Monday, June 8, 2009

At Long Last, It Is Complete

So my mother-in-law bought the kids a play set, which arrived several weeks ago, but we only just this last Saturday got it completely assembled. What follows is the Saga of the Play Set:

Sometime during the first week of May: The set arrives via freight in two boxes. We make some phone calls asking for help putting it together. The instructions claim that two people can assemble the play set in 8 to 12 hours. I decide that 8 hours is for two professionals who have assembled these before, so I shoot for the 12 hour figure, which would have it 2/3 or 3/4 of the way done when we finish, leaving only a little more to do the following weekend. With a third person, it might even get done the same day.

Friday, May 9: The family's sick. We call people up again and tell them not to bother coming.

Saturday, May 16: I'm sick again. Play set and anniversary plans are canceled.

Saturday, May 23: Jake and Greg show up to help. We spend a good chunk of the morning clearing the ground, as well as laying out the wood and trying our darndest to identify the various pieces. We determine, after much confusion over several similarly sized pieces of wood, that two pieces are missing. We proceed to assemble what we can, figuring we'll probably be knocking off for the day earlier than we thought. The factory is closed on Saturdays, and Monday is Memorial day, so we have to wait until Tuesday to call for replacement parts.

The first few steps have us building the slide, the ladder/rock wall and swing frame. After completing step 3 of phase 5, we are instructed to leave the last two steps of that phase for later. I skip ahead in the instructions and find the place where it says, “Now go back to phase 5 and complete steps 4 and 5.” Why not just put those steps at right spot in the manual in the first place? At least the instructions are in proper English, notwithstanding a couple of spelling mistakes.

As the afternoon turns to evening, we are only just nearing the point where we're stopped by one of the missing parts, about 1/3 of the way through. The instructions imply that most people would have reached this point two or three hours earlier, so either the instructions are incompetent or we are. We attach some pieces of wood near the base that split in a rather surprising way, and figure out pretty quick who the incompetent ones are. We check the instructions, and it seems like we're doing the right thing. Fortunately, those pieces don't have to support human weight. We finish what we can and call it good for the day. I put Burn Free on my sunburns (great stuff, that) and resolve not to neglect the sunscreen next week.

Tuesday, May 26: The factory informs me that one of the two missing pieces is not in stock and will need to be back ordered. They offer to ship the other piece tomorrow with overnight shipping. Fortunately, it's the one that stopped progress on Saturday. The other won't come in until the following week. I figure we can get 2/3 of the way through on Saturday before we hit the remaining missing part.

Thursday, May 28: The first missing piece arrives. Weird, I've never been shipped a 2 x 4 before.

Saturday, May 30: I slather myself with sunblock and head out. Jake and my brother Scott come out to help. I realize that it was a mistake not to label the pieces a week ago after spending all that time sorting it out. We organize the pieces again—which is harder this time because we've used some of them—and write their assigned letters on them.

The play set as built thus far needs to be positioned, leveled and squared, so we spend some time leveling the ground. Gorgeous Wife comes out to see how we're doing and points out the obvious: that we leveled a less-than-ideal spot for the play set. We level a different section, move the play set over to it and rotate it 180 degrees. We then spend the next while nudging it around in various ways until it finally comes out square.

We quickly discover that the pieces that split the previous week were not the pieces we thought they were, hence the splitting. After a brief panic about the possibility of missing more pieces than we thought, we realize that we just mixed them up with some other pieces. Fortunately, their new, correct location has them only used to hold down a tarp that forms the ceiling, so it should be okay. We put them in their new place, then attach the ladder/rock wall without incident.

For some reason, a cross beam must be attached to three uprights which do not have factory-drilled holes for it. The instructions confirm that, for reasons still not fully understood, this is expected, and that we must drill holes for it. We do so and attach the cross beam, then discover in the next step that the crossbeam is too high. I realize that I accidentally measured from the top of a baseboard instead of from the ground, so we remove the cross beam, drill new holes, and reattach it. We now have three completely unneeded holes in the uprights. Lovely. This is why the factory should drill the holes.

Further along, we have to attach supports for the picnic table and seat, and discover again that, for some strange reason, the holes were not factory-drilled. I wonder if they thought I would be disappointed if I didn't get to use the drill for something more macho than driving screws and making 1/8-inch starter holes. We triple-check the measurements, drill the holes, and put on half of the supports, as the other half must attach to an upright that is, hopefully, winging its way from China to the Texas factory. I head inside and look at the construction site. It actually does start to look something like a play set.

Wednesday, June 3: The other missing piece arrives, along with another copy of the piece they sent me already. Huh? The remaining work to do doesn't seem as difficult as what's already been done, so I opt for asking only one person to come help on Saturday.

Saturday, June 6: Greg comes to help. We bolt on the upright that was missing last week and finish attaching the picnic table. Another brief panic over a possible missing piece ensues, but I realize that I had accidentally mislabeled a piece last week. I quadruple-check it against the instructions, heave a sigh of relief, and bolt it on.

Proceeding onward, we discover that we are missing four 2 1/4-inch screws. I pore over the instructions and read that the cap board on the rock wall attaches to the side rails with four 3-inch screws. We extract one and find that it is actually a 2 1/4-inch screw. We replace them with the 3-inch ones and move on, another disaster averted.

We put on the tarps that form the ceiling of the fort and picnic areas, then proceed to the final steps, which have us attaching the remaining assemblies constructed two weeks ago. The slide goes on without major incident. The swings are another matter, however: two of the four factory-drilled holes where the main beam for the swings attaches to the fort do not line up with the holes in the metal brackets that brace the beam. They are, for some reason, over half an inch too high. There is no way this can be a mistake of ours; the wood piece in question is quite distinctive, so we cannot have used the wrong one, and each set of two holes is supposed to line up with corresponding holes in a single, solid piece of metal. Seeing nothing else to do, we drill new holes and bolt on the beam. At least the other holes are covered up by the metal braces.

Anyway, except for finishing laying down the wood chips, it's done. Thanks to Gorgeous Wife's mom for getting it; and to Jake, Greg and Scott for helping us put it together. Here's some video of the finished play set and of the kids enjoying it:

1 comment:

Novae said...

Wow - sounds like you had almost as much fun putting yours together as I did mine. Not so many hangups, but we got one with a playhouse... good Christ, but I've never put that many screws in at once, even when we built a playhouse from scratch as kids. Looks like it's the same manufacturer, though, based on the pieces I saw in the video. Hint: don't forget to use a weatherproof outdoor stain, or it'll be gray in 1-2 years, max. Hope the kids love it! -NovaeDeArx