≡ Menu

Rebuilding Paradise Could Put Old Men in the Ground

These days only old and/or expensive furniture arrives built. Everything else is planning to drive you mad and kill you. If it’s merciful it kills you first.

When it comes to things I’ve placed on my wishlist I’ve been blessed and I’ve been stupid. I’m blessed that so many of my readers have responded to the hodge-podge of needful things I’ve put on the Amazon Wishlist. These kind souls have saved me days of searching and hundreds in costs and I will always hold them and their response at this time close to my heart until the end of my days.

At the same time, since I’d never done a wishlist before, I was very stupid when it came to a few items I blithely added to the list. I just listed those items as readily as I listed a slim volume of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. In doing so I failed to consult the important details.

Case in point: The Cosmodemonic  Sauder Adept Storage Credenza,  from the dark Satanic mills of Sauder.

Item Weight 125 pounds
Product Dimensions 58.2 x 17.2 x 36.3 inches
Item model number 418344
Assembled Height 36.26 inches
Assembled Width 17.165 inches
Assembled Length 58.189 inches
Weight 133 Pounds

Some assembly required.

Some? Some?! This little item took me the better part of 5 hours and left me shaken, exhausted, splinter struck, and drenched in a sweat that fell from the veritable fountains of profanity I launched at this !!!@@**%!*@!! item of our damned age. If it had not been a gift and if I had not just come by a pathological fear of fire, this THING would have been piled in the parking lot in front of my little apartment and set alight while I gibbered and danced about it’s flames in loincloth, pitchfork and torches.

Most of the first hour of trying to assemble this overweight and overbuilt POS was spent counting the nine (9!) different sacks of nails and connectors and sorting the various wooden slabs (one weighs in at around 50 pounds) and reading the always delightfully ambiguous instructions illustrated by a set of mechanical drawings in the ever-popular “oblique” style.

The next two hours would have found me assempliung the various units to the mantra, “Slowly…. and ….. patiently.. and slowly… and…”

The final two  hours would have found me in the 9th circle of Dante’s Inferno looking for the way out with only one beer to my name.

I’m not a petite man and I’m not a weak man. But this one brought this man to a new awareness of his age and his mortality; a mortality that I prayed would not kick in until I had hunted down the sadists behind Sauder and stood them all against the wall.

In the end I did get the!!!@@**%!*@!! item built. It stands on the back wall of my living dining area ready to receive the needful things for which it was made. As for me, I had to take to my couch for half a day just to get over the intense fatigue resulting from tossing 125 pounds of pressed wood around my house and trying to cuss it into place.

Following this experience I lay on my couch swearing to never, ever, “assemble” any item of furniture. But guess what? Unless you are ready to lay out serious cash, there are no items like that any more. Everything is Ikea-infected and made of sawdust.

When it comes to rebuilding Paradise and the items it will take to furnish it, it’s going to take more than a Wishlist to build it. At the very least it’s going to take youth, grit, and more than one case of whiskey. I know and I’ve got the backache and $100-a-day Tylenol habit to prove it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rob De Witt December 12, 2018, 10:34 AM


    After climbing under my desk for the disassembly/reassembly of my computer setup multiple times because the hard drive on my desktop bit the dust on Thanksgiving morning, causing the loss of two years worth of bookmarks and various correspondence – and the attendant swapping in and out of my old laptop to try to keep going – I’ve come to the conclusion that doing it over and over eventually makes one better at it, so there’s that. After another several furniture adventures this will no doubt seem a mere bagatelle, what?

    It all goes to shit at once, ever notice that? The Moon, as a colleague once put it, is in Feces. You pray for me, I’ll pray for you.

    Excellent offhand Blake reference, by the way.

  • An Appreciative Reader December 12, 2018, 10:41 AM

    From the Amazon website:
    Origami RB-OTM-BLA 6-Tier Book Shelf, Black
    One of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Gets great reviews. No assembly whatsoever!
    In 15 seconds, you flip the top section into place and snap a latch. Looks really nice once it’s filled with books. Not heavy…but not flimsy.
    The bronze color is a nice brown (not metallic) that blends well with wood furniture. HSN has it in several other colors. This is a great price ($75).
    When you get ready to move, it’s lightweight…just fold up and go!

  • John Venlet December 12, 2018, 10:42 AM

    I share your disdain for all furniture which needs be put together. I do hope, though, after suffering through the putting of that Sauder Adept Storage Credenza together it does look close to the one in the photograph you supplied.

  • Gordon Scott December 12, 2018, 11:12 AM

    I have the wife employ the good-for-little son-in-law for furniture assembly these days. He gets fed, I don’t have to put stuff together.

    That little rechargable drill kit they sell at IKEA for $20? If you don’t have power tools, it’s a lifesaver when it comes to assembly. Some of those pieces will make your arm fall off from all of the Allen wrenching you have to do. Yes, it won’t hammer a hole for a concrete anchor, but it’s light and small and that matters when you’re tired and cranky and trying to reach around to tighten that bolt….

  • Sam L. December 12, 2018, 11:13 AM

    Kinda makes you want to sniff the glue that holds the wood chips together, I suspect.

  • PA Cat December 12, 2018, 11:17 AM

    I hope Miss Olive is duly appreciative of all your hard work, because you just know she’ll take over at least one of the cubbies (if she hasn’t already)– the cat mantra being “If it fits, I sits.” As your editor, though, she may be willing to put claw and fang to work composing an appropriately brutal letter to the rodent-brains at Sauder.

  • ghostsniper December 12, 2018, 11:26 AM

    There’s knowing wisdom in John’s second sentence above.
    A few years ago my wife purchased online a large double doored storage cabinet to hold her art supplies and asked if I would put it together, “Sure!”, I announced, eager to put a giant 7′ tall 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzle together. In the website picture it was gorgeous, and huge. I think it cost $600. Shallow curved top, double raised panel doors, little turned button legs, and 4 shelves inside and 1 large drawer on the bottom. Sort of a light dove grey. Nice.

    I found other versions of this cabinet built in conventional cabinet building method and the price was starting at 4 figures, so the KD version was justified, or so I thought.

    It showed up one day and the driver didn’t even try to back down our steep, sinewous driveway so the project actually began on the road, with opening the box and handtrucking the long sides to the living room some 200′ away. 8 trips later I had everything stacked up around the living room and the box sitting on the front porch. And nothing was damaged in the process. The living room continued to look much like that for the next 3 days, gradually getting a little less cluttered each day.

    I’m a designer by profession, a mechanic due to necessity, and a woodworker at heart. This thing beat my ass. Sideways. From the design to the execution this knock-down style of product was my albatross. I was not going to let it kick my ass but it almost did. Particle board with pretty surfacing is heavy stuff and almost all of this contraption was made from it. By the time it was completed my forearms looked like Popeye’s. Those little screw-in pieces that join opposing parts were made in hell. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Their default is to cross thread while you are trying to keep 2 very heavy pieces of particleboard liking each other, but they never do. None of this thing went together properly the first time. Alignment issues were pandemic.

    It finally got completed and it has done it’s job well containing much of my wife’s burgeoning art supplies but alas as any hobbyist knows 1 is none and 2 is always better and she recently told me she wants to get another one. Well, as I alluded earlier, I am a woodworker at heart. I believe I can make a 7’x4’x28″ double doored 300 pound storage cabinet with colonial trimwork from raw wood, for less money, and easier execution, and longer lasting than the knock down version. (BTW, does anybody actually ever take these KD pieces apart and reassemble them?)

    I have measured the old one and drawn the new one in autocad using standard woodworking principles and will shop for the wood after the holidays. Maple or Poplar. The first one was dragged up the stairs to her studio on the 2nd floor on a large furniture blanket and 2 large ratchet straps that were anchored to the studs on the 2nd floor landing of which the holes for the anchor bolts had to be patched and painted afterward. shwew The new one is designed to be built and assembled in 3 large pieces at the location it will reside, so that whole ratchet strap business will be avoided. I hope. I’m about 6 years older now than when I put the KD one together so those ratchet straps stand ready to go to work if necessary. Note to self, find the bucket of drywall mud and keep it on standby just in case.

  • lpdbw December 12, 2018, 11:39 AM

    Gerard, I hope the furniture serves you well in the future. While I definitely don’t appreciate the assembly process, I’ve had good luck with the Sauder stuff in the past.

    More important, though, is the issue of your egregious lack of alcoholic beverages. We need to figure out a way to gift you your favorite brand of beer and that missing case of whiskey.

  • azlibertarian December 12, 2018, 12:11 PM

    I read your post today with a bit of a smile. Your experience with furniture building assembly comes across as equal parts of (understandable) frustration and humor. That you have a small bit of humor in your life makes me happy.

    I fully understand your point that few buy “real” furniture anymore. Mrs. azlib and I are in the middle of selling our home and moving to a new place. In the past, we’ve bought the best furniture we could afford, thinking that buying once would serve a lifetime. Many of the furniture pieces we own are pieces that we couldn’t find, much less afford, today. But some of these pieces may not work in our new place, and so to get rid of it, we’re going to have to dump it (because the young who are buying furniture today only want to buy the crap that IKEA puts out). Once we’ve purged the furniture that we won’t want to keep, I’ll be in your shoes, assembling the lesser-quality replacement furniture. Our eventual circumstance will be better for us, but on the question of furniture, we’ll be making a step down.

  • Teri Pittman December 12, 2018, 12:58 PM

    This on Facebook. Please share:

    Quilts are being donated from all over California and the rest of the country, and fire survivors can go and choose a quilt each. There are a LOT of quilts and more coming every day. Please share this information with Camp Fire survivors who could use a handmade quilt to snuggle in!

    Location: Cathy’s Sew and Vac, 2418 Cohasset Rd, Chico, CA 95926. NOT in the store itself; quilts are located in the warehouse to the south side and back of the building. There is a roll-up door.

    Schedule of open hours:
    Tuesday, Dec. 11. 10am – 1pm
    Wednesday, Dec. 12. 10am – 1pm
    Saturday, Dec. 15. 10am – 3pm
    Monday, Dec. 17. 10am – 1pm
    Wednesday, Dec. 19. 10am – 1pm
    Friday, Dec. 21. 10am – 1pm
    Saturday, Dec. 22. 10am – 3pm
    Thursday, Dec. 27. 10am – 1pm
    Saturday, Dec. 29. 10am – 3pm
    Monday, Dec. 31. 10am – 1pm

  • churchladyiowa December 12, 2018, 2:20 PM

    Gerard, I think we’re about the same age. We’ve had an antique shop for the past 21 years and are in the process of closing it. From the 1970s until Martha Stewart was hot in the mid 90s, everybody wanted an early 1900s round oak table for their kitchen. Oak stayed in style for about 20 years; then it was supplanted by walnut and mahogany. We bought gorgeous pieces and hubby refinished them if the original finish wasn’t good. At this point, a fourth of the shop basement is furniture. NOT.SELLING. Young people want that disgusting style known as “shabby chic”; or, yeah, IKEA. I know we’re going to take a bath on all of this someday when it goes to auction.

    My point is that I get the impression you like vintage things. I’m pretty sure that there must be antique shops in your area that would have beautiful, sturdy, solid furniture pieces. Around here, costs are a mere fraction of what they cost 25 years ago. If you’re up for an adventure into your area that didn’t burn out, I’m betting you could find an interesting piece or two that would work for you.

  • Lance de Boyle December 12, 2018, 3:53 PM

    I even had to assemble my wife.
    Well, sort of wife.
    The arms fell off first.
    Lousy lay, anyway.

  • jwm December 12, 2018, 7:25 PM

    We had the all too frequent problem on the opposite end of the scale: too much stuff.
    I had all my mother’s furniture, my Dad’s stuff, and all of both sets of grandparents’ furniture stored in the garage. It was all solid wood, much of it maple Early American style mid-century pieces. Hard as it was, I had to let go of the sentimental attachments (It was Grandma’s…) and clear the stuff out. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t even be able to *give* the furniture away. Yard sale– zip. Estate sale– zip. No calls from on-line. I called the Salvation Army. They sent out a nice, mentally retarded colored fellow who wouldn’t take any of the stuff because some of it had some cracks. Sad truth is people prefer paper to wood anymore. Later that summer my wife’s niece was back from school, and starting out on her own, so the furniture found a home, and even stayed sort of in the family.


  • pst314 December 12, 2018, 7:34 PM

    “Everything is Ikea-infected and made of sawdust.”

    I believe that not only is it cheaper to make, it helps them get “awards” from government agencies and NGO’s for being “green”. They don’t care that, instead of lasting for generations, the furniture will quickly wear out and be thrown in the trash.

  • ghostsniper December 13, 2018, 4:40 AM

    “Sad truth is people prefer paper to wood anymore.”
    When molding sawdust and glue, ANY shape can be achieved.
    Wood is not so malleable.
    People like stuff that’s different, even if it’s fake.
    Longevity and quality are rare these days and most people don’t care about it.
    When you’ve been born in and have lived your whole life in a throw away society your mindset conforms to it.
    Everyone expects cheapness, and gets it.
    The good stuff costs 10X as much as the normal.
    Would you rather have 1 thing that is good or 10 things that are not?

  • Anon December 13, 2018, 4:40 AM

    Here’s what I’ve noticed. Almost every company (products and services) now is run this way. They expect you to pay for their garbage. And when it comes to the real work, such as assembly, they pass along the costs to you, all the while charging you the same they would have for an assembled product years ago and laughing at you all the way to the bank with your money.

    Disposable furniture for disposable customers.

  • John Venlet December 13, 2018, 5:43 AM

    Would you rather have 1 thing that is good or 10 things that are not?

    My Dad always said, “It costs a bit more to go first class, but it’s usually worth it.”

    Give me the one good thing.

  • jwm December 13, 2018, 6:37 AM

    Like in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
    In this house there is no TV, no radio, no newspaper.
    I will confess to a particle board computer desk.
    Other than that it’s all wood, and it’s all old.
    The bikes are all American Schwinns and Dyno’s.
    I’ve never bought anything and wished later that I had a cheaper and crummier one.


  • H December 13, 2018, 6:59 AM

    I think maybe Kipling had a poem went something like this; if he didn’t, he should have:

    It was ever thus:
    You can get it cheap.
    You can get it fast.
    You can get quality.
    But you only get to pick two of those.
    And don’t be surprised if you only get one.

    Yeah I know it doesn’t rhyme. Neither do I.

  • ghostsniper December 13, 2018, 8:40 AM

    Cheap, fast, good. pick any 2.

    Buy good cry once, buy cheap cry twice.

    Cheap always means junk
    Inexpensive may mean a deal
    Words matter

  • Marica December 13, 2018, 8:47 AM

    My mom always said for things that are fashion or fad, buy so it lasts long enough; for things that are classic in nature– a little black dress, dining table, etc.– buy the every best you can afford.

    On another unrelated topic, I’d like to pass some information along. A few threads back someone asked about other aid or charity organizations to give to. I’ve been wondering about the libraries in Paradise (which I assumed was gone) and Chico, specifically about the children’s programs in Chico. I assumed there would be increased traffic to storybook times and such. So yesterday I emailed the Chico branch to inquire if it needed anything. I got back a very nice reply. Seems traffic did increase but has settled back to normal as folks move along. The librarian said they were fine with respect to kids’ stuff.

    She also said, “Feel free to check back in the new year, maybe February? We may have more defined needs as we get closer to reopening the Paradise Branch Library, which survived the fire, thank goodness.”

    It’s on my calendar.

  • u.k.(us) December 13, 2018, 10:24 AM

    “Action is consolatory. It is the enemy of thought and the friend of flattering illusions.”
    Joseph Conrad
    (not sure this fits the situation).

  • JiminAlaska December 13, 2018, 12:07 PM

    I quite agree compacted sawdust furniture, with some assembly required, leaves a lot to be desired. I find it far easier and more satisfying to buy mine by the board foot at Northland Wood or Interior Hardwoods. Admittedly assembly takes a bit longer than with pre-cut compressed sawdust but if one measures twice, cuts once and drinks thrice, for me at least, the result is far superior.

    Admittedly it would be hard to do my assemblies in a small apartment and Gerard, I suspect we both left the eight cement blocks painted orange and four stained seven foot 2X8s bookcase design back in college so I guess you’re stuck with the sawdust, sigh. So… I’ll just raise a shot of Jameson’s to your health.

  • Callmelennie December 13, 2018, 1:58 PM

    They say Gerard, that intelligence in one sphere comes at the expense of intelligence in another. it would appear you’ve betrayed a fair amount of intel in the writing linguistic sphere lately. Is it possible that this comes at the expense of the “Putting-sh*t-together” sphere?

    That seems to be the case in my family. We have platoons of lawyers, and Berkeley/Stanford grads and none of us can do anything with our hands. My mother used to consider me the “handy” one because I figured out how to collapse her walker in order to get it in the car: That Momma; she knew how to stroke her children’s egos ……… ‘Scuse me a second, GV, I need to wipe away a bit of eyeball sweat

    Now for all that fatigue. You may have to shell out a little money for a little unskilled muscle to help you when you need to smash these IKEA clones into kindling. And take note — You can almost always find a YouTube video about assembling ANYTHING

  • Grizzly December 13, 2018, 5:28 PM

    I have seen that these days furniture is considered to be not worth shipping when moving from one place to another. It’s certainly true for IKEA furniture and the like. So people throw away their furniture and buy new when they arrive at their new place.

    Kind of reminds me of an article I read a few years ago lamenting that these days many fine pianos in perfectly good condition are being hauled to the dump because there is no market for them — you can’t even give them away, because there are no takers.

    BTW, I second the Church Lady’s remarks regarding antique shops. They’re still around and would be worth considering for finding inexpensive used but better-built furniture. But I don’t know how much longer such shops will still be around.

  • ghostsniper December 14, 2018, 4:31 AM

    I’ve been in a fair amount of antique joints and have never seen an inexpensive one. They act like that stuff is gold. Under the Craigslist “Free” heading there are always a few pianos for the taking, mostly uprights and spinets. It’s the cast iron soundboard that makes them murderously heavy. I’d like to have a big upright, to refinish and play, but to get it from there to here would require a battalion or more. I’ve never even seen an Ikea store let alone bought anything there. Our son has been in them. He said they serve swedish meatballs in there. WTF? SM in a furniture store? Who’d a thunk it?

  • JoanOfArgghh! December 14, 2018, 5:11 AM

    Consignment shops are your friend.

  • bgarrett December 14, 2018, 9:47 AM

    Since I found out about Estate Sales, I refuse to buy anything new.Prices are incredibly low

  • Gordon Scott December 14, 2018, 10:57 AM

    Church Lady in Iowa, drop me a line at mplsgordon2 at gmail. I’m not so far away in the TC. I’m sure we could come to an arrangement if you have excess stuff, and I have a trailer, or can rent a bigger one. I even have the S-I-L to help haul it in.

  • flannelputz December 15, 2018, 9:20 AM

    My Ikea experience is as follows:
    Went to Ikea, bought bookcase, “some assembly required”.
    Struggled for hours, putting cheap, poorly designed particle board crap together.
    Finally finished, took a well deserved break.
    Placed unit against the wall, and loaded it up with CD’s and books, whereupon the entire thing fell forward on the floor, creating a gigantic mess. I then loaded it up again, assuming I had loaded it wrong somehow.Each time, it would crash forward. Re-reading the instructions, I was amazed to realize that it was so poorly designed that it needed to be bolted to the wall so as not to tip over… This, of course would preclude moving or even slightly adjusting its position without drywall repair.This made no sense to me and never has to this day.
    Subsequently, several children were killed or injured by these things tipping over on them, and there was a class action lawsuit.

  • Mark Alger December 15, 2018, 10:44 PM

    I’m a bigot. I build stuff out of wood.

    NB: I do not do so for a living. People who do may disagree with my bigotry.

    I refuse to countenance furniture made out of pressed-board (except plywood, which is such only by mere technicality). I am talking what is colloquially known as particle board. More properly, MDF — medium density (hah!) fiberboard.

    That bookcase you show in the OP, if made of solid wood — even of oak — will weigh no more than a club size bag of cat litter. Certainly not 100+ pounds. It will last better against all manner of household vicissitudes than the fake stuff and will NOT require the strength of ten men to shift.

    I proffer this wisdom, garnered from the assembly dozens of pieces of KD furniture including an “entertainment center” which matches suspiciously closely the description put forth by ghostsniper above (except that it had a clever door arrangement that concealed them when open. “Special” hardware, you see — “special” as said by the Church Lady). If you cannot build solid wood furniture of your own design, spend the ready on store-bought. Do not suffer “some” assembly required junk. you will thank me.


  • ghostsniper December 16, 2018, 4:29 AM

    Mark: I’m familiar with that hardware and looked at it briefly on the Rockler site.
    I didn’t go that route because the hardware was too expensive and it would have eliminated much needed shelving on the interior. I think you are talking about the hinge system that allows the doors to swing open normally, then, slide back into the cabinet. This type of hinge is typically seen on cabinets housing TV’s or computers, in which shelving is not a problem, but having doors opened and protruding into the room is, such as your mention of an “entertainment center”.

    I agree with your assessment, that solid wood is generally lighter in weight than particle board.
    And stronger too, especially to impact collisions.

  • Harry December 12, 2019, 11:06 AM

    Having built a variety of furniture items over the years for family members, friends, and myself, I found that Sauder actually has the best directions. And yes, I do understand this is “damning with faint praise.”
    Also, we just gave away a bunch of furniture. As others have testified already, people clamored over the plastic/particle board crap. We had to throw away the oak dining room set. Although somebody did grab the 1950s electric sewing machine.

  • Anon December 12, 2019, 11:38 AM

    I swear to god this is true:
    I had an item clearly made in China and the instructions for assembly clearly showed the author was not a native English speaker. But when it should have read “screw piece ‘A’ to piece ‘B’ it substituted the “F” word for screw. I should have kept the instructions but that has been some 20 plus years ago.

  • bfwebster December 12, 2019, 1:21 PM

    I feel your pain, man. I nearly flunked Shop class in 8th grade, and my assembly skills have not improved since then. Fortunately, since moving to Utah five years ago, I live a few minutes’ drive from our oldest son, who’s not only highly skilled at this sort of assembly but actually appears to enjoy doing it. Even so, almost all the furniture we’ve bought since moving here has been pre-assembled (couch, bedroom set, etc.).

  • art December 12, 2019, 2:00 PM

    In the wood industry, particleboard is often referred to as “glit”. Stands for “glue and shit”.

  • Marica December 13, 2019, 1:23 AM

    Lord, I remember this post. Thanks for the do-over.

  • Larry Geiger December 13, 2019, 5:10 AM

    Unfinished wood furniture. My house is full of it. All of our bookcases are from unfinished furniture stores. Building is hard, finishing is easy. A can of this and a can of that (the helpful sales lady will tell you exactly what you need), slap it on and you’re ready to go. I’m sitting at a wood desk with a rolling keyboard drawer that I’ve had for years. Perfectly sized for my long skinny room (I’m in with the washer and dryer).

  • John the River December 13, 2019, 9:00 AM

    “Unfinished wood furniture”
    Larry, bingo!
    I have been reading down the page and wondering if anyone would bring that up. Maybe the unfinished furniture store is no more? Around here (Eastern Massachusetts) they seem to be disappearing. My old house was mainly furnished with the output of the UFS down the street. If you could wait and had the gelt they would modify most of their designs with an additional shelf or extra height. As we received a newly made piece, we would ‘retire’ the cheap stuff we had bought many years ago to the garage (the curse of big garage/workshop, you never throw anything away); decades later after the fire we dusted the stuff off and hauled it back into the new house.

    When we went out to start the process of buying replacement pieces of real wood furniture, I was shocked to find that the three unfinished furniture stores we had depended on were; closed, a bank, and a Dunkin Donuts.

  • brad December 14, 2019, 6:53 AM

    We were in the same boat after the fire. We bought some of our furniture(tv stands, end tables, side table) at Esplanade Furniture in Chico. They offered Camp Fire victims a 20% discount and free delivery. They sell decent quality furniture at a reasonable price and assemble it in their shop before delivery.