TheÂ days of wanting to pull your hair out and set fire to all of your furniture after spending an entire dayÂ trying to put togetherÂ an Ikea trundle bed could be coming to an end.
To make assembling their furniture less of a waking nightmare, Ikeaâs engineers have invented what theyâve dubbed a âwedge dowelââa wooden spiral that holds the various pieces together in place of the usual phalanx of screws. In 2013, they quietly incorporated the new fasteners into Tromvik cabinets, and then in a handful of other products, with more currently in the works. Oddly, though, they didnât trumpetÂ this innovation from the treetops, but kept it on the down low â¦ until now.
Word of the relatively foolproofÂ dowel garnered attention at a design conference, where an Ikea repÂ let news of this nifty inventionÂ slip to a writer for a designÂ blog, along with an indication that the chain will soon begin rolling it out product-wide. Within 48 hours, the words âwedge dowelâ had spread everywhere fromÂ Popular MechanicsÂ toÂ Inc. in articles with backhandedly complimentary titles like, âIkea Is Fixing the Most Annoying Thing About Ikea,âÂ and ââSnappyâ New IKEA Furniture Could Save Your Marriageâ (because after all, theÂ Liatorp entertainment unitÂ has been nicknamed âthe divorce makerâ).Â
All this Internet hullabalooÂ is happening for a good reason: As everyone knows, the ready-to-assemble furniture sold by the Swedish behemoth can be hellishly difficult to put together. Itâs also worth noting that its instruction manuals lookÂ like those ambiguous pictures a psychiatrist asks you to describeÂ to gatherÂ information about your personality. The illustration below from that trundle bed manual is a good example of the clarity (or mind-bending lack of it) of the 36 pages of instructions.
To us, this illustrationÂ can only mean one of twoÂ things:
- Donât be sad about crackedÂ furniture.Â Simply place it on your magicÂ carpet and fly to the returns counter at Ikea.
- To prevent your furniture from cracking, place it on a rug before assembling. (Spoiler alert: this is the answer.)
Think thatâs confusing? Ikeaâs manuals alsoÂ feature puzzling renderingsÂ like this.
So all in all, itâs no small feat thatÂ after decades of harrowing furniture assembly, the wedge dowel purports to makeÂ it easy to snap parts inÂ place. It eliminates the need for a screwdriver and the dozens of screws and pegs that Ikea includes (or forgets to include) in the flat-pack box.
âThe wedge dowel is one of our most recent inventions, cutting the assembly time of IkeaÂ furniture by more than half,â Ikea spokesperson Stella Lindqvist-KÃ¤llÂ tells realtor.comÂ®. âThe wedge dowel is going to be rolled out more and more during the coming years.â
According to GÃ¶ran SjÃ¶stedt, a prototype engineer forÂ Ikea, it took at least 20 attempts at the new fastener before the company was satisfied it hadÂ nailed it (get it?).
Not everyone is convinced that the wedge dowel is a panacea for all Ikeaâs problems. âThese new ribbed fittings might wear a bit too easily, which couldÂ make joints loose and insecure,â saysÂ Dmitri Kara, a contributor to the website Ikea Hackers and a professional furnitureÂ assembler.
Others note that the innovation doesnât address one of the chainâs most vexing problems: Ikea furniture toppling over and causing potentially grave injuries or even death.
âWhile ease of assembly may be on the wish list for IkeaÂ customers, theÂ biggest concern is keeping the products from tipping over,â says Jonas Sickler, marketing director for consumersafety.org. âIkeaÂ claims its wedge dowel joints also maintain their strength longer after beingÂ disassembled and reassembled. However, if you have a little one at home, Iâd still recommend bolting them to the wall.â
âMost of Ikeaâs furnitureÂ is made of particle board (a low-strength wood composite), which would mean the panel would become loose after some time, and the furnitureÂ will fall apart,â explains Leo Biyevetskiy, an editor at RoofingCalculator.org, who tells us he hasÂ put together his fair share ofÂ Ikea furniture.
What the wedge dowel does have going for it is that it relies purely on frictionânot glue or a finicky piece of custom hardwareâto hold it together.
âThe joint appears to be wood-to-wood, so there is no third party required to make the transition,â explains Mark Clement, a home, tool, and how-to expert at MyFixitUplLfe.com. âQuality construction, from chairs to Amish barns to Westminster Abbey, have been done this way for centuries.â