Shop Infrastructure: Flex Shaft Grinder

The months are ticking by at an astounding clip, so I figured it was time to tackle a small infrastructure project in the shop over the weekend. For Christmas, I got Kaylin a flexible shaft grinder from Harbor Freight. When she’s working in her studio she often needs something a bit more aggressive than a diamond file or sandpaper and the grinder is the perfect tool.

After discussing, we decided that it made the most sense to keep the dust in the workshop instead of trying to create a setup in her much cleaner studio. The grinder will also be useful for post-processing 3D printed parts, so I will benefit from having it in the shop as well.

The grinder itself has a direct drive spindle and a motor designed to be hung above the work area. Instead of hanging the motor, I designed and printed a wall mount and a holder for the hand piece so everything could be mounted for quick access. All the cable organizers are also quick 3D printed parts.

Image of grinder, hand piece and power strip mounted on the wall.
All parts mounted for easy access right above the work bench.

So far this is incredibly convenient to have in reach right above the bench. I might adjust where things are mounted over time if it’s not working as expected. As a final enhancement, I am designing a holder for all the the rotary tools and bits that will get mounted for easy access.

The Myth of the One Trip Plumbing Project

We’re trying to occupy our time during social distancing by taking care of the long overdue projects around the house.

Today I installed a new vanity and sink in our guest bathroom—and eventually, Finnegan’s bathroom. You know, when he can walk.

Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, I made sure to over-prepare to complete this project efficiently. I spent several days looking at our (mail-ordered) parts, making measurements and diagrams. I checked all the spare plumbing parts stashed in my workshop.

Last week I made a single masked trip to the hardware store to get the few remaining items. I left after successfully finding every item on my list, confident that I might in fact be able to complete this project with only one trip the hardware store.

Today’s install went well—too well. Dashing to the end when I could finally turn the water on and test for leaks, I went to connect the sink’s waste pipe to the trap. And I was ½ inch off from being able to make the connection.

Mask on. Car go. Back to the hardware store. Yet another two-trip plumbing project. Better luck next time, I guess.

Fortunately, the second trip yielded everything I needed and the project is now wrapped up. I’ll be amazed if I ever pull off a plumbing project without some sort of complication!

The results!

Ephemera of Our Modern Dystopia: A Series

The world is singularly focused on the pandemic. COVID-19 is the primary topic covered by every news outlet. We’ve all been indoors for weeks, working from home if we can. I am not qualified to predict what may happen or to give medical advice (you can read that here). I just know that we must all stay home and should wear a home made mask when we leave the house for essentials.

In the midst of COVID-19, I can’t help but see everything happening around me in a strange new light. Things feel so much the same, yet so incredibly new, different—dystopian.

So, I will be publishing a series of short posts sharing thoughts, photos, and collected media. If you pay attention to what is happening in your community and online much of this will be mundane or repetitive.

I expect to look back in a year, ten years, twenty—and instantly relive the feelings evoked by these scattered bits of ephemera. I just want a record of these strange times. For me. For Finnegan.

I wore a mask in public. A mask that I laboriously sewed the day before. I’m not at the point where I plan to shave my beard so I sewed a mask that I thought would cover and be comfortable. It was just OK.

In these weird times, while wearing a mask to go to a medical appointment, I’m contemplating iterative improvements to a DIY face mask.

Me, in my face mask.

Built-in Basement Shelves

We’ve constantly been working on our house since we moved in. Kitchen, bathrooms, paint, full basement remodel—it’s been busy.

We decided it was time to tackle a smaller project in our basement. We’ve wanted to transform an awkward space between two doors in the basement and make it useful with some built-in shelving! We’re incredibly happy with the results.

The Build

This was a pretty straight forward project. I purchased primed pine boards from Home Depot as our base material and put everything together with screws. Each screw was countersunk so it could be hidden under wood putty.

First, I mounted some rails into the studs to establish the shelf spacing.

Rails mounted into the studs. I had to avoid the outlet and the thermostat.

I worked my way up from the bottom, measuring each shelf board and front piece. Nothing is square or plumb, so each shelf is a different width.

Bottom shelf in place for a test fit.

After cut to length, the shelves and front piece were glued and pin nailed together to hold them in place while drying. Then, finished with some wood putty and sanded.

Once the shelves were all in place and secured with some screws into the back rails, all the countersunk holes were covered in wood putty and the edge and front joints were caulked to give it that really nice built-in appearance.

This is what happens when I’m left alone to style a photo.


Years ago I built a set of shelves in a closet and finished them with a trick that I found on a carpentry forum. It’s now my go-to trick for finishing surfaces that will take some abuse, like shelves.

It’s really simple:

  1. Prime and paint your shelf boards in flat latex paint
  2. After a good painted finish is achieved, add several coats of water based polyurethane, sanding lightly with high grit sandpaper between coats.

I’ve used this for shelves, a small section wood floor in a closet and a few other small projects over the years and I love how it turns out. It’s a nice smooth finish to the touch, it’s durable and stands up to wear. And you can make the shelves match anything by using the appropriate paint color!

And that’s it! Great project, lots of room to store books… and room for toy bins below for the future.