New Technologies always fascinate me.  Unfortunately, they are often too complex for me to do more than stare, open-mouthed in awe.  And yet, the really clever ideas are sometimes the simplest.  A “why didn’t I think of that?” moment.

I came across one last week; assembling the new IKEA nightstand we had just bought.

The family had spent a few hours walking the carefully designed Swedish maze of DIY product displays.  Aside from the bedside table we came to buy, we found ourselves laden with lots of home wares – from kids’ toys to new wine glasses, power saving light globes and even some herb seedlings for the kitchen window box.  A reasonably priced lunch actually turned this shopping trip into an enjoyable family outing.

Finally we headed home. The corner had waited empty so long, and I knew if I put it off that flat pack would sit unopened for months, so I set about putting the table together right away.  Everything I needed (except for a bit of patience) was included in the flat pack. I must admit that assembling the table wasn’t as hard as I had anticipated. The pieces fitted together nicely (even if I had to undo it and reassemble a couple of times, having put the slats in upside down).   I am usually all thumbs – but the instructions were clear and there weren’t too many parts to put together.  Then it happened.df_draft

The table was put together and standing, but it was just that little bit wobbly. So I set about using the supplied hex key to give the fastening bolts a couple more turns each.  I wanted to make sure that once completed, that table wouldn’t need my attention again.  And that’s when I heard and felt a “crack”. Sure enough, I had over tightened the bolt and cracked the wood. It was an unsightly crack in my brand new piece of furniture – why, oh why didn’t I know when to stop?  Or why couldn’t IKEA put something in there to prevent this!?  Surely it must be simple enough to design the furniture so that it can’t be over tightened.

Frustrated and annoyed, I didn’t know if IKEA would replace the part or blame me.  I wondered if this is a common problem, and what my defense could be. Preparing for fight, I went to my computer and searched “over tightening furniture”.  Sure enough a common problem.  And not just for furniture.  Then I had my “why didn’t I think of that” moment.  The third entry on the list was for a company with a new kind of washer.  Limit Lock is making a washer that stops over tightening – and one of its applications is for furniture.  They claim that a simple washer would have made sure that I tightened the bolts just enough, but didn’t reach the torque that cracked the leg of my table.

I couldn’t see the actual washers for sale on the site, but it seems like they offer solutions to industries and companies looking to prevent over tightening. I was intrigued and decided to find out more. I wrote to Limit Lock to find out how their washers worked to limit the force applied to just the right amount.  Apparently, they design a different washer for each application.  The basic principles involve calculating the exact point for the washer to be in contact with the nut or the bolt, so that friction forces between the specific materials stops over tightening – and in many designs also stops loosening over time, as the joint is moved or rattled.  One wouldn’t have thought of nuts and bolts as an area full of innovation – but here is a start-up company that seems to be offering some leading edge engineering.  Limit Lock has washer solutions for furniture, fixtures, metal, angle grinders and even transportation.

So what about my nightstand? After a trip back to the store, standing in queue, admitting I couldn’t cope with even the simplest of construction tasks and feeling like a fool, IKEA replaced the broken table leg for me.  This time I was more careful about tightening the bolt, but I can’t help wondering when IKEA will include washers like Limit Lock together with the bolts and hex key in their furniture packs.  It sure would have saved me a lot of time and aggravation.  Visit More: