Dads Totally Rock

Forgive me reader, for I have sinned.  It’s been (many) months since my last post.  I’ve been doing all this awesome stuff with the Edinburgh Tool Library and I just haven’t had time to write to you.  I hope I still get through the Tooly Gates…

What has finally driven me to dust off the old keyboard, is down to inspiration.  Inspiration from young people, inspiration from a fantastic charity, and inspiration from seeing the potential of ETL.

In the summer, I got a tweet from Dads Rock, who work with dads and their children, inviting me round for a chat.  I’d always been told not to take tweets from strangers, but luckily I ignored all my instincts and went and met with David Marshall from Dads Rock and Gavin Smith from RG Workshops.  They had hatched a plan to work with a small group of fathers to build wooden balance bikes for their children, and were looking at partnerships and ideas for the project.  Fantastic, I thought – Dads Rock provided the space and the dads, Gavin supplied the expertise, and ETL supplied the tools and held stuff!

Roughly eight weeks ago, we began the project with three young dads, all aged around 20, all with young children.  The aim was to provide them with a project that they would engage with, an opportunity to learn new things, meet new people, and at the end of it, have an amazing present for their son or daughter, ready for Christmas.  It ended up making much more of a difference on everyone involved.

Week to week, I saw first-hand, what I have always thought about making – that it builds the image one has of oneself.  These young men, who were reserved and quiet in the first week, came out of their shells, and were quickly laughing and joking, and really enjoying what they were doing.  They walked taller, and the Wednesday sessions quickly became the reference point for their week in what are often, fairly chaotic lives.

Making something gives people purpose and a goal.  For these young men, that goal was seeing their children’s faces when they gave them a bike, built by dad.  For others, it is solving a problem.  For many people, what you make is completely unimportant – it is the act of making and the benefits that come with it that are important.  Whilst the dads were focussed on the end goal, I think they picked up a lot of other skills and experiences along the way.

Projects like this one really re-energise me, and show me that the vision I had when I began this odyssey with ETL, is right – that in order to help people, we just have to give them the physical and the metaphorical tools.  With opportunity and support, we, as human beings can achieve amazing things.

Just ask the children of the young dads from Dads Rock.

dad rocks

Planet Tool Library

Planet Tool Library 1

One of the wonderful things about establishing the Edinburgh Tool Library has been speaking to the people of Edinburgh about all their hopes and aspirations for the tool library.  Something that I didn’t envisage was the support from overseas.

In October last year I visited friends in Toronto, where I used to live.  Part of my visit was to catch up with my pals, but while I was there I was keen to visit the Toronto Tool Library, which I had been in contact with via email.  I popped in and met Ryan Dyment, who runs the show, and had a fantastic afternoon.  I had a look round, met some customers and got the whole story of the TTL.  It was really inspiring, and gave me the impetus to follow through on what was, until that point, just an idea.

Since my visit, the Toronto Tool Library has gone from just a basement lending out tools, to opening a maker space complete with a second library.  All this happened in six months from opening the initial library.  They have also expanded their services to lend out kitchen-ware and even have a 3D printer!

I’ve recently been in correspondence with the Halifax (Canada!) and Vancouver tool libraries who have been really supportive and encouraging and have very generously offered their advice and expertise.  What is it about Canadians eh?!  I’m hoping to visit a friend in Berlin and while there pop in to the Library of Things, and in August I am holidaying in San Francisco and hopefully visiting the tool library there.  I’m turning into a bit of a tool library bagger!

It all goes to show that, although we are spread across the globe, the tool library community are all pulling in the same direction and it really does make the world seem that little bit smaller.

Past, Present, Future

Past, Present, Future 2

Over the last couple of weeks, through various channels, I have bumped into a lot of people who have been asking how the tool library is going and what the latest is.  I thought it was probably a good time to update the website to fill you all in on what has been happening, and what our next steps will be.

Firstly, where we are now.

I’m delighted to say we have a board of trustees.  I am joined by Joyce MacAree, Emma Pattinson and John Sinclair, all young(ish) souls like myself who share in the enthusiasm and excitement for the tool library.  We have a constitution and an application for charitable status (still) being reviewed by OSCR, the charities regulator.

Marketing and web design skills have been donated by the team at If Looks Could Kill, and we have been approached by a willing volunteer to manage all the computery internety stuff too.  We have reached out to lots of other potential partner organisations to raise our profile, spoken to housing associations, local politicians and had informal conversations with funders.   Most importantly, we have spoken to a lot of you, the Edinburgh public, about our idea, and have had a lot of support.  Rest assured, this makes a huge difference to us and keeps us going when times are tough.

In the coming weeks we hope to have the OSCR application rubber stamped, we can begin the next phase, which will be applying for funding.  We want to get as many grant applications done, as soon as possible, so there are some long nights ahead for the trustees.  When we have secured funding, we will be able to secure premises and have a physical home for the tool library.  With help from our volunteers, and donors, we will have the tool library up and running lickety split after that.

Opening the Edinburgh Tool Library is a big task, but one that we are happy to do.  We have already had many adventures and learning experiences, and are looking forward to even more fun times ahead.  If you, or someone you know can help with any of our upcoming challenges, or if you can suggest other ways to contribute, please get in touch.  Many hands make light work, as they say.

ESFMMF!!! – Bless you

ESFMMF!!! - Bless you 3

On Sunday the 20th of April 2014 the Edinburgh Tool Library made it’s public debut to the creative hordes of Edinburgh (hordes in the nicest possible way – you were all lovely) at the Edinburgh Science Festival Mini Maker Faire (ESFMMF). Between our stall and a talk I gave in the Anatomy Room (… think dissection theatre) we estimate we reached nearly 200 people on the day, all of whom were very positive about the idea of the tool library. There might even be one or two of you reading this!

I did my first ever video interview, for an article in Make Magazine and most importantly of all, we discovered that ‘We Built This City’ by Starship, was the most popular tool/building themed song amongst the science festival crowd. I still maintain Peter Gabriel was robbed.

At the faire, we began a mailing list for those people keen to contribute to the tool library in the future. If you missed out on the day, but wish to help out in some way, just drop us a line at and we will add you to the list. We also began getting responses to our survey, which we hope will ensure the tool library is steered in the direction that it’s members want. If you have two minutes it would be of great help if you would fill it in.  You can complete our survey here.  Thanks.

In the week following the makers faire, we have been to a meeting of the Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative, spoken to some lovely people at the Stick Factory in Newington, and had a great buzz on twitter and facebook. Keep spreading the word about the tool library and get in touch if you have anything you wish to contribute or ask about.

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Edinburgh International Science Festival 4

Ever since my first experience of the festival, when I saw Professor James Lovelock (bit of a hero of mine) get his Edinburgh medal in the 2006, it has occurred to me that it would be a wonderful thing to be involved in.  Well it seems my daydreaming and wishing has come to fruition as I am delighted to say I have been asked to chat to a few people at the Mini Maker Faire this year, and that Edinburgh Tool Library will have a stall.

We will have a few things for you to get involved in, the opportunity for you to donate tools and sign up for a membership.  We would also love to meet our potential members so please come and chat to us, tell us what you think, what you want from the project and let’s get interactive.  We may also have sugary bribes too!

The Mini Maker Faire starts from 10am on Sunday April the 20th.

A night on the red carpet… almost

A night on the red carpet… almost 5

I never thought I could say this but I now have something in common with Matthew McConaughey, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Leonardo DiCaprio. Well… sort of! This February, while they were nervously awaiting the result of Best Male category at the Oscars, I had been nervously awaiting news from OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator). Ok, so it’s not quite the same thing, and some could argue it isn’t even close to being the same thing, but think about it; both Chiwetel and I are being judged for their recent work. I share a hunger for success equal to any Wall Street Wolf. And I, like Matthew, had to lose 45 lbs for our roles.

Two out of three ain’t bad!

On a serious note though, going through the grilling that is an application to OSCR has been stressful, but also interesting and revealing. It has been of benefit to me in many ways; forcing me to look at the reasons behind the tool library and where it will benefit society. It makes you look at things from every angle and think critically about your idea. It also focuses the idea, prioritising some areas over others and helps to work out what it is you really want to deliver.

Let’s hope that, at the end of the OSCRs, The Edinburgh Tool Library ends up more Dallas Buyers Club than Movie 43.