Nelson Platform Bench

Editor’s note: During his time design director for Herman Miller, George Nelson recruited a series of talented designers including Ray and Charles Eames, Isamu Noguchi, Robert Propst and Alexander Gerard. During Nelson’s tenure, Herman Miller produced numerous iconic designs including, the Eams Lounge Chair, Marshmallow Sofa and Noguchi coffee table. And, as the literal foundation for the modern cabinetry system featured in Herman Miller’s 1948 catalog, George Nelson’s own platform bench is an important piece from the history of Mid-Century Modern furniture. In this excerpt from his new book on the style, author Michael Crow shows you how to build the iconic Nelson Platform Bench. Crow’s “Mid-Century Modern Furniture” is available in paperback for preorder and available now as a downloadable PDF at ShopWoodworking.com.

George Nelson’s platform bench served as the foundation of his first collection for Herman Miller, underpinning the Basic Cabinet Series. Alone, it functions as a bench or table (its slatted top is perfect for easy cleanup and drainage outside), but combined with other units in the Basic Cabinet Series, it becomes a chest or cabinet. As drawn here, it features a wooden base, but it was also available with metal legs. Simple construction techniques underlie the minimalist form. Half-laps join the pieces of the top, splined miters join the base, and screws connect the base and top. It was originally available with a natural birch top and ebonized base, or with ebonized top and base.

Nelson Platform Bench

George Nelson c.1946, 14″ h x 48″ w x 183⁄4″ d, birch

Platform Bench Cutlist

Platform Bench Exploded View

Platform Bench Front View

Platform Bench Top View

Platform Bench Side View


Mid-Century Modern FurnitureFor more projects like this check out “Mid-Century Modern Furniture: Shop Drawings & Techniques for Making 29 Projects” by Michael Crow.

3 thoughts on “Nelson Platform Bench

  1. DoctorJ

    I am confused about the cut list. It shows the leg frame tops and bottoms as 3/4″ thick but the leg frame sides as 2 1/4″ thick. They’re also of different widths: 2 1/4″ for the tops and bottoms , 2 19/32″ for the sides. The side view shows them of equal thickness and width (which makes sense given the splined miter joints described. Is the list incorrect or am I just looking at this wrong?

  2. handtoolfool

    It is my impression that Herman Miller Co. enforces their copyrights on their licensed designs rather thoroughly, including the Nelson bench. This is a current design they manufacture. This should be kept in mind by anyone making a copy, regardless if it is published in a book of plans.

    1. Workrage

      A quick Google search shows many reproductions of the “George Nelson Style Bench” available for sale. Although Herman Miller has aggressively protected some of their designs (the Eames lounge chair), I don’t think that’s an issue in this case.

      Coincidentally PW had a good article a few years ago that addresses some of the FUD around furniture patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

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