Automobile woodwork is not furniture, but it is wood with a finish. Because we are expert at applying wood finishes, we have had customers bring to us the woodwork from their classic automobiles as a part of restoring the vehicle. Auto woodwork is difficult work because it is curved, covered with thin veneer and usually needs to be pore filled and hand polished to a high gloss finish. Translate that: expensive! Even though expensive, still necessary and worthwhile as a part of the overall restoration project. We would like to show you some samples of what we have done.
To the right is an interesting book that covers all aspects of restoring auto woodwork. There are but three chapters on dealing with the finishes of the woodwork in classic automobiles. Nevertheless, we thought we might have some readers who would enjoy looking at a book like this so have included it for your perusal.
Classic Bentleys were, and still are, apparently, a gentleman's customizable luxury hot rod. No doubt there are limits, but it seems that virtually any modification you can imagine is permissible on one of these automobiles. We have an example of two dash boards that one customer brought in for two Bentley's he was restoring.
This is the first of the two dashes. Glove box on the left, as you would expect from a British auto manufacturer. In the spirit of customization, our customer intended to replace this wooden dash with a dash with a brushed aluminum face and with rearranged positions for the gauges. The new dash is below.
This is the second dash. You are actually looking at the back of it. The glove box door is now on the right, the oval for the gauges is taped to its new place on the left. In the center you can see the rabbet cut for the central housing to mount into. That will need to be filled.
A metal worker fabricated this brushed aluminum face to our customer's specifications. Our job was to create the wooden backer that all the gauges would mount to and to hinge the glove box. That task included using "invisible" hinges and creating the correct taper so that the lid would open without binding.
All the modifications are completed, new holes bored, the glove box mounted and lock attached. The rabbet in the above photo has been filled and hand painted black. A very distinctive new walnut dash with the left hand driver orientation is the result.
These twelve spoke wheels were state of the art in their day. However, being state of the art technologically is not valued too highly unless state of the art is also really good looking. And who could deny that these wheels would grab attention! This color scheme is a reproduction of the original.
This Bentley owner has us do the work on wooden parts he transports to England and attaches to cars he is restoring there. We were surprised but also flattered to hear that he received comments from other restorers there about the quality of the finished woodwork in his cars. They knew of no one there who could get the wood to look like this. I am sure our customer didn't tell how much it cost him to obtain this look, but it is clear it turned out very well! We filled the pores of the walnut, then hand polished a water based gloss finish.
You can't tell from the picture because there is no scaling reference point, but these buggy wheels are not for either a horse-drawn buggy or a horseless carriage. They are from the type of buggy most of us have taken a ride in--a baby buggy. The white tires might have been a clue for some of you! Sorry to put them on a page featuring classic auto woodwork, we admit it is a big stretch, but they are the same as a full size buggy wheel in every way other than scale.
The original spokes were rotten. Before this project was brought to us someone else had attempted to form new spokes out of oak. They had made a few mistakes and so we ended up with the project. We decided our customer would be better off by starting fresh and by substituting maple for oak.
Once again the spokes are a light wood color, this time a creamy gold, and again a close approximation to the original. A nice contrast to the black, and for the fastidious among us, a clear way of revealing how much care we take to keep things clean and fresh looking.
Impossible to see is the exact fitting that was necessary to make this work. We were challenged!
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These two pictures are the same item viewed from two different angles. This is a dash header from a Bentley, refinished and hand polished to this beautiful liquid gloss.