varnish instead of tolex?

Discussion in 'Building the Classics' started by Jimmy3000, Aug 21, 2019.

  1. Jimmy3000

    Jimmy3000 New Member

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    My JCM 900 head and 1968 cab are road worn and I no longer need to lug this around to gigs. What I'd like to do is bring this thing down to wood, put a finish on it and keep it in my office when I need to blow of steam.
    Has anyone ever done this? I've seen re-tolexing but it's out of my comfort zone and budget. Is there any advice anyone can offer?
     
  2. jmp45

    jmp45 Well-Known Member

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    Never have done it but I saw one stripped down to wood. A Plexi and a 60s 60a cab, dark stained like walnut or something with all the trim. Looked pretty cool.
     
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  3. neikeel

    neikeel Well-Known Member

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    If you have the elephant tolex with corner protectors then doing a recover yourself is relatively forgiving.
    If you strip them to the same standard as you would when polishing and varnishing then recover with decent tolex cement, keep things tight it is pretty easy. The hardest parts are mitering the corners (at least on the early 60s levant covered amps) but that is not necessary when you put corner protectors on as they cover the tricky bits?
    Scumback did a recover 101 a few years ago, well worth tracking down and having a read.https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/marshall-4x12-slant-cab-recover-101.70200/
    and the grill:https://www.thegearpage.net/board/i...ketweave-grill-cloth-installation-101.446688/
     
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  4. royslead

    royslead Well-Known Member

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    It seems often, the wood under tolex covering is certainly not very nice to look at, regardless of how well it is stained. Sometimes, you can make them look great with paint (after proper preparation). Most cabs that I have seen that look great with a stained or dyed finish (anything that lets you see the wood's natural beauty / figuring), are made of "nice" wood to begin with - especially Geeze's builds.
     
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  5. MarshallDog

    MarshallDog Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    IMO...I would re-tolex it but thats me.
     
  6. Drinkingdeath01

    Drinkingdeath01 Well-Known Member

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    I've done a ton of retolex jobs over the years and I'll be the first one to tell you that its not hard to do, but very time consuming. As much work as its gonna take you to strip, sand and then varnish you'd be better off with a tolex job. The problem is you don't know exactly what's underneath the current tolex. Once you strip it you might find all kinds of imperfections that stain and varnish will just highlight. Stripping is half the job, once you do that your at the half way point, might as well do a custom color that will look amazing.

    I've seen some varnished Marshall's before and to me they look funny. Something seems off with them but that's just my opinion. Good luck with whatever you choose.:cheers:
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
  7. Geeze

    Geeze Well-Known Member

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    I hate tolex so I know what I would do.

    You'll need to use a grain filler as plywood tends to have large pores and grain structure then use a gel based dye to color the wood evenly. Gel dyes don't penetrate and work well on blotchy woods like plywood and pine. Then seal with your favorite sealer. If you stay on the warm side of the color spectrum - yellow, orange, red and brown they tend to work well with the natural blond / brown of wood. The cool side of the spectrum require bleaching of the wood or they look like muddy crap.

    An orbital sander is the bomb for smoothing I run 80gr / 150gr then no more than 220 gr.

    Russ
     
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  8. pedecamp

    pedecamp Well-Known Member

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    I say leave it alone and play the hell out of it, in your office. :yesway:
     
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  9. Scumback Speakers

    Scumback Speakers Well-Known Member Sponsor

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    I have recovered over 50 cabs. You should stay with putting tolex on it. Once you strip it down you'll find a lot of dings, imperfections, etc and wood filler, grain filler, etc will not make it look right (the voice of experience talking). So either live with it as it is, or prepare to do a long day of sanding and wood filler, then put tolex back on it. Expect two days of real work if you know what you're doing, or about five days of "What the hell did I get into here?" if it's your first attempt. That, once again, is the voice of experience talking. Good luck!
     
  10. Matthews Guitars

    Matthews Guitars Active Member

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    If you want the bare wood look, a plywood cabinet isn't it. If I were to go in that direction I'd build a flamed or quilted maple head cabinet for the amp, with dovetailed joinery, and then have something that's really attractive to look at. See how Mesa does their hardwood cabinets.

    I can truly envision and appreciate a Plexi style head cabinet done in flamed or quilted maple or even walnut. It could look VERY elegant if well done.
     
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  11. Steverino1984

    Steverino1984 New Member

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    As a cabinet/furniture maker, I can virtually assure you that the wood you’ll find underneath the covering is not going to be suitable for a beautiful refinish. Now, if it were me and I wanted to make a pretty amp head I would consider laying up some veneer on it. A very healthy amount of work, but if you want gorgeous, you’ll get gorgeous. I would only apply the veneer to the flat face plate, and leave all the corners, etc. as is, or strip it and paint it black. Done well, it’ll pop you in the face before you fire up the amp!
     
  12. South Park

    South Park Member

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    Road ware is cool.
     

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