Top Bow Fabric

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Oldav8tor
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Top Bow Fabric

Post by Oldav8tor » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:04 pm

I have yet to try to install a top on my 1917 touring. There are plenty of other things that need to be done first. My question is this... I've been told that the wood portion is normally wrapped in black fabric, but mine are wrapped in white. The fabric looks really old telling me it's been on the car a long time...maybe original.

What is supposed to be used to wrap the bows?
bows.jpg
1917 Touring
1946 Aeronca Champ
1952 Willys M38a1 Jeep
1953 Ford Jubilee Tractor


Erik Johnson
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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Erik Johnson » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:18 pm

Although the original bow drill and interior side of the top was tan, your cloth does not look original to me. Too light and too much puckering.

Today, most folks use black bow drill.

The first/front bow is wrapped in leatherette. The leatherette is cut on the bias to eliminate puckering.

The next three bows are covered with bow drill which is cloth cut on the bias so it does not pucker.

The cloth for the second and third bows is sewn and not tacked to the tops of of the bows. Tacks will wear through the top material.

Photo below is from an unrestored, almost zero mileage June 1917 touring, AKA "the Rip Van Winkle" Ford.
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1917 ford bow.JPG


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Jerry VanOoteghem » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:25 pm

Totally agree with everything Erik states. Will add the the bow drill material should extend onto the bow socket just enough to almost meet the edge of the top. The ends of the bow drill are then turned under to create a nice, finished and even end. Kind of like a hem.

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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Oldav8tor » Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:29 pm

Very helpful Erik. Are tacks used to attach any of the wraps to the bows before the top is installed or are they all sewn? Is the wood of the bows unpainted, painted, varnished? Also, how much of the wood is left unwrapped above the metal part of the bows?
1917 Touring
1946 Aeronca Champ
1952 Willys M38a1 Jeep
1953 Ford Jubilee Tractor


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Original Smith » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:32 am

The bow drill is also used to make the pads.

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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by George House » Wed Mar 27, 2019 6:32 pm

Yeah, thanks Erik....I was wondering about that too. Do I just go to the big city upholstery store and ask for “bow drill” and they’ll know what I’m talking about? And I didn’t know about ‘cut on the bias’ either. Thanks again. I’m making a top for a ‘10 Maxwell runabout. Will use that cobra material because it looks older than long grain....
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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Oldav8tor » Wed Mar 27, 2019 9:39 pm

Two questions -[1] how are the wood bows supposed to be attached to the steel tubes of the top frame? [2] Is there a good supplier of replacement wood top bows? Some of mine are less than perfect.
1917 Touring
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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by R.V.Anderson » Thu Mar 28, 2019 5:16 pm

My brother makes the wood bows from the Ford drawings. Email him at jpautowood@gmail.com or phone him at 716-985-5880.


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by R.V.Anderson » Thu Mar 28, 2019 5:22 pm

To answer your other question, the bow ends are shaped to fit tightly into the socket ends using a spoke shave or draw knife. Lacking those, you can use a disc sander. You want a sort of "glass stopper" effect so the bows once driven in are hard to get out of the sockets. You do need a tight fit so the bows don't wiggle in the sockets and ultimately tear the fabric. A large upholstery tack is driven in once the bow is where it belongs, just for added security.

According to Ford, the ends of the first and fourth bows are driven 7" into the sockets, and #2 & 3 are driven 5".


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by R.V.Anderson » Thu Mar 28, 2019 5:22 pm

To answer your other question, the bow ends are shaped to fit tightly into the socket ends using a spoke shave or draw knife. Lacking those, you can use a disc sander. You want a sort of "glass stopper" effect so the bows once driven in are hard to get out of the sockets. You do need a tight fit so the bows don't wiggle in the sockets and ultimately tear the fabric. A large upholstery tack is driven in once the bow is where it belongs, just for added security.

According to Ford, the ends of the first and fourth bows are driven 7" into the sockets, and #2 & 3 are driven 5".


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by R.V.Anderson » Thu Mar 28, 2019 5:22 pm

Apologies for the double post. Dunno what happened.


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Jerry VanOoteghem » Thu Mar 28, 2019 7:05 pm

Oldav8tor wrote:
Tue Mar 26, 2019 8:29 pm
Also, how much of the wood is left unwrapped above the metal part of the bows?

Restating my posting, just above yours, "Will add, that the bow drill material should extend onto the bow socket just enough to almost meet the edge of the top. The ends of the bow drill are then turned under to create a nice, finished and even end. Kind of like a hem."

In other words, NONE of the wood should show.


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Original Smith » Sat Mar 30, 2019 11:39 am

When I'm wrapping that front bow, I have a jar of contact cement to hold everything in place. As easy as it looks, this isn't an easy job.


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Adam » Sat Mar 30, 2019 11:55 am

I’ve seen black, brown, and off-white bow wrapping and padding on various cars (new and old restorations and originals). I am thinking that bow wrapping & padding was originally black from Ford and naturally bleached itself out over the years? I’ve also seen white stitching in tops that were over 60 years old and figured the same thing happened.

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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Oldav8tor » Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:50 pm

After I took the old rotten fabric off the bows I decided that the existing bows should be replaced. When I put them back together I want to do it right so that raises the question of how to prep the wood before covering with fabric.

What do you recommend? Linseed oil, spar varnish, paint...??
1917 Touring
1946 Aeronca Champ
1952 Willys M38a1 Jeep
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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Erik Johnson » Wed Apr 03, 2019 10:09 pm

Unless the original wood bows are actually rotten, I would not replace them.

There is nothing painted on the wood top bows and there no reason to treat or coat them.


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Jim, Sr. » Wed Apr 03, 2019 10:39 pm

If your bows are just full of holes from the tacks used on previous tops you can fix that. Get a box of round toothpicks and cut them in half with a wire cutter. Dip them in wood glue and tap them into the holes. After the glue dries nip them off close to the bow. Now sand everything smooth with a belt sander.
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1922 Coupe , 1926 Touring

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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Oldav8tor » Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:01 pm

I thought my wood bows were OK until I took the fabric off. Rot, cracks, delamination, warps & more holes than in a woodpecker colony. I found where two had been repaired (poorly) and another replaced with a laminated piece where you could see daylight between the laminations on the bends. I had a woodworker friend inspect them and his recommendation was to replace and I agreed.

Jim, yours look a whole lot better than mine.

I could probably get by with them for a few years but I only want to do this once. When I finish with this car I hope to spend more time driving it than making repairs. :D
1917 Touring
1946 Aeronca Champ
1952 Willys M38a1 Jeep
1953 Ford Jubilee Tractor


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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Dallas Landers » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:57 am

Tim, Tim! When you get that one done its time for another my friend. Did we not explain this model T thing?
I replaced all the wood in my RPU and its not a bad job. The help here on the forum will get you through it.

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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Oldav8tor » Thu Apr 04, 2019 6:05 pm

Dallas - that's why I need to finish this one in case I wish to turn my attentions elsewhere :evil: In the meantime I'll have a good Model T to tour with.
1917 Touring
1946 Aeronca Champ
1952 Willys M38a1 Jeep
1953 Ford Jubilee Tractor


Dallas Landers
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Re: Top Bow Fabric

Post by Dallas Landers » Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:04 pm

Tim, thats why I keep the 24 coupe hid in the big barn till my TT is finished.

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