Flat-Pack Furniture Assembly: From Egg to Butterfly

by Max

We all want chic, funky furniture.

No matter how you feel about flat-pack, there’s no doubt this type of furniture has made home-making easy and affordable, not to mention the wide range of swank items available. 

But assembly can be difficult. Here are a few tips - wrapped in a butterfly metaphor - to get your flat-pack flying...

Stage 1: The Egg

It all starts with the egg, (or in your case, the box). This is the most exciting part. Nothing much has happened – it’s just an egg-box full of promise. But expectation forces you to open, leading to…

Stage 2: The Hungry Caterpillar

The Hungry Caterpillar devours floor space and your patience. Parts and panels sprawl, and wheels and cams spill onto the carpet and under the sofa. You really need to impose order on this stage, or the Caterpillar will devour your dignity:

  • • line everything up
  • • sort out the numbered or lettered panels
  • • rest your knees on something soft (carpet, yoga mat), and ensure there’s nothing sharp or gravelly under the panels that might scratch them (old towels are good)
  • • acquaint yourself with the instruction manual – flip through and skim, then start at the beginning and isolate that step’s panels and parts
  • • focus on completing that step, then move on…

Stage 3: Pupa/Chrysalis

Now you’re half- to two-thirds of the way through the manual. The backbone of your furniture item should be visible. Transformation is taking place (exciting!) Here is where most people:

  • • double-check everything, see that it’s good and move on (correct)
  • • realise they’ve made a mistake and need to back-up (correct)
  • • don’t realise they’ve made a mistake and continue (disaster)

A panel inserted upside down, drawer rollers in the wrong position – it all comes out in the Chrysalis stage. (It’s these sort of errors I’m most called upon to fix). A misstep in stage 2 means an anomaly in stage 3 or 4, so if you need to back-up and reassemble, do so at this point.

Stage 4: Fully-Functional Adult Butterfly

Assuming everything went well - here is where your winged creation begins to fly:

  • • structurally, it’s sound
  • • aesthetically, it’s pleasing
  • • functionally, it works

No wobbly walls, shonky shelves or dodgy drawers. You’ve only to level, put the knobs on, and peel off protective films in order to fly your butterfly…

Here are a few extra tips to improve your flat-pack experience:

Tip # 1: Buy Quality. Larger brands tend to have better instruction manuals, with accurate diagrams and clear text. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to assemble when the diagram and/or text doesn’t match what’s in front of you. The quality of the furniture will be better too.

Tip # 2: Don’t Rush In. I know you’ve won a Nobel Prize for physics, but that doesn’t mean you can dispense with the assembly manual. This is an all-too-common mistake, arising from a lack of humility in the assembler. Excellence in one area of life does not ensure omniscience in all other areas. Be humble, and follow the manual.

Tip # 3: Use Hand-Tools. Many think they can ‘speed-up the process’ by using a cordless drill as a screwdriver. This results in stripped threads and enlarged holes, which are difficult to repair. Most manuals advise using a regular screwdriver. Don’t let impatience ruin your furniture. Take your time, use hand-tools, get a good result.

Follow these tips and your furniture will live with you for years, contributing to the beauty and function of your home.

Elegant furniture - like good art – improves the quality of our lives. And flat-pack has made furniture designs, colours and hard-wearing wood grains available to many - at a price well below that of solid furniture.

Need help assembling, disassembling or repairing flat-pack furniture? Call The Fixician:

1300 349 424

Max Aberdeen has over thirty-five years’ experience as  furniture maker, artist, woodworker and craftsman. He is a fully-licensed and insured handyman, specialising in furniture assembly and repair. Email Max at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.