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Van Halen Tabs

Refurbish your 5150 Head

Date:March 14, 20055150 Refurb
Author:Edward Gandolfi

5150 Refurb My 5150 was purchased second hand and was in pretty bad shape with the tolex was in horrible condition. In some places the bare wood was starting to show through the tolex. Additionally the metal control face is not in the best condition and the knobs (which i'll be changing) are obviously not stock.

Removing Tolex

Removing the tolex was a very easy task. Just start at the seam (i believe its on the right side, on the bottom) and peel it off. Be careful not to tear the tolex as you will want to use the old covering as a patter to cut out the new tolex later.

Unless your amp is in good condition underneath the tolex, I would recommend that you sand the wood box to remove the old glue. After removing the excess glue use wood filler to fill in any holes or dings in the wood surface then sand these areas to create a smooth surface. 5150 Refurb

Adding New Tolex

Using the old tolex as a pattern cut out the appropriate shape to cover your 5150 head. I did this by unrolling the new tolex face down and placing the old tolex on top. You will see "notches" at the corners, this is so you can wrap the corners tight. Using a fine Sharpie trace the edges of the old covering onto the back of the new tolex then use these lines as a guide to cut the new covering. Don't cut the corner notches yet.

This is my first time re-covering an amp so for this part, you may have better results going about it differently. I dont specifically remember if i sprayed the adhesive on both the tolex and the wood. It probably does not matter as long as you allow the spray to cure for a minute or so before sticking the tolex to the wood.

Using spray adhesive I sprayed one side of the box at a time as well as the corresponding tolex then rolled the tolex onto the box. Starting where the old seam was and work your way from there wrapping the tolex around the box one side at a time. You may need to make small cuts at the corners (that we marked earlier) to get the tolex to wrap tight around the box. You will want some heavy books and clamps to hold the new covering to the head as the adhesive dries.

When all the covering is applied use a straight edge to rub out any wrinkles and/or bubbles you may find. When I did mine there were a few wrinkles that would not come out, this was due to the air temperature being about 60 degrees. The air trapped between the wood and tolex cannot evaporate due to the low air temperature. I let the head sit inside at room temperature overnight then the next day used a standard hair dryer to eliminate the wrinkles by going back and forth with the dryer while rubbing out the wrinkles. Be careful not to put to much heat onto the tolex or you may burn it, hold the dryer far enough away that it does not hurt your hand.

5150 Refurb

There was some extra adhesive visible on parts of the new tolex. Using a certain type of adhesive cleaner (note: name coming soon) that not only cleaned the adhesive overspray but also gave the tolex as good cleaning without causing any harm to the new tolex.

New Grill

With the box completed there are a few main components left: front grill, front wooden faceplate, plastic logos, corner caps, and the chrome flames decal. As shown in the picture the front grill, 5150 log and wooden face plate was spraypainted glossy black. The wodden faceplate was made using 3/4" MDF wood. For the 5150 logo I wanted the black plastic background to match the black backing wood so it would blend in better. Using masking tape to cover the entire logo, make sure to press down in between the raised silver letters so the tape makes contact with the black background, taking a razor go around the outside edges of every letter just below the silver top and cut out the tape. This should leave you with masking tape ONLY covering the silver.

For this project the next step was to apply the chrome flames to the wood. First I designed the flame patter using AutoCAD then sent the design to a friend that owns a sign making company and using their plotter (printer type device that has a small blade that cuts out whatever is programmed into it) he cut the pattern out of a special plotter ready material. 5150 Refurb

Finally ordered some chrome corner caps from Stew Mac as well as a new handle. The handle was too long so using the chrome ends from the new handle and re-used the original black plastic handle part since it was the right size.

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