WOOD HAS LONG BEEN AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE.
Imagine walking through the woods - the rustle and sway of the leaves from a passing wind, the soft crunch of the ground beneath your feet, maybe some water rushing at a nearby creek - Its hard to beat the experience that being one with nature provides the human soul. “Wood has psychological effects on people and a similar stress-reducing effect to nature,” says Marjut Wallenius, a Docent and Doctor of Psychology at the University of Tampere. “The use of wood promotes the health and well-being of mind and body.” See more of her findings on the psychology of wood here. The sights and smells of wood and nature are largely responsible for the joy we get on a walk through the woods, but we can also hear it in other facets of life, such as music - the Grand Piano, the violin, the guitar - all owe their beautiful acoustics to wood. We can create shelter with it, inspire tranquility, and express ourselves through music, among many other things. Concisely put, wood is a high functioning part of the human experience.
FUNCTION MEETS FORM.
Wood has also been an integral piece of the automotive experience since its infancy in the late 19th Century. Utilized to build buggies/carriages, wheels, and later used as an exposed structural part of the classic “Woodie” cars of the 30’s and 40’s, as an internal chassis of cars such as those from Morgan (British), and most notably as a part of interior design and decor, wood has been extremely prominent in the automotive industry. From engineering and design perspectives, wood is a gold mine - its function and style that literally grows on trees.
FROM ROOT TO DASH… AND BEYOND.
How does one get from a tree in the woods to a dash piece in a luxury car? As with a fine cigar, a team of skilled craftsmen - and nature - work in harmony from start to finish. “Veneer Hunters”, designers and engineers all work cohesively to bring together the best elements of each group to create a one-of-a-kind product; no two cars are ever the same. Its important to note that it isn’t merely throwing a vehicle together; each piece of wood (in some cars, more than 30 pieces) is painstakingly picked, bookmatched (mirrored) and assembled by hand to create the stunning finishes like the one above. For many of those involved, it isn’t just a job or career, but a way of life; every vehicle they produce is an extension of themselves as individuals. Watch the videos below to get a more in-depth look at some of the process.
NATURE: BEAUTY AND TURMOIL
Polarity is a part of the human experience. The same nature that beautifully ages the wood over the 80 years it takes for the root burr of a walnut tree to mature (to Bentley’s standards) is the same nature that takes a fraction of time to have its way on the finished product. UV rays, moisture, and other factors can take their toll on the once immaculate finish of your interior.
Cracks, splitting and fading can all become a nuisance, often persuading owners to opt for expensive replacements; but given the age of some of our cars, that isn’t always a practical option, as was shown on the interior of the BMW 733i we restored in 2017. There are other cases such as a redesign where a color change may be in order to better suit your new vision for the vehicle. In either case, M&B is here to help restore and preserve these valuable pieces of history.
Gather round, class.
The subject of this project is one of M&B’s longstanding projects, a 1991 BMW 540i that has undergone extensive cosmetic and mechanical modifications. On to the third and final iteration of the interior, we sourced new door panels and interior bits for the vehicle, and one of the things we’ve decided to overhaul is the cracked and faded wood trim. While wood trim is designed to add class and comfort to an interior, when it becomes discolored and perished, it has more of the opposite effect. Our goal for the interior of this car is to elicit timeless style, subtlety and sportiness so that all occupants are able to enjoy an oasis all their own.
One thing we’re crazy about here at M&B is keeping up with design trends and innovations. In recent years we’ve begun to see automakers go back to the simpler, open-pore style of wood trim that shows off its character, and ironically, it really works well for modern designs as we watch architecture evolve toward simplicity.. We decided that this approach would well-suit our beloved 5 series. Follow along and we’ll show you how to achieve the same finish.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
Aircraft Paint Stripper
180g Sandpaper (to raise the grain)
Oil-based Wood Stain (we chose ebony for this project)
THE EBONIZING PROCESS
Up to this point, the procedure is pretty standard in terms of refinishing wood, whether for an OE finish or a new one. Moving forward, we chose to ebonize the wood because the dark tones of the wood will be an excellent compliment to the new color we chose. Ebonizing is actually a very simple process - Let your steel wool sit in the vinegar for at least 12 hours, the longer you wait, the better. In projects past, we’ve waited up to 2 weeks before beginning this process. What happens here is that the vinegar breaks down the steel wool, creating an iron acetate that reacts with the natural tannins in the wood to create a black finish. Use paper towels to dip and stain the wood, one pass at a time.
**Note: do not seal your container of solution while this process is taking place - a byproduct of this chemical reaction is a gas, so sealing the container could result in an explosion.
Below are a few examples of what this process does to the walnut burl for another one of our projects.
We clear coated and polished the wood trim of this particular car, our v12 7 Series project, as it better fit the character. With the 5, we’re going for a more modern look. In the end, were very thrilled with the outcome of the interior of the car pictured, often receiving compliments on it when displayed. Being familiar with the process, we decided to use the same procedure with the 5 series.
Different species of wood will receive the stain differently due to varying content of tannic acid. We’re fortunate in this case that the Mahogany just soaks it right up.
6. Once you’ve found a shade that works for you - the more layers of solution, the darker it gets - you can either stop here and put a clear finish over it (As we did with our previous project), or if you’re after an open-pore look, grab your oil-based ebony stain and give it one last wipe. This will pull back some of the color (which we wanted), enrich the grain, and give it a very deep, pronounced look that can be found in classics and modern cars alike. We’ll ceramic coat all of the wood before its installed for the final time to protect it for years to come.
THE FINAL PRODUCT
The outcome is the mark of an Individual - subtle, refined, and more inviting as the wood now has a softer look and feel, making the interior that much more of a personal oasis.
We’re excited to share with you more progress on the car as it develops - be sure to check back periodically for updates!
Until next time,
Derrick D. Bundy
M&B Fine Automotive Detailing & Coatings
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