Tool of the Week: Thickness Planer

By Patrick Dunn

Have you ever needed a piece of wood to be just a wee bit thinner for your project? Hardware and lumber stores will never be able to carry every thickness of wood. If you need anything outside their range of options, then you’re going either to have to fork over a couple more bucks to have the piece custom milled or you’re going to have to do a little woodwork yourself. Luckily, thickness planers make this work pretty simple.

A thickness planer allows you to work a board down to just about any thickness you like with relative ease and not a whole lot of required skill. These planers in general have a good bit of variation across makes and models, but all of them are composed of at least two main parts: a cutting head and a set of infeed/outfeed rollers. While the rollers draw the piece through the machine, the cutter head removes a consistent amount of material from the entire width of the piece. Depending on the size and motor of the planer, a piece could be trimmed to size in a single pass or may have to be passed through the planer a few times before reaching its required thickness.

While in days past, you might only find a thickness planer at a sawmill or professional woodshop, the do-it-yourself movement has largely allowed these planers to be available to even a novice woodworker. These scaled down, portable versions, however, are nowhere near as powerful nor as accurate as their far more expensive, professional cousins.

More often than not, the thickness planer is usually the one tool that can separate a casual DIYer from someone who has truly committed to the cause. Without the help of one of these beautiful machines, your projects will either always be limited to the standardized stock at the stores or you will forever be paying extra for someone to do your milling for you.

This is why our Dewalt, 12.5” thickness planer is perhaps one of our most prized tools at The West Seattle Tool Library. We purchased it in near perfect condition from a retired, West Seattle union carpenter about 7 months ago and it has seen steady use from our membership ever since. The real trick to keeping these planers working smoothly is simply to make sure you keep the blades sharp and the whole contraption as clean as possible. With the proper care, tools like these can last a lifetime.

The thickness planer is one of over 1,000 tools available now at the West Seattle Tool Library, which is free to use and run primarily on user donations. If you or someone you know you would like to be involved in The Tool Library, please consider attending one of our bi-weekly meetups or becoming a member.

Follow The West Seattle Tool Library on:
Twitter (@wstoollibrary),
Facebook, (
and Meetup (

Transition Vashon Movie Tonight @ Luna Park Cafe

Transition Vashon will be presenting the second film in their series Films for Transition 2011 tonight at the Luna Park Cafe on Avalon Way right near the West Seattle Bridge underpass.  The film is “Escape from Suburbia,” directed by Greg Greene.

There will be a short introduction period before the film and a brief discussion following the film.

Escape from Suburbia” is a natural follow-up to last month’s film, “The 11th Hour.” While “11th Hour” focused on the scope of the world-wide twin challenges of fossil-fuel depletion and climate change, “Escape” focuses on the personal responses of four couples after they learn the dimensions of peak oil.

This documentary follows the quite varied life changes that these individuals consider as they begin to look for “solutions” in their local areas. The film briefly covers the recent history of U.S. energy policy, and then shows the life experience of the four couples in the first phase of their work to prepare for “powerdown,” as they begin to search for ways they can build resilience and creative engagement with neighbors and community.

For Vashonites, one relevant section of this film is the interviews with city leaders in Willits, CA, a town of between 8,000 to 12,000 people. Willits has begun planning specific changes to build community resilience (as of 2007, when the film was released). As one citizen of Willits remarks, “The opportunity that peak oil presents is to create a whole new focus to our community – for social and economic sustainability.”

The originator of the Transition Town movement, Rob Hopkins, also commented, “Peak Oil could be the opportunity for a huge renaissance for local agriculture, for community, for sustainable manufacturing, and for biodiversity.”

About Transition Vashon

The Transition Vashon working group began in early 2010, as a follow-up project from the Food Summit. The current working-group members number about 15. We want to encourage our island community to begin to lower our energy footprint, localize our economy, and generally make Vashon a more self-reliant and resilient community, so as to better weather the challenges that are likely to be in our future.

The program Films for Transition 2011 is one of the ways we hope to deepen the dialogue among our Vashon friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

Transition Vashon expresess thanks to Sustainable Vashon for a Green Seed grant that helps cover costs of this program. We are grateful to Natalie Sheard for offering Cafe Luna as the program venue, and Peter Ray of Lunavision for arranging to show the film.

For questions and more information contact: Terry Sullivan at 206-463-2812 or Carla deCrona  at 206-462-0034.

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Learn How To Start Plants Indoors at Seattle Tilth Class

Seattle Tilth is hosting a training class for those who might not have a yard.  Start the Garden Indoors is the name of the class, which will be taught at the White Center Cultural Community Center, 9421 18th SW, Room 12.

Learn how to successfully start seeds indoors for the spring and summer veggie garden.  The class will be a two hour session.  Registrqtion is $36 for everyone, or $25 for Seattle Tilth members. Advanced registration and payment are required and can be done at this website

Seattle Tilth Backyard Beekeeping Class @ Youngstown

Seattle Tilth is once again providing classes at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.  This time it’s Backyard Beekeeping 101.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 22, 6:00 to 8:00 pm
  • Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, South classroom

Learn everything you need to get started with your backyard apiary.

The fee is $36, or $25 for Seattle Tilth members. Advanced registration and payment are required and be done at this site:

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Check Out CoolMom’s Updated Website

CoolMom has a new home!

The CoolMom team has been hard at work creating our new website. Check out some really ‘Cool’ stuff by clicking on,

Some CoolMom Housekeeping items:

We now have a ‘Join Now‘ feature that enables CoolMom to collect emails without having to go through our old list manager BigTent.

Subsequently, CoolMom will no longer be using BigTent to communicate with our membership. All communications from the larger organization will take place through our Blog, News section, and through Vertical Response, which manages our newsletter and updates.

Meet the CoolMom Board of Directors. We have some new Board members, Colleen Cooke, Leslie Stanton, and Sanjay Kapoor.

And, check out CoolMom’s new No-Idle Campaign and see how you can help us find Elementary Schools in Seattle.

For more information and for direct communication with our groups, connect with the group Coordinators.

Post-Viaduct Waterfront Vision Program @ Aquarium

Seattle’s Waterfront is changing.

James Corner, Field Operations, the firm which has been selected by the city to design the revised and post-Viaduct waterfront, will be at the Seattle Aquarium on February 17 for a public outreach and engagement opportunity.

James Corner and the project team will present an analysis and aspirations for the waterfront and provide opportunities for the public to engage on design priorities.

The Aquarium is on Alaskan Way just west of Pike Street.

Please RSVP for this event as space is limited.  Use this email link for responding

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Celebrate CoolMom Fundraiser Hosted by Greg Nickels

Celebrate CoolMom and Say “Yes!” to Healthy Families & a Healthy Planet!

CoolMom Board of Directors and Executive Director invite you to Join the Nickels’ in celebration of CoolMom— our local non-profit bridging families with climate change initiatives. Hosted by
former Mayor Greg & Sharon Nickels at their home at 1910 47th Ave SW.

The Fund Raiser and Celebration is Wednesday, February 16, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • Meet the CoolMom community.
  • Share hors d’ oeuvres and beverages.
  • Show your support through silent auction bidding and a direct donation.

To RSVP contact Terri Glaberson, Executive Director, at, or by phone at 206-280-2828.


Bid on the Auction Items online at 32 Auctions here and use these auction ID numbers:

  • Auction ID: CM216
  • Auction Password: cmnickels216

How does this work -Top bidders may not win items online, their bids will be lead bids at the event on Feb 16. Bidders may also give a proxy bid and CoolMom volunteers will ensure your highest bid will be placed on your item(s) of choice. You do not have to be present to win.

To wet your appetite here is a sampling of silent auction items:

  • Seattle Symphony tickets Twilight Exit-lounge and bar
  • Sweet Beauty gift basket Doe Bay $100 gift certificate
  • Evergreen Escapes, Full-day Mt. Rainier Adventure for two

and much more…

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Tool Library “Ask An Expert” Returns This Saturday – Feb. 12

This Saturday drop by the Tool Library, at the Horticulture Center, north end of South Seattle Community College, for another session of “Ask An Expert.”
This interactive feature allows West Seattle neighbors to show up with any kind of question about their house, yard or other items where tool use is required and engage in friendly and informative discussions with members of West Seattle’s Green-Friendly contractor and building trades representatives.
On hand for this Saturday’s session, which is from 10:00 am through 12:00 noon, will be Eric Thomas from  Solar Epiphany,  Laura and Doug Elfline from Mighty House Construction and Josh Brincko of International Studio.  Drop by and bring your questions – below are a few starter questions to get you thinking…
  • How economically can I add solar electric or solar thermal;
  • Can I insulate my house with non-toxic insulation and how does that work;
  • How can I capture the run-off from my roof efficiently;
  • Are thermal windows a good investment;
  • Are green construction techniques more costly than regular methods?

While you’re there, check out a tool from the Tool Library.  Also, if you have extra tools that you’re not using, consider donating them to the Tool LIbrary, Sustainable West Seattle is a 501(c)(3) non-profit which means your donations will be tax-deductible.

Highland Park Movie Night Series Begins Tonight


The Highland Park Improvement Club’s movie series begins this Friday, February 18!

Doors open at 6:30 pm, movie at 7:00 pm. Free admission.

Continuing every third Friday of each month, this series is family friendly and admission is free. Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages will be on sale and adults can bring their beverages of choice.

There will be folding chairs for seating, or feel free to bring blankets and pillows or non- floor-scratching chairs. The movie copyright license does not allow them to advertise the movie title so here’s a hint: Classic 1982 kid and adult friendly sci-fi blockbuster starring Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore.

For more information check out the Highland Park Improvement Club’s website

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