Easily assemble a new product

I remember the specific look of dread that would cross my father’s face when he would see “some assembly required” on a toy or item we acquired as kids. And I’m pretty sure that look has crossed my face a time or two, as well. Who needs that stress, right? Not dad, not me, and not you. Fortunately, if you’re willing to spend a little extra time and adopt some persnickety behavior, you can say goodbye to the intimidation of “some assembly required” in the future.

The key to moving past “some assembly required” anxiety is organization. I follow (and recommend you do the same) these steps, in the same order, every time.

Step one is read the instructions completely before beginning. I mean from start to finish, before you lift a single screwdriver or hammer, read all the instructions. This way you’ll know what tools you’ll need, what techniques are expected of you, and how much space and time you’ll need to get things done. Will the kitchen table suffice? The living room floor or even the back yard? Figure that all out before you begin.

The second step is to gather the tools you’ll need. Go and grab the hammer, screwdriver, tape measure, or whatever is necessary. Now you’re almost be ready. In addition to those things, I regularly add the following:

  1. A plastic bowl. This is used to store screws, nuts, bolts, and any other small, easily lost parts while working. These small bits won’t roll away or disappear into the carpet when they’re safely contained.
  2. A designated trash bin. It’s annoying to have torn cardboard, plastic, and other trash in your work area. I always grab a trash can, trash bag, or box to be the designated spot for trash as I work.
  3. My smartphone. Occasionally the written instructions aren’t clear. When that happens, I search YouTube for a video that might help. Often I’ll find a clip of someone putting the very thing together and it’s very helpful. You might also want to snap a picture if you discover a broken part or want to keep a copy of any product information.

Step three is the persnickety bit I mentioned, so bear with me. In this step you’re going to confirm that all of the parts are present and functional, and get them ready to go.

  1. Identify each part against the assembly instructions. Is “Dial A” and “Pole B” in the box? Great. Remove each part from its packaging. Put the packaging in the trash bin.
  2. Inspect each part to ensure that it’s not broken. It’s better to make this discovery now, instead of when you’re halfway done.
  3. Lay out all of the parts in a neat, easily-accessed grid in your work area. This is the part that makes my kids roll their eyes. I put each part on my work surface in a neat little arrangement. This way I can see and grab exactly what I need instantly.

At last, it’s time to put the thing together, and you’re fully prepared. You know what the process entails, you’ve got the trash out of the way, the necessary tools are in place, and each part has been inspected, accounted for, and prepped.

This does take a few extra minutes and can seem nitpicky, but it’s worth it. I hope this helps and that you, too, can laugh in the face of “some assembly required” by being well organized as you work.

7 Comments for “Easily assemble a new product”

  1. posted by Kelly on

    I use a muffin tin to separate all of the nuts/bolts/etc. Saw someone do that once and it was like a light bulb went on (while I was chasing after those dowels falling off the table).

  2. posted by Dorothy on

    I once bought several Billy bookcases. I got to the end of the assembly and found out I was missing ONE fastener. I was discouraged about having to disassemble the bookcase, pack it up and return it.

    Fortunately I called the IKEA store and they told me they’d be happy to supply the part. When I got to the store they took me into a big room with shelf after shelf of pieces and parts. The guy walked to the right bin and gave me my fastener.

    So if you’re assembling IKEA furniture, you’re covered for missing parts.

  3. posted by infmom on

    If you’re going to be dealing with small metal parts, the super solution is to buy a magnetic project mat from iFixit.com. It has a grid where you can write where the part came from (a pen is included in the package) and the magnet holds everything firmly in place.

    I build computers and fix stuff and nobody’s gonna take my magnetic mat away. 🙂

  4. posted by Pat Reble on

    Great advice. It doesn’t address the issue of the mysterious extra part however! I’ve still got a bolt left over from assembling a cat tree and no one can figure out what it is for/where it goes!

  5. posted by G. on

    I wonder if step 3 shouldn’t be step 1? If parts are missing, there’s no reason to read the instructions, or get out the tools, it’s time to return the item. Then read the instructions to see if you have the space, tools and ability to assemble it.

  6. posted by SkiptheBS on

    Some manufacturers include extra parts. When I have to repair something, I buy one extra screw/nut/etc of each size needed. Ace sells these individually and many are under a dime apiece.

    The magnetic board is great if it’s frequently used. If not, a piece of paper, some tape, and a pen work well. Whiteboard contact paper over a piece of cardboard with tape roll and pen attached is cheap and durable.

    If you are working on a car, mower, etc and you have leftover parts, you are In Trouble. I can recall complete failure due to a leftover stainless steel BB which fit in the bottom of a fuel system part: this was years ago when women weren’t supposed to repair and I caught pure hell over it.

  7. posted by Cyndi on

    I usually just separate nuts and bolts into piles on the floor near my assembly location, but I love Kelly’s comments about using a muffin tin! This would be a great way to move them out of your way during the assembly process.

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