You can break down an item to it's core ingredients by using the break command. You will need the appropriate workbench if required and a schematic/diagram/recipe of the item to be broken down.
This task depends a great deal on your scavenge skill. Infact, most items that can be broken can't be broken if your scavenge is less than ~18.

How to break an item downEdit

Munchkin says, "Schematics of the thing you're trying to break help"

You nod.
Munchkin says, "So does the right workbench in the room"
BillMurray says, "ahhh"
BillMurray says, "thanks that makes sense"
Munchkin says, "Just make sure it's in the room with you"
BillMurray asks, "do i put it on the bench?"

Munchkin says, "No"


It seems that diagrams in books do not work with breaking down items.

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