As others have said, liability is a big issue. It’s easy to imagine someone losing a finger (or more) if they don’t know how to use a table saw properly. Also, an inexperienced user could easily ruin a saw blade. (Perhaps you might ask people to provide their own blades, drill bits and so forth?)
And anyone who thinks this is a good idea might also like what they have in Berkeley, California, which is a library branch that lends tools (hand tools, power tools, plumbing tools, etc.)
A place like this targeted at, or with lessons targeted at women, or gays, or seniors, or whatever, could also be a good idea. You could sell lessons with the tools and then have open workshop nights. Good way to meet people. I’d do it. Can’t liability for customer’s actions be signed away?
The usual IANAL disclaimer, but I was always under the impression that liability waviers aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.
IANAL either, but my understanding is that you can have people sign waivers till the cows come home, but that doesn’t stop them from suing you if they feel like it, and lawsuits (even frivolous ones) can eat up time and money.
I love the idea (Wood shop was one of my favorite classes in high school) but I just don’t think it’s practical, for all the reasons others have stated. People just don’t take care of things if they don’t own them, unfortunately. And a lot of people are damfools.
You can even have little events and contests and stuff. People could form little Shop Teams. Remeber the balsa wood structure competitions? Remember seeing who could build the best bridge with the set amount of materials? You could do shit like that. Organized stuff like that is what keeps people coming back!
Trust me, I managed a gun range for a while. Attendance will start to dwindle. You need to offer some challenges and competitions every now and then. And people should win money and prizes. Of course, the entrance fee for the competition will cover it all and then some.