Friday, September 25, 2009

Furniture assembly: Swedish rocket science reverts to Irishman's shanty...

By Jim Heffernan

I don’t want to cast aspersions into the wind, or among the swine, or wherever you cast them, but something needs to be said about a revolting experience I recently had. Revolting in the sense of being disgusted, not in the sense of finding green scum on the Swiss cheese.

But for this tale of woe we are not going to Switzerland, but to that other “S” country across the pond, Sweden, home of the Swedes, homeland of half of my forebears’ pride, or something like that.

We recently purchased an item from a famous furniture (and other various and sundry items like umbrellas and cork screws) outlet in suburban Minneapolis, a chain that was founded in Sweden called ABBA. Oops. No, that was that other Swedish outfit. This one is called IKEA.

Don’t let anybody ever tell you they don’t serve great – stupendous – Swedish meatballs at IKEA. None better, and I grew up in a home with a Swedish mother who knew her meatballs. Also her lutefisk, but we won’t go there.

But to our point: Strolling through the giant store (you follow arrows painted on the floor) we took a fancy to a small table-like item on display – four legs and a butcher-block top. Perfect for our kitchen. Perfect for chopping onions.

But as all IKEA cognoscenti know, everything substantial at IKEA comes in a box (except umbrellas and cork screws and a few hundred thousand other small items). Translation: You put it together. Put another way, you assemble it. People assemble entire kitchens from IKEA boxes. Also beds.

I’ve never been big on assembling, but you say to yourself, “heck, this can’t be rocket science, if I put my mind to it, I can probably do it. All you have to do is follow the instructions, dude.”

So we paid up and hauled it home to Duluth, laid the (heavier than heck) box on the floor, pulled out the four legs, as instructed, connected some braces and brackets and set about putting the puzzle together.

Four hours and 17 minutes later, I tore my reading glasses from my face and threw them across the room, uttered a couple of curses I thought I’d forgotten from my days of hanging around filling stations, declared failure and began searching for the receipt, which we’ll need to return it.

Life is far too short for this kind of thing. I won’t go into great detail about how many times the table fell apart while following the instructions to the letter, but many. Oh, did I say letter? The instructions don’t have any letters; they consist of drawings of the various parts. No written instructions.

So back it goes – every piece and screw and bracket retrieved, bagged up and put back in the box. Send it back to Sweden for all I care.

From now on I’m forsaking the land of half of my ancestors, and embracing the other half, largely Irish. My father used to sing, “I wish I was back in my Irishman’s shanty, where money was scarce and whiskey was plenty, a three-legged stool and a table to match, and a door in the middle without any latch.

So do I – as long as you don’t have to assemble the three-legged stool and matching table.


Unknown said...

"Some Assembly Required" is why you have grown children.

Jack :-)

Jim Heffernan said...

It's too late for help, Jack. It's in the box ready to return. But I do agree that my adult kids can handle it. Our daughter put together an IKEA dresser and cabinet but did imply it was not a fun experience. We're looking for the ready-made stuff now!

Bryan said...

I think most people who purchase flat box furniture has had their moment of frustration. I've been working on a way to provide the easiest way to assemble furniture, and have succeeded. They're called lock dowels. All you have to do is push the pieces of wood together and your assembly is done. No tools required for assembly. Best of all, once snapped together, the hardware is invisible. Structural strength is also better because lock dowels can never come loose. To get a true visual go to No tools needed, no more complicated instructions. Let me know what you think.

Jim Heffernan said...

Thanks, Bryan. I'm definitely going to check that site out!