Furniture Assembly

Our house has a large concrete patio, and since we’ve moved in we’ve been wanting to get some furniture to enjoy it. Advice on the subject was pretty uniform – get nothing expensive, as the life of outdoor furniture is unpleasant and short.

I had the chance to get a large stack of teak wood decking for a low price, but I knew that if I tried to build all the furniture it would be August before we’d be enjoying it. So we shopped. We argued, and then we did what any red-blooded American couple does when they can’t decide: We went to IKEA!

We got 6 chairs, 2 folding tables, a bar/food cart, and a small picnic table for the girls. It was less money than the table & four chairs we were leaning towards at the local home center. The quality is better than I expected, with solid wood throughout and sturdy fasteners. The catch, though, is assembly is required. Lots of assembly.

So, here are a few tips if you find yourself outdoors in an ocean of flat boxes from IKEA, and a lot of stuff to put together:

  1. Get some decent tools, and keep them handy. IKEA pretty consistently uses 4 & 5mm hex keys, and 13 to 17mm wrenches. If you get double ended wrenches and hex keys with screwdriver handles your hands will thank you and you’ll have 4 or 5 tools max. I wouldn’t go buy this stuff just to put a few items together, but it’s worth a trip to the workshop if you’ve already got them. Not to be totally geeky, but having a tool belt to keep them in reach and always in the same place is really nice as well.
  2. Put the tables together first. Then you have a nice work surface to use to put everything else together.
  3. Get a bowl, preferably heavy, to dump the hardware in. I was amazed at how even a light wind would take a plastic bag with a few screws several feet way. It’s not easy to find screws in the lawn!
  4. If you have more than one of something to assemble, put them together simultaneously with an assembly line. This keeps tool changes down and it’s a lot faster.
  5. Everything you get will come with a hex key. They are small and not very comfortable to use, but they are free. Leave them in drawers or some other handy place for tightening things as they inevitably loosen. I’m tempted to drill a few strategically placed holes in a few items to hold a wrench.

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