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Old 11-04-2004, 05:32 PM
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MDF Dashboard frame

I have a 1991 chevy fullsize truck that I am trying to make a completely new dashboard for. This is my first time trying to build a dashboard and it has been a hassle trying to figure out a way to make the frame. I want it to have a uniform "single-piece" smooth look, but make it so that it can be easily replaced when I need to get to my wiring, and that will work with my existing mounting brackets. I've thought of using the stock brackets on the sides, and making an MDF frame that will bolt on to them, and also use L brackets to mount the top of the dash to the firewall behind the insulation. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated Thanks

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Old 11-05-2004, 04:25 AM
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OK....whats an MDF frame? I need to build and install a dash in my 64 Chevelle so I'm curious as to what your building.


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Old 11-05-2004, 09:08 AM
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MDF= Medium Density Fiberboard .... Particle board.

The best advise I can give about building a dashboard is to sketch a drawing of what you want it to look like then measure your area in the truck...Two or three times to make sure you get all of the angles. Make a dash out of posterboard paper first then you can use these pieces to trace onto the MDF. You can use some hinges and latches or magnets to make access doors for wiring etc. under the dash. Then you can coat it with whatever you want....Vinyl, paint, woodgrain, etc.

Remember: You can always cut more off, but you can't stretch it!

Hope that helps!
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Old 11-05-2004, 09:44 AM
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I built a custom dash for my Suburban. Started with a MDF frame:


Then covered the MDF with 1/8" plastic wallboard. You could use thinner stuff if you can find it:


Then I fiberglassed it:


That's as far as I've gotten with it so far. It would have been a lot easier to finish if I had built a reverse image, or mold, for the dash. I figured this was the easiest way to make sure it fit.

Just to add: I wouldn't leave the MDF in the final product, it's too heavy. I am also working on an aftermarket-built custom dash in my wife's project car. It didn't have any attachment points in it. The end caps were made out of MDF to mate with the stock mounting points for the original dash, screwed in and the fiberglassed over. I removed the MDF after it was glassed over. I think it was Willys on the forum here who I got the idea of using vaseline on the wood to keep the fiberglass from bonding to it.

Not sure if these pics will link properly.. Underside view of MDF end cap:


Fiberglass replacement for the MDF:


What it looks like all mounted up:


Hope that helps.
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Old 11-05-2004, 11:27 AM
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Stinkin_v8, where do you get that plastic wallboard stuff? Also, what did you use to get the shape of your wife's dash? Do you have any pictures of the work you did on it? Thanks
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Old 11-05-2004, 11:38 AM
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The wallboard stuff is available at your local home depot. You can also get sheets of ABS plastic, but I haven't had much luck there. You could use plywood, cardboard, anything you can find, as log as you can keep the 'glass from bonding to it.

As for the other dash, it was an aftermarket dash I bought second-hand. Original owner never finished installing it so I picked it up for a song. The dash was originally finished in grey gelcoat:



Anywhere it's not grey anymore, I modified it. The actual glasswork I did was pretty un-interesting but I may have some more pics around if you need 'em.
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Old 11-05-2004, 01:50 PM
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Any pics you could get would be great. I'll take some photos of my dash and of the drawings I made of how I want it to look and maybe you could give me some advice. Like I said I'm new at this so any help I could get would be greatly appreciated. I was originally planning to make the frame from MDF then stretch and staple either a fleece or other material over it then fiberglass that. However I read that using fleece or similarly thick materials like that can cause the fiberglass to warp but I don't know if thats true. That wall plastic stuff seems easy to work with and would probably work well with the smooth round appearance that I'm looking for with my dash. Is it expensive?
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Old 11-05-2004, 03:15 PM
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The plastic was $20 a sheet, I had used it as a headliner and the scraps made up the dash.

I've seen fleece used, but I wonder how much strength it has. Thing is, you can use almost anything to build it, but why build a 100-lb dash? The thing I noticed with my dashes is that the weight seemed to increase noticably as I put on more layers of fiberglass or bondo. Since I didn't make a "negative" mold of the dash to be built, bondo was a necessary evil and the weight started adding up. Many fiberglass people say 2 layers of 'glass is enough for non-structural interior components but I went with three, knowing that I might have to sand through a layer just to get the shape right.

As for more pics of the dash in my '52, check out this link.
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Old 11-05-2004, 03:36 PM
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Those pictures are terriffic they should help me a lot. That's really cool how you did the advancing effect with the one picture. Did the plastic distort at all with the fiberglass laid over it? And why did you use the kitty hair? To help get the shape or the contours? I know what kitty hair is I just have not used it before. Not to bother with too many questions but what about the fiberglass itself. How do you lay the fiberglass over the mold without it sticking to the mold. I read somewhere on here I think it may have even been you that wrote that you can use vasaline to keep the fiberglass from sticking but how in the heck do you do that?
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Old 11-05-2004, 04:40 PM
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Stinkin_V8, I wanted to ask you about the dash frame, I intend on making the dash a solid piece for the most part, if I remove the MDF from the fiberglass do you think it will have enough structural integrity. I know that dashboards don't require a large load capacity or anything but I'm just thinking that without the frame to help keep the dash shape, would the dash be more likely to warp with heat because it doesn't have the framing behind it?
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Old 11-06-2004, 12:52 PM
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Glad to help out.. The plastic didn't warp from the heat or weight of the fiberglass partly because there was enough of a curve in the plastic. The fiberglass doesn't stick to the plastic so it made it a good way to mock up the general shape. The kitty hair was a good filler to go on top of the fiberglass because I needed to put it too thick for bondo.

Structural integrity? Long-term, the fiberglass should stronger than MDF that could start cracking and delaminating over time/use. No problems with strength, and it shouldn't warp once it's set up. Just look at Corvette body panels.
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Old 11-06-2004, 01:45 PM
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just to add a note, the flece is great for shaping, but not so much for strength, the people that use it to make their shapes for speaker boxes end up going over that with the regular fiberglass layers needed for structure. With the flece you only need a frame, not a whole structure, which is why it's popular for speaker boxes, you make the trim rings, and set them at the height, and pull the flece tight over to the surrounding frame and you have your shape.

And very, very nice work Stinkin_V8.
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Old 11-06-2004, 04:54 PM
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I was gonna use the fleece to get the contours that I want. I will be putting 6 1/2 " speakers and a new monitor in the dash and I want a smooth rounded look for the molds so I was gonna stretch and staple fleece over the dash to help me get the shape that I want. Lke I said I haven't used kitty hair before. If I use the plastic wallboard in place of the fleece, do you think that I could use the kitty hair to make the contours around my speaker rings and monitor.
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Old 11-07-2004, 01:18 PM
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Sorry but it's pesky old me again, I was just wondering what exactly is duraglass. I've read alot about it and I just want to know what it is and where I can get some in case I decide to use it. Thanks, I don't know where I'd be without this forum and all you kick *** car guys willing to help out a newbie like me. Thanks again.
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Old 11-08-2004, 09:02 AM
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Dubz, thank you very much for the cool words. Great contribution with the info on the fleece as well.

Akattp, I would not use kitty hair as a structural part of the dash. Depending on what kind of countours you need, it might be easier to use fleece. I've heard T-shirt material might be good too, since it won't soak up a ton of resin and should be strong enough to use as a base for the fiberglass.

Not sure what duraglass is, is it a type of filler? I certainly wouldn't worry about using any real specialized products to build a dash. In my huble opinion, I think every-day body shop products will get you there, as long as you maintain some strength with the fiberglass shell.
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