When we made our annual sojourn to Monterey Car Week we made a stop by Pebble Beach the Friday prior to the world famous Concours d’Elegance. Friday and Saturday are perfect days to walk the grounds and view displays from Mercedes, Bugatti, Polestar and several others. We spent some time perusing the display by Bentley that showed off their latest models as well as the Pikes Peak SUV record holder.
The cars show themselves. The final product produced from the Bentley factory is its own rolling advertisement of luxury and quality. However, this particular display revealed the secrets of Bentley’s wood-shop. We spoke with two chaps who walked us through the painstaking process of acquiring specialty and sustainable woods to produce the stunning details found on the interior of Bentley automobiles. Bentley selects veneer from root burl which has greater patterns than from other sources. What is root burl you may ask? Burl is a tree growth that is commonly found as a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk that is filled with small knots. The majority of this burls grow underground attached to roots and are not revealed until the tree falls down.
The work that Bentley has done to create stunning interiors isn’t just for the creation of bespoke car interiors. They are preserving and teaching specialized and centuries old traditions of woodworking that are becoming lost to new generations. It take two weeks to prep the wood for use. During this time the wood is given multiple coats of lacquer, three days to cure and a hand wax and polish. Each wood panel inside a Bentley automobile can take hours and hours to create. For example, the Bentley Mulsanne has 33 wood panels, each one taking seven hours to complete.
The work of the Bentley wood shop is more than the beautiful wood panel interiors. They are keeping alive a craft, that without there efforts, could have died off decades ago. As we discovered in our conversations, the Bentley wood shop in Crewe, England doesn’t just keep alive old world traditions of craftsmanship, but provides a real career opportunity for apprentices who later become master-craftsmen.
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