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Thread: Zilch Cloth Installation

  1. #1
    Senior Member saeman's Avatar
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    Zilch Cloth Installation

    At the request of several forum members I'll start this thread to discuss the options I've tested to install grille cloth on the wood framework. Hopefully other members will chime in, not with their failures, but with additional techniques for success.

    Since receiving my bundle of blue cloth from Zilch I have completed a pair of 4343 grilles and two complete sets of 4350 grilles. After the initial frustrations of trying to establish my process, I am now producing grilles that are EXACTLY as those done by JBL. My first grille took over an hour and required my wife's help. Knowing that JBL would not accept that kind of labor time I kept trying new ideas. My last grille took about 20 minutes to install the cloth, by myself. I'll consider that acceptable for now.

    To get the most out of this thread I'll need to eventually include some pictures. When I do my next grille I'll get pics to show some of the details. For now babbling will have to do.

    The first requirement is to choose the type of glue to use. First I tried hot melt glue. I bought a gun and enough glue sticks to do a bunch of grilles. What A Disaster - First problem is that it sets up way too fast. If you're trying to achieve a 1/2" to 3/4" glued border around the frame, there's no way to get an even coat of glue under the border cloth. Rolling the cloth down over the hot glue using a veneer roller was the only way to avoid lumps of glue under the cloth. In many places the glue bled thru the cloth and left an ugly appearance. I then tried wood glue, gorilla glue, construction adhesive and contact cement. Since I use wood glue for all of my veneer work I had high hopes. When veneering you let it dry and then reactivate it with heat. It requires that you coat both surfaces however and you cannot put a coat on the cloth, not knowing exactly where your glue line will be. Method failed !! Gorilla glue and construction adhesive dry too slow and nobody has enough hands to hold the cloth in place until it sets; so forget those options. Contact Cement turned out to be the choice.

    With the frame face down I masked all around the frame leaving an exposed 3/4" border. Most original grilles appear to have a 1/2" border - your choice. After that I brush applied 2 coats of contact cement (not the cheap water based stuff, but the smelly kind that gives you a headache after a while). Let the glue fully dry to the touch. I had a few that sat for a whole day and had no problems. One coat will not be enough as there needs to be enough glue so that when heated, it penetrates into the cloth. 3 coats might be too much and it may bleed thru the cloth and foul your iron surface.

    Until you get your technique down, cut the cloth with a full 2" border in excess of what you need to cover the frame. Lay the cloth down flat and center the grille frame on the cloth. Plug in your wife's clothes iron and get ready. Pick a corner, any corner, and pull the cloth up over the corner and over your glue border. Take the tip of the iron and press the cloth into the glue just 1" on either side of the exact corner. Go to the next closest corner and stretch the cloth laterally from your glued corner to your new corner (hope that makes sense). You need to get a feel of how much the cloth will stretch. Stretch it to 2/3 rds of it's limit and press the second corner into the glue the same as the first. Remember to keep the frame centered on the cloth while tacking down the 4 corners. Go to one of the farther corners and repeat the stretching and tacking process. Do the same for the 4th corner. If the frame is long, as my 4350's were, go to each side at the center and tack it down. Remember to stretch the cloth from the first side tack to the second before you do the second side tack.

    This seems like a bunch of rambling but maybe with pics added later it will all make sense.

    The goal is not to just cover the frame, but to achieve a perfect corner that is "wrapped" with no cuts or mitres. Properly stretching the cloth when tacking down the corners is the only way to ensure a good end result.

    The frame is now sitting with the corners tacked down. Pick a corner and start an inch at a time, working away from the corner. Stretch the cloth over the glue and apply heat. Once you get 3-4 inches away from the corner in each direction, the job gets 10 times easier. If you stretch the cloth to it's limit it may put too much pressure on your glue and cause future problems. If you do not stretch enough the cloth will sag or blow in the breeze of a big woofer. For now I think stretching to 2/3 of it's limit is the way to go. If you don't take most of the stretch out at the corners you will have the cloth bunched up and have no place to get rid of it.

    With the cloth tacked down around the entire perimeter, take a pair of scissors and trim off most of the excess. After that take a straight edge and utility knife and finish trim as "EVEN" as you can get with your 3/4" taped glue line. It's important to trim off all cloth that does not have glue under it. If you do not the exposed edge will fray and leave an untidy appearance. After the edge is finish trimmed take your iron and a veneer roller completely around the perimeter for a final set.

    This procedure, if I haven't made it too complicated, has given me perfect results. I may edit this several times in case I have forgotten something or can make it easier to understand. Chime in with any questions.
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    Senior Member spkrman57's Avatar
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    Looks great!

    Definitely some great craftmanship involved here!

    Ron

  3. #3
    Senior Member Hamilton's Avatar
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    What brand of glue ended up being your favorite?

    Thanks.
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    Senior Member Flodstroem's Avatar
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    Thank you riessen

    Excellent, a very good "manual" how to do it. Great explanation. Shall save a bookmark to this post so I easily can find it when Im working with grill cloth. Looking forward to see the pictures you would like to ad to this thread

    Regards
    Flodstroem

  5. #5
    Senior Member Audiobeer's Avatar
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    Great tips! On the corners since your not using a mitre cut is this method compressing the material enough that it isn't noticeable? Thanks again!

  6. #6
    Steve Gonzales
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    Hot glue

    Great job Rick!

    One thing I wanted to share about the hot glue method is that (I think) you tried to run a bead all the way around the frame in one pass?. What needs to be done is akin to your contact cement method. A thin, 6" (max) bead needs to be laid down at a time for it to work. Then a small piece of wood is to be used to press it in place. Also, you've got to get a feel for how much that is with a few practice runs with small scaps. My L220 grills have mitred corner cuts and I think a few other models do also. I wouldn't dismiss this method so quickly. I have done quite a few grills with it and they look factory also. Some pictures of your initial steps/process[s] would be great and I applaud you for figuring this other technique out and sharing it. Keep up the good work, Regards, Steve G
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    Senior Member Ken Pachkowsky's Avatar
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    Thanks Bud

    I to would like to say thanks for the info. You did a pretty good job of explaining the procedure. I have ruined 2 pieces of grill cloth trying to cover the frames I made for the Westlakes. I got so frustrated I shelved the project till I could figure out a way of doing it. This will help.

    The Westlake frames are single piece and have 10 corners each. Your method should work just as well with them. Maybe I will post a picture of one of the frames and you could advise?

    Ken

  8. #8
    Senior Member Guido's Avatar
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    Thanks Rick!

    What exactly is "contact cement"? Just to help us overseas guys
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Ken Pachkowsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guido
    Thanks Rick!

    What exactly is "contact cement"? Just to help us overseas guys
    Its an adhesive (somewhat clear or semi transparent) that you apply to both surfaces. After application you let it dry to the touch. Extreme caution must be taken when lining up the two surfaces to be glued together because when one surface comes in contact with the other they literally weld together. The problem with contact cement is high toxicity. It should only be done in a well ventilated room. They make water based ones that are less toxic but as mentioned earlier in the thread they don't bond as well.

    I hope that helps?

    Ken

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    Senior Member JuniorJBL's Avatar
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    Always fun learning more.......

  11. #11
    Senior Member saeman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Gonzales
    Great job Rick!

    One thing I wanted to share about the hot glue method is that (I think) you tried to run a bead all the way around the frame in one pass?. What needs to be done is akin to your contact cement method. A thin, 6" (max) bead needs to be laid down at a time for it to work. Then a small piece of wood is to be used to press it in place. Also, you've got to get a feel for how much that is with a few practice runs with small scaps. My L220 grills have mitred corner cuts and I think a few other models do also. I wouldn't dismiss this method so quickly. I have done quite a few grills with it and they look factory also. Some pictures of your initial steps/process[s] would be great and I applaud you for figuring this other technique out and sharing it. Keep up the good work, Regards, Steve G
    Steve - You're right. I ran a thick line of hot glue all around the perimiter of the frame. When I tried to lay the cloth down the glue was dry. Not being one to give up, I took a large hammer and beat the cloth down on to the glue to get it to bond. It did bond to some degree but I destroyed the grille frame in the process. I'll try your technique the next time I do a grille. Thanks

  12. #12
    Senior Member saeman's Avatar
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    Zilch Cloth Installation

    I kinda got busy and forgot about this thread. I did hope to post some more pics but they need to be a sequence, taken hands on while installing the cloth. John P. from Winnipeg will be coming thru my area soon and I thought I would do a grille while he's here and let him take pics of the start to finish process. It will make more sense to see the process v.s. the verbal attempt I made to describe the effort. Later - Rick

  13. #13
    Senior Member sonofagun's Avatar
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    Contact cement is what cabinet shops use for applying Formica type laminates with. It is also used for applying veneers. You coat both surfaces (to be mated). let the glue dry, and then, place the two surfaces together. They bond instantly. Is what I tell people to use if they wish to glue my grilles in place.

    As posted, you want the flammable grade - the water based stuff actually smells worse (IMO)!

  14. #14
    Senior Member John W's Avatar
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    Thanks reissen for this excellent how-to. I just finished installing the cloth on my grill frames using the method outlined here and it worked perfectly.

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    Nice Method

    Thank you much, I like it, I like it.
    What temp setting on the iron works the best for you?
    Thank you again,
    Analogman

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