Assembling the Tambour Panel
Bottom weight canvas fabric (piece 10) and Aleene’s® Original Tacky Glue® are used to secure the slats in alignment and provide the necessary flexibility to maneuver the curves of the side grooves. These two products are available at fabric stores. It is very important that the slats are perfectly square to ensure that they will close evenly in the enclosure and avoid binding during opening and closing.
I recommend that you make a simple tambour panel jig to hold the slats in alignment during the gluing process. The jig can be made of scrap plywood or MDF. On the flat surface of the jig, screw or nail parallel cleats spaced 8-1⁄2″ apart. Make sure the jig base is at least 14″ long, and add a similar cleat at one end.
Perpendicular to and between the edge pieces, draw parallel lines one inch apart across the jig opening. I found that these “alignment guides” helped to keep me on track as I lined up the slats. Now use a straightedge and draw a line down each edge of the slats, about 1/2″ in from the edge. You don’t want any canvas (or glue!) to end up in this area, as these ends will ride in the grooves you formed in the sides.
Cut a piece of canvas 6-1⁄2″ wide and several inches longer than the 14″-long panel itself. Once all your slats are installed in the jig, add a bead of the glue to the back of each piece, being sure to keep the glue well inside of the edge lines you just added. Center the cloth on the jig, leaving approximately 1″ spacing on each side so the slat ends extend well beyond the cloth.
Once the slats and cloth are laid up, place a flat board (with a
piece of waxed paper between the fabric and the board) over the cloth and install clamps around the assembly to ensure good contact between each slat and the cloth. After the glue dries, trim off any excess cloth from each end of the panel using a razor blade or sharp utility knife.
Sand and slightly round the slat ends to prevent any binding in the grooves. The door might also require some final trimming on the ends to ensure smooth rolling in the grooves.
I suggest that you apply wipe-on polyurethane finish to the glued-up door before gluing up your box. This allows the finish to be applied evenly along the entire length of each slat, including the ends. At this time, locate the two small screw holes you made earlier, and glue and screw the handle to the maple door slat.
Sand all of your machined pieces to a smooth finish and dry fit the entire piece together before you begin the glue-up. Carefully check that all angles are square and fit properly. Especially check to be sure the door panel rides smoothly in its grooves. A bit of fine trimming and sanding of the door may be necessary.
Now glue and clamp the sides, top, internal box top and back and the top plate for the first assembly, leaving the bottom and tambour door off. (Note: you do want to ensure that the bottom fits snugly in place at this time — just don’t glue it.) After the glue has dried from this initial gluing phase, retest the fit of the tambour door, ensuring that it slides well in its groove. Then insert the door panel in its grooves and glue the bottom in place, capturing the door in the box.