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Mid Century Modern Bench

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

The Slat Bench

A classic reborn

George Nelson designed the platform bench as his premiere collection for Herman Miller. The design has been copied, modified and adopted for use indoor, outdoor and as a display piece. The integrity of the bench comes from the choice of materials (usually hard maple) and the joinery (half lap joints). The original design was all-wood, but my preference is to fabricate the legs from powder-coated metal especially if these benches are heavily used. Many clients request this design as a show piece for their living room or mud room and in those cases I stick to the original design.

Building a masterpiece of design

This bench deserved the extensive craftsmanship associated with accurate joinery, careful surface preparation, coating, and finishing. Although I take advantage of modern tools, it takes many hours of careful attention to detail to get the result desired: well-built furniture which will last for generations.

I have been commissioned to build the bench in various dimensions. The largest one was a 6 foot version, hard maple and 6 layers of blonde shellac:

Like any build that you repeat multiple times, I got to adopt techniques and tricks that made the process efficient and fun so I could focus on what really matters: accurate joinery and design choices that make packing, shipping and client assembly a breeze.

Woodworking can be fun

When you are working on a client commissioned piece the stress level of the build is high. Mistakes you can gloss over if you’re building for yourself are not acceptable if you pride yourself on the quality of your workmanship. Every tiny crease lot gap in joinery gives me a minor embolism, glue up is more stressful than a $10m rfp response and worrying what the freight carrier will do to your precious cargo by the time it arrives on the client site will temporarily require blood pressure medication.

UNC at Asheville

I was delighted to be commissioned by the art department at University of Notth Carolina at Asheville for several of these slat benches. I have a design workflow which includes sketches and 3d rendering so that the client and I are on the same page. What made this a great experience was that Both the professor and myself are equally passionate about the value of handcraft. I will describe the design and build in detail but if you are looking for a video documentation of the process I invite you to watch a four part series on YouTube which starts in the wood selection and ends in the client unboxing and installation.

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