How to Create a Tool Library

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image by Sam Murphy /

Buying tools is a daunting and expensive undertaking, especially for the budget-crunched and the newly DIY. It can take years, not to mention buckets of money, to build a solid tool collection. 

But what if, instead of plunking down hundreds of dollars for a jackhammer or a jigsaw at the nearest hardware conglomerate, a person could just borrow one from a knowledgeable tool librarian? The hardcore do-it-yourself magazine Make (#18) profiles one such operation, the Santa Rosa Tool Library (www.borrow, which Dustin Zuckerman runs from his Northern California apartment. The rules are simple: Stop by, sign an agreement, and pay late fees if necessary (Zuckerman says overdue tools are rare).

Since he founded the tool-lending library in 2008, Zuckerman has amassed more than 700 tools for all manner of projects big and small: serious woodworking, plumbing, bike and automotive repair, gardening, paint and drywall, you name it. Power tools are particularly popular, he says.

Zuckerman’s outfit is one of several tool-lending libraries that have sprung up around the country over the past 30 years (Wikipedia has an expansive list). It’s the kind of community-based effort that will be essential in the lean years to come.

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