Interview with Mo, member #69

Photo Of Mo

Hi Mo, first of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself

Hello. I’m a self-employed joiner. I worked on sites previously but now trying to set up my own business. I’m born and raised in Edinburgh and live in Leith.

…like all the best things in the city, you’re in Leith?


How did you first come across the tool library then?

I was receiving support through Crisis Scotland and I turned up to volunteer with one of their projects – the Bridgend Farmhouse, and met you (Chris) there. ETL was supplying tools to help the project and so I learned about what you do there.

And what sort of stuff were you doing at Bridgend?

I was building gates, and doing some demolition work there, ripping stuff down… making a mess! While I was there I got a grant from Crisis for just under two thousand pounds to buy my own set of tools to set up my joinery business.

So you got these tools given to you Mo –how come? Tell us a bit about your background with tools.

College first, learned from other people, taught myself.

What do you think about the ETL service?

It’s great, the website is really smart and I know that, although I have my own tools, there is sometimes I only need something for a quick job, so I can go on to the ETL website and just order it from there. Ten years ago, when I set out, it would have been even more useful!

We are starting a mentorship programme within ETL, pairing young people with older experiences tradespeople. Would this have helped you a few years ago?

Aye, it would have been great. It’s good to learn from someone who has done more than you have, and has more experience. Most trades are like that. You only learn so much in college and after that you learn from doing it yourself. I also think spending time with older people can help young people to have respect for their elders, and that these days often people like these don’t mix. If someone is helping you, and teaching you, you can’t help but learn to respect them.

You have found a few bits of work through ETL too?

Yeah. I did some work for Helen, who I think you have interviewed already, and Tribe Porty got in touch after I did some volunteering there too. I also helped out a couple of fellow members too. I think they’ve all been happy with my work!

Indeed so! When I was talking to Helen she was absolutely raving about you! “5-star review” “so polite and well-mannered, and does such a good job!”

What would you say to someone who was considering joining the tool library?

Just do it eh? Your always gonna need tools, especially if you are moving in to a new flat. It can be quite expensive, so just get your tools from the tool library and save yourself some money. Tools aren’t cheap nowadays! I got my grant from Crisis and I still don’t have all the tools I need!

So I’m really interested in how doing little jobs and making things makes people feel. How do you feel after a successful piece of work?

Well I feel proud, and I feel good about myself. Even if it’s just putting up a shelf, you feel satisfied every time you look at it and it’s straight and plumb to the wall.

I can only imagine straight shelves as I’ve no experience in my flat!

What about your favourite thing you’ve made over the years?

It’s probably a reception desk I built, a crescent shape for a company in Aberdeen, and it’s still there to this day, which is an endorsement of the work I think. Again, that makes me really proud.

* Since the interview took place earlier in the year, Mo has secured full time work as a contract joiner for the next two years. He has also recently taken up a part time role with the tool library, and will be available to help you with your woodwork projects every Wednesday from 5-8pm and Saturday from 2-5pm in our workshop at 9 Spey Street Lane. Welcome to the team Mo!

Interview with Helen, member #65

Interview with Helen, member #65 1

on International Women’s Day

Wonder Woman

Helen has been a member of ETL since September 2015. She is a huge supporter of the tool library, and one of our greatest advocates, so we thought it might be interesting to do an interview with her to find out her story, what she is making, and what she thinks is so special about the tool library. Chris Hellawell, our founder, caught up with her on February the 25th, in the run up to a special day for her. We thought it would be appropriate to celebrate this most special of people on International Women’s Day.

Helen – we salute you!

Hi Helen, and thanks for chatting to us today. Firstly, just tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you came across ETL.

I live in Saughton Mains. I moved there two years ago when I downsized because of my health. It’s a single persons flat, tiny, but absolutely beautiful. When I moved in, I loved the peace, the quiet, but I wanted to decorate. I’d left my tools at my old home as there was no storage at the new place. I got some help to decorate – general help, but the hands-on decoration I wanted to do myself eventually.

I go to the library in Wester Hailes and I sit with one of the girls, and I was saying to her that I desperately wanted to hire some tools, and I thought at my age, what’s the point in buying them anyway? And I thought there must be somewhere that hires tools reasonably so I can start thinking about getting things together for the flat. So, we did a search engine on the computer, and eventually we noticed “tool library”. It was just so simple. She said to me “It’s in Leith”, and I said “Leith’s got everything!” I mean, Leith is a community, and it has things like this! So she wrote it all down for me, and on the Saturday morning, lo and behold, I came down to this police box, and I realised I used to go to the dancing at the club behind it!

I went down to the police box, and met yourself, Chris, and I went home thinking I was walking on cloud 5, 9, 6 and 7 – I felt great, because I had found somewhere that had all the tools I needed, and I could afford it. I absolutely loved the idea.

You have become a bit of a champion of the tool library so we hear…

I told them back at the Wester Hailes library, took some fliers in there. Even when I was on the bus this morning I was telling the lady next to me. She is in an army veterans house and is finding it difficult to get everything done in the house because some of the work isn’t in the job description of the maintenance people. So lo and behold I went into my ‘tool library spiel’ as I call it and told her how she could get things and where the police box is, so she wrote it all down.

You’re a one woman marketing team!…

Well I am really. I know that some of the people I know have family that can help do DIY and such, but some people are like me and they don’t have anybody to help them. I know that the one thing that it has done for me it to make me feel confident about myself and make me feel like I’m still worthy. When people come into my house and they say “Oh, who’s done that? It’s lovely.” I feel great because I’ve done it, not a painter and decorator.

The money I’ve saved – it’s hysterical! I got a quote for some people to put blinds in the house and they were asking for £340. Because I can come to the tool library, and I know how to put the blinds up, I could do the whole job for just the cost of the blinds, which was less than £150. I bought them, measured them, mapped them all up and did it myself. It takes me a bit longer than it used to, but I just take my time and work hard one day and then rest the next one.

You’re too kind Helen! So what have you been borrowing?

Mainly drills and drill bits, but I knew that everything and anything I could think of, I could come and see the tool library.

And you also needed help from an expert too?

Aye. I was trying to get a handyman to change the light fixtures in the house. I’d bought each of the fittings and had set about trying to find an someone – God they’re expensive! I was being quoted £200-£250 and I’m thinking “Hello!!!!”

Because of my age, my lights are never going to get changed again – it’s a one off situation, so I need to be able to justify the spend. I had one young laddie who said he could do this, that and the other, but he let me down, and never turned up. So I was wondering who I knew who might be able to help me out, and I was coming down to the tool library, so I thought I’d ask then. So I went down on a Saturday morning and I asked if they knew anyone who could help, and they did! And you know, I left that police box again on such a high, cos you told me you knew someone who might be able to help. Two months I’d been trying to get someone out, and I should have asked at the tool library.

So this young man Mo, phoned me, duly made an appointment, turned up – absolutely fabulous, and I had the job done in two hours, and he was brilliant. You know? I went about that house for the rest of that day turning lights on and off! In a day and a half, the tool library had helped me sort something out that I’d been trying to do for weeks, and I have nothing but good things to say about them.

So where’s the fire Helen? What’s the rush for all this DIY to happen?

Well it’s my birthday next Monday (February the 29th), and because I only have a birthday every four years, my friends and I are having a ladies cocktail afternoon on Saturday! So I’m 17 on Monday… I’ll be six years younger than my grandson, so that’s what all this is for. Since I joined the tool library, I’ve not let anybody visit me, I’ve visited them but I’ve not let them come, and Saturday, 1 o’clock sharp, my closest and dearest friends are going to be there, and I’m going to open that front door with pride.

Stay tuned for another member interview in the coming weeks. In the meantime, happy International Women’s Day.

Big love,

The Tool Librarians

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 2

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 3

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 4

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 5

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 6

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.