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.

Plex, Synology and Streaming Nostalgia

Kaylin is much more of a movie buff than I am—some of her most cherished movies include classics like Pete’s Dragon, the Back to the Future trilogy, Elf, The Secret of Nimh and then take a sharp turn towards the broad category of Christmas movies. Our DVD collection is… something interesting.

Shortly before the winter holidays I won the argument that our DVD player was taking up excess space and not getting used. I was granted permission to begin digitizing the whole collection.

I’ve had a Synology DS418 Play since December 2019. It’s just been acting as cold storage for files and I’ve been anxious to put it to use as a media server.

Luckily, this isn’t much of a how-to post. The documentation for Plex and Synology made the process incredibly easy so I’ll only outline the tips that I collected along the way.

The Setup

  • Synology DS418 Play
  • Plex Media Server installed from the Synology Package Center
  • Apple TV 4K running the Plex app
  • LG C9 television

Initially, it was unclear to me that the media I wanted Plex to reference should live a folder other than the default Plex folder that Synogloy creates during setup. Once I realized this, I quickly made a Media shared folder that contains only two folders, TV Shows and Movies.

In an update some time after I initially completed the installation, Plex added new text files in the root directory instructing that no media should be placed in the Plex folder. Helpful.

Scanning Media

I was aware that Casey Liss had well written article about his DVD ripping process which I followed exactly, including the compression scripts mentioned at the end of his article. I found MakeMKV to be simple and easy to use.

Unfortunately, I got ahead of myself and scanned quite a few DVDs and compressed them before previewing on my television. I found the compression far too agressive for my taste when viewing on the LG C9 so I ultimately re-ripped those files and simply moved the ~4-6gb .mkv files to the server.

File Names

The advice in the article to use The Movie Database to search for movie titles was perfect. Plex was able to index all my named files following the Movie Title (Date) format.

TV Shows

I struggled when scanning a few television show seasons. Renaming became tedious and I started writing a quick script to do the heavy lifting. Before I got too far down that path I did a search in the Mac App Store and landed upon TV Show Renamer Pro.

It’s far from a perfect app but it does what it says on the tin. I ran in to a bug (that turned out to be a bit of bad UX) and I received a response within hours when I emailed the developer for help.

I’ll continue to use the app any time I add TV shows to our collection.

Enjoying the Setup

Once the scanning, sorting, and naming were completed everything has been working without any issues. We’ve been able to watch our movie collection on our TV and other devices streamed directly from our personal cloud running in the basement.

It’s been great to have easier access to some of the nostalgic and classic movies. Plex places your own media on par with a Netflix or Hulu experience. It’s so great to be able to jump in to your own media with ease.

In My Bag: Mini Pouch

I’ve always carried useful bits and bobs in my pockets and bags. When I was young, that was often scraps of paper, sticks, and the odd tissue—fortunately, my habits evolved.

In college I carried drawing and art supplies, hard drives and a laptop. When I started working (and commuting to work in SF), my backpack became a survival platform—layers (because micro-climates), water, snacks, coffee mug, pocket knife, multi-tool, small flashlight, computer gear and much more.

Since moving away from the Bay Area and working from my home office, my backpack hangs on it’s hook most days. In recent months I’m out and about even less, which means I’m not taking my normal bag setup with me.

Over the years a few key items have have risen to the top of things that I grab when I leave the house. Before Finnegan was born, I was thinking about my stuff-hauling situation and how that would shift towards including a diaper bag in my rotation. I wanted a small kit of the most useful items, something that I could easily grab and drop in my backpack or in the diaper bag.

I’m pleased with the kit I’ve put together. It’s almost always nearby when I need something, not too large or bulky and not full of incredibly expensive or irreplaceable things.

Overview of everything that fits in the pouch.

The Pouch

I’ve owned several bags from Topo Designs, including their flagship Klettersack and a smaller briefcase style bag. They’ve been around the globe with me and have held up incredibly well, so I landed their Micro Acessory Bag for this kit.

Topo Designs Micro Accessory Bag in Navy / Red (Link).

The Stuff

ChapStick Original (Link).
Ye olde generic ChapStick brand chapstick. I don’t like excessive flavors on my face or in my ‘stache, so this works out well.

Fenix LD02 AAA Flashlight (Link).
A small light comes in handy quite often. I’ve retrieved things from under beds, looked in dark basement corners, found things under car seats. I love that it runs on one rechargeable AAA battery which I have a reminder set to replace every 6 months.

Fisher Space Pen (Link).
I use pens infrequently but it’s always nice to have something reliable. With a newborn and shoulder surgery this year, I’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices more than ever. I’ve been happy to have my own pen instead of shared ones for filling out forms.

Swiss Army Knife – Spartan (Link).
I’ve had a few Swiss Army Knives and this one is my newest, a souvenir from our stay in Zürich, Switzerland a few years ago. It opens things, slices things, and yes—I’ve actually used the can opener while staying at an AirBnB with a faulty kitchen tool.

Pill Case
Slim Traveler Pill Box (Link).
This was a random amazon find many years ago which have proven to be super useful. Great for holding almost any allergy or pain pill.

Everything fits!

Trash Can Baron

Quarantine has meant lots of things. More Netflix, mostly. But it’s also been a time to organize and refine our life at home.

Kaylin decided it was best to move her studio from the basement to the bedroom adjoining Finnegan’s room. After the switch, we had a new closet that needed storage solutions.

Instead of building more shelving, we opted to purchase shelves from one of our favorite online retailers, WebstaurantStore. The shelves arrived in two days. However, an additional, very large mystery box arrived at the same time.

Once opened, we realized that we were now in possession of five 20-gallon trash cans and matching lids. I triple-checked. These were not part of the order. After a quick chat via online support, we were instructed by the nice representative to keep these trash cans at no cost.


It was such a strange shipping mistake. It wasn’t a full lot (that would be six), so this box was picked, packed, and shipped to us somehow. I’d wager that procedures, staffing, or other parts of the logistics at WebstaurantStore have changed due to COVID-19, but I’ll never know for sure.

Fortunately, we’ve already rehomed three of the errant cans and will find good uses for the other two.

Trashlandia, our very own tower of cans. Baron of the Can. Titan of Trash.

To be clear, I’m a huge fan of WebstarauntStore. Our kitchen is stocked with high quality gear purchased there at great prices, shipped quickly. 10/10, would recommend.

Shoes for Indoor Cats

We’re all spending much more time at home (thanks COVID-19). For many, that means a crash course in working from home. However, I’ve been working remotely from home since we moved to Tennessee in 2016.

One of the biggest problems I’ve dealt with since starting to work from home is deciding what to wear on my feet all day. When I worked in an office some sort of nice leather boot was my go-to.

At home, I’ve gone the sock or barefoot route when it’s warm and the slipper route when it’s chilly. It’s been fine but not optimal, especially when using my standing desk.

With Finnegan around there’s a lot more dish washing, walking, rocking and general movement about the house so it was time to come up with a better solution.

My requirements were simple:

  1. Slip-on (bending down is so 2019)
  2. Leather (because I want them to look nice-ish)
  3. Comfortable for standing (standing desk, walking, dishes)

After completing lots of research and deciding that fashion was secondary, I purchased my first ever pair of Birkenstocks. I landed on the Boston style clog in oiled leather, with the newer “soft footbed”.

Out of the box these shoes were comfortable and have become incredibly supple over several months of wear. It’s a great option for a comfortable, supportive indoor shoe since we’re all indoor cats right now. And while they may be questionable in the fashion realm, I have decided that they really don’t look that bad.

Ultimately, I liked the comfort so much that I just purchased the waterproof, rubber outdoor version (Profi Birki work shoe) to use for yard work and walking the dog. So far, so good.

My comfortable, questionable fashion choices.