Tolex Cabinet Details
Notes and photos from Mitch about how he builds the amps.

Tolex is the trade name of a flexible textured vinyl material with a cloth backing. Besides being ideal for covering amplifier cabinets, speaker cabinets and musical instrument cases, it's also used for upholstry, book covers, luggage, and anything else that needs a tough, flexible covering.

The term "Tolex" was filed as a trademark in 1945 by the General Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio. Since then it has become a generic description for any vinyl-type covering used for an amplifier or guitar case. These days it's made by numerous manufacturers and it's available in a wide range of colors, textures and patterns.

The first step in building a cabinet that will be covered with Tolex is cutting the pieces for the top, bottom and sides from 3/4" Baltic birch plywood. These pieces are assembled with dovetail joints. I cut those with a router and a dovetail jig. The cabinet is glued together and the edges are rounded over, again using a router.

Here's the Plexi cabinet at this stage.

Plexi

Some 3/4" x 3/4" cleats heve been installed to hold the front and back panels. The cabinet also has grooves cut in the top and bottom for decorative piping that will be installed later.

Plexi

Here are a few pictures of the cabinet with black Tolex and gold colored piping installed. The feet and a handle have also been put on. The Tolex is glued on using contact cement. If the seams are done right, they are pretty much invisible.

Plexi

Plexi

Tolex corners on cabinets with compound rounded edges can be challenging if no corner protectors are going to hide them!

Plexi

Like the amps that inspired it, the Plexi's front panel is covered with Tolex too, and it has gold colored piping around the edges and across the middle.

Plexi

The rear panel is sprayed with three coats of black hammertone paint. It also has a large vent grill made from perforated sheet steel that I spray painted black.

Plexi

Here's a cabinet for an amplifier and a 10" speaker. Again it's made from 3/4" Baltic birch. Pine is another option for combo cabinets to reduce the weight.

Combo

Combo

Here's the cabinet with its back panel before anything was painted. The rounded cutouts on the back were done with a router.

Combo

Here's the cabinet after blue Tolex was installed. It takes time and careful trimming to get rounded Tolex corners perfect. The indented part at the top of the cabinet took a while.

The other corners were done fairly quickly because metal corner protectors were used on this cabinet. They might look good in the picture but there are a few flaws that will be hidden by the corner protectors.

Combo

This is the cabinet after the amplifier and speaker were mounted for a test fit.

Combo

Here's the cabinet with its front and back panels. I sprayed them with black textured lacquer. I also installed the corner protectors, handle and feet.

Combo

Combo

I painted the interior of the cabinet black.

Combo

The last step was making a frame for the blue and black grill cloth and installing it on the front.

Combo

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