaps and corners. Fold the flaps in and box fold the corners at a 45-degree angle, you can cut with a razor along this line through both pieces to make a butt joint with no gap, then glue in place. I like to leave the fold in place and glue it down as it is, on some pieces. It really depends on how I want it to look. If you are going to use metal corner protectors on some of the corners, the second method seems to work best for me. If this is your first attempt, or if you are not satisfied with how your past corners have looked, I highly recommend making a "practice corner" out of a couple of pieces of wood scraps attached at a 90-degree angle, and covered with scrap Tolex. Sometimes masking tape comes in handy for holding the corners and other short pieces until the glue is set. See the photo album " Tolexing Corners". There are several self explanatory Photos of corner construction.
Lastly, cut pieces for the back panels, and glue up in the same basic manor as the main cabinet. (If this is a first attempt, it might be wise to do the back panels FIRST to practice with the glue)
Make sure as you make the panels to allow for the thickness of the multiple layers of the Tolex material, and in the case of the speaker baffle, the thickness of the grille cloth.
Let everything set up overnight before attaching the corners, handle or other hardware to the cabinet.
It is possible to form Tolex around inside and outside corners and curved surfaces, taking a reasonable amount of care. Tolex to some degree will stretch, but too much can cause a tear to occur in some instances. An inside curve that has too small of a radius is harder to do than a large radius. I find it easiest to use a heat source (hair dryer) to pre-form the Tolex to fit the curve. It will shrink back somewhat so you may need to heat it several times as you make the application. The contact cement also softens the Tolex and aids in stretching and forming the material. On areas of an inside curved surface I like to first breakdown the cloth backing a little bit with some 80 or so grit sandpaper. Just lightly rub the backside of the Tolex to tear some of the threads, but not through to the vinyl. After gluing, it sometimes helps to use masking tape to hold the work in place until the glue sets. An outside curve is much easier. Simply pull the Tolex snug and fold the excess back then glue it down. The excess should be folded into several neat "pleats" that are then trimmed with a razor blade, This will be on the back of the piece where it will not be seen. See the photo album "Tolexing Curves", there are some self-explanatory photos there.
Sometimes inside corners, like the control panels on Fender Tweed style cabinets, are easier to do by cutting the Tolex at the apex of the curve, apply a small patch underneath the opening, and glue and form the Tolex to the curved shape. There will be a small inverted "V" with the patch underneath in the corner.
This is another instance that it would be highly recommended to use some scrap pieces of Tolex on a practice piece of wood to sharpen technique before doing the actual final piece of work.
I’m sure that there are some things that I may have left out or might have explained in a better way. This is only intended to be a GUIDELINE to help those who have never attempted this before or for those who are not satisfied with past projects and are seeking some fresh ideas. As I said in the beginning, there are a lot of different ways to do this. This is only how I do it, from a "Trial & Error" learning process. Use this information at your own risk, practice pieces are highly recommended. Ventilate the work area, read and follow the instructions on the product package.
Comments or suggestions regarding this content are welcome. I need input to improve the quality of this procedure for everyone’s benefit. I would like to know if this has been helpful to you, and how your Tolex projects have come out. Feel free to contact me at any time.
TOLEX® is a registered trademark of General Tire
Amendments: As I receive input, or new ideas, I will try to post the information here until
I can rewrite the page.
1. Custom Pak Adhesives makes a new Water Based Contact Cement, product # WBCC. Contact Jeff Pitcher at Custom Pak, 1-800-454-4583. The price at the time of this revision was $23.03 per gallon plus shipping. See the Text File "A new Glue Review".
2. Dap Adhesives also makes a new water based product that comes in a
Green and Black can. I have never used this product, but I understand it still requires a lot of ventilation than the Custom Pak product.
Latest Revision: 09/27/02
[This message was edited by Ken Fox on 29 March 2006 at 04:39 AM.]