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The art of wood

Wood remains a living, breathing material, long after the tree is felled – each piece with its own characteristics. No one better understands how to work with these traits to transform wood into a unique design than Jonathan Peedell and his team at the Rolls-Royce Woodshop.

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“Wood is one of the defining features of a Rolls-Royce,” explains Jonathan Peedell, Production Manager at the Rolls-Royce Woodshop. “It can take up to 46 pieces of wood to complete a Rolls-Royce interior, and the level of complexity that goes into it is unmatched.

“The craftsmanship seen in a Rolls-Royce goes beyond traditional automotive woodwork,” he says. “It is closer to what you would find in fine furniture or in a super yacht. 

“Every car we build is unique and bespoke. We don’t have clever automation systems for wood, because they don’t exist. We rely on people’s talent, skill, and their touch and feel – something that comes through years of training and experience.

“We are guardians of an incredible marque, with an unrivalled reputation,” adds Peedell. “The 163 people in this team are fiercely protective about what they do and gain huge personal satisfaction in achieving the extremely high standards of quality of our work. They are proud to work for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, and in particular the renowned Woodshop.” 

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Each piece of wood goes through an intensive process. Once it has been selected, it is carefully sanded and layers of lacquer masterfully applied. It is then treated to a final finesse before the veneer undergoes a rigorous inspection. 

If the slightest imperfection is spotted, it must be rectified, and one member of the Woodshop team came up with an ingenious solution. Using a tiny drill, the wood pieces are accessed from the back, to remove any imperfection without breaking the 600-micron layer of lacquer. 

“Wood is a natural product, which can greatly influence the level of work and time you have to put into crafting it. For example, a log of rosewood that’s very oily or very porous can require an additional two to three days to process the veneer. We have one veneer specialist who travels around the world sourcing the wood to ensure we start with the best possible materials.”

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“Although we are the Woodshop, we don’t just work in wood; we create all of the interior trim hard features. So, metal fascias, carbon fibre or even a painted colour – there’s almost no limit, as long as it passes the rigorous testing requirements, is legal and doesn’t compromise safety.”

The most demanding task the Woodshop has ever taken on came from a customer’s request for a very specific carbon fibre interior. “They didn’t just want the carbon fibre all the same colour, they wanted a red weave through it. Well, composites shouldn’t be coloured by nature. So this challenge gave us a chance to learn a new process, to work with carbon fibre suppliers in a different way, and discover the answers to lots of questions. It was a hugely challenging assignment, but we rose to it.”

“There’s always an exciting car coming through, or project on the horizon. We work on something different every week.”

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