Apart from following the instructions fairly religiously, there is a simple route to successful, pain-free Ikea furniture assembly for reluctant DIYers, and it is this:

Don't use the tools they give you.

Well, hardly ever, anyway. The single most useful item that you can use is an electric screwdriver, preferably with a torque limiter of some sort, and a selection of bits for it including the vital 4 mm and 5 mm Allen keys that Ikea use for almost everything. Caveat: on the cheapest lines, where stuff screws into chipboard or soft wood, use it very carefully or stick to hand tools. The other useful item is a staple gun, preferably of a variety that handles simple tacks as well as staples (and since Everythingians are undoubtedly going to want to drape network/stereo/aerial cables all over their homes at some stage, you might as well get one that takes round-topped staples as well). This can be used to replace the tacks used for fastening hardboard backs to cabinets and shelving, substantially quicker and without smashing your thumbs with a hammer (although shooting a staple through the thumb will hurt just as much).

With the common system that uses an Allen screw fastening into a circular nut inserted through a perpendicular hole on the other surface, bear in mind that beyond a certain point of tightening you are just going to be compressing the material (especially where it's chipboard); these joints come loose over time and need to be retightened every year or so or any time you move house.

A couple of things that just occurred to me regarding their selling practices:

  • a recent visit to a UK branch suggested that their sterling prices are much higher than those in the euro zone. If anyone has a UK (or anywhere else) catalogue handy and wants to run a few comparisons, let me know.
  • For several common products I have noticed that they after they become established in the market for a year or two, the price is dropped, but with a concomitant reduction in quality, particularly quality of finish. (Åbo chairs come to mind here).