Have you ever wondered how things are made?

by Rau on May 3, 2011

in Custom Projects

If you missed the show, you should check your local listings or visit the How It's Made website.

Many people have been openly wondering why, How It’s Made, the uniquely entertaining cable program, has never featured the process of making a Bespoke pre-airbag, 2-spoke, full walnut burl Rolls-Royce steering wheel with custom leather, on their show.  Hey, finally your prayers will be answered May 20th at 9:00 EDT, on the Science Channel.

Before and After picture

For the preview, let’s drift back in time to early December 2010, when the shooting begins. On that early morning, when the sun was half awake, the crew of How It’s Made arrived at our door step ready to start their routine. They brought all of their equipment in a rental van, and since most of their filming is on location around the world, most of the equipment was rented locally as well. With a casual but methodical flow, the team-of-four unloaded their gear, and wheeled it inside our shop.

Some of us who are fans of the show were eager to help them, but realized it was better to leave it to the professional. Weeks before, we prepared everything we could to help them shoot the program in one working day. This preparation included cleaning the shop so it looked more like a television set then actual working environment.

A rare glimpse at Bill in action

Months earlier, this day of filming was initiated with a call from Robert Morselli, the very busy Research Director at HIM. He and his staff are constantly on the prowl to satisfy its viewers’ insatiable appetite for interesting, unusual and unique items - demystified.

With an international audience of over one hundred-million viewers per week and a roll-call of international companies featured, one might wonder what we had in common with the likes of Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation.

Essentially, it was what we didn’t have in common. It turns out that hand-crafting bespoke steering wheels on a one by one basis, using traditional woodworking machines and hand tools was just too irresistible. That, and the transformation of a notoriously unattractive Rolls-Royce steering wheel into a walnut burl beauty, was too much for the staff at HIM to resist.

Rolls-Royce automobiles are traditionally esteemed for high luxury and uncompromising woodwork; however, the factory steering wheel (c.1980s) is out of character with the rest of the Rolls-Royce persona and is anything but luxurious.

So we decided to show how a pre-airbag all wood steering wheel was made. Per their request, we prepared and scripted the construction sequence of building a custom one-off Rolls-Royce walnut burl steering wheel, from start to the finish.

'How It's Made?' crew preparing for a shoot

When the crew arrived greetings were exchanged and then we conferred with Francois, the director, who quickly absorbed the intricate details of the wheel making process. Together, we formulated the filming sequence and he directed the lighting and camera crew. Sequences were filmed and reviewed for the best lighting and storytelling appeal. After a few hours it got faster, as the actors were less nervous.

We had prepared multiple “sets” of the wheel in different stages of completion; so the crew could finish filming a process that normally takes 4 weeks, in just one day. We rotated our crew members so nearly every one had a cameo appearance on camera. As befits a hand crafted product, the shots featured mainly our hands; which was probably a wise decision to exclude our handsome faces, and keep the audience’s focus on the wheel making process.

At the end of the day they packed up and left as efficiently as they arrived. Now, these Canadians were out for some fun.

Some of our satisfied customers have kindly written some words about their steering wheels:

"...I also sold my '84 Silver Spur. Got a price  way over anything I've seen sold in the last year. The buyer fell in love with your steering wheel and had to have the car!  It really did make that car special."
- Warren D.

"The steering wheel for our Corniche just arrived and it is magnificent! Of course I would expect nothing less from your company but just wanted you to know how pleased we are with your work...it will certainly add great beauty to our car's interior. I have said to friends that your steering wheels are what Rolls Royce should have put into their cars from the beginning"
- Douglas H.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

udit January 24, 2012 at 3:35 am

Can you please tell me about my P II 1930 which i think had a ivory goloured veneer on the steering wheel which is now peeling off, and is coming out in pieces. What could it be made of, wood, ivory or something else. Pearl Nacrolaque was painted on the instrument board. can all thede be restored ? or else what could the next best thing to be done.


Len Wheeler July 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Can you do your restoration work on my Jaguar XK 150 steering wheel?


Susy October 5, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Hats off to whoever wrote this up and potesd it.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: