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6 Simple Tips for building Self Assembly (aka Flat-Packed) Items

October 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Funny Instructions

After having passed through my “tight-budget 20’s” (using Ikea) and now into my “two-kids-that-need-stuff 30’s” Ive probably assembled about 20-30 items requiring self-assembly and have some nuggets of wisdom to share.  The items are usually furniture (although am also getting expert at toys too), with most items being things like wardrobes, cupboards, tables and chairs,  cots and beds, bookcases, and most recently (last weekend) toy boxes.


  1. Buying the Right Stuff – To be honest, these days if I can afford to avoid self-assembly items, I do.  This isn’t always possible, as the internet allows you to find just what you want, but means it has to come in a shipping-friendly way (i.e. self-assembly).
  2. Having the Right Tools – Usually you dont need more than a screwdriver, but even then you’ll sometimes be better with long-shafted and sometimes with short-shafted. Also make sure the tip fits properly in the screw, else you’ll make a mess of the screw head and will not be able to get it in, or out again.  Get a good range of decent screwdrivers, with nice soft handles too (makes a good xmas present).  Some people use electric screwdrivers/drills, but unless you’re skilled you can just make more of a mess with these.  A good set of your own allen-keys is also handy, especially ones with good grips for when you’ve got 25 things to screw in.
  3. Getting Organized- yes its boring and most people love to drive in, but I cant tell you how much time/frustration it will save.  Firstly set aside the the right amount of time – be generous, in this world 5minutes=1hour.  Next select a good workspace – near to the place it will go (since flat-packed stuff doesn’t travel well) and with plenty of room to lay stuff out. Finally very carefully select any helpers – usually you’ll need another pair of hands at some point (or you end-up tearing/breaking something – either the item or yourself) but too many cooks spoil the broth, especially amongst family members.
  4. Opening the Item Properly – more than once Ive got 90% through to find the next thing I need is missing or broken.  At this point most manufacturers tell you to send the whole thing back (dissassembled)!  Check the peices are there and good.
  5. Understanding the Instructions – easier said than done.  Don’t get upset, or interpret / guess too much, simple try it exactly as it says (without tightening things up), then take apart and try again.  Try to understand what you’re trying to do, before doing it. Never skips steps, take shortcuts or use extra bits – it never ends with a good finished product.
  6. Know your Limits – if you’ve got a friend who is a carpenter or know a friendly carpenter, ask if he’ll help, either for payment or for something he wants that you can do.  You can also try these guys who’ll do if for you, or find advice on the web (e.g. flatpackadvice). This is especially a good idea if you’re struggling and are about to break an expensive item (although you can often say it was broken/faulty and get a replacement).  Sometimes its just not worth the hassle – afterall you’re good at other stuff!!

Virtual Teams: what you miss out on.

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Many people these days work in virtual teams, where everyone is geographically separated.  Whilst modern collaborative systems can mean the work gets done, when it comes to communication a lot gets lost and I am sure the costs are huge.

Here are a few of my issues that I hope will be totally alleviated in the next 50 years once video conferencing finally becoming slick, smooth and general usable.


  • Different first languages.  I am always amazed how many UK-specific phrases I use without thinking.
  • Nerves.  People talk faster and differently when nervous … not helpful on the phone.
  • Cultural Differences and their embedded expectations (see globesmart)
  • No Body Language.  After saying something does silence mean it was understood or not?
  • Phone quality impacts voice intonation getting through (e.g. VOIP lines are generally poor)
  • Personalities.  who shouts loudest gets heard (although similar can exist in the face-to-face meetings too)
  • Cannot raise your hand – gestures cannot be used to aid involvement, you have to wait or interrupt.


  • Takes a long time to say something
  • Often the default method, where a phone call would be quicker/richer
  • Quality matters, which again means it takes longer to write
  • Many people like to use odd colors, fonts, backgrounds – often detracting views from the actual words
  • Send and forget – means you wait for a reply and things progress at a snail’s pace.
  • I’ll not go into the proper use of CC and BCC here (i.e. rarely) … I am sure you know the problems there.


  • Typos are easy, often confusing meaning (I used to write now in place of not quite a lot -nightmare)
  • Sarcasm doesnt work at all
  • Flashing toolbars are very distracting, especially when its a group discussion that I don’t care about
  • Very sensitive to temporary connection problems, and when they occur messages are often lost

I appreciate this has no solutions to these problems (yet), but a problem identified is half solved (honest).

Categories: Uncategorized