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Fabric top


WPVT
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The original top on my 1929 White truck is a coated 2 ply fabric over padding, all over a chestnut wood and 3 ply 1/4" plywood frame. The fabric was leaking, so I've removed everything and replaced the plywood. The wood frame was in very good condition and required only a little tightening. My question is regarding the fabric covering on the corners. The original had no tucks or pleats, so the fabric itself had to stretch quite a bit to cover the rounded corners smoothly. Are there new replacement fabrics available that can stretch like this ? Or a stretch fabric followed with a brushed on coating ? 

I used to have a Model AA with a fabric top, but that top laid flat as I recall, and didn't have to cover a rounded corner. 

I'll attach a photo of the truck.

IMG_0041.jpg

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The ordinal fabric was probably some variation of Pantasote, a fabric with a waterproof coating.  Modern vinyls are close, but not exact.  Haartz sells a replicated Pantasote.  Most any vinyl topping should be able to conform to the gentl curves I'm seeing on your truck, with contact cement and a heat gun.

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3 hours ago, trimacar said:

The ordinal fabric was probably some variation of Pantasote, a fabric with a waterproof coating.  Modern vinyls are close, but not exact.  Haartz sells a replicated Pantasote.  Most any vinyl topping should be able to conform to the gentl curves I'm seeing on your truck, with contact cement and a heat gun.

 

Do you know what pantasote was made of? Wikipedia has this graphic that says "Will not burn! Imitations burn violently". I gather it wasn't nitrocellulose.....

 

Pantasote.jpg

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4 hours ago, trimacar said:

The ordinal fabric was probably some variation of Pantasote, a fabric with a waterproof coating.  Modern vinyls are close, but not exact.  Haartz sells a replicated Pantasote.  Most any vinyl topping should be able to conform to the gentl curves I'm seeing on your truck, with contact cement and a heat gun.

Thanks. I'll have to experiment a little with a heat gun. Although the curves in the photo appear gentle, it's the actual corners that I am worried about. I'll attach a photo that will make the situation more clear.  I'm not sure how I can cover this like the original. with no pleats, seams, or tucks.

Top Corner.jpg

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If you get the correct material, it will stretch over that shape with no big problem.  Here's a picture of an SS, I put the top on either this one or it's twin.  Note the shape of the rear of the top, and that's all one piece of top material stretched over it, no seams.  Takes heat and patience but it can be done.

IMG_1854.PNG

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OK. Now I know it can be done.

Will Pantasote replica fabrics from Haartz respond well to heat ? In my case I can't use contact cement as it's going over padding. (The padding doesn't show in my photo. It was just some kind of rough jute product.)

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Here is Haartz long cobra grain on a 29 sedan that looks to have as tight corner curves as what your truck has.

 

It has a very heavy backing compared to some other brands of cobra grain I've used. But like Trimacar said, be patient and it will stretch over some rather tight corners. And, I didn't need to use heat when I did these roof corners. But it would have made even more stretch possible if I had.  

 

Paul

DSCN1616.JPG

Edited by PFitz (see edit history)
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  • 4 weeks later...
On 12/13/2019 at 4:28 PM, trimacar said:

The ordinal fabric was probably some variation of Pantasote, a fabric with a waterproof coating.  Modern vinyls are close, but not exact.  Haartz sells a replicated Pantasote.  Most any vinyl topping should be able to conform to the gentl curves I'm seeing on your truck, with contact cement and a heat gun.

 

I'm moving ahead slowly. I've replaced the original 1/4" plywood so I am ready for fabric now. I found a nice supple matte finish black vinyl that I like by Champion, that's nearly identical to the original. 

Under the original fabric was a layer of what looks like jute or cotton waste. Not very thick, less than 1/4" in its compressed state. 

It seems like I should have something under the fabric so imperfections in the surface won't telegraph through the vinyl. The new "jute" I saw available was the same as carpet underlayment. A little too stiff for my use. So I got some 1/2" poly batting and cemented that down. I laid the vinyl on top just to see what it would look like. Way too puffy. I don't really want a cushioned top.

Should I be trying to get the wood surfaces good enough to cover with vinyl directly and cement it down ? Or look for a thinner underlayment of some sort ? 

I'm a pretty careful craftsman, but this sort of work is new to me, and I want to get it right. 

 

 

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33 minutes ago, trimacar said:

For thin padding, I use quilting cotton.  It’s a thin layer of cotton, maybe 1/16 inch thick, usually two layers works well. Your local fabric store should have quilting supplies.

Thanks. I was hoping you would respond to this post. 

Does this mean that the vinyl would not be cemented down, just heated, stretched  and tacked ? I'm certainly more comfortable with that since it's easier to undo mistakes. 

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The padding may have some adhesive to stay in place, such as the spray adhesive easily found.  The top fabric is not glued to padding.

 

Foam is fine for modern cars that will be in sad condition or in the junkyard in 10 or 12 years.  It will not last and will start to deteriorate, so really isn’t suitable for early car restoration.

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Thanks. I've got the spray adhesive and used it to hold down the poly padding I tried and rejected. Handy stuff.

I realize now that I am not clear on the purpose of the padding. Is it to try and keep the vinyl tight in the center of the roof ? Over plywood I can't see it having much soundproofing or insulating properties. Maybe it was habit from carriage building days. The jute that was in there used to be common stuff, but now not so much. It appears, though I'm not positive, that it only covered the flat plywood area, not wrapping down onto the corners. In that case, I'd need a material that I can taper off, so the edge won't show up under the vinyl. 

Anyway, I think of the top as being somewhat rigid, not like a cushion, so that's what I am trying to achieve. 

As ever, thankful for experienced advice.

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1 hour ago, WPVT said:

Thanks. I've got the spray adhesive and used it to hold down the poly padding I tried and rejected. Handy stuff.

I realize now that I am not clear on the purpose of the padding. Is it to try and keep the vinyl tight in the center of the roof ? Over plywood I can't see it having much soundproofing or insulating properties. Maybe it was habit from carriage building days. The jute that was in there used to be common stuff, but now not so much. It appears, though I'm not positive, that it only covered the flat plywood area, not wrapping down onto the corners. In that case, I'd need a material that I can taper off, so the edge won't show up under the vinyl. 

Anyway, I think of the top as being somewhat rigid, not like a cushion, so that's what I am trying to achieve. 

As ever, thankful for experienced advice.

The padding is to help hide any seams/edges in the top wood work, chicken wire, roof bows, from showing through after the topping is made tight.

 

The picture I posted  has a thin layer of quilters cotton under it, like Trimacar recommended. When I do tops, I don't glue anything down like some auto makers did with original top "wadding" (the name for top padding). Once in place it never moves. I use pieces large enough to extend right out past  the edges.  Quilter's batting comes in large enough sheets to do tops with one piece so you don't have to glue padding  Don't buy the cheap batting. It often is uneven in thickness and can have lumps of material in it that don't matter much with a quilt, but will show through a tight top on a hot day !!!!!!!  I order from Fairfield. Good quality, uniform cotton batting. https://www.fairfieldworld.com/store/?fwp_category=batting&fwp_material_content=cotton

 

Then the properly stretched topping and edge molding/trim compress the batting down and give a smooth taper to the edges. That way it does not show an edge bulge if it's cut short of the edges.  If you try to taper it yourself  you risk an uneven edge taper after the topping is put on.

 

Since your top has a full covering of wood, they only used a cloth under covering to hide any seams/edges. You can use heavy-weight denim from any fabric store or Walmart fabric department. A poly blend is a bit more elastic and easier to stretch and form over corners without wrinkles. Leave several inches of extra length all around to grab for pulling so you can stretch it evenly and tack it in place. Work from the middle of opposite sides and tack pulling on a vector down and  toward the corners. Cut off the excess material to the molding/trim edges later. Then do the same with the topping.

 

Paul 

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The padding is to smooth out the top and give it a rounded contour. Typically, they would unroll a sheet of cotton padding onto the top, sticking pieces under it here and there to get the shape they wanted. Then cover with muslin cloth. If it was lumpy they would push the cotton around with long needles poked thru the cloth until they got a smooth, shapely contour. Then put on the waterproof covering. The padding will also prevent the sharp corners of the wood from chewing through the top covering. Tear the cotton don't cut it. By tearing you leave a tapered edge that blends in better. The old padding was much thicker when it was new, it was compressed down by the top material and packed down over the years. The material shrinks with time too.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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On 1/10/2020 at 7:03 AM, trimacar said:

The padding may have some adhesive to stay in place, such as the spray adhesive easily found.  The top fabric is not glued to padding.

 

Foam is fine for modern cars that will be in sad condition or in the junkyard in 10 or 12 years.  It will not last and will start to deteriorate, so really isn’t suitable for early car restoration.

 

I covered the entire  wood top with an acrylic felt. It smoothed out small imperfections well and stretched nicely at the corners. So now I'm satisfied that I have a good substrate on which to lay the vinyl. I'm wondering what sort of a sequence to follow, i.e., whether to go front to back, which is pretty straightforward and then do the sides, or start at four compass points and keep going around ?  The rear rounded corners will require the most stretching to cover smoothly. Should they be done first or last ?  

 

 

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As I mentioned, you start tacking in the middle of opposite sides and work the slack out toward the corners by pulling down and toward the corners to work out any slack. Doesn't matter if you do side-to-side first, or front-to- back first, just tack an edge and it's opposite to maintain even tension. I do opposite sides most of the way to the corners, then I do the 90 degree direction sides. Then I do the curve of the four corners last.

 

If you start pulling and tacking in the corners you'll end up with wrinkles in the middle of each side.

 

Yeah, it means pulling and putting in a few tacks, then walking around the opposite side and putting a few more, and doing that several tacks then back and forth, but it's the best way to get even tension. Go slowly and only tack when you have pulled that narrow area your about to tack is smooth. I set up two stepstools, one on each side of the vehicle. Saves time moving whatever you have to stand on to be able to see the roof tension as you pull and tack.

 

Make sure you doing this in a warm place or the top will be  loose in warm weather.

 

As Trimacar pointed out, heating the top material as you go will help - especially getting a smooth, unwrinkled shape over tight corners.  However, you should test some scrap  of the same top material with heat. Some brands blister and delaminate from the backing easily if you get them a bit too hot. Some of the low gloss vinyl gets shinny from too much heat. Over heat the corners and you could end up with an uneven looking finish.Trick is to know how much is too much, and no one can tell you that. That takes testing to gain experience with what you have.

 

I learned to cover wooden boat cabin tops and decks with canvas and Dynel, back in the 60's. Those were two man jobs. Early cars and trucks are a bit  smaller and easier because there's no need of gluing as you go. 

 

Paul

Edited by PFitz (see edit history)
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Thanks Paul.

I went ahead and made a first attempt. Basically I followed a sequence like you are describing. The front of the roof is straight, so I stapled that down with the straight cut on the vinyl. Then I went around to the back and started in the middle working outward towards the sides.I ended up with a nice flt smooth surface on the top, with the two sides and the corners still to go. Then I started in the middle of each side pulling down and towards the corners to get the vinyl tight.

To make a long story short, I got a flat unwrinkled top, but all of my slack ended up at the corners, the result of my pulling down and towards the corners. To get rid of that many "pleats", I'd have to pull down on the corners more than is realistic. So I am going to have to try again.

The roof is somewhat wedged shape, as well as having rounded corners, so that wedge shape needs to be accommodated, as well as the corners. 

I'm wondering if pulling towards the corners is my mistake. Maybe I overdid it. I know there is probably a certain amount of finesse involved. I may need to buy more vinyl and start over.

 

 

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1 hour ago, WPVT said:

Thanks Paul.

I went ahead and made a first attempt. Basically I followed a sequence like you are describing. The front of the roof is straight, so I stapled that down with the straight cut on the vinyl. Then I went around to the back and started in the middle working outward towards the sides.I ended up with a nice flt smooth surface on the top, with the two sides and the corners still to go. Then I started in the middle of each side pulling down and towards the corners to get the vinyl tight.

To make a long story short, I got a flat unwrinkled top, but all of my slack ended up at the corners, the result of my pulling down and towards the corners. To get rid of that many "pleats", I'd have to pull down on the corners more than is realistic. So I am going to have to try again.

The roof is somewhat wedged shape, as well as having rounded corners, so that wedge shape needs to be accommodated, as well as the corners. 

I'm wondering if pulling towards the corners is my mistake. Maybe I overdid it. I know there is probably a certain amount of finesse involved. I may need to buy more vinyl and start over.

 

 

It's ok if it takes more than one attempt to get the top on smoothly  while your learning.    Use less pulling angle sideways and more downward.  You don't need much side pull. Only enough to keep the material smooth. Too much side pull and you crowd too much material into the corners than can be smoothly stretched.  

 

You may find that by using more down angle pull you can pull the material enough to get tacks just beyond the first line of tack holes and not need to replace that piece. Depending on what it's made of and how thick the backing is, some top materials may need to be re-stretched - even if it came out sorta close to ok looking the first time.  Your not just stretching the vinyl, your changing the weave of the backing somewhat and different backings stretch differently. Much like clothes out of the dryer stretch out after a few hours of wearing.

 

Think about what's going to happen to the tension when sun light warms it on a hot day.  I've seen some sedan tops that were so loose they were ballooning up while driving down the road on a hot day with the windows open.  

 

At the corners you'll need to tack a bit closer together to make them come out smoother  than the tack spacing that works for straight edges.

 

Paul

Edited by PFitz (see edit history)
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On 12/14/2019 at 11:04 AM, PFitz said:

Here is Haartz long cobra grain on a 29 sedan that looks to have as tight corner curves as what your truck has.

 

It has a very heavy backing compared to some other brands of cobra grain I've used. But like Trimacar said, be patient and it will stretch over some rather tight corners. And, I didn't need to use heat when I did these roof corners. But it would have made even more stretch possible if I had.  

 

Paul

DSCN1616.JPG

Yes, I have seen plenty of success with both long and short grain Cobra vinyl - commonly available via Model A ford places.  I have seen and used generally the type with the cloth backing, but recently saw a fiber backing and that could allow more success, though probably not eons of longevity.  The RR PI top was done in 1974.  

 

 

21752875_10155892618332189_8828711555658261019_o.jpg.4b883ad8f8740b3d053b263d2aa6320c.jpg

 

21686762_10155892616992189_3894146381541067000_o.jpg

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)
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Some of the easiest to stretch was wide cobra grain that had a cheese cloth like backing. But I haven't seen that made in years.

 

The only cobra grain I could find wide enough to do a the last big large sedan, drip rail to drip rail, was Haartz. And it has a heavy backing that took a couple of  rounds of stretching, tacking, then un-tacking and re-stretching to get it tight enough. That's why I prefer to use tacks rather than staples. Easier to get out without trashing the topping.

 

Doing closed car new tops is also a great way to find out if your prone to carpal tunnel. :wacko:

 

Paul

Edited by PFitz (see edit history)
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My thanks to both of you. It's plain to see you've done this before. I'll try again with the material I have.

I'm extra glad this process didn't involve gluing anything down.

Once I succeed, (and I will), I'll give a synopsis of what worked. I think that's helpful to have in the online database for when others start searching. 

Thanks again.

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3 minutes ago, WPVT said:

I just received some "hidem" welt for this project. It looks fine but it lacks the wires that were in the original.

Does it matter, and if so, is there someone making the welt with wires in it ?

Restoration Specialties and few other places have it.  It’s often called “wire-on windlace.”  It is exponentially more expensive than hidem because it’s getting harder and harder to find.

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I may have misspoken. The "hidem" type welt that was originally used on my truck has two cords in it that make the beads appear a little "plumper" . The same as you would have on an upholstery welt. I think wire-on or windlace is something else. 

The original is also 5/8" wide, not the 3/4" that seems to be more available. I'm looking for a pretty subtle pebble grain, nothing as bold as the short or long cobra I've seen pictures of.

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On 1/11/2020 at 12:33 PM, PFitz said:

Some of the easiest to stretch was wide cobra grain that had a cheese cloth like backing. But I haven't seen that made in years.

 

The only cobra grain I could find wide enough to do a the last big large sedan, drip rail to drip rail, was Haartz. And it has a heavy backing that took a couple of  rounds of stretching, tacking, then un-tacking and re-stretching to get it tight enough. That's why I prefer to use tacks rather than staples. Easier to get out without trashing the topping.

 

Doing closed car new tops is also a great way to find out if your prone to carpal tunnel. :wacko:

 

Paul

https://www.miamicorp.com/  Last time I bought it, this company had long grain in black with a fuzzybacking verses a woven cloth backing, I was somewhat skeptical of its longevity, but used it in Auburn trunk on floor.  I do not recall width.

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Thanks for everybody's input, especially trimacar and pfitz. The job is complete and I don't think it looks too shabby. The vinyl is tight as an eel's skin. 

The "hidem" welt is aptly named. Mine is hiding a lot of staples and not a few staple holes. The stuff I used was 3/4" wide, and I'm glad it was. It was tricky keeping the staples in their "lane" without x-ray vision to see the edge of the wood frame.

I ended up using acrylic felt for padding, just one layer. It was very easy to stretch and conform to the corner shape which gave me a nice smooth surface to lay the vinyl. The vinyl I used was a 54" wide matte black "Champion" pebble finish, a good match for the original. Very different in appearance than the short or long cobra material. Nice soft black with no shine.

Again, thanks to everyone for their advice and comments.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here are a few photos of the project before and after. In the photo of the original top, you can see the wood frame around the perimeter, the plywood infill, and the remaining pebble finish fabric. The replacement fabric was a matte black, pebble grained vinyl with an underlayment of acrylic felt. 

Thanks again to everyone who offered advice and information.

OriginalTop LR.jpg

After LR.jpg

TopView LR.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

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