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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

March 29, 2006

Some Assembly Required

I just spent the afternoon assembling a tubular metal frame bed for one of the girls. From Argos, it's one of those high beds with a little desk and a futon thingy underneath, ideal for people like us who have titchy bedrooms.

It struck me, as I was putting the thing together, that it's one of the miracles of modern life that two cardboard boxes of stuff can ship all the way from China and fit together, with all bits present and correct. I'm not implying it's a miracle that the Chinese can do it, by the way, just that the confidence of the person who packed and sealed the red plastic bags of nuts and bolts, washers and screws, parts A to M, 4 @ 32mm, 8 @ 40mm, 7@ 60mm, 11 @ 70mm, etc., is completely miraculous when you think about it. It comes halfway round the world and there are exactly 11@ 70mm, with 11 matching washers, slightly bent in the middle to fit the curve of the bed.

I'm not even going to make a joke as to how confusing the red R and L stickers must be (standing as they do for Reft and Light), but it does seem remarkable that I got one left-handed piece and one right-handed, and not two the same.

I once bought a butcher's console from Habitat, and it came from Slovakia, I think, and that's the only bit of self-assembly furniture where the holes did not match up, where it was simply impossible to put it together as described. I'm used to making the odd mistake, thinking two pieces are interchangeable when they're not. I'm capable of undoing and doing it again to get it right, but in the case of the butcher's console, there was nothing I could do, and I was reduced to tears of frustration and rage. In the event, Habitat replaced it, delivering one that was fully assembled, so that had a happy ending.

But here's my question. Just how many times is it reasonable or normal to drop the allen key in the process of assembly? After whch point is it wise to consult a doctor to see if you've had a stroke or something?


  • I would say that the answer to your question is dependant upon the complexity of the pice of furniture attempting to be assembled - however on average I would say about ten times is normal.

    By Blogger BondBloke, at 12:42 pm  

  • I remember spending an entirely unpleasant saturday with my dad in the 1970s trying to assemble a bed from MFI for my brother. It was only one step removed from building it from scratch from an oak tree.

    Things are much better now. I think it'll probably be down to Western pre-packed furniture suppliers having penalty clauses with the Chinese manufacturers: "we find one screw missing and you supply the next ten years of product at no cost."

    This, of course, gets passed down to the man/woman/child on the factory floor, and in China forgetting to put the right number of screws in a box is a capital offence punishable with public humiliation followed by beheading.

    By Blogger SimonHolyHoses, at 1:29 am  

  • 12 times per hour, but only 9 if you're a women. Strange, but absolutely 100% true - who said they're rubbish at DIY?

    By Anonymous James, at 1:39 am  

  • Probably the 500 or so times I dropped it was too many, then. I'll get my (white) coat.

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 2:04 am  

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