Tool library offers resource to DIY crowd

When it opens later this month, it might be the loudest library in Toronto.

Lawrence Alvarez, right, Adam Edwards, left, and Ryan Dyment, centre, build up a doorway in the future home of the Toronto Tool Library's Danforth location, just east of the Coxwell subway station. When the library opens in late September, the space will feature a full woodworking shop and Makerspace as well as a tool library with about 1,000 tools. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Lawrence Alvarez, right, Adam Edwards, left, and Ryan Dyment, centre, build up a doorway in the future home of the Toronto Tool Library’s Danforth location, just east of the Coxwell subway station. When the library opens in late September, the space will feature a full woodworking shop and Makerspace as well as a tool library with about 1,000 tools.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Before Ryan Dyment can say how a tool library or a Makerspace works, fellow builders drown him out with a drill and hammer.

“Well, they’re not going to hold back,” he shouts, laughing.

Stepping into a quiet alley behind 1803 Danforth Avenue, Dyment explains the renovations inside – building a Toronto Tool Library where for $50 a year, people can borrow from a growing list of a thousand tools, from pressure washers to welders to mitre saws.

A short walk east of the Coxwell subway station, the Toronto Tool Library’s Danforth location builds on another that Dyment and Lawrence Alvarez opened in Parkdale last year. Both are executive members of the non-profit Institute for a Resource-Based Economy (IRBE), a group dedicated to building a less consumptive, more environmentally sustainable economy.

“I really like IRBE because it’s trying to address system change,” said Alvarez, giving his drill a rest.

Besides paying less for tools, Alvarez said tool libraries help people to avoid buying a tool they might use only a few hours a year.

“That’s made from stuff in the earth which is finite – a closed system that we can’t make into anything else,” he said. “We’ve got to stop doing that.”

Thanks in part to some generous and well-timed donations, the Danforth tool library will host two big extras the smaller Parkdale location has no room for.

One is a full woodworking shop, complete with a lathe, planer, bandsaw, cabinet table saw, CNC router, scroll saw and jointer.

Dyment said the whole suite and ventilation system came from a single donor. Large table saws are also coming in quick – with more than they need, one worth about $1,000 will be raffled in a contest later this month to anyone who donates more than $100 to the group’s $16,000 crowdfunding campaign.

“People want this stuff to happen – you just have to take the initiative to do it,” Dyment said. “Once you do that, extraordinary stuff comes your way.”

A second feature at the Danforth tool library is that it will host the first Makerspace in east Toronto.

Adam Edwards, renovations foreman at the Danforth location,  got involved with Hacklab and Site 3, two west-side Makerspaces, about six years ago. People meet there to code, tinker with electronics and manufacture goods using 3D printers, laser cutters and milling machines.

“With those tools, you can make pretty much anything,” Edwards said. That includes building his own 3D printers – machines that spit out freshly extruded plastics line by line to build up small goods like switches, gears, even sunglasses.

At the Parkdale library, Edwards put his printer to good use at a Repair Café – a night where people bring broken appliances to be fixed. He met a long line of people with broken lamps that needed small, cheap, but hard or impossible-to-get parts.

For each lamp, Edwards said it took about five minutes to design a part, and another 15 to print it before they had a working replacement and the lights came on.

It was a good example of what Edwards hopes the tool library and Makerspace can do for people.

“Learn how to fix things, learn how to make things – don’t go to Ikea to buy all your furniture,” he said. “Wood is abundant in this country and the tools are here, so just build it yourself.”

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