When I got a hold of an old non-working Marshall guitar speaker cabinet, I decided to breathe new life into it. Serious gigging history has also taken its toll. The vinyl cover was completely stripped off and the previous owner made a few modifications to the cab, leaving it with multiple holes in the wood. The cab didn’t work anymore and 3 of the 4 Celestion speakers were in a very bad condition. Therefore, I decided to repurpose it rather than trying to repair it. I upcycled this Marshall speaker cabinet into a liquor cabinet to store and showcase my whiskey collection.
Please note that I’m neither a guitar amplifier specialist, nor have I knowledge about cabinetry or woodworking. I’m an upcycle enthusiast and applied DIY tips and inputs from friends, family, as well as online research and videos. Any comments and suggestions are appreciated. What would you do differently?
Disassemble the Cabinet
Before I started upcycling this cabinet, I removed the backplate, loudspeaker frame, the handles and casters. I used a flat screwdriver to remove the plastic corners that were attached with rivets. In the first picture, you can see that the previous owner painted the whole cabinet white. Hence, I had to remove the white paint from the plastic corners with solvents.
Remove Tolex Glue Residue
If you’re lucky enough, you find a cabinet in a nice condition. Unfortunately, the Tolex of my cabinet was already stripped off, leaving a thick layer of glue residue on the the outside of the wood. This residue was still soft and gunky and hence, I started scraping it off using a palette knife that I found in my oil painting accessories. However, there are definitely better tools for that purpose. Later on, I also got a poster stripping knife that made my life a bit easier. I used a flat screwdriver to access small corners. A chisel would probably have been easier to work with. However, I’ve tried to use the tools available as much as possible.
Because this process was very painstaking, I tried to figure out if there were better ways to get rid off the glue. Depending on how hard the remnants are, they could also be sanded down and if there’s only a thin layer of glue left, solvents could be used. Because I was I was working on this project in our living room, I preferred to do as little sanding as possible. Apparently, some glues contain toxins, so you might want to protect yourself with a breathing mask.
Fill Holes in the Wood
I used wood filler to even out all the unnecessary drilling holes and the caster cup holes on the top. Because the cabinet will be used as a piece of furniture, I didn’t see any need in the use of handles anymore. Instead, I glued in pieces of wood and used wood filler in the remaining gaps. This also made it easier to cover the cabinet in vinyl. If the Tolex on your cabinet is still fine or if you don’t intend to add Tolex, I would suggest to keep the handles. I sold the handles of this cab on ebay.
Re-Tolex the Cabinet
The next step, which I found the most painful and time-intense, was glueing the vinyl on. If the cabinet I used was built in a nice solid wood instead of MDF, I would have painted it in a nice black satin (see-through) finish rather than covering it with vinyl. Anyway, I won’t go into detail on how to apply Tolex to the cabinet as there are various ways and great tutorials already out there. Two 90 cm increments of 136cm wide Tolex were sufficient to cover the cabinet using a 4-seams approach. There were even left overs to cover a shelf and inside bottom of the cabinet.
Wrapping it around corners was the biggest challenge. I initially thought the cabinet would look nicer without the plastic corners. However, I ended up adding them in the end to cover up little mistakes. Because I worked on this DIY project at home, I looked for a non-toxic glue and went for a water-based Tolex glue. Make sure to apply it to both the Tolex and the wood and wait until it’s tacky. Patience is key here.
I used furniture paint for the inside of the cabinet and the the door. There’s various types of paints with various finishes. If the wood looks nice, I would go for a satin/see-through finish to show the texture of the wood. On MDF, I preferred opaque gloss paint.
I used a 635x280mm and 18mm thick plywood sheet as a shelf and added scrap wood as shelf supports. I added the spare tolex to the shelf and the bottom inside of the cabinet.
When measuring the door size, account enough room for the piping. I used plywood as I thought it might be easer to drill the hinge holes etc. In hindsight, MDF might have been a better option. Also, after I added the grill cloth and the piping, the measurement turned out a bit tight.
I drilled the holes to attach the Marshall logo and for the hinges. Afterwards, I painted the door black and used a staple gun to attach the grill cloth and piping. For a future project, I would look for different materials. While the grill cloth and piping work well on actual speaker cabinets, they aren’t great when fitting on a liquor cabinet door. What would you suggest to use?
When it comes to hinges, they have to be inset hinges, because the door will be within a frame. A thick door inset hinge might be an even better choice. Because I wanted to avoid installing a door knob or handle, I used a push to open mechanism. I added pieces of wood level the surface with the frame, so I could attach the hinges.
I wanted to install a light that automatically goes on when opening the cabinet. Because I never want to change any batteries, I opted for a USB-chargeable LED light. It is mounted with a magnet strip and can easily be removed to charge.
Other Takeaways: Screwing in MDF
From what I’ve learnt online, MDF has the tendency to split when screwing into it. Hence, I always went for a pilot hole before adding the screw. I used multi-purpose screws which were designed for various materials, including MDF.
This is an overview of tools that I work with on this upcycled Marshall speaker cabinet.
- Power drill & 35mm hinge cutter
- Palette knife / Stripping knife
- Metal ruler
- Measurement tape
- Carpentry/craft knife
- Cutting Mat
- Sand paper
- Staple gun
This is an overview of the materials I used for my project. The measurements below refer to the Marshall VS412 E that I’ve upcycled and could vary depending on the speaker cabinet you are upcycling. Depending on the condition of your speaker, you might not even have to organise any tolex.
- Door hinges (Blum 110° inset unsprung hinges)
- Blum Tip-On push to open set & Tip-On holder
- Screws (SPAX® 4.0 (8g) Pozidrive Flat Countersunk 4.0 x 30mm (8 x 1 1/4″))
- Wheels (Marshall casters & caster adaptors)
- Wood (Door: 590x590mm and 18mm thick plywood sheet
Shelf: 635x280mm and 18mm thick plywood sheet
Shelf supporters / hinge base: I used scrap wood from another project
Handle holes: 2 times 223x115mm and 15mm thick MDF sheets with radius corners)
- Wood filler
- Wood glue
- Paint (furniture paint)
- Masking tape
- Tolex (Marshall Elephant Grain Tolex 272x90cm)
- Tolex glue (water based 950ml)
- Rivets (Marshall gold rivets)
- Grill Cloth (Marshall Black/Grey (Chequer Board) Weave Grill Cloth 81x90cm)
- Piping (Marshall white piping 3m)
- Light (USB rechargeable magnet stick on motion sensor LED night light)
I hope this helps you with your own upcycling project! Please share the outcome of your own upcycled piece and let me know your takeaways. I’m interested to hear what you would do differently from what I described.
Thank you and keep on rocking!