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The Toronto Tool Library Nails Down Its New East-End Location

The Toronto Tool Library's new second location includes a woodworking shop, a makerspace, and kitchen-gadget library.

Tools on display at the Toronto Tool Library’s new east-end location, including the Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer.

As of this week, east-enders can get their power-tool adrenaline fix without having to actually purchase any. Less than six months after opening its first location in Parkdale, the Toronto Tool Library soft-launched a new space at 1803 Danforth Avenue, near Danforth and Coxwell avenues, on October 15. At 1900 square feet, the new location is about three times the size of the Parkdale space—which means it can accommodate three times the handiness.

The Toronto Tool Library is operated by Lawrence Alvarez and Ryan Dyment of the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy, a non-profit geared toward fostering economic systems for a more sustainable society. The east-end expansion allows them to promote this mandate in several new ways: in addition to a growing collection of about a thousand tools for people to borrow, they now have a full woodworking shop where members can take advantage of equipment that’s too big to take home, as well a makerspace for do-it-yourself workshops.

Two levels of membership are available at the new location. Those just wanting to borrow tools can pay $50 annually for library access (which is the same as the fee at the Parkdale location), while those wanting regular access to the woodworking space pay $100 per month. If you just want to saw the odd two-by-four, swing by on Wednesday nights, when access to the woodworking equipment is open for all. Work exchanges are also being offered.

The woodworking shop.

The items in the library range from your tool-box basics—there were enough saws hanging on the wall that a person could build a shelf, fix a deck, and cut wood for a bonfire afterwards—to more task-specific power tools. A 3D printer is already working its futuristic magic, and there are plans to install a laser cutter and other big-ticket gear in the in the coming months. Dayna Boyer, a friend to Alvarez and Dyment, has also assembled a kitchen library filled with the types of small appliances you might want to give a whirl, but not use on a regular basis: party-sized crock pots, breadmakers, one of those gizmos for rolling out homemade pasta.

The kitchen library includes bread makers, crock pots, juicers, and grills.

Alvarez explains that the east-end location was already in the works before the tool library opened its first location last spring. On the day before the Parkdale launch, the owners of the Danforth building visited the library and asked if the library would ever consider expanding to the east end. The new space required a ton of work—the landlords had planned to use it for storage, but wanted to do something more community-focused—but Alvarez and Dyment couldn’t turn down the opportunity. As Alvarez puts it, “Sometimes something falls in your lap, and there’s a ton of stuff going on, but you’ve just got to go for it.”

Through a crowdfunding campaign, the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy raised over $16,000 to cover the renovations—which seems very low, considering the fact that the basement location required a complete overhaul. “The space was completely empty before,” Alvarez says. “There was no half wall, no washrooms, no paint, no lighting, no conduit, no plugs, no lights, no nothing.”

Well, they did find something: while demolishing a wall, the team discovered stacks of old VHS tapes from a video store that had been in the space before—remnants of another sharing model.

The Toronto Tool Library’s east-end storefront near Danforth and Coxwell avenues.

The east-end location is planning an official launch party on November 7, after which regular programming will get underway. Workshops will range from basic classes on hand tools (or: how not to hammer your own thumb like a Looney Tunes character) to advanced instruction on power tools, to some more-whimsical options. Alvarez shows off a box of miscellaneous parts donated by Active Surplus, which he says will be used for a robot war workshop—“the Iron Chef of robots”—on November 16.

Judging by how smoothly things have gone in Parkdale, a second location seems like a promising bet. The library has more than 300 members, and so far the return rate for tools has been 100 per cent. “People know that if they’re stealing from the tool library, they’re not stealing from us, they’re stealing from the community,” Alvarez says. “And that’s the kind of feeling we want to have with everything. Not just tools, but kitchen things, cars, bicycles, toys.”

A toy library sounds like surefire kid-pleaser. For now, we can think of the tool library as a toy library for adults.

CORRECTION: October 18, 2013, 4:50 PM This post originally said that Lawrence Alvarez and Ryan Dyment assembled the east-end tool library’s kitchen library. In fact, the kitchen library is the work of Dayna Boyer.

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