More Little Free Libraries

A while ago a friend asked for a new little free library as a gift for his parents. I was happy to have the chance to create a new design and even happier to make another book box for someone’s front yard.

Little Free Library with red sides, pine trim, and clear plastic window which is here covered with protective paper

This model uses some slightly different materials from previous ones I’ve done. Specifically I used much thinner plywood (1/4” rather than 1/2”) and so as a result had to create thicker joints to help it all stay together. To do this I used 1×2 pine strapping and wood glue to frame the sides and top.

Plywood sides clamped with pine strapping.

Plywood sides clamped with pine strapping.

Clamps are awesome. You never really can have too many clamps. Had I been more clever I would have used some sacrificial blanks between the 1/2” strapping and the clamp face; it is possible to sand out clamp impressions, but it’s even easier to avoid them.

Pre-assembled library sides and shelves.

Some quarter-round helped create an inside joint to work with. These were glued on first, then reinforced with brads and penny-weight nails.

Red plywood sides with glued-up shelves.

The front is a joined frame with plexiglass for a window. This picture shows glueing the front up and using the weight of the library to keep the joints flush. You can see the strap clamp ready to cinch the frame tight underneath the library.

Half-made Library clamping up front frame

The hinges were counter-sunk to ensure a flush fit of the door.

Hinges are are aligned and fitted to the front door before any pilot holes are drilled. It’s easy to line up and place the hinges before the door is attached, although it’s always a great idea to measure twice and cut once.

Check out the shop dog.

Half-made library with shop dog in the background

A bit of cedar shingling and an outside edge finish off the roof. Copper nails help fasten the shingles to the roof. It’s ok if they buckle with wear, but they should still stay attached.

Mostly-finished little free library.

The plexiglass is screwed into the frame to secure it. It’s important to pre-drill pilot holes and to use pan-head screws when attaching the plexiglass. Otherwise the plastic will crack and break. The protective brown paper can be removed by the new owner upon delivery. Once everything is painted to preference, it’s easy to re-attach the plexiglass (because it’s designed to be removed when painting) and then apply a small bead of caulking to the outside if rain becomes an issue.

Finally, a small collar is fitted onto the bottom and centred on the base to ensure proper weighting and balance; it’s interior dimensions accept a standard 4×4 post.

If you are new to making or building, remember that it’s always easier to build to what is seen. Mistakes will almost always happen, and there are lots of creative ways to hide them as long as the finished product is plumb and justified.

A finished little free library with red plywood panels and pine trim. Plastic window covered in protective brown film.

Toolbox Kits for Free

We built these little toolbox kits (mentioned previously here) as a way to carry project supplies that are more than you can carry in two hands but less than a honkin’ big toolbox. 

Hand-made wooden toolboxes
Toolboxes and toolbox kits

The idea is simple, really: take a standard 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood and some doweling and make a simple device that carries well and holds a decent amount of tools. 

The main feature of this design is the angled side. This works with the slightly off-centre handle to tilt the toolbox so that it rests alongside your leg without bumping into it. Even full (and it still has a pretty good capacity) it won’t bump into the backs of your knees and it is super easy to carry up and down stairs. 

Cantilevers hand-made wooden toolbox
This toolbox sits flush against your leg and even when full doesn’t bump your knees.

We also built kits–unmade toolboxes–that are an easy-to-accomplish project for anyone looking for a wee bit of a challenge. 

The kit is easy to put together with some clamps and a drill. No glue is needed, and assembly takes about half an hour. The trick here is to make sure that all the cuts are flush and true. This will make the assembly way easier and will also give you square corners. Therefore, it is a good idea to use a table saw, chop saw, and/or hand-held circular saw–with fence or guide–when cutting the stock. It’s also a great idea to use a drillbit exactly the same size as the dowel you intend to use for the handle so it is easy to snug-fit in place until you fasten it. You can use 2″ and 1 1/2″ #8 screws for the body and 1″ #10 screws to secure the handles. 2″ Brads and a compressed-air nail gun work well too. 

Here’s a simple how-to:

  1. Start with a flat surface; a level workbench is better than the floor because you will need to do some drilling. Insert the dowel into the two holes in the end pieces and place the three now-assembled pieces on the flat surface. The carrying bar should be at the top. 
  2. Place the bottom piece (the biggest one) flat between the two end pieces and make sure all the corners are flush. 
  3. Clamp the pieces together / down as best you can so nothing moves. 
  4. Drill pilot holes from the sides into the bottom taking great care to drill flush and level. Drive the screws into the bottom from the pilot holes you created on the sides to secure the sides to the bottom. 
  5. Repeat this for the back and sides, using clamps to make sure the corners stay flush. You can also drive a few screws from the bottom into the front and back pieces to make extra sure if you like. Totally optional. 
  6. Clamp the sides to be flush with the carry handle (the dowel you inserted in step 1) and drive small pilot holes from the side into the dowel. This will secure the handle in place. You probably want to use smaller screws and a smaller diameter pilot hole. 

That’s it. You should have a toolbox. 

But there’s one more thing. 

We built these toolboxes and kits to give away. The idea is that if you can give someone something to build, then that’s more than just giving them a gift; it’s a gift that has the potential to create a maker, or at the very least to give someone new to making a chance to be successful. 

You should try it too–build something you can give, and something you can give away. Let us know if you do and we’ll share your story here. 

Three-up view of handmade wooden toolboxes
Wooden hand-made toolboxes

Good Times at the Market

We went out to the Sam Smith Farmers’ Market again today and had a great time!

Our new project this week was the Boo-gly eyes made from LEDs and ping pong balls (thanks to Everyday with Rachael Ray for the inspiration). 

scary halloween eyes made from ping pong balls and LEDs
Make these scary eyeballs from ping pong balls and LEDs

The stomp rockets were once again a big hit with the kids, but it seems we need to find a convenient bellows-action hook-up for re-inflating the launch pod (pop bottle).

The tool drive continued with a few more donations coming in. If you are interested in donating any hand tools to the tool drive contact us. 

Despite the early-morning rain the sun came out and the market enjoyed a glorious fall morning. 

We plan on being at the last few markets of the season, which is until the end of October. 

We hope to see you there!

Toolbox Workshop – Update

After a busy summer spent vacationing and having heaps of maker-y fun it’s time for an update on the toolbox workshop idea proposed here.

We have been talking with the good folks at the Sam Smith Farmer’s Market ( and are planning on bringing some tool box kits to a booth at the market in the coming weeks. This is an opportunity to come out, buy or make a kit, and maybe even drop off some tools as a donation to those who need them. 

These kits are slightly modified from the one shown in the original post; these toolboxes are slightly cantilevered to hang more naturally against the leg. It looks a bit counter-intuitive but the off-set centre handle and the low-rise front panel make it very easy to throw a whack of project tools in the box quickly and still carry it with ease. Toolboxes that have handles on-centre force the carrier to hold his or her arm own arm unnaturally proud from the hip, which causes fatigue and sometimes dents in the wall or bruises on the leg.

These toolboxes are designed to hold a good bit of kit while snugging comfortably up against the carrier’s thigh. They can be fastened with brads, nails, or screws and are  lightweight, sturdy, ample, and easily portable. The kits are all custom made-to-measure and easy to assemble as long as you have a flat surface on which to work.

Confirmed dates will be posted here at

DIY toolbox
You, too, can make your very own toolbox

Young Makers: Back to School DIY Pencil Case

One of our young Makers was inspired by a YouTube DIY video and created this mouth wateringly-attractive pencil case.

This project only needs a few materials, which are all easy to get:

  • a package of candies
  • A small zipper
  • Duct tape
  • Hot glue (I.e., a hot glue gun)
Candy wrapper pencil case with duct tape inside and zipper
Use the wrapper from a package of candies, duct tape, hot glue, and a zipper to make this pencil case

Tool Drive and Tool Box Workshop

As just about everyone knows there are a lot of families leaving Syria and coming to Toronto. Recently we reached out to Lakeshore Syrian Connection, a local group who will be helping a family come to the New Toronto community with an idea about how we could help out. One of the things that could make coming to a new city a bit easier is having some hand tools. Buying new tools can be expensive, but many people have some tools lying around that they might be able to easily pass on to hands that need them.

So, we’re going to run a tool drive and see if we can gather enough tools to gift newcomer refugee families with a small kit to help fix little things around the house.

Chances are, most families coming to Toronto will be settling in apartments or shared living spaces, so we aren’t looking for large items like table saws, lathes, or drill presses – despite those being very exciting tools to have donated.

Maybe you have some extra tools lying around the house – or have a relative with too many to use. Of course, new tools are also welcome if you want to bring those in as well.

We are partnering with the 1st Lakeshore Scouts to get things underway. The Scout group will be running their annual Dirt Drive to fundraise and it’s a chance for some symbiotic community giving-back.

We are looking for the following new, gently used, or in good working order tools, for example:

  • Hammer
  • Hand saw
  • Screw drivers
  • Level
  • Square
  • Pliers
  • Snips
  • Hand drill
  • Drill bits
  • Tape measures
  • Clamps

We are also going to be building some simple tool boxes to hold the tool donation and will be running a make-a-toolbox workshop: you, too, can make your very own toolbox!

We’ll have a number of pre-cut templates that can be bought on-site (for a small fee) and assembled with tools we’ll have there. The toolboxes can be made in an hour or two depending on how much you will be able to do on your own. Of course, we’ll be around and able to lend a hand or give some advice.

Here’s a sample toolbox that we whipped together one Sunday afternoon. This is the same model we’ll be using for the make-your-own project.

A toolbox that you can make too!

We haven’t finalized all the details yet, but will be coming in the next few weeks; check back here for updates.

Make: Simple Wooden Toolbox

Looking around the shop we saw just too much obtanium for the available space. So, in order to clear out a bit of room and also to kick-start a new project, we made a little wooden toolbox. 


re-using wood to make a toolbox
Obtanium becomes Usefulonium
This model is very straight-forward using 1/2″ sides and bottom, with 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ pine rails. The bottom and sides are flush against the sides. This allows the fastener screws to also act as strength reinforcements for the bottom. This does run the risk of splitting the 1/2″ bottom if the pilot holes aren’t carefully aligned, but there should still be enough material to work with.


clamping up square corners
Clamps are Awesome!
It’s possible to add another rail on top of the 3 and a half inch height in this one, but this model does make it easier to put tools in and pull them out without knocking against them.

finished toolbox
Handy Dandy Toolbox Made From Obtanium

Etching at New Toronto Makeshore

We recently acquired a Silhouette Cameo (which was also recently reviewed by Make Magazine in Issue 48, the Ultimate Guide to Desktop Fabrication). It’s a pretty cool crafting tool with which it’s fast and easy to cut paper, vinyl, fabric, and a few other materials. One of the kits that came along with the unit was an etching kit. We tried it out and etched some glass-ware to see what we could do.

The first thing to know about using a vinyl cutter to etch glass is that you don’t want to be too-smart-by-half. It’s easy to think that you’ll be creating curlicues and filigree but that’s just silly. Block letters and bold patterns are much easier to transfer and work with. Fancy-schmancy designs are a bit too tricky. Not that it’s not possible to do fine work, just that it’s hard to hook and transfer if you have too-fine a line or too-delicate an island. Any time you have a section that is not connected to any other section you’re going to end up finagling dots and wee tiny bits. And that can be very frustrating, especially if you have the misfortune to have removed some of the glue when hooking out the negative spaces of the vinyl.

Hooking is when you remove the pieces of the vinyl that you don’t want. There’s a little hook that you use to pick the pieces out. The trouble is two-fold. One, the knife doesn’t always cut completely through the vinyl, which means that there’s a bit of an effort needed to separate the two sides of the cut. Second, the finer the cut-out, the more difficult it will be to hook out and the higher the chance of removing the glue on the underside of the vinyl. If there isn’t enough glue on the vinyl when it’s transferred to the glass it will not stick properly and the final as-etched lines won’t be very clean. That can be disappointing, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time getting the hooking right.

So, don’t get too-smart-by-half.

Another thing to keep in mind is the curvature of the surface you’re trying to etch. If your stencil is too big, the vinyl too stiff, and the glass is too curved, the stencil won’t stick properly and the lines won’t be clean. Thinner vinyl, bigger fonts, and simple patterns result in better etching.

But once the hooking is done and the vinyl is transferred to the glass, it‘s pretty easy to apply the etching cream and get the design onto the glass, The etching cream can be re-used as long as it doesn’t dry out, so there’s a working window of about one or two minutes maximum. Apply, wait, scrape off, wipe remaining cream off with a paper towel, and wash from the glass. That’s it. Pretty easy.

And, it looks nice when you’ve created something that didn’t exist before you made that little bit of effort.

Etched Beer Mug
New Toronto Makeshore Etched Beer Mug
Allowance Jars
Spend, Save, Give for allowance and earned money.
Etching in progress
Applying the etching creme
Etching some Canadian action
The maple leaf makes it taste better.

Little Free Libraries

We’ve had some action lately building little free libraries.

The basic model is based on a typical 1/4″ or 1/2″ 4′ x 8′ piece of one-side-good plywood cut into 1′ x 4′ lengths. From there it’s easy to cut out the backs and sides to make a simple box, roof, and a shelf. Cedar shingles to finish off the roof are a nice touch, and pretty easy to apply. A simple piece of angled trim makes a nice cap rail for the roof line. As per usual, we’re grateful for our good friends Frank and Dave at Lakeshore Lumber for supplying the wood and hardware, and even going so far as to help cut the 4′ lengths.

The recent addition of two tools (a square corner-set found at ReStore and an air compressor with nailing head) make all the difference in putting this together. Seriously, the nailing head and the air compressor make this so much easier. Trying to tap the nails in while holding everything even would be a total pain. Gluing the joints before setting them also helps with stability.

The larger one measures 12″ x 19 1/2″ x 24″ and needed some extra support for the bottom; hence the width-spanning brace underneath that both adds extra rigidity to the base and creates a housing for a set-post. Some simple halved-joints made it easy to create the post housing.

Next-time additions could include dormers, skylights, lights for night-time browsing, or maybe even a Little Free Library LibraryBox…?…

Little Free Library Post Housing
Some simple halved-joints make creating a supported base and post housing a 2-for-1 double-plus.
Little Free Libraries
Two naked Little Free Libraries with open doors.

Pintail Skateboard

We made a skateboard using the Roarockit thin air press (TAP) kit.

It took longer than anticipated, and there were a few surprises along the way, but the end product is a successful pintail skateboard that is sturdy and smooth.

The deck is all from the Roarockit kit, and this model incorporates a piece of red veneer as the centre layer for a bit of flash. They said the dye permeated right-through, but it didn’t turn out that way when actually cut into. Nevertheless, the end result is a clearly visible streak of red in the middle layer of the deck.

The trucks, wheels, and bearings were all courtesy of the Longboard Living skate shop in Kensington Market.

Deck screws, helmet, and a good bit of friendly advice thanks to CJ Skatepark and school.

The vinyl decal was printed/cut at Graphic Print and Copies, another New Toronto shop.

Using the TAP bag from the kit was pretty easy. The first surprise came, though, upon reading the internal instructions, which say to glue the first three layers, then the second three layers, then the last two layers. This increased the amount of time needed to complete the deck by several days. The expectation was that the deck would be glued-up after eight hours; the reality was that it took three eight-hour sessions with the TAP bag. Not bad, but unexpected.

Rasping off the edges was a snap. The tool included with the kit worked very effectively and it was easy to sculpt the edges of the deck down to the correct profile.

Sanding down the edges was also pretty easy, but did take determination.

Sanding down the deck surface took several sessions as well. Starting with 80 grit, then 120, then 220, then 300 and finally 400 produced a beautiful surface on the maple veneer.

The finish for this deck was spar varnish. Stinky stuff. Not sure it will be used in the next deck. The biggest challenge was getting a smooth surface without burning through the layer; unfortunately this was not an entirely successful result. There are a few spots where the layers show through but generally speaking it’s a nice result.

This deck also incorporates a vinyl decal. To make sure that the deck was preserved properly, the decal only went on after three layers of finish. That ensured that the deck was completely sealed, and there was enough varnish to even out the drips and what-not. There are another 4 layers of varnish on top of the decal, and the profile on the deck face is almost smooth – only a wee bit of a bump where the decal is applied.

Sanding of each layer was 220 – 400 grit. The final layer was sanded up to 2000 grit, which I obtained through the most awesomest of stores, Lee Valley Tools.