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Old 07-10-2007, 09:30 AM
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sewing a really old style convertible top

I saw in Dyke's Automotive encyclopedia (12th ed.) a process to "repair tops" for cars like model T's and other touring cars.

My 1915 Olds had a long grain leather. Are there any suitable materials for convertible tops that anyone may recommend?

how should I approach sewing it? can I do it on my wife's sewing machine? and how can I keep it from leaking?

I need to repair some of the top bows. Does anyone know a means or reproducing new top bows while the top is all apart? I think I would want to make all new ones while I am there.

This is my first try, but I have a few more that I would have to do, so I would like to learn how to do it.

Any help is appreciated.

Thanks

~Joe

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Old 07-10-2007, 09:54 AM
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I'm not an upholstery guy but I have seen what the long grain looks like; on Model A sedan roofs.

The wood bows are a challenge. I ended up using native fresh cut ash wood. I went through a friends wood pile and we split some until we found nice straight grain from a tree that grew straight and did not twist. When you split it and it ends up like a flat surface, then you can run it through a saw to rough size, and not end up with the grain trailing off the sides.

Then I built a steamer box from a 4" ABS or PVC pipe and blocked the ends. I blocked mine with inner tube material with a large hose clamp.

Then make something like a still boiler to make steam and pipe it in. I think I put a vent on the pipe so the steam would flow through, not sure.

I also made a form to bend & clamp the steamed wood to. I broke a few at first because of not enough steam time or too aggressive with the tight bends. Tight bends are where you need that straight grain. If the grain was slightly diagonal right there, it will start to split. It takes a LOT of clamps & speed to get it bent.

This was before internet, so I just assumed green wood was best on tight bends. You may want to do a google search on "steam bending wood".
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Old 07-10-2007, 09:55 AM
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You, my friend, have picked about the two most difficult projects there are to start on. Diamond tufting and convertible tops are tough projects if you've never done them. (even if you have done them)

The most complete line of convertible top fabrics are made by Haartz. They have grained vinyls with either twill backing or no backing that will probably fit the bill. ( what they call their Concord series has twill backing. Their Everflex series has no backing) Can you sew a convertible top on your wife's home machine? Yes, but you would be much wiser to do it on an industrial machine. The home machine probably will not be able to use the larger thread needed to sew the top. You need to use polyester thread which will hold up far better than nylon against UV damage. To keep it from leaking, you can use a product like Plastiseam, which is a clear liquid plastic type product that seals and bonds sewn seams. Good luck, you are indeed adventurous.
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Old 07-10-2007, 10:55 AM
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I figure, nothing ventured - nothing gained. Too many "old-timers" are dying off and the craft is slowly disappearing. So I would like to learn as much as possible... even if I learn by fire.

I appreciate all help and experience going in my direction.

Thanks again,

Joe
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Old 07-10-2007, 03:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by low budget rodder
Too many "old-timers" are dying off and the craft is slowly disappearing.
Joe
I hear this all the time, and "if" it is true I should make gazzillions in the near future. But it's not, so I'll just keep pluggin away.
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Old 07-10-2007, 09:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by armysniper
I hear this all the time, and "if" it is true I should make gazzillions in the near future. But it's not, so I'll just keep pluggin away.
How many mechanics do you know that are working in the field regularly replace diodes in alternators? repack catalytic converters? replace brushes and Bendix drives in starters? rebuild mufflers? etc instead of just replacing them?

Today's mechanics are more "parts replacer" than craftsman that machine their own parts and replace what is truly broken. the numbers of craftsman are dwindling.

as for convertible tops and other upholstery... recreating the top bows and sewing up your own top or upholstery is a craft, and an art that few can truly do well. I have not yet developed the skills, but I do admire good work. If I can develop even a small portion of that skill and pass it on to someone else... then I think my education was worth while. I would like to be able to pay it forward.

I appreciate all of your help.

thanks again,

Joe
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