Bentley Motors equips its auto upholstery team with millions of dollars in high-tech machinery and tools to fabricate and trim its luxury interiors. But when it comes to wrapping steering wheels, it’s coach trimmers rely on a simple kitchen utensil to get the job done.
In a recent article by Automotive News about Bentley Motors‘ interior factory, veteran trimmer Noel Thompson explains how he uses a dinner fork to ensure that stitches on the wheel are evenly spaced:
Noel Thompson, 62, a skilled coach trimmer who has been at the factory for 46 years, demonstrated that the Bentley mix of old-world craftsmanship, nearly bespoke, and modern manufacturing can co-exist.
It takes 3.5 to 4 hours to make a steering wheel. A $150,000 machine cuts the leather for each wheel, making it slightly narrower than the circumference so it can be stretched and glued.
Markings have to be made to show the worker where to hand-stitch the leather, Thompson said pulling out an aged eating utensil: “This is the world-famous fork.
“We have gone back to the old way of doing it — we use a fork,” Thompson said as he poked the uniformly spaced marks into the leather as you would on a pie crust.
It takes two hours to sew thread around the wheel using a cross-stitch, he said. “I sew with two needles in one hand because you cross over quicker.
“I have done more of these than anyone else in the company.”
The following low-res photo by Automotive News illustrates how it’s done:
It’s funny how some things never change. Our auto upholstery shop has been fabricating tools out of forks, spoons and even butter knives for two generations. A lot of other shops have been doing it for even longer.
To read more about Bentley Motors’ interior factory, check out “Lavishing leather, wood to defend ultraluxury.” For a video tour of the automaker’s leather workshop, watch “A visit to Bentley Motors’ leather workshop.”
Talk to us: Auto trimmers employ a range of tools and methods to ensure that hand stitches on steering wheels are evenly spaced. Some, like the fork, are simple. While others, like taking precise measurements, are more complicated. Share with us your process in the comments section below.