Is it really Tolex? Does it matter?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by dog1, Jul 26, 2009.

  1. dog1


    Dec 30, 2008
    In the early 70's, Sunn had a big advertising campaign when it announced it's new amp covering called Tolex. This was not the conventional vinyl used by Fender (or anyone else) back in those days. Instead, it was a hard-as-nails covering with an extremely rough surface. It was nearly indestructable, and may explain why any Sunn amps from that period of time still look pretty good.

    Now, it is common for manufacturers to call their "vinyl" covering.....Tolex. So, is it really Tolex? Does it really matter? Are their any other old guys out there who remember what I am talking about?

    Just a thought
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    According to Wikipedia (with no substantiating sources),
    My guess is, if Sunn used the term "Tolex" then either they were infringing on a trademarked name, or they were using a different product that was also manufactured by Textileather Corp.
  3. dog1


    Dec 30, 2008
    Very interesting. Thanks. I wish I would have thought to look it up myself.
  4. Jerrold Tiers

    Jerrold Tiers

    Nov 14, 2003
    St Louis
    It's General Tire and Rubber now, and has been since the 1980s at the very least. They probably bought up the "Textileather" company.

    As for does it matter?


    We used BOTH "Tolex" and another fairly widely-used brand, for Crate and Ampeg both. The Tolex stuck better with the glues, the backing cloth was heavier and much better bonded to the plastic material. The competitor backing was like loose cheesecloth, the Tolex like t-shirt material.

    We used the competitor only because they had some patterns that Tolex did not.

    I really annoyed the competitor with the "hammer test". We covered a piece of board with Tolex, and an identical piece with the "other brand".

    I then took a hammer, and hit each one several times at an angle, so that the hammer 'glanced off" the surface, but hit reasonably hard. About like thunking into a doorpost when you are loading in or out.

    The Tolex was slightly scuffed, as you would expect. The competitor "brand X" material was scuffed also, but it also de-bonded, so that area was bagging out and no longer glued on. the backing had released from the plastic.

    If you or your roadies ever bang things against doorposts, etc, you want Tolex, IMO........ Unless you know the secrets that our cabinet folks knew..... they got the "brand X to stick well, but I don't know what they did.
  5. Vintage-Blue

    Vintage-Blue Commercial User

    Feb 13, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Owner, Vintage Blue (repro cabinets)

    I think the Tolex/vinyl production was spun off as a new company (Omnova) in 1999.

    Back in late 2006/early 2007 I was trying to track down the producer of the Diamond Blue Tolex since, at the time, it had gotten almost impossible to come by. I had been told that Gene Kornblum had gone to General Rubber in the 80's (?) and had a new die made to start producing the checked Tolex again (for the Deja Blue amps). I was never able to confirm if General Rubber/Omnova were still making the Diamond Blue around 2005/2006. Ultimately, it didn't matter, since it eventually became available again, once production had shifted overseas.

    I definitely preferred the pre-Loud Diamond Blue Tolex. It seemed tougher and it had a good, strong, DARK backing. The new stuff has a white backing that can be separated from the vinyl. I'll never understand why somebody thought using a white backing on a navy blue vinyl was a good idea! You have to keep a black marker nearby to touch up the edges.
  6. Jerrold Tiers

    Jerrold Tiers

    Nov 14, 2003
    St Louis
    yeah, that separation is what I was talking about above......

    I don't know about the supplier..... the diamond blue may have been made by the "brand-X" people....... their calendering rollers (the thing that puts in the pattern) were usually cheaper, and they had finally figured out how to make the backing stick.

    Or, we might have actually used GTR. I don't have access to the vendor list crossed-over by part number. if teh backing was like a t-shirt it likely was GTR.
  7. I read that Tolex was alsoused as the vinyl roofing on automobiles. I don't have the original article in front of me. Any one know if this is true? That stuff was pretty tough.
  8. Joe.shaffer


    Nov 25, 2008
    Cabot, AR
    It was used to make the roof on the '76 Thunderbird I had. Ungodly tough.
  9. mntngrown


    Aug 18, 2007
    The lost Sierra
    Line X mo bettah?
  10. theavondon


    May 11, 2009
    Hmm, well my 70s Sunn sure looks f-ed up. But, maybe it had a rough life.
  11. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    It matters to those who want tolex and lot bed liner.
  12. Vintage-Blue

    Vintage-Blue Commercial User

    Feb 13, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Owner, Vintage Blue (repro cabinets)
    I'm pretty sure I've read that too. For what it's worth, here's a photo of Jess Oliver's car after he had the roof recovered with Ampeg Diamond Blue Tolex:

  13. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    I can't say, but it was certainly used for more than just amps and speakers, as that was far too small a market to sustain production of the product. Besides, Leo Fender almost never used any proprietary parts, as that would have made them more expensive. Fender used Tolex back to at least 1960.
  14. KPAX

    KPAX Inactive

    Mar 22, 2005
    Fender advertised Tolex to be from General Tire company as far back as the early 70's - maybe even the 60's but definitely in the early 70's.
    Not all amp coverings were Tolex and the old Fenders hold up extremely well. Those old tube amps are tanks.