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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.


  • Lee Zamparo

    What we need is tool libraries for the suburbs. Those downtown people, they already have enough tool libraries.

    • Nigel Lemieux

      Fuck the suburbs.

    • tomwest

      Danforth and Coxwell is in suburbs.

      • Squintz

        Not true, it’s technically the old City of Toronto. Danforth was the northern boundary Victoria Park the eastern boundary.

        • tomwest

          True enough, but it’s still suburban rather than than Downtown.

          • Squintz

            Don’t tell that to Scarborough lol

          • OgtheDim

            Its not really suburban in the definition most people within the city use.

            Neither is it downtown.

            Its analogous to North Toronto.

            i.e. Its East York – beyond definitions

          • CaligulaJones

            Fuck off. Do you consider Uptown or High Park “suburbs” too? Same distance from the sacrosanct Bay and Bloor (or wherever dweebs like you consider “downtown”.

          • tomwest

            Aren’t you a bright ray of sunshine! You need some of these: *hugs*

          • CaligulaJones

            You hate on my ‘hood then expect a hug to fix it?

            Fuck off again.

          • dsmithhfx

            Howse the anger management working for ya?

          • CaligulaJones

            What anger? I asked a question, the dweeb didn’t answer it.

          • tomwest

            Som today I learnt that describing an area as “suburbs” rather than “downtown” counts as hate! Personally, I always thought swearing at someone and then insulting them was hateful and/or a sign of anger.
            (Also, when people swear at me, I kind of shut off and ignore everything that comes afterwards. It’s worked well for me in life so far. Now I shall return to my $35/hour job, before heading to my home in the suburbs)

          • CaligulaJones

            Perhaps I should have used “condescending”, but “uninformed” works as well. Most people who would use the term in such a context do, indeed, hate suburbs. I apologize for the swearing.

            However, you are mostly uninformed: my house near Danforth and Coxwell was was built in 1923. Yes, at the time it was a subdivision in the suburbs. But not in 2013.


            Now, I will leave my $32.12/hour job (with freaking huge bennies), take my hour-long lunch, get back and perform work for which I am hideously overqualified, then take the subway 40 minutes home, reading “Dharma Bums” all the way.

            Have a nice drive.

          • tomwest

            Don’t make assumptions – I don’t have a car :-)

          • CaligulaJones

            Indeed. My office mates who head north (and west and east) usually don’t either.

            But someone is driving the bus, I hope…

            So, have a nice walk at the end of the bus/train ride. I know that its hard to walk in suburbs, which seem allergic to sidewalks for some reason. Here in North York they stop suddenly, and are often on only one side of the street. Be careful.

          • CaligulaJones

            Oh, and you seem to have confused me with my brother, Martin Luther Jones, or our cousin from India, Mahatma Jones…

          • dsmithhfx

            I was thinking more a potential TPS shooting victim.

          • CaligulaJones

            You are confusing anger with mental illness. There aren’t enough cop bullets to shoot all the angry people.

          • dsmithhfx

            Try your luck!

          • CaligulaJones

            I know a few cops, but they won’t let me use their bullets.

          • dsmithhfx

            You’re doing it wrong. Come out screaming and waving a a nail file.

          • CaligulaJones

            Can I stab you with a nail file to test that it doesn’t hurt too much?

  • dsmithhfx

    I’d like to borrow the tunnel-boring machine please.

    • tomwest

      Certainly, but only for 3 days. (It’s a premium tool. You can borrow some shovels for up to four weeks instead)

  • qianqong

  • Frank Urbaniak

    Please get in touch with me as I would like to set up the same type of ‘Tool Library’ at my locale in Aurora. I am sure that is the suburbs!

  • TomLuTon

    Mild case of irony: The tool library is right next door to an empty lot created when a building collapsed due to improper renovations