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

Artisanal Tent Pegs

On a recent camping trip, some of our younger makers thought up a fancy way to help secure the campsite: hand-carved tent pegs!

Large and small, these tent pegs are sure to fasten down tents, tarps, or guy lines.

Freshly on site, Ryan, Jillian, and Nora set-to crafting these every day camping necessities. Each maker paid close attention to incorporating small-but-important details like a smooth feel, bark-less entry points, lashing chevrons (also known as the crook of the branch), and hammer faces.

It was interesting finding the sticks,” said Ryan. “There were a bunch of cuts that the stick had to go through” to make a successful tent peg. He was able to turn out a respectable four pegs alone.

Jillian’s approach was to add a cool purple cord with some fancy knot work.

Nora took a slightly different approach to her tent pegs. “I looked for small but thick sticks when choosing a branch; too thick and they are really difficult to carve, but too thin and there’s nothing to whittle.”

In order to make these artisanal tent pegs yourself, here are some of the key tips from our makers to keep in mind:

  • Make sure to have a safe, sharp blade that locks – jackknives that have folding blades can result in unexpected but nasty surprises;
  • Choose wood that is a) not in poison ivy, b) thick and long enough to be carve-able, and c) not too wet so that you can’t whittle it;
  • Look for tree branches, for example, ones that are heavy enough so that it could actually support the tent!


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