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enter image description hereAs you see it looks like it should just unscrew, but it doesn’t turn. I guess the little arrow on one side should point up/down — but even when I do that, the screws don’t slide out. The other side of the wood doesn’t have a s

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    The arrow should point at the board it's connected to - it looks like there is one to the right of this picture. When both are pointed at this board to the right, you should be able to push that board away and cause them to disconnect. Presuming, of course, that all boards connected to the one to the right have been suitably loosened.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 18, 2022 at 11:57
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    It's a cam lock. It will only turn (anticlockwise) a quarter-turn. Once you've released all the cam locks along one side you can pull out the adjacent sheet, revealing the pegs the cam locks secure. You can then remove the cam locks.
    – Graham Nye
    Oct 18, 2022 at 14:12
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    @GrahamNye's right but note that they're often used with dowels in addition, and the dowels can be stiff. It's even sometimes necessary to glue the dowels if stuff has been reassembled a few times, in which case you're out of luck
    – Chris H
    Oct 19, 2022 at 9:16

3 Answers 3

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That is not a screw that comes out.

It is a twist lock mechanism.

Turn it to the left as far it goes and pull boards apart.

It has a bolt from the side onto which it holds.

It looks like something like this

bolt

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    Turn this counter-clockwise will only unlock the bolt. The bolt should now be removable. It is IMPOSSIBLE to remove this without removing the bolt. Don't focus on this, but on what's attached to it.
    – Nelson
    Oct 18, 2022 at 8:23
  • @Nelson there's some variation in the design and tolerances and newer ones have a cut-out so that they can be put in after you've put the parts together (presumably because people sometimes forgot to do it beforehand, I certainly have); that type will come out without the bolt being removed. That type also tends to require more of a turn as they start off completely disengaged. Oct 19, 2022 at 10:29
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    "Turn it to the left" which left? Oct 19, 2022 at 13:57
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    "To the left" is commonly understood as counterclockwise.
    – keshlam
    Oct 19, 2022 at 14:28
  • I'm having nightmare flashbacks of assembling my child's crib, which had eight of these in various directions, required precise rotation for the screw to go in, and it felt like half of them required me to be upside down, holding the cam in place against gravity, trying to keep it from rotating out of place, while also putting the screw in on the other side. I'd suspect that I was supposed to turn the crib upside-down, except that caused ominous creaking from the wood filigree around the top. Oct 20, 2022 at 13:26
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These are called cams. There's two parts to them.

The first part is the cam screw (example)

cam screw

The second part (the one visible in your picture) is sometimes called a cam head, lock or connector (example)

cam head

The way this works when assembling the furniture, you

  1. Screw the cam screws into one board. These are usually pre-drilled for you, and the screw only goes in a short way
  2. Place the cam heads into the other board. There are two pre-drilled holes here: one for the head and another that goes from the edge of the board into the hole for the cam head
  3. You align the arrow on the cam head with the drilled channel for the cam screw and put the other board onto this one, lining the cam screw(s) up with the holes
  4. You turn the cam head about 90 degrees clockwise. The head of the cam screw will be sitting in the pocket of the cam head, and rotating it swivels the connector around the head of the screw, locking the board in place.

Some notes for removal

In theory, you should be able to just rotate the cam head back until the arrow points towards the board you wish to disconnect, but be aware that many times these connectors are accompanied by wooden dowels that may (in some instances) be wood glued. Gluing is uncommon (most seem to rely on friction to stay in), but be prepared to tap your boards with a hammer or rubber mallet to get them apart if merely turning the cam head does not yield results.

If your cam head spins freely, it means the cam screw is no longer there. Cam heads will generally fall out if you invert the board.

Cam heads are sometimes shallow in the Phillips part. A solid #2 flat head can usually fit just as well and get stubborn cam heads to move. Be sure to wiggle the board as well to move the screw some.

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    @OP When tapping with a hammer or mallet, put something like a small-ish scrap of wood (or similar) in between the surface to hit and whatever you're hitting it with - that'll reduce the chance of getting unsightly dents in the surface. Oct 19, 2022 at 18:53
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Many IKEA wardrobes use this system, and they provide assembly instructions online - so this is a good way to figure out how things work. First example I found on their site is a PAX wardrobe:

https://www.ikea.com/de/de/assembly_instructions/pax-korpus-kleiderschrank-weiss__AA-1301930-11-2.pdf

Here, the bolts are mounted in steps 2-4, the "screws" in step 13 and 16.

For disassembly, you just turn them counter-clockwise, usually for way less than one full turn, then apply some pressure to the side panel until it comes loose.

For transport, you might just secure them with some adhesive tape.

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    "usually for less than one full turn"? Given the way these things work, it cannot possibly be as much as a full turn. and in my experience it is always one quarter turn. Oct 19, 2022 at 9:12
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    @MartinBonnersupportsMonica I've seen some that were more like 3/8 or even 1/2 turn so the OP should go by feel rather than measuring off 90°
    – Chris H
    Oct 19, 2022 at 9:17
  • Agreed, about 1/2 turn, give or take, but impossible to do a full turn. I guess that is "usual"...
    – FreeMan
    Oct 19, 2022 at 11:32
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    “less than one full turn” generally you can turn them until the arrow points to the adjacent panel… that should position it fully disengaged from the cam screw.
    – John
    Oct 19, 2022 at 20:40

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