door‑knob‑to‑door‑lever conversion kit

Ever used a doorknob with your elbow? It’s difficult!

Door levers are more accessible than doorknobs for everyone. The simple solution is to install door levers in place of doorknobs.

But what if you don’t have the tools to install a door lever? Or what if you don’t have the permission, such as at your workplace?

I created a prototype to discover if it was feasible to create a kit that converts a doorknob into a door lever without using tools or destroying the door.

initial sketches

I first tried to imagine how such a mechanism might work in my head, then transcribed those forms onto paper. Though the method was quick and flexible, drawings on paper had no meaningful physical constraints; just because something seemed to work in my head didn’t mean it’d be remotely viable.

paper models

To test initial physical constraints, I cut out approximations of forms out of paper, giving me flexibility to confirm whether interlocking parts would be able to maneuver around one another.

mechanism studies

I hadn’t done extensive 3D printing before, so prior to printing the entire door lever, I printed test kits to determine how many micrometers of tolerance I needed to allow for parts to fit together snugly without excessive force.

I tested different locking mechanisms, such as childproof medicine bottle caps and simple notches.

a working prototype!

After much trial and error, I managed to print a prototype that matched my digital render. Testing showed that not only was it easy to operate a doorknob with just a fist or elbow, but it worked better than a doorknob for people with a typical level of motor ability.

The prototype proved the concept was feasible, and the best part was that I didn’t have to locate an injection molding machine to find out. 3D printing allowed for relatively quick trial and error.

The final design consisted of a lever with a notch, a rubber band (not 3D‑printed), and a ring that coupled them together.

reflections & future directions

I am in the process of making the door lever feel better by rounding its corners. I’d like to also explore adding a rubber or silicone surface to improve both grip and comfort.

Currently, the conversion kit only supports a single size and shape of doorknob. One that could support more types would be more useful.

In the future, it’d be great to further improve the design so that those with motor disabilities would have an easy time installing the door lever.

What would be even better is to create a portable version that travels with the user, reducing material cost and increasing ranges of use.

guerilla renovation: a method of transitional design

When conceptualizing the conversion kit, I realized that it had the potential to be like graffiti; anyone with appropriate equipment, enough ability, and a compatible arena could produce and install it. The kit gives people agency to alter their environment. I call this acquisition and use of agency guerilla renovation.

Real change comes from transforming entire systems. But that takes a long time, and immediate consequences wait for no one. In the interim, bandages can provide temporary relief in lieu of complete repair.

Someone out there might read this and be inspired to metaphorically (or literally) take a sledgehammer to barriers. Such an act may incite conflict rather than conversation, which is required peaceful acceleration of progress. The nondestructive nature of the conversion kit supports such processes.

Guerilla renovation is far from refined and requires more research. I hope it turns out to be a great complement to systemic change.