For the Bentley model Mulsanne model, introduced at the Detroit auto show in January 2010, the Crewe, England woodshopproduces veneers made from California walnut burls, with highly advanced CNC machines and generations-old traditions of craftsmanship.
It takes up to seven hours to craft each of 33 interior wood panels in the Bentley. Figured veneers are hand matched and glued, just as in the days when Bentley was owned by Rolls Royce.
Bentley says its autos represent the last bastion of hand-built coachbuilding. It takes more than two months to build a Bentley Mulsanne, of which more than 50 per cent involves handcraftsmanship.
"There’s something about walnut that captures the imagination of many Bentley customers," says the company, citing its dense, tight grain and rich depth of color. The mirror-matched eneer leaves are machine cut and hand glued and applied to the car’s interior.
In the case of walnut, Bentley says it uses California burr walnut at the end of its productive life. "Like all of our woods, we believe that certain imperfections are beautiful and create character," says the company. "We also refuse to bleach our woods, preferring instead to use a veneering process that takes up to two weeks for each car." The curing process takes three days, followed by "painstaking sanding and polishing to achieve a flawless finish on the leaves," says Bentley. Then a final coat of wax is applied and buffed to create that clear-glass shine.
The processes originate from ancient cabinetmaking traditions, e.g., cross-banding is cut by hand and we are the only car maker to use ‘mirror matching’ when applying veneer, with successive leaves placed end-to-end to make a perfect, symmetrical pattern down the centre line of the car.
The report is part of a series of extreme factories produced by National Geographic. Another video shows the richly appointed wood interior of a Winnebago, and how the cabinets adjusts as an automated slide-out feature is activated, causing the passenger cabin to widen. Views also show wood interior and other component manufacturing inside the factory.
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