Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Revealed: The Secrets To Flat-Pack Furniture Instructions and Installations

Good evening and welcome to "How To Design Instructions For Flat-Pack Furniture Installations"...

...Sorry, what is that my Mexican friend in the second row? No, seƱor, "English 101" is down the hall - HOWEVER, we strongly encourage you to do this course prior to any learn-to-speak-or-learn-to-write-in-English classes. In fact, it is a recommendation of this course that you not be fluent in the language of the country that you design flat-pack instructions for.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes - at the end of this extensive half hour course you will be fully qualified and licensed to draw up plans and instructions for flat-pack furniture installations. Speaking of which, are there any people in the room that consider themselves artistes or are competent at drawing?

Ok, I see a few hands go up. I'm afraid those of you won't be able to continue with this course.

Yes, yes, I see the examples of your work but they are just much too clear and leave nothing to the imagination of the consumer.... Wait! You sir, please don't leave. The examples of your art that you are holding look avant garde to my untrained eyes. You can definitely stay - my apologies, I should have been more specific; a hangover from the job, I'm afraid < laughter, mostly from himself >. 

That goes for all of you - those of you that will pass this course are those that are proficient at avant garde, abstract or two-year old drawing styles.

Yes, Madam! Of course you can stay. Your self-diagnosed "shit-house' drawing skills are preferred!

Let's get started shall we? OK, great. You will all see some materials in front of you. Chipboard. Screws of different sizes. Plastic things. Allen keys.

Please do your best at trying to construct something with the material and tools that lay in front of you. And don't worry, there are no wrong creations here.

< 10 minutes later >

OK people - that includes you, Chewbacca - put your tools down. Let's see how far you've got ... what tha hell ...?!?!

Hey, Mr Engineer down the back! What in God's earth have you put together back there?!?!

Yes! I can see it's a bloody 'hoosier cabinet'...! Yes, yes, man, I'm not blind, I CAN see it's complete with a set of drawers ...! What the hell were you thinking? We don't need your kind around here. I'm afraid you have failed the course.

Sorry for the disruption folks. The nerve of some people. 

The rest of you seem to have a great deal of varying forms of non-descript partially formed furniture. Perfect!

Our goons will come in and remove your creations. Please don't touch them. The goons, nor the furniture.

OK, so now that you have attempted to put together some furniture what I now require you to do is, by memory, write down a step by step guide on how to build what you just built.

< chuckles > Yes, I understand you all had completely different things in front of you. That is the beauty of this.

The only rules here are that you must solely rely on your memory - and try not to be too specific; you must only use a maximum of 6 steps; you must specify exactly how many of each type of screw is required - it is important not to over-estimate this; and draw a one-dimensional sketch of a piece of furniture similar to that of which you are describing.

You have 5 minutes to complete.

< 3 minutes later >

OK, I'm going to have to stop you there. The office has informed me that the new series of MasticatorChef begins tonight so we'll have to rush through this. Please put your tools down...

No, no, quite the contrary, my good fellow. Sorry ...Ma'am ... I beg your pardon. No...? Oh, sorry, I didn't recognise you there, Bruce Jenner. Oh no, the less time we do this course in, the better it is.

Now if you can hand in your papers, I'll give you some feedback.
< compiles the step-by-step guides and flicks through them >

Here we go ... where's The Phantom? Ah, there you are, sir. No ... at the front of the class, Mr Phantom ... listen to my voice ... yes, that's it. This is a great first up attempt and, in fact, is near perfect for distribution. It looks just like a blind man has drawn it up ...

Yes, Mr Phantom, I do realise you are in fact a blind man. And that works perfectly for this line of work, sir. The only criticism I have here is that you seem to have correctly listed the number of small screws to be installed. It is highly recommended that you show one or two more screws to be installed than is actually included in the set. This will help add to the consumers overall experience.

Chewbacca - this is a terrible effort ... woah! Sit boy! Sit! Good dog. Stay...
Don't get upset. It's just that you seem to have numbered the installation steps in the correct sequence. A common error for first timers. And you have included way too much detail. A 5 year old could construct this bedside table in minutes, and we don't want that do we ... 
< everyone chuckles, and says "no" > 
... wait, what's that boy? They are the instructions to a single bed? Good boy! The sketch looks like a set of drawers, so that is perfect. If you can just change the numbering on the steps, and delete some sentences at random, you'll walk out of here with a certificate. 
< Chewy wags his tail. Presumably, he thinks he's going for a walk >

The rest of you, I can't quite work out what it is the instructions you have drafted are designed for, so it seems like you are all getting the hang of this. Well done.

Some extra tips to include in your step-by-step instructions are as follows:

  • it is always handy to have a latter step (say, step 4) include a process that should have been done earlier (say, step 1 .. go on, say it...) and precludes you from going further without going back and doing it all again (unless you have an operational time machine at your disposal);
  • ensure the sketch that goes along with the particular step show either a contradicting or blurry detail that is important to the installation, so as to rely on guesswork by the consumer. Everyone loved those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, didn't they;
  • be sure to produce a mirror image of one of the steps with no 'LEFT/RIGHT', 'UP/DOWN or 'FRONT/BACK demarcations - let the consumer decide which orientation is best - they'll soon work it if they've chosen wisely. Good times!;
  • Never put an underline under the number 6 or 9 on the parts;
  • Drill extra, random holes in the parts to add a level of intrigue for the customer - have I missed a bit? What's that for? Will I get to the end and find I should've stuck something in the whats-it?;
  • Cull random steps. It is important to leave things up to the imagination of the consumer. No one likes to be told what to do. We are not their mums;
  • Add an extra, redundant part in the pack, preferably with no labelling. It's what they'll least expect;
So, does anyone have any questions on how to design instructions for flat-pack furniture installation? 
< hands go up > 
Excellent! Keep them to yourselves, and please don't share them with your peers.

Imagine if that show-boatie Engineer that was here earlier put one of these instruction booklets together in fine detail. Imagine the poor person that innocently brings home that flat-pack kit and is able to put it together without no guess work, no mystery, no looking around frantically for that missing piece, no options, no fear of getting half way through and realising they've missed an important piece of the puzzle! Where's the fun in that? The sense of achievement. The THRILL! Let that be a lesson for you all.

And with that I pronounce you all Certified Designers of Flat-Pack Furniture Installation Instructions. If you keep doing what you have produced this afternoon, and include some of our (un)helpful tips, you shall ensure you maximise the full flat-pack experience for not only the customer, but for their wives, children, pets and any neighbours within ear-shot.

Please place all notes taken in this class through the shredder before you leave.

And one final thing - this Certificate qualifies you to undertake this work in any country except for the one that you live in ... ha, ha, of course not you, Chewbacca! You can work in whatever country you like.

< Everyone laughs. Even Bruce, who is being devoured by Chewy >

Chewy on ya boot
Cartoon: The term "chewy on ya boot" is Australian slang to put a
footy player off from kicking a goal, as opposed to stepping in chewing
gum. And nothing to do with stepping in a Wookiee's shit.


  1. Ahhhh flat packs.. the end to many marriages/relationships.. I think I have heard that if you can as a couple put a flat pack together, untangle Christmas lights and read a road map together, and put a tent up you will survive anything... You forgot to make sure there is the wrong allen key..... that turns out to be the right one but due to inability and anger it seems wrong... thanks for bringing back nightmare memories and remind me why we never buy flat packs... funny and tearful.

    1. My priest told me that God put flat-packs on Earth to test our faith. My faith stormed out on me with the shits long ago, after breaking the dining room window with the half built non-descript furniture.
      ...on second thoughts, he may have been talking about dinosaur bones...?

  2. Thank God I've never had to put together a flat pack... being a woman and all. If there's one thing I detest it's instructions of any kind. I can relate to the extra redundant bit you mentioned though. My Dad used to just throw it out and pretend it never existed.

    1. Hi Pinky, as a woman it is your job not to construct the unconstructable flat-pack. Rather, it is your job to throw out non-constructive criticisms and ill-timed advice at the constructor. Laughing is optional.

  3. So this is how it really works. Everything is so clean now. It's planned that way. To fail.

    Have a fabulous day. :)

    1. Thanks Sandee. Flat-packs are the 8th wonder of the world.

  4. Oh goodness! I swear the instructions to flatpack furniture are rarely in English.

    1. Hi Stacey, you would be correct. Particularly about the swearing part - that is a pre-requisite.

  5. I think my male brain goes into action when faced with all those bits. I just look at the picture and hope for the best. Usually it a blind hope.

    1. Hi Sue, that is a sexist and completely legitimate comment. ;)
      That is correct, you will have more hope putting it together if blind (both by sight and by alcohol)

  6. The most successful flat-pack experience I had was with an IKEA bookshelf in Iraq - between the incoming rockets and the gin we were left with more than a few pieces left over and what I thought of as a designer slant to the shelves...

    1. Hi fluffy, I believe it was a flat-pack bookshelf that started all the bombing and the rockets and the warring in the first place.
      The shelves sound great. I would hedge my bets that if IKEA sold 'designer slanted shelving' that it would be perfectly flat and horizontal.

  7. Very clever. :)
    I actually like putting together flat pack furniture, and Ikea man always looks os happy.

  8. I like to think I'm alright at flat pack stuff - but I haven't taken on an IKEA piece yet. YET. I don't believe in the instructions, instead I like to create individual pieces out of the supplied parts, practicality be damned!

  9. Free Range Scotto, you are not normal. You sit with Einstein and Chuck Norris as the only humans to be 'alright' at flat pack installation.

  10. LOL, well I have never ever got a flat pack of any kind and had an easy time putting it together and that is always purely because of the instructions heheh!

    Have flatpacktastic day & thanks for pirouetting by :-)


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