What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think ‘IKEA’? It’s gotta be either ‘Swedish’ or ‘frustrating’. IKEA is the world’s largest furniture and homeware store and it has caused people around the globe to spend hours upon hours trying, failing, and trying again to assemble their flat pack furniture.
What? Why is it so difficult? Doesn’t it come with printed instructions? Don’t try to deny it, I know that’s what you were wondering just now. Well, I’ll tell you. Yes, obviously there are instructions and they come in the shape of nice little drawings that are pretty much indecipherable. But that’s beside the point, because who reads the instructions? That’s like admitting you can’t do it on your own! It’s like admitting defeat, and we are not having that! No way!
Anyway. So, IKEA. Here’s a fun fact for all of you, fun-fact-lovers out there: IKEA is actually an acronym that stands for Ingvar Kamprad (the Swedish dude who founded the company in 1943), Elmtaryd (the farm where he grew up), and Agunnaryd (his hometown in Småland, southern Sweden).
Now that we got the history lesson out of the way, let’s move onto something more recent.
IKEA furniture is pretty cheap and it’s good quality, which is why the store caters to millions of people every year. One of those millions of IKEA shoppers was a man called James L. Sutter. He bought an IKEA desk… Oh no, not a desk! Why- Hold on, that’s not the dramatic bit. The dramatic bit comes after we tell you what he did with said desk!
So what did he do? He sawed that bad boy in half! Yup, he couldn’t be bothered to go all the way back to the store and get a smaller desk, so he decide to take matters into his own hands! He grabbed his trusty saw and he went at it! And what he discovered once he was left with two halves of what previously was known as a desk, will shock you! *cue the dramatic music*
Yeah, like we’ll tell you right away! You gotta wait a bit longer as we first discuss what James expected to find when he undertook that dangerous sawing mission.
Bearing in mind that it was, after all, a cheap desk, he hardly expected it to be made of solid wood. No, that would be silly. But he was sure it was made of particle board.
Now if you don’t know what that is, let me illustrate it for you. There is a picture right below this paragraph, but let me explain with words first. It’s basically fake wood. They mix up all sorts of wood chips, sawmill shavings, and sawdust with some sort of synthetic resin and make planks out of that. Then they add a layer of veneer to keep the whole thing together and to make it look good.
The picture, like I promised.
So, now you know what James expected to find. What he did find is a completely different story. Here’s what he had to say on the matter:
“I always knew that Ikea furniture was fake wood—particle board with a veneer on top. Fine, whatever. But last night I sawed into my desk and discovered the particle board *itself* is a lie,” he wrote on Twitter.
I always knew that Ikea furniture was fake wood—particle board with a veneer on top. Fine, whatever. But last night I sawed into my desk and discovered the particle board *itself* is a lie.
FOLKS IKEA WOOD IS LITERALLY CARDBOARD. pic.twitter.com/0vFYaBu5J8
— James L. Sutter (@jameslsutter) January 23, 2018
“FOLKS IKEA WOOD IS LITERALLY CARDBOARD” Not my words, the words of James Sutter himself.
How would you feel if you discovered your furniture was made of cardboard? Furious? Disappointed? Would you go to the store and return their low-quality product? Demand your money back perhaps? If you said ‘yes’ to any of those questions, then you have no idea how James felt about this messed up situation. Because he was actually pretty chill about the whole thing.
There was quite the hubbub following his original tweet, as people on Twitter are known to react rather loudly to all sorts of things. So he made his feelings clear by saying, “To be clear, I don’t have a problem with this: it’s cheap, light, and works. But it was extremely surprising!”
So, he wasn’t upset about the desk being made of cardboard, but he must have been a least a little bit put off that whatever plans he had that required him to saw the thing in half, now basically went out the window!
Like I said, there was a lot of commotion on Twitter about this, but amazingly not all the people were condemning IKEA and trying to burn it at the stake. No, there were quite a few of them who jumped to the store’s defense. Apparently, the honeycomb arrangement of the cardboard (again, scroll down for picture) is very sturdy and it’s environmentally friendly. One person who (probably) knew what he was talking about, explained: “My dad is a structural engineer. That honeycomb structure is actually stronger than particle board (unless you cut it in half.) It’s also far more eco-friendly. They use the particle board for the parts that need to hold screws.”
And there was someone else (an individual educated in the matter at hand no less!) that offered his two cents: “In my design university there’s a whole department that builds chairs and other stuff out of very smartly folded paper. It is extremely sturdy. Why is that a lie? I guess everybody’s happy if stuff is recycled and lightweight – if it works and none stated otherwise, of course.”
IKEA also responded to defend their design, putting an emphasis on the sustainability of cardboard. And they are not the only company who uses it to build furniture and doors: it’s cheap, reliable, and eco-friendly!
A spokesperson for IKEA said: “At IKEA all of our products are designed with form, function, sustainability, affordability, and quality in mind. In order to minimize waste, we strive to use materials in the most efficient way.”
“By using a strong honeycomb pattern paper filling inside some products it allows us to produce more pieces using less raw materials and at the same time reduce the price for people without compromising on quality.”
So, now you know how it’s made.