More forum rescues. This time a guide on making a professional looking stainless steel mesh grille for my car.
Time for another Sunday How-To 🙂
This time I was getting bored with the standard plastic grille on mt car. I quite fancied a Zunsport grille or something similar. However, I wasn’t impressed at the price. £70-90 for some wire mesh seemed a lot. So, me being me, I decided to explore the DIY route.
Firstly I looked at Halfords and their range of mesh sheets. They were charging between 20 and 30 quid for some extruded aluminium mesh. It seemed to be pretty light weight stuff and not great quality.
Next stop was B&Q because they did a range of meshes for kitchen and bathroom use. Again, it was overpriced for what it was and not exactly motor grade quality.
Finally I managed to source some Grade316, stainless steel, woven mesh from Lockwood International. They are possibly more well known for their dials but their mesh is high quality. They have some finished grilles for several cars including the Mk2 but I ordered a plain section of mesh to work with.
The first stage was to create a template. As you can see below, I started with a paper one. Simply 3 sheets of A4 taped together. I was able to cut slots for the number plate mounting and then slide the sheet into position. Then, due to the thinness of the paper, I was able to trace round the edge of the existing grille easily with a pen. I cut the paper template and checked the fitting.
Next I wanted to create a more durable template. The paper was a little flexible and would not take a little rough treatment. So I recreated the template in cardboard and, again, checked to confirm the dimensions on the car.
I found that the mesh was rather stiff so the card mesh turned out to be ideal. I traced around the perimeter of the template with a tipex brush to mark the outline of the grille on the mesh panel.
The fun bit was cutting the stainles steel! It had been recommended to use piano wire cutters. So I gave that a go to begin with. The pair you see below has a nifty lever action to reduce the effort needed to cut. It certainly works on the wire however, as the cutters snipped each strand, the excess piece shot off like a bullet! You’ll definately need eye protection (and a bullet-proof vest).
Also, I found that I couldn’t get my cutting millimeter perfect and that the finished ends were a little sharp. Cutting in certain directions was also a little awkward and I didn’t want to distort the mesh too much.
So, plan B was the Dremel. I put on the heavy duty cutting disc and let rip. Yeee-hah! Sparks everywhere! Great fun. It went through the mesh easily enough and was more precise than the piano wire cutters. Just don’t touch the cut ends for a bit. They are super hot!
Since this is a woven mesh there will be some strands towards the edge of the cut panel that are not particularly well held by the weave. To secure them I used a little epoxy glue. The primo option would be to spot weld. I expect the epoxy to work fine but I have loads of spare strands in case I need to replace any that go AWOL.
Next up is adding the chrome surround. I went for the ‘Dragonsoup’ method. A ‘chrome’ detailing strip from Halfords. These things are pretty flexible and held by 3M adhesive. You can do this step last but I wanted to see what the car looked like with the strip only first. Pretty neat.
Since the ends of the mesh are still rather sharp you’ll want to protect the area around the grill with some tape. The last thing you want to do is scratch up your paintwork or blingy chrome strip 🙂
The mesh grill itself is held in place with cable ties. As you can see, the existing grille is still in place. I know this offends some people but unless you are this close to the grille you don’t actually see the old mesh. My other fixing option had been a couple of zinc plated, cup square bolts. The ends of them are smooth and round so they’d look ok but I thought it was too much.
And this is the finished product…
I have a small amount of tidying up to do. I think the cable ties would benefit from a dab of silver paint and a few of the edge strands of the mesh could sit very slightly different. The other question is whether I put a MazdaSpeed badge on the lower right part of the grille. Is that too much? Or should I leave it off as it’s my grille, not Mazdas? 🙂
Update: I later replaced the black, plastic ties with aluminium metal ones. Looks a lot better.