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Grill Cloth tutorial
Last Updated: 11/15/2020

So you're in your local music store or pawn shop checking out some used gear and you come across this otherwise nice looking amp or speaker cabinet, but the first thing you notice is the grill cloth. It's either ripped or stained or worse yet, someone has tried to replace the cloth and done it poorly. Nothing looks worse than a grill cloth installation where the pattern in the grill cloth is crooked or bowed!

Installing grill cloth isn't rocket science, but it can be a little tricky, especially to get it right. Hopefully this tutorial will help. Or, at least it might help you decide whether or not you want to even tackle the job yourself or leave it to a professional. I always like to caution people that if you've got a vintage, high-dollar piece of equipment, either leave it to a professional or leave it alone!

So anyway..

We will start by showing the finished grill frame with the cloth installed to give you an idea of what we're after. Notice that the cloth is pulled nice and snug over the frame, it's stapled securely with no more than about 1/4" between the staples, and the lines are nice and straight. The only thing we haven't done yet is to cut off the excess around the edges. I find it easier to leave the grill cloth a couple of inches long around the edges and then trim it up after we're done.

We're working with a new frame that we made for a custom 2x12 cabinet that a buddy built a few years ago. The cabinet was used for a few years with just a couple of waffle grills, but now he's decided that he wants to dress the cabinet up a little and put some real grill cloth in it. We'll also be replacing the speaker carpet that he put on with some new tolex and new hardware (maybe we'll do another tutorial on that later). This is the view of the grill frame from the front.

Here's a view of the grill frame from the rear. This is a very compact cabinet with very little room between the two speakers and very little room between the speakers and the edge of the cabinet. To complicate things the speakers are front mounted which means that we had to cut recesses in the grill frame to accomodate the speakers, so the frame would sit flush with the baffle. Maybe you can make out the recesses in the picture. We built this frame from 3/4" birch plywood.

Whether you're doing a new grill frame built from scratch or if you're working with an existing frame, there are a few things you should do to prepare the frame, so you should take note of the next few steps: If you're regrilling an existing frame the first thing that you'll need to do is to strip off the old cloth remove all the staples and look the frame over for any wood splinters that are lifting up or any repair work that needs to be done. We always like to go over the frame with some sandpaper and it's really helpful to round the edge over slightly with some sandpaper. If doesn't take much -just take off the sharp edges. This helps the grill cloth pull over the edge easier and also helps eliminate splinters from lifting up as you pull the grill cloth over the edges.

Now we're going to paint the grill frame. Nothing fancy -just a nice even coat of Krylon flat black from Walmart. If you're regrilling an old frame you might have to just do a little touching up also. Most grill cloths are kind of translucent (you can see through them). This is especially true with the thinner Fender style grill cloths, so you need a nice uniform black background behind the grill cloth.

Here's the frame ready for grill cloth.

This diagram and the ones to follow show the sequence that we use for pulling the grill cloth.

We begin here at one corner of the frame and put a few staples in as shown. Note that we are leaving the fabric extra long for now to eliminate any fraying of the edges as we pull it and staple it. As we said earlier, staples should be close together and it helps to put them on a slight angle so they catch at least a couple of rows in the fabric. The staples need to go in all the way so that the entire crown of the staple is grasping the fabric, and not just the shank. We use an electric stapler to assure that the staples are set properly, but you can do it just as well with a hand stapler -Just press down firmly.

Now pull the cloth across to the opposite corner as shown. Look down one of the rows in the fabric and make sure that you're straight -the cloth may bow in a little in the middle and that's ok for now, just make sure that the row in the fabric starts and ends in the correct place. Once you're satisfied with the alignment, put in a few staples in the corner as shown.

Note: When working with the thinner Fender type fabrics you'll only need a moderate amount of pressure when stretching. The heavier Marshall type fabrics will require more exertion when pulling but just don't overdo it. You just need to stretch enough so that you get a nice crisp edge at the corners. You may find it helpful to have someone hold the grill frame while you pull and staple.

Now you can begin stapling all the way along side A. Keep the lines in the fabric straight with the edge of the grill frame. If things aren't looking straight, now is the time to pull a few staples and realign it.

You can finish off the corners as shown. Just take the excess material and fold it and staple as shown.

Now pull the cloth along side B to the corner of side B and C as shown. Again make sure to keep the rows in the cloth straight with side B. Again the rows in the fabric may bow in a little in the middle, but that's ok for now as long as row begins and ends in the correct alignment. Once your satisfied with the alignment put a few staples in the corner as shown.

Now begin stapling along side B. Keep the rows aligned with the edge.

Now for the hard part. You're going to have to pull the grill cloth diagonally toward the corner of edges C and D as shown. The hard part is that you have to sight along two edges at once and keep them both aligned. Once you're satisfied, put in a few staples. Then double check the alignment.

Now you can begin stapling the C and D edges. I find that it's helpful to staple a few inches of one side and then move to the other, and work you're way toward the C and D corner, and rechecking the alignment as you go. As before if something doesn't look straight you can probably remove a few staples are realign as you go. Once you've got it all stapled and you're satisfied that everythings good and straight you can finish off the corners and trim the excess cloth from the back and you're done. I wish we had a picture of the finished grill installed in the cabinet, but the cabinet wasn't quite ready to go yet, so maybe I'll post some pictures of the finished project when we're done. Thanks-

Thanks for checking out this post. I hope that you're finding these tutorials helpful. As always we welcome your thoughts and comments. You'll have to sign up and log on to post a reply or ask a question here, but it's easy and it's free!

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