It is fairly simple to build custom panels to cover up
amplifiers, processors, and other components like the pros do. All you need is
to follow the step by step methods presented here, some woodworking skills,
and some basic tools such as a circular saw, jigsaw, router, sander, drill,
hot melt gun, a very sharp knife (carpet knives work great), stapler,
Most panels follow the same construction process, no
matter what materials you use: Making a template, building the frame (base),
raising (if necessary), filling, smoothing and covering the panel. For
example if you are making a door panel, you would first make a frame out of
wood, then round off the edges by filling them with Bondo and covering up the
whole thing with vinyl.
Step 1: Making a template
One of the easiest (and cheapest) methods is
to use cardboard for the template. For example, you are making a one-piece
panel for the trunk, that will go around a subwoofer and a couple of amps.
Cut a (straight) end of the cardboard box and place it next to an amp. Keep
cutting pieces of cardboard and gluing them with hot melt over each other to
make a big template consisting of glued pieces of cardboard. This way,
instead of figuring out the shape of one big piece, you will have to figure
out the contour of a small part of the whole panel at a time.
Once you come up with a template, make sure
you have no gaps. If you have to bend the template to get it in and out, you
will have trouble with the final panel, since the panel will most likely not
bend. You might want to split the design in two or more panels. Plan ahead
of time what material you are going to use to cover up the panel, and
subtract the thickness of the material from the panel. For example, if you
are using vinyl, you might want to reduce the outline of the panel by 1/8",
but if you use carpet, maybe 3/8" will work better.
Place the template over the material you are
cutting. Trace the outline with a pencil. Cut using a circular saw on
the flat parts, and a jigsaw on the curved parts. Use good saw blades to get
smooth cuts (this will save you some work later).
After the panel is cut, take it back to the
car and make sure that it fits, check that whatever material you are using
to cover it up fits in between the gaps. If you took the time making a good
template, then the panel should be a pretty good
Step 2: Raising the panel
If you are making a flat panel, then go to step three,
if not, keep reading. On this panel we are making as an example, we are
planning to raise edges around the panel to outline the amps. Make a square
"ring" around a hole and screw it to the main panel. Then, make another ring
(this one smaller outside), and screw it on top of the first ring. Keep
going until you get to the desired height and shape. (It is a lot easier to
do various 1/4" levels, rather than trying to shape one thick piece of wood.
You only have to get an approximate shape. The gaps will be filled on the
next step. Fiberglass can also be used here.
Step 3: Filling and smoothing out
On the previous panel, there are gaps in edges of the
layers of rings. Fill the gaps using a material such as Bondo. Try to get a
shape as close as possible to what you want. Once the filling material is
dry, sand the panel down. Additional layers might need to be applied
for a good finish.
If you are using a thin material to cover up the panel,
such as vinyl or grille cloth, then you need a very smooth surface. On the
other hand, if you are using carpet, or padded vinyl, then you don't have to
worry about sanding the panel down too much.
Step 4: Covering the
Most of the time, spray glue is the adhesive of choice.
You can get a can of 3M (or similar) spray adhesive at any hardware store
for about $10. Cut the covering material (i.e. vinyl) around the shape of
the panel, leaving at least a two-inch overlap. Place the covering material
upside down and spray the glue over it. Also spray the panel. Let sit for
about a minute, and place the panel on the covering material, stretching the
fabric over the panel. Use a clean rag on the surface to make sure the whole
top of the panel is in contact with the fabric. Flip the panel over and
spray glue on the overlap, and edges of the panel. Cut the overlap as you go
to fit edges and corners. It is good practice to staple the fabric on the
underside, since glue will sometimes not hold very good when the car gets
Figure on your initial design how you are going to hold
the panel. You do not want to have screws messing up your panel's
finish. Pressure fitting requires a bit of skill, but is the cleanest
way to go.
If you are using the panel just to cover up an install,
the you don't need a 3/4" particleboard panel, adding more weight to your
car. Plywood will do just fine. On the other hand, if you are building a sub
box, you don't want to use anything that will bend. Common panel materials
are particleboard, MDF, plywood, various metals, Plexiglas and other
plastics, even fiberglass.
To fill gaps and smooth out surfaces, you usually want a
material that will adhere to the panel extremely well, and will be hard.
Most installers use Bondo (car body filler), epoxy (for small fixes), and
There are many materials used to cover up panels. The
most popular are carpet, vinyl, leather and various types of fabrics ranging
from speaker cloth to velour. You can also add padding under the cover
There are many materials and finishes available. It just
takes practice to see what material is best for each application. Even
though there is no single way to build a panel, following the above
guidelines will give you an idea of the basic process. The rest you will
just have to figure out by trial and error. Even though whole panels can be
build using simple tools such as handsaws and sandpaper, power tools will
greatly reduce fabrication time, especially when