How bad nuts can destroy good furniture

Today Shana and I dismantled an old double bed. I say old, but it was less than nine years old (I don’t recall its exact age, alas) and, on the whole, fairly well constructed.

The old bed had, however, developed an excruciating repertoire of squeaks and creaks, and, on finally taking it apart, we discovered what seems to be quite a common flaw in modern furniture.

Without getting too technical, the bed had a central ‘spine’ ie, basically a long plank, running from the headboard to the footboard parallel to the bed’s side rails. This central plank was attached to either end  with dowels. So far, so good.

Underneath the central spine were three shorter pieces of wood that stood upright, attached at one end to the underside of the bed by two bolts. These support legs had been troublesome for a long time, often just falling over and failing to stay attached below the bed.

Here is how they were held in place. Two bolts went into a pre-drilled hole in the topside of the central spine, through into a corresponding hole bored into the support leg.


The bolt had no problem fitting into the nut, like so…


But it eventually lost its grip on the place it should have fitted in the top of the support leg.


The white residue in the picture above is where we tried, quite a long time ago, to pack the fixing hole with filler, in a vain attempt to get those dratted bolts to hold.

The culprit, it turned out, was this little fellow.


Shana found out that this is called an ‘insert nut’. Some insert nuts are screwed into wood. This type though, is hammered in and grips fast with those barbs or teeth round the nut body.

Here’s the problem with insert nuts. If, for any reason, you need to dismantle any item of furniture containing these (and we moved the bed to a different room a while ago, and might have moved it just once prior to that) they can rapidly fail after being loosened and retightened. Those teeth, which are meant to grip, can actually eat away some of the wood they are supposed to be embedded in.

We first came across one of these insert nuts in a piece of furniture we bought for Smoky, our lunatic three-legged cat. It is a set of three steps and a round seat at the top (which we dubbed ‘the crow’s nest’). The steps are still fine and are in daily use to enable Smoky to reach a high window seat. But the round seat became wobbly, and we were so worried that he would fall from it that we decided to remove it. However much we tried, it just refused to tighten up properly.

The cat seat, which was made of MDF (commonly used with insert nuts) had the required hole underneath where the insert nut should have held firm. But it was clear that the chipboard had been eaten away after only a few small adjustments on odd occasions, and it was equally clear that nothing would hold the seat in place well enough for it to be safe for our cat.

So, if you have a creaky bed, you might be able to solve the problem with a metal angle bracket or some such improvisation.

But do take extra care if you are putting together any cat furniture, and watch out for these insert nut blighters. Your kitty, I am sure, will be most appreciative 🙂


3 thoughts on “How bad nuts can destroy good furniture

  1. Unfortunately, as with most modern furniture, nothing is made to actually last any more, and so we get things like the insert nut, or screws that bend if you just look at them (even with more expensive furniture), rather than something that will keep our furniture together for a decent amount of time 😦
    We’ve really been driven into being a throwaway society, and all of this just so we can fatten the bank accounts of the super-rich who, because they can afford it, have furniture made that actually lasts for generations.


    1. I blame MDF. Or ‘chipboard’ if you prefer, or any of its other aliases. We have a 1973 book, published by Hamlyn, called ‘Practical Woodworking’. This otherwise excellent book contains the following passage in the section on Timber: “One of the timber industry’s greatest gifts to the builder and handyman has been particle board…” How I laugh every time I read that sentence. If I could go back to ’73 in a time machine, I would gladly wrap a large sheet of particle board round that writer’s ear 🙂

      Trouble is, it would probably break the ‘wood’ and leave the writer totally unscathed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m in total agreement with you there 🙂
        When I think of the money we wasted when we first bought ‘new’ furniture, which was made of the stuff, I could scream – but we’ve now managed to replace every bit of it with ‘proper’ wood at last, and at least I know that my countless books are easily displayed on solid shelves, instead of the awful unstable, and drooping, ones they used to sit on! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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