This Cool New Library in Kaka‘ako Lets You Borrow Tools Instead of Books

Between Re-use Hawai‘i’s ample selection of salvaged building materials and Honolulu Tool Library’s inventory, O‘ahu can boast a one-stop D.I.Y. sustainability center.
Honolulu Tool Library
Re-use Hawai‘i’s Quinn Vittum (left) gave Honolulu Tool Library’s Elia Bruno a home base.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Two years ago, having just moved into a house with a large backyard, UH senior Elia Bruno set about realizing a lifetime goal. “A great edible garden! My dream was leaf beds and compost, water systems and a chicken coop,” he says. But he ran into an obstacle. “In order to build these things I was going to need all these expensive tools I couldn’t afford that I was only going to use once.”


Worse, although he could look up and down his Mānoa block and see garages chock-a-block with immaculate hardware, he struck out when he asked if he could borrow any. 


Fortunately for all of us, Bruno didn’t take no for an answer. Today, at age 22, he’s executive director of Honolulu Tool Library. Here, you take your pick of donated and refurbished tools; how many and for how long depends on your level of membership: $85/year for unlimited use, $55/year for one that limits the number of tools and the number of days they can be kept out. Tools range from a plain old hammer to circular saws, bench grinders, sanders and paint sprayers. 


Building materials are right at hand, too, because the Tool Library is tucked into the warehouse of Re-use Hawai‘i down by Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park. Started by executive director Quinn Vittum 10 years ago, nonprofit Re-use diverts from O‘ahu’s landfills the materials from structures and houses: beams, planks, hardware, doors, windows, masonry and even vintage architectural detail pieces. 


“We operate two businesses,” says Vittum, “one retail, the other contracting, where we do deconstruction,” taking apart houses. “We have 40 people and all these trucks and a 40,000-square-foot warehouse.” Success breeds success. 


“Quinn and his CFO, Daniel Murren, were not only kind enough to share 300 square feet of their warehouse with us,” says Bruno, “but, as our fiscal sponsor, we’re under their 501(c)3. If you don’t have one, then getting grants is usually not possible.” 


To pay it forward, Bruno’s hoping to partner with Re-use Hawai‘i to create an educational hub with classes in carpentry, home repairs and plumbing. As Vittum says, “To be in a green industry creating jobs is a cool thing.”


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