Patio pain


Getting new patio furniture should be a pleasure, and assembly should be a snap. Should be.

The patio is huge — 25ft x 19ft — but not very useable when it's just a slab of concrete. It definitely needed some furniture. Nevertheless, patio furniture was low on the priority list. I would wait for a good buy at a used-furniture store.

Then a few weeks ago while cruising through Lowe's I noticed that they were having a clearance sale on patio furniture, and one model was very attractive. Hmmm. 50% off, what a deal. There were plenty of units on the shelves. I would sleep on it. Alas, when I returned the next morning after a restful night's sleep, there were only tables left, no chairs. An "associate" checked inventory at other stores in southern California. No store had both tables and chairs. I decided not to risk being able to complete the set and decided I'd have to wait for next summer's clearance sale.

I digress. In general, throughout most of the US, summer is the time for outdoor activities, so stores load up on outdoor furniture in the spring and have a sale at the end of summer to get rid of any excess. Have to make room for snowblowers, snowshoes, sleds, snowmobiles, and so on. This makes sense.

But they do the same thing here in Palm Springs, where it makes no sense at all! Winter is when it is most pleasant for such activities as dining on the patio. This is the time they should be bringing the outdoor furniture into the stores, not clearing it out!

Yesterday I was making another of my frequent trips to Lowe's for more wallpaper stripper and some unexplainable impulse led me to the patio furniture aisle. There were chairs! And one table! And they were still on sale!

I wasted no time. I had learned my lesson. I whipped out my credit card and bought the set I had originally wanted. It would be delivered today. And it was. Woo-hoo!

click picture to enlarge Some assembly required

I quickly sliced open the box containing the table and moved the parts to the patio for assembly.

click picture to enlarge Oops! What's wrong with this picture? Yes, the table is upside down. Something else. That's it, only three legs are attached to a table clearly designed to have four legs.
On closer inspection, it turned out that the two holes in the leg where the circular doo-dad attaches lacked threads.
click picture to enlarge There were explicit instructions about what to do in case of problems: do not go to the store; call an 800 number.

I called the 800 number:

"If you are a Lowe's customer, press or say one"

"One." Amazingly a real person picked up the call.

"How can I help you"

"I'm putting together my new table and one of the legs is defective. The holes where I'm supposed to attach the round doo-dad don't have any threads."

Oh, I'm sorry. We don't have any legs as replacement parts for that table.

"What am I supposed to do then?"

"You'll have to take the table back to the store."

"Let me get this straight: The instructions said not to go to the store, but now I'm supposed to go to the store. I paid to have the table delivered because it's too big to fit in my car, now I'm supposed to pay more money to rent a truck to take it back to the store. They won't be able to do anything, anyway. I got the last table."

"I'm sorry; there's just nothing I can do to help you.

This is ridiculous! I check the yellow pages and find a machine shop. I take my table leg and screw. "Can you tap out this hole to accept this screw?"

"Of course we can," said the proprietor, helpfully, "but it will cost you $20. That's our minimum charge. Or, you could just go to the hardware store and buy a tap for $2.95 and do it yourself." I decided to do it myself. In hindsight, I would have been better off just handing over a $20 bill and being done with it.

Lowe's was just down the street, so I went in with my leg and screw. Of course there was nothing they could do. "OK," says I, "do you have a tap so I can thread the hole myself?" Naturally, they didn't have one the right size, for my screw was metric and they only had "standard" taps, and none of them was a proper size either.

The guy suggests, "You could try an auto parts store, they'd be likely to have metric taps. There's a Napa just down the street."

click picture to enlarge

I go to Napa. Yes, they do indeed have a metric tap of the right size. It's $4.95, not $2.95, but five dollars is still a lot less than twenty. A thought briefly crosses my mind about a driver for the tap, but I have screwdrivers that accept different blades – I'll just use one of those.

click picture to enlarge

Wrong! The tap has a square head and all my tools expect hexagonal inserts. The Napa store being quite distant, I go to a much closer Ace Hardware store. I buy a tap driver — another $4.95. My tap is 6.0mm and the tap driver accommodates up to 6.3mm. Should work. Wrong!

I'm already up to $10. I will not spend more money on tools. I'll turn the damned tap with a pliers if necessary. I did. It worked.

Voila! Table is assembled and chairs fitted out with their cushions. It's gorgeous.

click picture to enlarge
click picture to enlarge

Despite the travails, it's a great table. Too bad the people who designed it didn't have the assistance of some of my engineer-type colleagues.

click picture to enlarge Parts attach using screws with hexagonal "slot." Allen wrench provided. This is good.
Unfortunately, the screws included are designed to be countersunk, not surface mounted with a washer. This makes them stick out weirdly.
The screw covers are a nice finishing touch, but the effect is totally negated by the way the screws stick up from the surface. So obvious if anyone had actually assembled the table from the parts provided. Such a simple design flaw to correct.