The Northeast branch of the Minnesota Tool Library lies deep inside Central Avenue’s Thorpe Building, 1620 Central Avenue NE, jammed with tools of all sorts, from wrenches to drill presses, hammers to table saws. It and the St. Paul branch are a membership-based non-profit whose motto is “Access over Ownership,” and it’s literally spelled out with tools on a plaque above the front counter.
While the day-to-day is the supply of tools to borrow and space for neighborhood do-it-yourself projects, the NE Tool Library also hosts classes, such as the pair of kids’ woodworking workshops that took place Dec. 22.
These classes, for children 8 to 12 years, offered students the chance to create 12–inch-tall robots from dimensional lumber, fasteners, and other add-on materials. The syllabus noted, “Kids will gain basic experience with tool safety concepts, measuring, tool use and project assembly. With guidance, students will use a hand saw, a drill press, a pad sander and hand wrenches. Parents/guardians are not required to attend, but are welcome. Students will leave with a robot to keep!” Prices for the workshops are $25 to $30.
Manager Thomas Ebert supervised the two, two-hour classes that day, working with ten youngsters and their parents (and an aunt), guiding the students from taking simple blocks of wood to figures with moveable arms, legs and heads. And it wasn’t simple Lego-type snap-ins; the wood pieces were cut, sanded and drilled before assembling into standing “robots,” with students’ hands guided by Ebert at the power tool stations in the shop, including drills and saws with laser guides. Ebert’s own children Ben and Eva were in the early class, creating their robots and giving them artistic faces.
Ebert said the St. Paul Tool Library branch has had classes for Boy and Girl Scout groups. He also hinted that the next Northeast classes might involve CO2-powered model cars and tool carriers.
The Northeast branch got started in a basement space beneath the Diamonds Coffee Shoppe in May, 2015, and a year later moved to its present location, with the help of Fair State Brewing Company.
Below: Eva and Ben with finished robots. Luca and Aunt Robin assemble the robot. Eva tightens the screws on her robot. Ezra’s robot is nearly complete. Luca and Ben show off their constructions. (Photos by Mark Peterson)