Monday, December 23, 2013

Beyond Home Renovation: The Tool Library & Closed Circuit
by Todd Shwayder, Tool Library Coordinator

Last week at the PhinneyWood Tool Library, I was visited by a young artist who, with other talented local fashion designers, jewelers, ceramicists, and visionaries, told me she had taken on the daunting task of renovating an old storefront space in Capital Hill and installing a pop-up shop (to run until the end of the year).

Jessica Carter is the Manager / Curator at Love City Love. Being a PNA member herself, she knew that the PhinneyWood Tool Library would be the first place to look for borrowing all the tools they would need for renovation and installation. She came to me with an extensive list of tools. After discussing her possible construction methods and troubleshooting difficult concepts, Jessica drove away with her station wagon packed to the brim with everything they were going to need to get the job done.

I stopped by last night for the opening party. It was beautiful! Seattle Met Magazine called it a sensory experience plus shopping. Closed Circuit will be up through Monday 29th. If you get a chance this weekend, I recommend you check it out. You might get inspired to make renovating a New Year’s resolution, and if you do, the Tool Library will be here to make sure this resolution comes true.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Candace Rowe
Not everything at the PhinneyWood Tool Library is a loud, noisy power tool.  If you poke around, you can find humble tools that you might not even have known you needed. Like a bucket of trowels.
I’d been thinking about trowels lately, mostly when I was in the shower. You can take a nice, relaxing shower with your eyes closed and the steam slowly easing the cold from your bones; or you can take a multi-tasking shower, scrubbing the walls and checking for loose tiles while your conditioner is doing its thing. You can also take a frenzied shower with your dog, trying to shampoo him without getting clawed to ribbons, but that’s a whole other article. It’s that second kind of shower that I usually take, and I’d noticed that some of the shower tiles were cracked and wiggly, and that grout was discolored or even missing in places. Those things aren’t good from an aesthetic point of view, but, as my husband pointed out, water can get under those loose tiles and freeze on very cold nights. Our shower is in the basement. It’s pretty cold down there.

So I had been thinking about trowels, and grout, and all things shower-related. I did a little research and learned that shower grout needs to be resealed every year or two, depending on how much you use the shower. If you notice your grout is harder to clean, or is getting discolored, you need to clean it well and reseal it with a latex-based product. These are available at any hardware store. Our grout is colored, so I ordered grout stain pens in Dark Smoke and spent many painstaking hours coloring in the grout around our itty-bitty octagonal tiles. But before you ever get to that point, you need to clean the shower thoroughly and fix any damaged grout.
I referred to Pinterest (as in all things) and concocted a witch’s brew of blue Dawn and white vinegar, sprayed it on to sit overnight, and in the morning every bit of soap scum wiped right off. I love Pinterest. But I digress. With soap scum and mold vanquished, you’re ready for your trowel.

Trowels come in many shapes and sizes and are used for many different things, from gardening to construction to what we’re about to do in the shower. They consist of a metal blade and a short handle. Some are flat, while others are curved. They are used to spread, dig, scoop, and place. We will be spreading.

There are several trowels used in construction: a brick trowel has a slightly rounded, diamond-shaped blade; a finishing trowel has a large, flat rectangular blade, and a flooring trowel (used to lay concrete) is shaped like a lancet arch and has a pointed front to fit into corners. A gauging trowel has a rounded tip and is used for gauging or mixing quick set plaster. Corner trowels are v-shaped, and do about what you might expect. A pointing trowel is a smaller version of the brick trowel, and is used to separate concrete from the forms it is poured into. A tuck pointing trowel is a long, thin tool that is designed for packing mortar between bricks. There are also trowels used for gardening, and they look like miniature shovels. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you ever get bored you might want to explore the Tool Library’s tub of trowels and speculate about the use of each one.

Once the shower was completely dry, I used the smallest trowel from the Tool Library tub of trowels to push the sludge into every nook and cranny, even into cracks in broken tiles around the windowsill. As I’ve said, we have very tiny tiles. If you have bigger tiles, you might want a bigger trowel. There’s a trowel for everyone in that bin. The grout needed to dry for 24 hours, then I used my pens to re-stain it, and it looked like a brand new shower!
So as the holidays wind down and you are making those New Year’s resolutions, don’t forget your shower. Think how much more relaxing it’ll be in there if you know every single tile is safe and sound. Not to mention very, very clean.
The hours of the PhinneyWood Tool Library are Wednesdays from Wednesdays from 3-6:30 pm, Fridays from 5-7 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am-2 pm. Call 206.783.2244, extension 48 to check on availability or to reserve a tool. You do need to be a PNA member to borrow tools, and they ask for a minimal donation.
You can go here for a complete list of what tools they have available:  We’d love to hear about your experiences with our Tool Library. Send them to and you may see them here in future weeks!



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

PNA explores RACE: Are we so different?

As part of our continuing cultural engagement series, PNA will be hosting a community discussion on Thursday, January 16th, 10am-noon at Greenwood Senior Center to explore the profound issues covered by Pacific’s Science Center’s exhibit RACE: Are we so different?  This fascinating workshop will be led by trained facilitators through from the Seattle Race & Social Justice Initiative.

The exhibit itself covers race in a particularly unique fashion. “By deconstructing historical, scientific and social ideas of race, the exhibit helps guests understand what race is and more importantly, what race is not,” states the exhibit’s website.  “It accomplishes this by focusing on three main themes: the everyday experience of race, the history of the idea of race in the United States and the science that is challenging some commonly held ideas about race.”

Though it’s certainly not required, those who are interested in joining the community discussion on January 16th at GSC are encouraged to visit the RACE exhibit beforehand.  To increase the chances of our PNA community visiting the exhibit at the same time, PNA has arranged group visits for the following dates and times:

Wednesday, December 11th, 12:30pm (FREE for Seniors, 65+)*
Saturday, December 14th, 12:30pm, Pacific Science Center

Friday, January 3rd, 3pm, Pacific Science Center

*Those wishing to visit on Wednesday, December 11th may meet at the Greenwood Senior Center at 10:45am and should bring a sack lunch.  Otherwise, you can meet the rest of the group at the exhibit itself at 12:30pm.

To let us know you’ll be joining the group, please contact:
Patrick Dunn,, 206.783.2244.

For more information on the exhibit, please visit: