making your own soft top.. because lets be honest.. you've built everything else

Discussion in '40- & 55-Series Tech' started by antFJ, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. antFJ

    antFJ

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    i've decided to start a "how to build your own soft top" thread (though.. you sorta need a soft top to copy...)

    i'll show the sewing machine i bought.. (half the price of what a new soft top would cost) and my methods for making a pattern later tonight.

    here are some pics of where I'm at right now. basically no sides on it atm
    2012-02-20_12-45-45_637.jpg 2012-02-20_12-45-56_90.jpg 2012-02-20_12-46-32_902.jpg
     
  2. Eshu Elegua

    Eshu Elegua

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    looks great...
     
  3. cjgoode

    cjgoode

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    I will love this thread. Can you post good pictures and measurements. I do not have one to copy, but very much want to try and make one on my own. A sewing machine is just another power tool, but one with a gas pedal, what could be better then that!!!

    I have all the top hardware and bows, but no top, and very little money. So this has been in my future for a while now. I figure if I make it out of cheap material I can see how it turns out, then make one out of quality stuff and use the first as a template.
     
  4. cjgoode

    cjgoode

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    Post some better pictures also from further away, so I can see how the rear and sides are now, do you have the rear corner parts in already? Also a start of a materials list/quantity and where you sourced them from.
     
  5. Fast Eddy

    Fast Eddy

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    Where'd you get the canvas? I'm working on a winch cover and I paid $18 for a canvas laundry bag at the surplus shop. Seemed kind of steep.
     
  6. peteinjp

    peteinjp

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    Ant- How much time do you figure you have in it so far- learning curve included. I've been kicking around the idea myself- just not sure if the machine we have can get thru the window material.....


    Pete
     
  7. Trollhole

    Trollhole THC Supporting Vendor Moderator

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    Love it. Couple of ideas I've looked at to improve the quality. Use some UV resistant thread to sew it together. I've seen on other canvas products people used vinyl coated braided stainless wire. For the piping and around the door. I would think this would give you more strength and durability. Plus it is pretty cheap at Lowes.

    These guys have some cool products.

    Sailrite.com | Home
     
  8. twoyotas

    twoyotas

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    a friend made his own soft top for his 4runner, turned out great. he said it was trial and error, since he didn't have one to copy from. he made the side panels so that he could roll them up and strap them to the framework with attached holding straps, effectivley turning it into a shade top when it hits the trail. I know a 4runner is a horse of a different color, just trying to add some encouragement to you and anyone who wants to try.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
  9. skully3

    skully3 SILVER Star

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    subscribed..."making your own soft top.. because lets be honest.. you've built everything else" ... I was thinking the same thing myself. Can't wait to see how it works out.
     
  10. todt

    todt SILVER Star

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    I agree 100% and think the title says it all. When mine gives out I'll give it a try.
     
  11. antFJ

    antFJ

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    not sure about measurements - I'm not actually using measurements to make the pieces.. we'll see if I can figure something out
    no sides yet - but I will definitely make a list when I'm done gathering materials
    right now.. $5 a yard cotton canvas from walmart - still working on the pattern and my sewing skills

    pretty sure I'll be using Top Gun Canvas (about $25-$30 a yard) Top Gun Polyester Marine Canvas - Great Lakes Fabrics, Inc.
    so far about 8 hours - an industrial machine with a walking foot is a must I think

    Walking foot sewing machine in action - YouTube
    just bought some UV thread :)

    the machine I have is a sailrite LSZ-1... their store is pretty sweet - I have a local shop with a ton of stuff too. I might need to get my zippers and d-rings from somewhere else though
     
  12. cbmontgo

    cbmontgo SILVER Star

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    Subscribed.
     
  13. craigwanderer

    craigwanderer

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    Looking great Ant!

    I was going to go down this road myself a couple of years back but found a restorable factory top cheap. I did make my own bows, which two years later are still serviceable and cosmetically/functionally no different to the originals from the factory :)

    I was making my soft top pattern/prototype out of a cheap plastic-backed canvas painter's dropsheet and found that the top panel was the trickiest to put together without a pattern. Looks like you've conquered the top panel, so the rest of the job should be pretty straightforward. Just two side panels and a rear panel along with a way to secure them rolled up or even make them zip off.

    Unfortunately the price and availability of repro/OEM soft tops is very limited, so making your own is a good option. At the end of the day, it's not a difficult job, but it has to be planned well due to the size of the panels. The skills you learn can then be transferred to upholstery and accessory bags/covers for the vehicle. Everybody wins.

    A word on sewing machines... an industrial walking foot machine is the ideal, but not necessary. What is necessary is that the machine has enough grunt to do the job - that means steel gearing inside, not plastic. Your wife/gf/whatever will get pissed at you when you strip the gears on her new computerised $800 monstrosity, so go back to basics and grab a well maintained and serviceable vintage machine off ebay. I used a 1950s vintage Singer 99K - a smallish model with which I have sewn through 12 layers of marine vinyl from my old Kayline top. It will also punch through the clear vinyl windows effectively, but you have to take it slow. My machine cost me $50 plus about $10 for a bunch of #22 needles and another $5 for a massive spool of military surplus canvas thread.

    I may revisit this topic myself and make a safari top in lieu of the (homemade) bikini top I run in summer.
     
  14. bikersmurf

    bikersmurf

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    1) On industrial sewing machines. Lubricant is key. I fairly recently completed a program which involved fabricatiing out of metal, fiberglass, carbon fiber, fabric and leather. Anyways, 90% of the problems with the WWII vintage industrial sewing machines (that weren't user error) were caused by lack of lubrication... And solved with the addition of oil (ususally 20w50).

    2) The next thing I'd recomend is changing the pulley size to slow it down, give you more control, and also more power!

    3) or maybe this should be 1)... Always make sure the motor is stopped before working on it. If they're in good shape, they'll continue to run (coast) for a few minutes after you turn the motor off. A coworker found out the hard way that these machines will stitch through your finger... Even when they're turned off!

    4) make your pattern out of whatever fabric you can get your hands on... Flat bed sheets can be cheap... The 2nd hand store will have some... Or Walmart clearance Isle.

    5) pin it out, and go nuts.
     
  15. bikersmurf

    bikersmurf

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    I've always figured the way I'd go would be a rigid Bikini top (already got that far)... Or family top going all the way to the back, and canvas sides. The sides would be quite easy... Flat sides, a few windows, and a couple of zippers.

    A quick google search turned up this (no idea where it is)...
    http://samson.olx.com/sewing-machine-singer-211-g155-industrial-iid-4299239

    But I tell you, these old machines can take 20 years of abuse, by students who don't really care, and they'll come back for more.:D

    Here's annother example...
    [​IMG]

    As stated, you don't need one of these machines, German made or otherwise, they can take a beating.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
  16. hairy_apple

    hairy_apple

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    Awesome. I had wanted to do this at one time myself. I look forward to seeing this happen.
     
  17. Sno Dawg

    Sno Dawg

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    this should be great!!

    this is exactly what I was looking for. I picked up a set of original bows and an old vinyl Kayline top that looks exactly like the original, but it is a bit brittle. It would make a great model for a mockup and sew.

    Please keep the pics and instructionals coming!!

    Sno Dawg
     
  18. No jeeep

    No jeeep

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  19. No jeeep

    No jeeep

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    Home made soft top

    I'm glad to see some people with little knowledge for upholstery and LOTS of ambition. There is a lot of good info in this thread and good questions as well.

    A walking foot sewing machine is key. This is where the pressure foot and feed dogs BOTH move at the same time to feed the fabric without slipping. Sailrite is a great source and the LSZ1 is an awesome machine. If you buy a machine, try to get one with a "true" variable speed. The LSZ1 and the LS1 (no zig-zag stitch) have it and can sew about 5 or six layers of marine vinyl. A regular sewing machine will struggle with two layers at times.

    Bed sheets are great for mock-up and cheap. Avoid fabrics that stretch. After you have it mocked up, run a sharpie (marker) along the good seams and cut it apart for a pattern.

    Miami Corp. in Florida has all the fabric, canvas, vinyl, thread, window plastic, and all tools you will need.

    Good Luck and have fun!
     
  20. antFJ

    antFJ

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