Tuck and Roll Amps

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to buy a Kustom Tuck and Roll Bass amp for a song, but being shy on cash, passed it up. On the other hand, it was the standard model, but had it been the red glitter one, I would have jumped a ton of hoops to make it happen… yep, I always thought it was super cool. Image

Its an interesting thing to consider tuck and roll as a covering in contrasted with tolex (textured vinyl), or todays textured polyurethanes (rhinolining and related coatings). Beyond its unique visual appearance, tuck and roll has some technical advantages. If one is hauling an amp in ones car, the sliding nature of tuck and roll on automotive upholstery makes life significantly easier. Having moved a ton of amps over the years, a buddys 2×12 tuck and roll cab is a lot easier to load into a sedans back seat, than a 2×12 tolex cab. Secondly, the real tuck and roll is incredibly robust, and easy to clean up too (granted, it does look really bad when folks leave a lighted smoke on top of it, or if pyro gets out of hand). Thirdly, it can also serve as a dampening material to reduce cabinet resonances… albeit testing would need to be done to see how much internal dampening material could really be removed.

However, like many things today, labor rates pretty much make real tuck and roll obsolete, except for purposes of restoration, or boutique amplifiers or cabinets. Yes, tolex is more labor intensive than spray on coatings, but its light years easier than traditional tuck and roll. That being said, there are some compromises that could be looked at.

DIY or possible Boutique Revival of Tuck and Roll

The lowest cost approach is what is called pleated vinyl to simulate tuck and roll. Depending upon the vinyls formulation, and heat sealing process, it might be on, but it will have a shorter life span than traditional tuck and roll. Many upholstery stores can provide such at around $25/yard. Its also available online at Garys Upholstery However, colors are pretty limited, and its lifespan is an unknown.

The next step up is channel quilting through the foam to simulate tuck and roll. Such is a lot less labor intensive than real tuck and roll… but there is a lot of tension on the single row of stitches, and for an amp or can which doesn’t travel much, it might be ok. A really decent approach to DIY this approach is located at Jalopy Journal. Being vinyl can be bought anywhere for such a project, the sky is the limit as far as color goes. Even blue sparkle is available.

For a more robust tuck and roll, which uses hidden stitches and heavier thread, a couple of automotive books come to mind. The Auto Upholstery Handbook by Don Taylor is a good one, as is Custom Auto Interiors by Ron Mangus and Don Taylor. There are a number of ways to approach tuck and roll. One could either sew the pleats and stuff, or actually tuck under and roll over the foam (depending upon ones sewing machine and skills).

The key though, with any of these approaches is small scale testing first. You dont want to spend a fortune on material, only to find out its no where near as good as its specs would lead one to believe. (assuming the material you get actually has a spec sheet). Ideally all automotive upholstery would be UV stable, fire retardant, abrasion resistant, and water resistant, but after market wise, specs can be all over the place. A good engineering reference for vinyl is ASTM D3690 which you can either purchase from them, or acquire from a large university library (older versions are likely more than adequate. Granted, for most folks, even boutique builders, ASTM quality standards would be overkill.

Its the same deal with the foam… there are hundreds of types of foam, and the cheapest you get from a discounter is unlikely to be the optimum long term. For engineering specifications wise, ASTM D3574 is key, albeit there is a lot of material going far beyond the needs of a speaker cab.

Lastly, should one wish to take this on, there is the issue of equipment and individual skill development. The learning curve can be a bit steep, so its always best to start out small scale first should one wish to revive this very unique approach to amplifier and cab covering.

2 thoughts on “Tuck and Roll Amps

  1. In 1965 my parents and one of my band members drove to Atlanta from small town Griffin, GA to buy me a Kustom Bass Amp. On the trip I got carsick and couldn’t enjoy one of the greatest events in my life. Up till that time I was playing through a Sear’s Silvertone amp. Later I certainly enjoyed the amp and it definitely made a rather average rock bank look a little cooler.

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