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Power tools to the people: DIY library opens in Brussels

09:55 19/02/2017
Home renovators can do it themselves without spending a fortune, thanks to a Brussels project that also aims to create a DIY community based on repairing, not throwing away

Anyone who has embarked on the long journey of buying and renovating a home knows the feeling. In the midst of some construction project – having thought you’d save money by doing it yourself – it becomes clear that you’re in need of some decent power tools. You go to Brico only to realise: They don’t come cheap.

These were exactly the thoughts of Olivier Beys, one of the founders of Tournevie, Brussels’ first tool lending library. “Many friends my age have bought a house and are trying to do some renovation themselves. But not everyone has all these expensive tools,” he says. “So we started from a specific need when we began Tournevie in 2015.”

For €20 a year, a whole collection of power tools and hand tools are available to borrow. A crowdfunding campaign provided the means to set up the collection.

“We have more than 100 power tools and 300 hand tools available,” says Beys (pictured, right). “Solid, professional materials, which are often too expensive for people, or which you only need once.”

Waste of resources

The project’s membership has steadily grown. Artists, local projects, allotment gardens, art exhibitions... A network of DIYers has been growing around Tournevie. While the organisation was originally based at the Fish Market in the centre of Brussels, it recently found a new home in the Marolles district.

This move opens new perspectives, according to Beys. “It’s a neighbourhood where a lot of people live in precarious conditions. They don’t have the resources to buy tools or pay a professional, so we want to try to show them the way to Tournevie. Self-reliance is an important value of our project.”

Another value is ecological conscience. “The market doesn’t offer a solution for people who need these tools only now and then. Instead, it pushes producers to manufacture cheap, low-quality tools” says Beys. “This is an enormous waste of resources. A communal management system like Tournevie is much more ecologically sound and works against a consumerist society.”

Tournevie aims to encourage a do-it-yourself-mentality. In collaboration with another Brussels community organisation, Les Debrouillards, they organise courses for those who don’t know their angle grinder from their belt sander.

“By providing access to high-quality tools, sharing skills and putting people in contact with each other, we want to encourage self-reliance,” says Beys. “With the right tools, fixing and creating stuff can be fun.”

Written by Toon Lambrechts