Tambours (roll-tops)

I'm looking to buy a large screen TV, and I want to build an in-wall entertainment system for it. I was considering making a frame with a tambour in it so I could cover the TV when not in use (and a tambour would not obstruct the view once opened) Of course, I've never built a tambour, so I'm not sure what it would involve. I have a few questions about it:
How hard is it to make a tambour, and what are the chances of making a good tambour by a newbie (I'll do a mock up first of course, but I won't have years of experience when I build the entertainment unit...).
Can a tambour be made to slide vertically rather than horizontally (can it close from the side, rather than the top?)
Is there any good way to determine the size of the tabmour when it is rolled up? - A tambour that can cover a 40" screen would have to fit within the thickness of the wall...
Finally, is there any advice (what kind of cloth/glue to use, useful jigs/techniques, etc) that anyone can suggest for making tambours?
Thanks,
John
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Something to consider, Amana makes a set or router bits that will let you cut interlocking tambour pieces that require no gluing or cloth.

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Rockler sells router bits to cut the profiles, or you can buy the ready made slats and assemble your own. There are many other places to get tambour slats, cloth backing, etc, online. Tambours do not typically roll up, they just slide up into a long slot that goes across the top and down the back as required http://www.rockler.com/search_results.cfm?filter=tambour&submit.x &submit.y=6
--
Dennis


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It depends on your skill level and how well you experiment and measure it to fit. If your set on using a Tambour, I'd make smaller scale model and iron out some of the kinks such as figuring out the tightest curve that a tambour could easily follow. And know that even with a perfectly working scale model, you'll run into problems with a full size one because of it's size.
For the cloth, I'd go to an arts and craft store and buy paint canvas. And yes, you can make them vertically operating than horizontal. Downside is that there's a rather ugly track that shows wear at the bottom of the screen when the tambour is open for TV viewing. Most (but not all) people with wide screen TVs don't attempt to cover them, instead leaving them open to view for all to see. Also, tambours when open for viewing don't usually roll into a ball, but instead for a vertical one would slide up over the TV and partially down the back of the TV. The mechanics and spring apparatus to make it roll up are complicated and not what I'd use.
Undoubtedly, you'll get some other comments, but to start I'd suggest trying to find a book on the subject or do an online search. You might also visit a few furniture stores and closely look at some existing tambour constructions.
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You can buy pre-made tabours. You can buy router bits designed to cut tambour pieces.
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I would certainly look into the premade tambour products. I have never made any, but I had an office/shop many years ago that had a custom commercial furniture shop as a neighbor.
He showed some of the premade stuff, and it was great. It was uniform in appearance, and best of all, it was stable. He told me he made his own for a while, but the wood he purchased moved around after he made the panels making the panels very hard to operate.
Then when he figured out how much time he had involved in purchasing and culling the material to make the slats, making the slats, then gluing up the materials, he felt like purchasing was a no-brainer for him.
Personally, I would concentrate on the rest of the cabinet and buy the tambour. It is available everywhere these days, as well as installation tips for the correct radius to cut to allow movement of the finished tambour.
Robert
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And to that end, here's what Lee Valley Tools has to offer. Don't know if it's big enough for your purposes, but that you'll have to figure out.
http://www.leevalley.com/hardware/page.aspx?c=1&p@016&cat=3,43738,43739
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julvr wrote:

Seriously, I would look into buying a pre-made tambour or at the very least, the parts to make one yourself. I know Rockler carries both the pre-made and the parts, you'd have to see if they have what you need.
My only real concern about this is the width of the tambour that you'd need. For a large television, that would be a considerable span and most tambours are going to be pretty flexible across that kind of span. I'd be worried about it continually popping out of the tracks as it flexed.
--
Blog Me! http://BitchSpot.JadeDragonOnline.com

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"Brian Henderson"

I wonder if there's a way to stiffen up those long spans? Perhaps thin metal strips screwed through the back of the canvas into the slats. I was trying to envision dual tambours size by side for wider spans like a large screen TV, but couldn't figure out the mechanics of such an installation.
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what about flipper doors?
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charlie wrote:

FWIW, Nahm did a roll-top desk a while back http://www.newyankee.com/getproduct.php?9812 .
Seems to me that the top on that has plenty of span--adapt the design and turn it sideways and it should be fine I would think.
--
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--John
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It sounded like the OP wanted this to fit into a standard studwall cavity. For that, I'd eschew the tambour, put a header in at the top of the cavity and use the cavity above the TV opening to store a lift-up (counterweighted e.g. sash weights) door.
I'd be very concerned about heat dissipation were the flat-panel operated in the cavity, however, even with the door up.
scott
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snipped-for-privacy@slp53.sl.home (Scott Lurndal) writes:

I bought a DC-powered 3-speed fan for about $10, and cannibalized an old voltage convertor to power it. I put a hole in the back. This was for a media PC. The fan was in exhaust mode, and positioned next to the exhaust of the PC.
Still, I'd test the temperature to make sure.
I bought an AC fan from Rockler, and returned it. It sounded like a hovercraft. The DC fan is silent.
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Lighter, plastic fans don't create rumble. You can cut wind noise by running the fan at a lower voltage.
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Upscale wrote:

By the time you go through all of that, why bother with a tambour at all? There are many more efficient and easier doors that you could build, either flipper doors or slide up/down solid panel doors that would do the same job without the chance of catastrophic failure.
--
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"Brian Henderson"

You're right of course, but more than once I've built something to turn out a certain way just because I wanted it that way and didn't worry much about the excessive time needed to build it.
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That my friend, is when you are still having fun doing woodworking.
Good for you.
Robert
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OP here:
I'm much the same mind frame as Brian -- I know what I want, and there's no point in taking up woodworking if I can't build it. I also enjoy trying new things -- I'm actually a little dissapointed that the lee valley tambours are likely a viable solution to building my own...
As it turns out, in my case, I only have about 12" on either side of where the unit will be installed -- it's under a staircase, so sliding doors won't work, unless I make the door slide downwards, which would be plain ugly (and defeat the purpose). Swinging doors would not look good either, and would obstruct the built in on the other side -- so pocket door is my only real option if I want a door at all.
So regarding a few of the issues: Flex: The bottom couple of rungs will be made thicker to accomidate a handle. This thicker wood would not flex, and should hold the rest of the rungs in line, so the tambour should not fall out of its grove. I can also make the grove 1/2" deep on either side which will also help.
As far as heat goes, the wall backs onto a staircase going to my basement. I was planning on building a vented metal door at the back of the unit. This would allow me access to wiring, and prevent the unit from overheating. I'm also getting LCD, not plasma, so that should also help.
I'm still not sure if I'm putting a door on it at all (I'm still in the design stage). I'm pretty good with mechanics though -- I built a prototype of the following:
http://www.ulvr.com/john/animations/XTable4.jpg
The following shows a preliminary design of the mechanics of the table. The actual design was actually much simpler, as it only took one gearing mechanism.
http://www.ulvr.com/john/animations/XTableDesign.jpg
It works great -- I can stash the table under the couch in less than 4s, and pull it out in less than 6. The table also has multiple heights -- one for eating, one for working, and one for a regular coffee table (it also looks really good to boot). So, with that said, I'm not scared of 'complicated mechanics'
Anyways, thanks for all the comments and suggestions. I now have enough info to discuss with the wife (AKA 'master of decor') which option I'll take.
BTW, one thing I didn't mention, as far as mechanics go -- I'm also contemplating having the door open automatically when I press a button on my remote...
John
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I used the bit set mentioned in several responses and was very happy with the results. My application was about 45" wide and 20" tall. I used bicycle cable as they have a welded ball at one end that I could hide it in a pocket bored from the rear of the bottom rail. The only word of caution is to take your time working out the tension if you intend to use a radius of around 3" in your track as binding becomes an issue. I wouldn't try to go much tighter than 3". A little time sanding/smoothing out the track and a hot mix of thined candel wax in the track and it should glide up and down very easily. This is a link to the unit I made with the system. http://shannonwoodworks.bizland.com/rolltop_desk.html . Good luck
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Wow, that's a nice desk! Congrats -- question though -- what are the slots at the side of the desk for?
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