Projecting, Part 2 (OR I Made a Chair!)

This post is dedicated to Erika [Reber] Pisca, with whom I went to high school and later worked a manual labor job in college. She passed away much too young earlier this week.    -Sarah

Okay, I didn’t make a chair as much as put a chair together. But still.

Last week Thursday one of the doctors in my office received a chair he had ordered from a catalogue. It was “some assembly required” * and he was “no assembly please.” I told him I was kind of hoping he’d ask me to put it together for him, and he looked at me like I just said, “I was hoping you’d throw spaghetti at my face until I cried marinara tears.” ** I really like putting kits together. Probably too much.Seriously, give me a set of instructions and a pile of parts and I will build you something amazing.***

No box cutters. Just open it with your mind. Think outside the...wait a minute.

No box cutters. Just open it with your mind. Think outside the…wait a minute.

Most of my earliest kit-making experiences were in high school. I’m sure it’s shocking to hear that I was on student council, but one of the coolest parts about being involved with student council was helping plan the dances. I like decorating slightly more than I like kits and I like dancing more than both of those. Student council dances offer someone like me the trifecta: kits, decorating, and dancing.

In my four years on student council, I put together castle spires and fake cars, stapled gold ribbon and tulle to cardboard poles to make a window, and hung panels of fabric to create the illusion of a tent. I got really good at using hot glue on a gym floor and not spilling a drop. Later, I got a job fixing furniture and mending drapes, and I gained a new appreciation for working with tools beyond staplers and glue guns. Even though I wasn’t putting things together so much as repairing what was broken, I still got to drill and screw and all those other vaguely dirty exciting words. My favorite tool: the ratchet. But the Allen wrench*** is a close second.

Hey, it's an Allen wrench!

Hey, it’s an Allen wrench!

Maybe this love for manual labor comes from my mother’s father; he was an electrician who could fix or make just about anything, but he also had skills as a painter and artist. He passed along his DIY-inclinations and artistic talents to my mother, and I am my mother’s father’s granddaughter,**** so there you go.

My crowning achievement, however, was putting together an IKEA dresser in the winter of ’08/’09 because even though IKEA claimed it was a two-man job, it only took one woman.***** It may not sound like a big deal******, but at one point I had the dresser on one of its sides with the other side on my back like a turtle shell, and I had to line up lots of holes and pegs while balancing everything just so. As soon as I got a couple of pegs in place and moved to connect the other pegs the first pegs would pop out. But, despite all of this, I managed to put it together by myself. I would love to have a video of the process.



My recent foray into kits-n-construction–the long-ago-mentioned chair–was much less troublesome than that IKEA dresser but not without its issues.

These were the instructions.

No words, just pictures. I like your style, basyx. No need to translate.

No words, just pictures. I like your style, basyx. No need to translate.

I love how they assume you don’t have tools BUT have a basic understanding of how to use tools.

Here are some things to remember when D’ingIY:

•  Tighten all bolts on the same side at the same time (a little bit on this one, a little bit on that one, back and forth and so on). That way, you won’t be have trouble lining up the pre-made holes with your bolts.

•  Don’t over-tighten, especially if you have to add another piece. I made this mistake with the arms before I had put the back on and I had to loosen the bolts on each of the armrests to make room for the chair back and then re-tighten it all.

•  Do-it-yourself doesn’t have to mean do-it-alone. I managed to make both of these things by myself, but I also hate making more than one trip from the car and back so I’ve ended up carrying ridiculous loads and taking just as much time (when you factor in dropping things and fumbling for keys) as I would have if I had just made two trips. Ain’t no shame in asking for help.

•  Take pride in your work. Craftsmanship is a dying art.

Speaking of which…


The finished product.

The finished product.

It raises! It lowers! It even tilts!

If anyone knows how I could get a job doing this (putting together kits, possibly writing instructions), please let me know. I would love it.

*I’m so glad I didn’t have to make my own bolts, stitch fabric onto the cushions, or melt metal to make the frame.

**No, he’s not a sadist. In other words, he was horrified.

***Or just, you know, whatever’s on the box.

****AKA hex key or Allen key. Not to be confused with Allen Keys, Alicia’s less-known younger brother.

*****Just go with it.

******Meaning I put it together all by myself.

*******Although, if that’s the case you’ve obviously never bought anything that requires assembly and you probably believe furniture just pops out of a mold or something.


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About Sarah in Small Doses

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2 responses to “Projecting, Part 2 (OR I Made a Chair!)”

  1. Dad says :

    A lesser man/dad would be hurt not to be included in the “skills/aptitudes passed down” part of this post, but I’ll let it go. As anyone who knows me (or has heard Sarah talk about me) realizes, I passed other things on to my beautiful daughter. I only make mention of this because I would be wondering where her dad was in the story if I weren’t painfully aware of why he is not part of the story. Her mother is the handy-person in our household.

    • Sarah in Small Doses says :

      I didn’t mean to ignore your contributions to my personality, Dad; I was mainly focusing on how handy Grandpa Gene was. And yes, you did pass along a lot of wonderful things to me. I can pack a van like nobody’s business–Dave Turner-style.

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