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Old 09-14-2008, 09:04 AM
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Door panel tutorial

I'd like to show you a technique for doing door panels. This is not the only way to do a door panel, there are many other ways. You do not need to pad your door panels with closed cell foam if you don't want to, you can pad them with anything you like. This particular door panel lends itself to the use of 1/8" closed cell foam.

To start with, here's the old door panel. As you can see, it isn't salvageable, but it has redeeming qualities such as the original holes in the panel for armrests, door, and window handles, the shape of the panel, and the original chrome decoration that is evident by the dark areas. The chrome has obviously been removed.
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Old 09-14-2008, 09:22 AM
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The next step was to strip off the old covering to get to the panel board underneath. After removing the original covering and padding, I traced the outline of the panel onto a new piece of panel board, including locating the holes. The new panel is waterproof panel board. I would have preferred to use PVC foam board like Sintra or Komatex, but I was outvoted by the customer. Once I cut out the new blank, I hung the new panel on the door to trim it to size. I have 4 very strong magnets that I use to hold the door panel in place while I fine tune it to size. These magnets will hold through 1/2" plywood, so the 1/8" thick panel board is no problem. When the panel is held on by only the two magnets on the top, I can re-position the panel. Once all four magnets are attached, the panel can't be moved. After the panel is trimmed to size, we're ready for the next step, which is locating the holes for the panel clips. I used to like to use Au-Ve-Co offset clips # 10780, but I now use Au-Ve-Co clips # 12134. Both of these clips require a 7/16" or 1/2" hole in the panel 5/8" in towards the center of the car door from where the holes in the car door are. I like this style of clip because the clips are attached to the panel after it has been upholstered so they're not in the way when I'm working on the front of the panel. Remember, if you have to drill new holes in the door, to avoid places that do not let the clip fully seat itself. Also, remember that the door has glass in it so don't impede the window glass with a clip in the wrong place.
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Last edited by DanTwoLakes; 03-12-2013 at 11:34 AM.
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Old 09-14-2008, 09:46 AM
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Now we have the panel all cut to size and all the holes for mounting and attaching handles and armrests cut. I do not drill holes through waterproof panel board, I cut all the holes with arch punches so I have clean holes with sharp edges. I have punches that go all the way from 1/8" all the way up to 1 3/8". That's why PVC foam board is so nice, you can drill nice clean holes in it and shape it with regular woodworking tools. The best thing to cut holes in the PVC foamboard are spade bits, or Forstner bits, which are even better.

The next step is deciding what the new design will be. After laying out the design on the panel, I decided that this was a rather plain Jane door panel, so I wanted to jazz it up a little bit with a section of white 2" wide pleats that will coordinate with the pleats in the new seat covers. I needed to keep these panels relatively thin, so I will use 1/8" closed cell foam. The easiest way to make these pleats is to simply glue the 1/8" foam to the panel board, cut 1/4" wide lines where you want the pleats to be, and glue the fabric right to the foam while pressing in the pleats. I wanted to add a detail to the pleats of actual stitch lines, but the only way to do that would to be using a long arm sewing machine. After thinking about how to do this for a while, I decided to try doing it a different way.
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:12 AM
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I thought about gluing the foam to a thin piece of Versare fabric, cutting in the lines, gluing the fabric over the foam, pressing in the vertical lines, and then sewing the pleats down to the fabric. The only problem with this method is that each pleat shrinks up a little bit as it's sewed, and it's almost impossible to determine how much it will do this ahead of time.

That's when I had the brainstorm of gluing the closed cell foam to a very thin piece of chipboard, which would not shrink when sewed to. After cutting the section the shape I wanted and subtracting just enough from the edges of the chipboard to account for the thickness of the fabric (in this case, Ultraleather) covering the panel, I drew my pleat lines, and cut out the areas of the foam where I wanted the pleats. Then I glued each pleat section individually to the foam. For this operation, I used foam to foam glue which is a lot more forgiving than the DAP Weldwood Top and Trim adhesive that was used for the rest of the gluing. I only glued the fabric right at each groove so the fabric could stretch a little between the grooves. This type of glue allows the fabric to be removed and re-positioned without ruining the fabric or the foam. Each groove had the glued fabric forced down into it using the plastic end of an upholsterer's regulator. After each groove was pressed in, I went over it again with the steel side laid flat. This pushed the fabric right down to the chipboard. Then the lines were sewed on my regular sewing machine using size 138 polyester thread and a presser foot.
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Last edited by DanTwoLakes; 09-14-2008 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:22 AM
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I cut the channels in the foam with a straight edge and a utility knife with a brand new blade, holding the knife at approximately a 45 degree angle from the center angling up and out to the edge as I made the cuts. Once all the cuts were made, I removed the pieces of foam with a phillips screwdriver. It's best to do this right after you have glued the foam onto the chipboard because the glue increases its holding power the longer it dries. Be sure to scuff up the closed cell foam so the foam glues tightly to the chipboard. This is not as important for the section that will be sewed down, but I used the same technique for the other pieces of the design as well, where it would be important.

You can see that I was able to roll up the chipboard to get the piece to go through and sew down each line with just a regular sewing machine. When I sew pleats of any kind, I like to start in the middle and work my way to the end, and then do the same thing in the other direction. Don't the pleats look a lot thicker than just 1/8" deep?
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Last edited by DanTwoLakes; 09-14-2008 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:31 AM
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Now comes the fun part. I figured that as long as one section was glued to chipboard, I would glue all four sections to chipboard and assemble the door panel like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. These pictures are of that process. For every section, I cut a piece of chipboard to the desired shape, glued the 1/8" closed cell foam on, and glued the fabric to the closed cell foam. Then I glued the fabric to the back of the chipboard, but only in places where the parts touched each other in the middle of the door panel, not on the back of the door panel yet.

As you can see, the local bank gives away free pencils that I used to support the the glued sections while I positioned them. As I carefully pressed the chipboard and foam sections to the door panel board, I would remove one pencil at a time as each area was pressed down.
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:38 AM
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After all four sections of the door panel design are glued down, flip the panel over and glue the fabric to the back of the panel. Notice the relief cuts at all four corners where the excess fabric has been cut away before gluing the fabric down. Trim away any excess fabric along the edges that might get in the way of the door panel clips. The last picture is of the completed door panel. You can see that the original chrome decorative pieces and the stitched pleats really look great and keeps the door panel from being so plain Jane.
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Last edited by DanTwoLakes; 09-14-2008 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 10-08-2009, 05:11 AM
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Polyfoam is generally soft and spongy, and closed cell foam is always very dense and very firm. Closed cell foam is better for holding it's shape without collapsing, and makes shapes more defined. Polyfoam is better for applications where you want a puffier, softer look. Closed cell foam can be thinner (usually 1/8" or 1/4" ) without sacrificing the look you want.
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Old 09-08-2010, 07:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markjen46
Wondering about a couple terms.. PVC? is that also known as "plexiglass"? And also., Asked at "HOME DEPOT" today about closed cell foam. He looked at me like i had 2 heads.lol. Is it also called Polystyrene? And will the foam accept glue??., Once again., I hope my door panels turn out as goreat as yours did. Thanks

PVC foamboard is not polystyrene, nor is it plexiglas, it's foamed poly vinyl chloride which comes in 4' by 8' sheets, and also in smaller more manageable sizes. You won't find it at Home Depot, you need to go to a plastics supplier, sign shop, or upholstery shop and ask for Sintra, Komatex, CelTec, or Palight.

Closed cell foam is available online or from an upholstery shop under the brand name Volara.

None of this stuff is a building product, and it will never be available at a home center, it is used in the upholstery trade and in the sign making trade.

If you had read this entire thread on making door panels, you would find out that all of these products can be glued, and how to glue them. In fact all of your questions can be answered by reading the entire thread carefully.
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Old 09-08-2010, 08:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpg2
I was reading as Dan talked about the quality of fabrics and the backings. I have a sample of ultraleather Fiore (spelling may be wrong) and it has a fuzzy backing but if you pull it and look deeper it looks like there is a woven backing under the fuzz. Why does this fiore have a different backing than regular ultraleather and is it not as good since it is fuzzy?
The backing on Ultraleather Fiore is 100% reinforced Rayon, which is as high a quality as you can get. That would be an example of what I called a knit backing, not a "fuzzy" backing.
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Old 01-13-2011, 11:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shaunatk
Just wanted to say thanks for the information! I just picked up materials (1/8" foam, 1/4" foam, DAP glue, and some vinyl) to try to make my own door panels for my 1941 GMC street rod.

Hopefully, I can make some nice looking, modern style door panels.

Truck isn't anywhere close to done, but we just had a baby and it is extremely cold, so I'm stuck in the house for a while. Figured I could work on door panels in my spare time.

I still need to pickup some luan, and a paint gun (and a dryer for the compressor).

The rest of the cab interior panels (including window trim, all made of steel) are luckily still there, so I just plan on cleaning them up, covering with 1/8" foam, and then covering in matching vinyl. Not sure about the headliner yet.

I'm lucky to have an interior material distributor an hour away (miami corp. in Cincinnati), looks like they'll have anything I could need.

Wish me luck!
If you can avoid using 1/4" luan plywood for the panels, by all means do so. Look for some 3MM (just less than 1/8") PVC foamboard. It is so much easier to use than the plywood, is lighter, thinner, and waterproof. Most sign shops have it. Brand names are Komatex, Sintra, Palight, and CelTec.

Don't pad the steel window trim, just cover the steel with your vinyl. Check out this thread: CLICK HERE
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Old 01-16-2011, 12:39 PM
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You will have a problem spraying the glue at that temperature, not with it sticking. At the very least, keep the glue in the house, keep it good and warm, and spray it as quick as you can, and you might get away with it. Is it possible for you warm up the garage before you use it, like with a salamander heater or an electric heater? That would be the best.
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Old 01-16-2011, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanTwoLakes
... I have 4 very strong magnets that I use to hold the door panel in place while I fine tune it to size. These magnets will hold through 1/2" plywood, so the 1/8" thick panel board is no problem. When the panel is held on by only the two magnets on the top, I can re-position the panel. Once all four magnets are attached, the panel can't be moved...
Any pointers on where I can find similar magnets?
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Old 01-17-2011, 07:28 AM
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I got them on the internet, but they're not cheap. CLICK HERE Mine are 4" by 1" by 1/2" thick.
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Old 01-28-2011, 12:47 PM
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Dan,

If I do end up using the PVC material you recommended, what do I use to clip the panel to the door?

I swear one of these days I'm going to start working on them
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