Assembling IKEA furniture…if you’ve ever done it, you understand the “dot dot dot”. If you haven’t ever assembled one of IKEA’s Rube Goldberg inspired home furnishings and find yourself confronted with such a situation, you will quickly perfect and expand the use of your four-letter-word vocabulary. Successfully completing the gauntlet of hammering brad nails, driving screws and figuring out the cam style fasteners that the engineers at IKEA love to use, sum up to ritualized torture. And finally, there are few things worse than trying to decipher the hieroglyphic directions. If, after that encouraging introduction, you find yourself still having to face this daunting challenge, fear not; many homes are filled with this stuff, so it probably won’t kill you-probably.
My mother recently purchased a rather large beach house in Port Aransas. In an effort to curb the cost of furnishing the newly built beach side getaway, she purchased several pieces of furniture from IKEA and I was volunTOLD to assemble them. I got a lesson in patience from this experience, and mom got revenge for all of those dirty diapers she had to change when I was little. Through this ordeal, I compiled a list of things that can make any furniture assembly go smoother, which could spare you or a loved one from unnecessary frustration and heartache.
- Be patient. Assembling IKEA furniture like a Chinese finger trap; the only way to move forward with it is to gently and carefully take each step to completion. Get frustrated, and you will regret the resulting outcome.
- Have a Seat. Getting comfortable helps you to remain relaxed. Adding an uncomfortable body position such as squatting or kneeling to the effort is never going to be of benefit. I chose an old ammo can I had laying around.
It was short enough so that I could pick up the different pieces, but wasn’t so short as to be uncomfortable. A chair may be too tall to allow you to interact with the pieces on the floor, so a small container of some sort capable of sustaining your weight is ideal.
- Attempting to understand the directions before you touch any parts is a huge help. I caught on to this about half way through the curse words and head shaking. I finally just sat down on my ammo can and tried to understand the progression of steps I would need to take in order to finish. Once I did this, I was surprised at how easy the instructions were to follow. Reading ahead allows you to clarify ambiguities or confusing steps based on the context of the next few steps before and after.
- Use your own tools; do not use what is included in the package. This chest of drawers came complete with assembly tools, they are small and poorly made. One of the tools provided was an allen wrench that was needed to tighten only two bolts, so I ended up using this tool for its limited purpose. (Another reason to read through the directions before beginning). IKEA furniture is made of particle board and/or soft wood, so the use of power tools is really unnecessary, and any time saved by using them will likely be offset by the damage you will inevitably do to your newly purchased furniture.
- Batch similar components. After reading through the directions and removing all the components from the box, take pieces that are the same and group them accordingly. Look for asymmetrical pieces that would indicate a right and left side and make subgroupings for these parts. The more method you add, the less madness you will experience.
- And Relax some more (borderline comatose is what we are going for).
- Fight the urge to reengineer. I’m kind of a handy guy, so I’m always asking myself if there is a better way to do things. If you are like me, ignore that voice in your head that starts by saying, “It’d be better if it went like this…” If you want to customize your IKEA find, assemble the piece fully, and then make any modifications you want. As you go through the assembly process you will realize that it really WOULDN’T be better if it went like you had thought.
- Do not pick a fight with the IKEA cam studs(a term that I chose for them); you can never win. I think other furniture companies use the same style fastener, but in any event, these apparatus only work when used properly. If you encounter resistance when trying to turn the cam, reposition it by wiggling back and forth on it until it turns the ¼ turn required, locking it in place.
- Don’t over tighten screws; it does not translate to a better hold. As I stated earlier, IKEA furniture is made of soft wood and particleboard. You can run a screw head all the way through the board without even meaning too. Over tightening screws will weaken the furniture by putting unnecessary pressure on the fastening points, which can result in cracked wood or stripped screw, ultimately reducing the overall life of your piece of furniture.
So there you have it. Keep your cool and you will keep your sanity.