West Seattle Tool Library Celebrates 1st Anniversary

It wasn’t long ago that we were scratching the rust off our first donated shovel and tucking it into a small little closet up at SSCC.  A year later, we’ve now got our own space, complete with a full tool storage facility and a 500 square foot, Community Workshop.

Over 230 members have joined up to use a collection that’s well over 1,000 tools by now.  Somewhere along the way, we even managed to receive a few decent awards and a healthy bit of acknowledgment from both local and national media.  Needless to say, it’s been a fun first year!

The best part is that we think it’s only getting better!  If you haven’t stopped by The Tool Library yet, we’d love to see you sometime and hear your thoughts on what this community resource should grow into.  From day one, the volunteers who started The Tool Library have always felt that, in order to be successful, The Tool Library simply needed to represent the interests of those good folks who showed up to play with it.  Consider this your invitation!

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Tool of the Week: The Power Plane

By Patrick Dunn

There’s a beautiful image that comes to mind when you think of an old woodworker in his shop, shaving off a paper thin slice of red cedar with a jack plane as the wood burning stove in the corner helps heat up a kettle of coffee for break time.

This picturesque scene surely still takes place here in Seattle but often there are a few modern conveniences thrown in to alter that nostalgic vision and maybe add a little noise and dust to the recipe. Among other tools, a power plane is usually one of the key culprits…and with good reason.

The power plane is designed to accomplish the same task as a traditional plane, which is mainly to smooth, flatten, straighten, or square off a wooden workpiece. With its additional muscle, however, it can far outperform a traditional plane in terms of speed and productivity. This performance undoubtedly comes at the cost of a little bit of finesse and woodworking poetry. Once you use a power plane, though, it’ll still be difficult to revert back to the aesthetic beauty of traditional planes.

Unlike a traditional plane with a solid base and an adjustable blade, a power plane has front and rear base plates and a non-adjustable blade drum. Rather than adjusting the blade, a user selects how much material to remove simply by rotating the front handle, which raises or lowers the front plate. The difference between the height of the front plate and the rear plate will then determine the amount of material that the plane removes.

Throughout these adjustments, the power plane’s blades remain fixed on a rotating drum, much like on a jointer. The smooth cutting action that results allows the power plane to handle wavy grain or knots with barely a change in pace.

To the inexperienced user, though, that smoothness can be both a help and hindrance, as it makes it much more difficult to feel the cut and to understand what the tool is actually doing. It’s also sometimes hard to tell when the wood grain of a workpiece suddenly changes direction, a variable that is crucial to fine woodworking. Users who are new to power planes and trying for that pretty look therefore often end up with a little cleanup work to do after they’ve completed the planning process.

Once you get the hang of it, though, the power plane can be a thing of beauty, even to the most hardened and stubborn, traditional woodworker.

The Power Plane is just one of over 1,000 tools currently available 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, feel free to drop in on Saturdays from 9am-2pm or Sundays from 1-5pm to explore the Library, meet our community of DIYers, and maybe sign up for a membership. In any case, we look forward to meeting you!

The Tool Library is currently located in the LHO Complex off the North Entrance to South Seattle Community College, 6000 16th Ave SW. In April, however, the Tool Library will complete its move to the Denis Jorum Workshop at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW, and begin full operations at that location.

Follow us on:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/WSToolLibrary
Twitter: @WSToolLibrary
and Meetup: www.meetup.com/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/

http://www.sustainablewestseattle.org/tool-library/

Tool Library tool of the week: Hammer Drill

By Patrick Dunn

Some folks have a downright fear of drilling through masonry, even if it’s just to hang a picture. Though largely irrational, it’s still understandable. After all, masonry can eat drill bits, especially if you use the wrong kind. And the actual drilling often takes forever, especially if you use the wrong drill. That’s why it’s almost a heavenly experience when a person finally picks up a hammer drill and a masonry bit and realizes that the job is actually a heck of a lot easier than they’re making it.

A hammer drill works a lot like a regular power drill with one extremely important feature. Instead of just spinning a drill bit, a hammer drill also creates a percussion effect that rapidly hammers a bit into the material at a rate of thousands of blows per minute. The spinning action can then draw the waste material out of the hole. While it’s a simple little feature, that percussion is what allows a user to easily drill hole after hole into common masonry, rock, and concrete. As an added bonus, you can also simply turn off the percussion and use a hammer drill on wood, drywall, and other, less dense materials just as you would use a normal power drill.

With all this effectiveness and versatility, it’s no wonder that a hammer drill is often a prized tool among contractors and DIYers alike. The only real trick is figuring out which type of hammer drill meets your needs: the percussion hammer drill or its brute cousin, the rotary hammer. Both drills can perform largely the same task, but rotary hammers do it with a strength that puts the standard percussion drill to shame.

The cause of the added power is the rotary hammer’s piston mechanism, which delivers a much stronger blow than the percussion drill’s specialized chuck. By using a piston rather than the chuck to generate the percussion, a rotary hammer can actually deliver its blows without spinning the bit, which effectively can turn it into a little manageable jackhammer with the flick of a switch.

That power and function comes at a price, though, which often makes rotary hammers the domain of professional contractors rather than homeowners or DIYers. But if all you need to do is drill a few holes in your foundation, the percussion drill will do just fine.

Luckily, a percussion hammer drill 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, feel free to drop in on our Ask an Expert event this Saturday from 10am-Noon to explore the Library, meet our community of DIYers, and maybe sign up for a membership. In any case, we look forward to seeing you there!

The Tool Library is located in the LHO Complex off the North Entrance to South Seattle Community College, 6000 16th Ave SW.

Follow us on:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/WSToolLibrary
Twitter: @WSToolLibrary
and Meetup: www.meetup.com/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/


Tool Library Tool of the Week: Handscrew Clamps

By Patrick Dunn

For the workshop dreamers among us, it’s always a tough reality to face. You decide that it’s finally time to get all the tools you need to truly supply your new home workshop. Visions of routers, table saws, bandsaws, and jointers all dance in your head. Norm Abrams and Bob Villa start popping up in your dreams. You even start to design a workflow plan for your garage that’ll allow you to glide from one gloriously shiny new tool to the other, as if choreographing a woodworker’s waltz. This all continues until the day you have that horrible realization. If you’re actually going to have a workshop, before you get any that fancy stuff, one of the first things you’re going to need is probably just a lot of plain old, boring clamps.

Luckily, there’s a huge selection to choose from and plenty of great opportunities to spend your whole budget on clamps alone. When the objective of the tool is simply to hold a couple things in place or apply some pressure, the designs inevitably become vast and varied. Nonetheless, some clamps are definitely cooler than others and the handscrew clamp probably qualifies as one of the more interesting clamps in The Tool Library’s collection.

Though it may look all antique and specialized, it basically does the same job as most other clamps. The real advantage of the handscrew, though, is that the pressure it exerts can be spread out over the surface of the jaws, from the spindles to the tips. Most clamps, such as C and G clamps, usually just apply a single point of pressure and need to be teamed up with some sort of support in over to be effective at securing a larger surface.

The great thing about the handscrew clamp is that it can also apply this pinpoint pressure as well. With a little adjustment of the screws, it can actually reach over and around a surface that doesn’t need to be clamped and still grab one that does. It’s a beautiful tool, by any definition.
Handscrew clamps are just a small part of over 1,000 tools currently available 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, feel free to drop in on Saturdays from 9am-2pm or Sundays from 1-5pm to explore the Library, meet our community of DIYers, and maybe sign up for a membership. In any case, we would look forward to meeting you!

The Tool Library is located in the LHO Complex off the North Entrance to South Seattle Community College, 6000 16th Ave SW.

Follow us on:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/WSToolLibrary
Twitter: @WSToolLibrary
and Meetup: www.meetup.com/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/

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, (facebook.com/WSToolLibrary)
and Meetup (meetup.com/West-Seattle-Tool-Library).

Tool of the Week: Hand Held Circular Saw

By Amanda Leonard

One of the most popular and heavily used power tools is the hand held circular saw. You’ve probably seen them on just about every do-it-yourself show out there. Believe it or not, stationary circular saws have actually been around since the late 1770’s, though they weren’t available in a hand held form until 1923.

The basic circular saw uses a rotating blade to make relatively straight cuts across a piece of material. Though the hand held version is the type most people think of when circular saw is mentioned, there are also a wide variety of other circular saws such as miter saws, radial arm saws, table saws, and biscuit joiners. The beauty of a hand held version is that, instead of moving the wood across the blade, the blade moves across the wood. This allows for much more flexibility in the angle or length of the cut.

A circular saw blade is composed of a metal disc with teeth near the edges. These teeth are often specialized for the material you are cutting such as wood, plywood, or metal, but there are also multipurpose blades that can handle just about anything with some degree of success. Tip: When cutting plywood or laminate, use masking tape over your cut line and cut with the material upside down. This will help you obtain a clean cut without excessive chipping.

Another feature of the hand held circular saw is the ability to adjust the angle and depth of the saw blade. By adjusting the angles, a DIY’er can create more sophisticated joints in all sorts of projects, from trim work to furniture making. Adjusting the blade depth, on the other hand, simply limits the blades exposure and helps control kickback, which can be dangerous to both person and project. Tip: Set the blade so that the bottom of the blade is no more than 1/8” to 1/4” below the material. Remember to always unplug power tools when making these adjustments.

The hand held circular saw is a very powerful and potentially dangerous tool so always be aware of the blade, which is whipping around at a few thousand rotations per minute, and wear those safety goggles! You also might like to be aware of what’s underneath the material you are cutting. It’s never fun to get have way through a cut and then suddenly slice through the power cord. Of course, if you’re someone who’s prone to such mistakes, you could avoid cutting the power cord altogether by trying out one of the cordless options from the Tool Library.

For more tips and tricks to using the circular saw and other power tools, check out the new Power Tools 101 course offered in partnership with The Tool Library by South Seattle Community College. Amy Ecklund from Amy Works will be instructing the class on using power tools safely and effectively. To sign up for this course and more DIY home maintenance courses, visit www.learnatsouth.com.

The hand held circular saw (corded or cordless) 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, (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/132474963463223)
and Meetup (http://www.meetup.com/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/).

Tool of the Week: The Brace

by Patrick Dunn

Some tools just stand the test of time, regardless of technological advances. The brace, in all its simplicity, is one of those modern tool dinosaurs. First developed sometime in the 15th century, the manual brace hasn’t really changed much over all those years. Aside from its transition to steel, the only real advance has probably been the introduction of a ratchet mechanism somewhere along the line that allowed a user to maximize the tool’s torque when operating in a cramped environment.

The brace is composed of a U-shaped crank with two free floating handles, one on the end of the brace that fits in the palm of a user’s hand to provide the pressure and one at the base of the U that a user grips to turn the crank and provide the power. The chuck on most braces is slightly different from that of a modern power drill. Rather than being designed to accept the common, straight-shanked drill bit, braces usually have V-shaped brackets, which are actually designed to accept square-shanked bits. Though likely out of mass production, these square bits can commonly be found at garage sales. So opportunities surely abound if you’d really love to get into using a brace, as woodworkers have for centuries.

For most uses, though, the brace has largely been replaced by a variety of power drills, which are often able to complete the same task in a fraction of the time. Modern power drills also offer more accuracy, as the user’s hands and arms can remain in relatively the same position throughout the drilling process.

Nonetheless, the brace definitely still has its uses. In fact, they still often reside in the toolboxes of those who occasionally work with larger fastenings or who work away from a power supply for longer periods of time. And, if you’re a tool aficionado, they’re actually quite fun.

The brace is one of over 1,000 tools currently available at The West Seattle Tool Library. Located at The South Seattle Community College Garden Center, The Tool Library is open on Saturdays from 9am-2pm and Sundays from 1-5pm. This Saturday, January 22nd, from 10am to noon, The Tool Library will host “Ask an Expert for the Do-It-Yourselfer,” which features free advice and shared knowledge from a rotating cast of local experts.

For more information, visit sustainablewestseattle.org/tool-library
or follow The Tool Library on:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/132474963463223
Meetup: meetup.com/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/
or Twitter: @wstoollibrary

Tool of the Week: Jack plane

By Micah Summers

This week at The West Seattle Tool Library, I unearth one of carpentry’s oldest (and most useful) modern tools, the jack plane, which is a general-purpose bench plane. This particular plane, the Stanley No. 5 ¼, predates World War II but has been fully refurbished and cleaned for use. The term jack refers to the ‘jack of all trades’ saying, in that this plane can perform the duties of both smoothing and jointing planes.

Smoothing refers to a means of finishing a flat wood surface by shaving off thin slices. Done to perfection, this method can actually produce a finished surface of higher quality than any created by sandpaper. Jointing, on the other hand, is the process of straightening an edge of a piece of wood, usually with the intent of jointing it to another equally straightened piece. As you might imagine, a smoothing plane is actually the best plane for smoothing and a jointer plane, or try plane, is the best for jointing. The jack plane, however, is the workhouse, and often the most used plane in a woodworker’s collection.

Much of the traditional work of these hand planes has been replaced today with various sorts of power planes and sanders, which are often a little easier to use and produce a rather similar result in a fraction of the time. Hand planes are certainly still is use, though, since these old tools last forever, if properly maintained. In fact, to this day, you’re probably bound to see a set of planes in any decent woodworker’s shop around Seattle, either stored on the shelf or busy shaving off a bit of yellow cedar.

The jack plane is just 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. Our next meetup is scheduled for December 22nd, 7pm, at Uptown Espresso in Alaska Junction.

And if you’re looking for a unique gift-idea, Tool Library Gift Memberships are now available online! http://www.sustainablewestseattle.org/tool-library/holiday-gift-memberships

Follow The West Seattle Tool Library on:
Twitter (@wstoollibrary),
Facebook, (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/132474963463223)
and Meetup (http://www.meetup.com/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/).

Tool of the Week: Profile sander

by Micah Summers

At The West Seattle Tool Library, we’ve been thankful and fortunate to receive a large number of unique donations, from brand-new tools to obscure, vintage items. Today I’m writing about a tool donation that came to us nearly unused, a Porter Cable profile sander.

If you’ve ever tried to refinish a piece of old furniture or prepare fine woodworking for that gorgeous finish coat, then you’ve likely discovered that most power sanders aren’t too useful when it comes to the small details. The profile sander is a multi-function sander specifically tailored for working on that small stuff.

The most common attachment, or profile, for this sander is a triangular profile that’s able to reach into the corners and edges of flat surfaces. This particular sander also comes with a set of hard rubber profiles, however, that allow you to sand rounded, convex, or even concave surfaces easily and efficiently.

All of these profiles attachments can make use of standard, hand-cut sheets of sandpaper, eliminating the need for expensive specialty sandpaper. This amazingly useful tool also features a handy dust collection system and a powerful 1.8 amp variable speed motor.

The profile sander is just one of 1000+ tools available now at the West Seattle Tool Library, which is free to use and run primarily on member donations. Feel free to come over and check it out!

In the meantime, visit us at sustainablewestseattle.org/tool-library for more information or to take a look at our inventory. And if you’re looking for a unique gift-idea, Tool Library Gift Memberships are now available online! Visit http://www.sustainablewestseattle.org/tool-library/holiday-gift-membersh… to sign up today.

Follow The West Seattle Tool Library on Twitter (@wstoollibrary) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Seattle-WA/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/13247…).

Tool of the Week: Draw knife

By Micah Summers

At The West Seattle Tool Library, we’ve been thankful and fortunate to receive a large number of unique donations.

Over the last year, we’ve received everything from 100 year-old, vintage tools to those that have barely been touched. Today, I’m writing about one of our many relatively unique tools, the draw knife, which is a tool for wood carving.

A long (typically 6-12″) blade is secured between two handles. The user pulls, or draws, the knife towards himself along a rough log or long piece of wood. Common uses are to debark wood or to shape furniture, boat spars or virtually any larger, carved wood piece.

A draw knife tool had one of its handles replaced seemingly decades ago but remains fully functional and a lot of fun to use.

Based on its construction, this particular draw knife likely dates between 1920 and 1940. It is just one of 1000+ tools available now at the West Seattle Tool Library, which is free to use and run mostly on member donations.

Visit us at sustainablewestseattle.org/tool-library for more information or to take a look at our inventory.