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Tolex Alternatives - Fabric Store Vinyl?

5/11/2003 4:09 PM
Bob Predaina Tolex Alternatives - Fabric Store Vinyl?
I went to Jo-Ann fabrics with my Mom on Mothers' Day weekend. As a coincidence, the store had a 40% off sale on vinyl, so I went shopping for tolex-substitute cover materials. I'm building a small combo, and I've gotten kind of tired of the traditional Fender tolex colors, so I was looking for something a little different. Not necessarily Marshall purple, but something a little different, like faux leather in hunter green or burgundy.  
I have absolutely no experience using Alpine Vinyl or Marine Vinyl on amp head/combo cabinets. I've always used hardwood instead. Looking at the stuff at fabric stores, it didn't seem like it would hold down with glue well, and it didn't seem to be very scratch resistant. When I got to thinking about how tough it would be to make my own piping, cut the vinyl, and glue, the cost didn't seem any cheaper and it didn't seem any less labor intensive than building a hardwood box like on a 'wreck.  
Does anyone else have experience with the fabric store vinyls? I'd be particularly interested in hearing about how well they glue to pine or plywood, and how resistant they are to scuffing. Obviously, they're not going to be on par with tolex, but some of the colors and patterns do seem more interesting.
5/11/2003 7:02 PM
Rick S

Bob, there are so many different vinyls available, it's hard to say what is acceptable or not. I've seen some marine vinyls used with good results. Basically, stay away from anything that has the fuzzy cotton like pellon backing. Anything with a thin woven backing could be used, but look for the thicker, less stretchy vinyls. The easier it stretches, the more it will be prone to shrinkage and it will be more difficult to work with in this application.  
The smooth grained and vivid colored vinyls will show scuffs much more than the tolex types.  
Contact adhesive should work OK on anything with woven backing, but always make a sample bond with the vinyl, adhesive and wood you will be using. Wait 24 hours and try to peel it off to check the bond.  
Rick S
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5/11/2003 7:31 PM
Don Symes

Bob -  
please send me an email - I have some woodworking questions for you.  
- Don
5/12/2003 11:32 PM
Bob Predaina
5/12/2003 4:01 AM
Todd Hepler
Bob -  
My main experience is in the car audio field, and I have played with all sorts of coverings on all sorts of materials - Vinyl, Ozite, grille cloth ... MDF, plywood, and luan. I have also covered a few guitar cabs with tolex and tweed - the last two tweeds turned out halfway decent. I have a pretty good eye at picking out a material that'll hold up well and one that won't. with all of that said ....  
I've spent a few minutes checking out the fabrics in the sewing supply stores( my wife made me go - honest!), I can tell you that I've not seen anything that I thought would be durable enough for use on a guitar cab. I did use an automotive tweed on an amp I built for my son . Check out the 'midnight blue' @  
5/12/2003 6:48 AM
I have used fabric store vinyl as a covering material. I did it because I liked the retro look the vinyl gives vs. the tolex. The extra stretch makes it a little hard to work with getting really straight seems. I can't really make a straight seem anyhow. As for durability, it's holding up very well. And I kick this little combo around alot. I even use it as a step stool sometimes. I used cove base adhesive. Like you would use to install cove base in a bathroom or kitchen. It gave good open time for workability and its water resistant. No question about the bond.  
5/12/2003 7:42 PM
I shop at Jo-Ann too. I used the thinnest black vinal they had for my SF Bassman Combo cabinet. When I left it on a milk crate overnight, it left an imprint in the vinyl where the crate edges were. If you want a lasting, good looking covering, I'd stick with Tolex. On the other hand, if the vinyl is just there to protect the wood and look reasonable from a distance, it's good enough. It's not like our amps will end up in the Metropolitan Museum any time soon.  
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