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:
Twitter: @WSToolLibrary
and Meetup:

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

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, (!/pages/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/132474963463223)
and Meetup (

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!

Follow The West Seattle Tool Library on:
Twitter (@wstoollibrary),
Facebook, (!/pages/West-Seattle-Tool-Library/132474963463223)
and Meetup (

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 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… to sign up today.

Follow The West Seattle Tool Library on Twitter (@wstoollibrary) and Facebook (…).

Sustainable West Seattle Gets its 501c3 Status

…With Help From Fenwick & West, LLP

On June 8, 2010, Sustainable West Seattle achieved a great landmark in the life of any non-profit organization by officially receiving its 501c3 status from the Internal Revenue Service.

While making donations to SWS tax-deductable, this status may also enable SWS to serve as a fiscal sponsor for small, local, sustainable projects that are unable to receive funding from most private organizations, government agencies or other funders.  Both of these new found abilities will enable Sustainable West Seattle to vastly improve our efforts to pursue our mission and increase the sustainability of our local community.

The SWS Coordinating Council put a tremendous amount of effort into reaching this goal.  But we also benefited greatly from the pro-bono legal services of Adam Andrews and Bill Bromfield at Fenwick & West LLP, a national law firm that provides comprehensive legal services to technology and life sciences clients of national and international prominence.

For more than 30 years, Fenwick & West has served its community by offering legal services to those that could not otherwise afford effective legal counsel.  In the past two years alone, Fenwick & West attorneys have logged well over 14,000 pro bono hours and have been recognized for both the volume and the quality of their work.

As if SWS and its members needed another reason to celebrate Fenwick & West beyond their help with our 501c3 status, they also happen to be a national, environmental leader in the legal industry through their commitment to sustainable business practices.

Down at their Mountain View, CA headquarters in Silicon Valley, Fenwick & West became the first law firm to be certified by Santa Clara County as an environmentally sustainable “Green Business” for their conservation efforts.

Fenwick & West was also the first law firm in the United States to secure a LEED-CI Platinum designation for their Seattle office, and later the same year, received LEED-EB Gold certification for the Mountain View headquarters.  In addition, Fenwick & West LLP’s Boise office location has been certified as LEED Platinum and their San Francisco office is currently being evaluated for its own LEED status.

As always, Sustainable West Seattle is glad to see industry leaders taking the steps necessary to lead our communities into a sustainable future.  We are honored that, as a part of that leadership, Fenwick & West chose to support Sustainable West Seattle in our goal of advocating, creating, and educating for urban sustainability here in West Seattle.

We can’t thank them enough!

Seattle Parks Seeks Names for 2 Ballard, 1 West Seattle Park


Seattle Parks and Recreation invites the public to submit potential names for parks in the Ballard and West Seattle neighborhoods. Suggestions for names are due to the Park Naming Committee by Wednesday, June 2.

The following parks, characterized here by their working names, are undergoing the naming process:

9th Avenue NW: This site was purchased with 2000 Pro Parks Levy funds and now, as a result of the 2008 Parks & Greens Spaces Levy, there is funding to develop this site into a brand new park.  The public process involved three community meetings, which provided valuable design direction. The design most preferred at the final public meeting includes a community garden at the north end, a sitting wall enclosed space to recall an old building foundation, an open lawn, a “sledding hill” and a small play area at the south end. There is a planted buffer along the back edge with a trail for unstructured play.  Construction on the site is scheduled to begin in August 2010, with completion anticipated in spring 2011. For more information, please visit

Crown Hill School Open Space: This project, located at Holman Rd NW and 13th Ave NW, renovates existing ballfields and adjacent newly acquisitioned land. Pedestrian circulation, celebrated entries, open space, areas for play, a newly renovated field, seating, and plantings are among the many elements being considered.  The project was put on hold in 2006 after Seattle Public Schools declared the property a surplus, and put it up for sale. The City of Seattle purchased the property in March 2009 for $5.4 million. This 1.71-acre acquisition fulfills one of Crown Hill’s longstanding community goals in its neighborhood plan.  Seattle Parks and Recreation has dusted off the conceptual plans that were last presented to the community in 2006, and is moving forward. Parks has re-established the design team with the appropriate sub-consultants, reviewing comments and results from the earlier process, and is defining a preferred schematic plan based on past and current conditions.  Parks and Green Spaces Levy development funding of $1.2 million will contribute to completing the design and construction of the park.  Parks will host the first public meeting on this project since 2006 on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at Crown Hill Center. 9250 14th Ave NW.  Fire Station 35 is using a portion of the Holman Road frontage for temporary use while its permanent facility is being upgraded. Construction of the site is projected for spring 2011, with an anticipated completion in the fall of 2011.  For more information, please visit

High Point Playfield: The High Point Playfield is located at 6920 34th Ave. SW. The site was acquired in 1977 from the Seattle Housing Authority. It is a little over 11 acres and was developed in 1980 as a playfield. The site consists of two baseball fields and a lighted sand soccer field used primarily by recreational sports groups.

Please submit suggestions for park names in writing by June 2, 2010, and include an explanation of how your suggestion matches the naming criteria. Send suggestions to Seattle Parks and Recreation, Park Naming Committee, 100 Dexter Ave. N, Seattle, WA 98109, or by e-mail to In keeping with Seattle’s “Paper Cuts” program, Parks encourages electronic submissions.

Improvements for Matching Fund Applicants

Beginning January, 2010, the Department of Neighborhoods will be using revised guidelines for the Neighborhood Matching Fund programs which make the application easier to use, and which change the dollar amounts involved for both citizen input (worth of an hour of citizen time goes up to $20/hr from $15/hr) and for the upper limit for some of the smaller programs (small grants now allow up to $20,000).

To read more, check out the SWS News page.

CoolMom 2nd Annual Holiday Toy Swap & Sale

It’s baaaccckkkk! CoolMom’s 2nd Annual Toy Swap’n’Sale!

Get ready for a really big show at the Fauntleroy Church, 9140 California Ave. SW (Barton & California), right across from the Fauntleroy School.

Jumpstart your holiday shopping, save money, and lower your carbon footprint. Help the West Seattle CoolMoms tread lighter on the planet this holiday season and raise funds for three very deserving organizations (CoolMom, WestSide Baby, and Family Works). There also will be information on how to make your holiday greener.

Three things need to happen to make it an even bigger success this year:

  1. Spread the word, go to and download the flyer and post it throughout your neighborhood.
  2. Donate towards the event! Gently used toys and gear. Not only is your donation tax-deductible, but it also awards you a $5 credit at the sale
  3. Come to the sale and shop your heart out!

CoolMom has partnered with WestSide Baby and Family Works for this year’s Toy Swap ‘n’ Sale. Help these CoolMom communities tread lighter on the planet this holiday season and raise funds for three very deserving organizations.

CoolMom wants to help families reduce spending and their carbon footprint this holiday season. From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste in the United States increases by more than 25%. By buying locally used toys instead of newly packaged toys purchased at several stores throughout the state or country, families can reduce their travel fuel consumption and reduce their impact on our recycling and landfill centers. Buying quality used toys also saves families money, which helps in these tough economic times.

How to Donate

  • De-clutter and detach from all the unused toys and gear in that closet/garage.
  • Bag up your items: toys, sports clothes and products, baby gear, etc. (no clothing or car seats)
  • Donate your items at one of our 8 West Seattle locations  before 4pm Wednesday, November 11
  • Include your name on your donation bag (or on a slip of paper inside the bag)
  • Receive a $5 credit towards your purchase on the day of the sale.
  • Come to the sale, redeem your credit, and shop!

Donation Locations

  1. PCC West Seattle
  2. Husky Deli
  3. Gatewood Elementary School
  4. Arbor Heights Elementary School
  5. Community School of West Seattle
  6. Pathfinder School (new location)
  7. C&P Coffee
  8. Alki Co-op Preschool