Project Egress: The Hinges

A door’s hinges are arguably its most important pieces. After all, a door without hinges is just, well, a wall. Or a bulkhead, if we’re talking about a hingeless hatch on a spacecraft.

And so the assignment for creating hinges for Progress Egress, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing by creating a replica of the command module hatch, went to [Jimmy DiResta]. The hinges were complex linkages that were designed to not only handle the 225 pound (102 kg) hatch on the launch pad, but to allow extended extravehicular activity (EVA) while en route to the Moon. [Jimmy], a multimedia maker, is just as likely to turn metal as he is to work in wood, and his hinges are a study of 1960s aerospace engineering rendered in ipe, and extremely hard and dense tropical hardwood, and brass.

[Jimmy]’s build started with a full-size 3D-printed model of the hinge, a move that paid off as the prints acted both as templates for machining the wood components and as test jigs to make sure everything would articulate properly. Sheet brass was bent and soldered into the hinge brackets, while brass rod stock was turned on the lathe to simulate the hydraulic cylinder hinge stays of the original. The dark ipe and the brass work really well together, and should go nicely with [Fran Blanche]’s walnut and brass latch on the assembled hatch.

With [Adam Savage]’s final assembly of all the parts scheduled for Thursday the 18th, we’re down to the wire on this celebration of both Apollo and the maker movement that was at least in part born from it.

Note: the assembly started at 11:00 Eastern time, and there’s a live stream at

34 thoughts on “Project Egress: The Hinges

    1. Looks like so far he’s mounted This Old Tony’s bell crank, Jimmy DiResta’s hinges, and Tom Lipton’s vent valve. A bunch of other little parts, too, mostly 3D-printed. Looking forward to putting the pump and gearbox on that NYC CNC built – that’s a big chunk.

      They’ve had to do a fair amount of bodge work already – at one point Adam explained that the porthole shroud had shrunk 10% from the spec, so he was only able to get a few mounting screws in. The rest had their shanks cut off so the heads could be glued on to maintain the look. I expect there’s more of that kind of work to come.

      1. “They’ve had to do a fair amount of bodge work…”

        Which kind of detracts from the point of the exercise, which itself is a bit hard to discern. As best as I can tell, it’s basically: social media event, makers because… makers and OMG, Adam Savage. If the thing falls apart in a year because 3/4 of it are 3d printed parts and glued on bolt heads, it would speak rather poorly about the “maker movement”, leaving it just social media event and OMG, Adam Savage.

        Sorry to be a downer, but so much of the problems we face today are because of a temporary mindset and an obsession with superficiality.

          1. In reply to [WonkoTheSaneUK]

            Tom Vila’s lack of… uh… “expertise” in using tools was a behind the scenes joke for the rest of the This Old House crew. Which made his product endorsements a bit sketchy later on.

            Tom Silva…
            wasn’t he just a face brought in to attract the wealthy yuppie viewers?

        1. I think you’re missing the point. This is a replica, not a working model. It’s just going to be a static display piece with very little in the way of handling.

          Part of the beauty of the maker movement is rapid prototyping with a low cost of entry, lowering the barriers to manufacturing parts that are good enough for the job. Good enough to fly to the Moon? Clearly not, and clearly not the point. But the ability to rapidly iterate designs, test them out in real assemblies, and find out what works and what doesn’t quickly is critical.

          Think NASA wouldn’t have leveraged rapid prototyping to build that hatch if it was available back in the day? I’ll bet they would have jumped at the chance before committing to machining aluminum and titanium.

          1. You kind of demonstrate my point.

            Good enough for the job… what job? If this is simply a non-functional display, what job is it performing? Running into the problems they clearly have speaks poorly about the maker movement’s ability to produce even a non-functional display model of any quality.

            Rapidly iterate designs to find what works and what doesn’t… what was iterated? An existing design was reproduced. Nothing was iterated or improved. And even at that, things lined up so poorly that bolt heads needed to be cut off and glued on to make it look like they were actually doing something and many parts needed to be glued on with duct tape holding things together while the glue dried.

            Good enough for the job and being able to rapidly iterate are important, no question. But I just don’t see this as having been a demonstrating of either. Instead, a celebrity personality spearheaded a project that involved the maker community producing a hacked together, non-functional, temporary, display model. No bar was raised, no ball was moved forward. In 6 months, this piece will be a prop on the wall of Adam Savage’s workshop set.

            Again, I hate to be a downer, but we have to stop attributing more accomplishment to our efforts than are actually produced. 50 years ago, engineers mostly in their early to mid-20’s built an actual rocket to land humans on the moon. Today, people pat themselves on the back and bask in the social media adulation for having produced a hacked together model of the door of the capsule they built 50 years before.

            Now some parts were made with quality and precision, and those were made by people who have spent years honing their skills making actually working things. I just think making a video or media event has become recognized as of equal or higher value than making something actually work, or if the thing doesn’t have to work, at least making it of some quality.

          2. I agree with Chris below.

            This is kind of what I said before yes I understand it’s not supposed to function, but when we have to resort to duct tape and glue to replicate even something that looks like it was from NASA I find that deeply sad and perfectly encapsulates exactly what he said.

            I’m tired of this kind of “Maker”. This is celebrity circle jerk 3D printing parade masquerading as American achievement in the most direct sense possible.

            When you have to glue even screw heads to make them look like they function that is even for model pretty sad.

            Let me be clear here I love Adam Savage and I know he can do very good work of a functional level and so can many of the people who were asked to make things for this project.

            I think we have stopped holding ourselves to a higher standard when it comes to making anything in America, and I’ve seen it in many machine shops I’ve worked in. When even professional Machinists cut so many corners now it stands to Boggle the mind what we find acceptable for even a demonstration model like this.

            If it were anything other than something this iconic in American history that was absolutely an homage to proper engineering success I might not feel this strongly but this is the Columbia module hatch. I get that it doesn’t need to all be made of metal I’ve got over that, but can it at least have the original assembly Integrity respected?

            To hell with the deadline, this is something I don’t consider making I consider it bodging. It shows not how far America has fallen in creation but it is starting to reflect an almost Chinese copy mindset of how little Integrity is considered respectable in a project.

            I’m sure plenty of people will jump on the train of hate for me for saying this but someone needs to say it because we should be better than this.

            If you want to call yourself a maker, you should expect more from yourself than this.

          3. Drew said “To hell with the deadline…”

            First, I’m glad there’s someone else willing to share the flack for being negative on this project! ;)

            As to the point about the deadline, that highlights a key difference:

            In both this project and the original Apollo program, there was an arbitrary but fixed deadline – realizing Kennedy’s speech, and commemorating the achievement 50 years later. In the Apollo program, people rose to the occasion and accomplished something that still stands today as one of the pinnacle achievements of the human race. In this project, while a few standout contributors demonstrated skill, attention to detail and professionalism, for most, it was just another opportunity to further their “personal brand” by producing another entertaining video highlighting their crafted, quirky personality. The end result didn’t demonstrate or prove any advantages of the “maker movement”, it’s favored tools, materials, processes or practitioners. And it didn’t pay any homage to the engineers 50 years ago. We’d have never gotten off the ground 50 years ago had the priority been what it is today – personality and entertainment, which is what this was really all about.

            And that in itself is fine, as long as we’re honest about it. What was produced was a social media entertainment event. The hatch and the anniversary were just tools used to facilitated that goal. But by doing so, and producing the hatch they did, they detracted from the achievement 50 years ago and highlight the amateurish nature of the “maker movement” today.

            Again, some people stood out, John and the team at NYC CNC did impressive work, as usual. I’ve been watching him since he was running his Taig beside his bed in his NYC apartment, and his videos and progression led me to buy a Taig and learn machining myself. His brand of “makerism” was, and remains, informative and inspirational. Those who used the project to tell the corniest jokes or act the weirdest while making something… anything… not so much. In fact, you could pretty accurately determine the quality of the part being made by audio alone – the fewer jokes or lesser the eccentric behavior, the better the part. Seriously.

            We’re just not setting our sights beyond than our reach, and then rising to the occasion to achieve. We’re settling for absolute bare minimum despite having tools that the Apollo engineers would have killed for, and instead focusing on superficiality and celebrity… and patting ourselves on the back for achieving that bare minimum.

            As Drew said… we should be better than this.

          4. I must second (third?) the all the sentiments expressed here – it’s a sad state of affairs when a social event that is supposed to both celebrate an incredible past achievement and showcase modern skill and craftsmanship so obviously fails to be anything other than a… celebrity social event. I’m sure the causes and contributing factors are many, but the devaluation of achievement in recent years definitely doesn’t help: yeah, it’s great that basically anyone can grab an Arduino, download a sketch and blink an LED in seconds, but it’s decidedly wrong to celebrate that as any kind of accomplishment.

            Doing great things is still supposed to require substantial effort and skill – see, that’s how you know they are indeed great, because not everyone is able to achieve them. And as long as everyone blinking an LED or printing a 3D figurine or bolting together a line-following bot kit is “a maker” and pretty much “just as good” as anyone else, actually proper skill, precision and attention to detail have little value. It’s a very good thing that anyone can blink that LED so easily; yes, it’s a great start – no, you’re still an ignorant noob having done it, unless you work long and hard to become something else. Except that sounds like actual effort isn’t it. And here’s the kicker: the more inclined you are to stop at “good enough”, the less likely it is you’ll ever touch actual greatness.

            It’s not exactly a surprise that things are what they are though, is it – the clue is right there in the title: “maker”. Yes, the meaning is on point: truly, it’s people who make stuff. Except… why again is that something remarkable enough to warrant proudly wearing as a badge of distinction? Well, presumably because it’s somewhat rare – when all one is supposed to do is strictly _consume_ things, anyone bothering to _make_ anything at all starts to stand out, isn’t it. It’s a title meant to distinguish you from those who _don’t_ ever make things, in a time when obtaining anything by means other than removing the packaging is the unusual thing to do.

            Yes, I do get it – if for example all the sandwiches you ever ate came from a shelf in a supermarket anyone who can make one themselves might seem nothing short of a wizard to you. You might even feel inclined to praise them highly, regardless of exactly what they can do. Unfortunately, reality measures things by a different yardstick; you are either incredibly good at what you do, or else you don’t go to space today – or worse, someone who placed his trust in you dies for a mistake you made. You don’t get a pat on the back and a medal for participation. And that’s why, on this anniversary in particular, a capsule door that can’t even be assembled properly is simply Not Good Enough.

      2. In short, pretty much as I figured when I saw videos of people doing ‘artsy’ interpretations instead of ensuring their parts were dimensionally accurate and mechanically functional. When you alter a moving piece to be solid like Diresta’s brass parts that were sliding gas or spring cylinders, or decide that adding pieces of brass sheet with other bits of metal soldered on, wrapping the shank with brass wire while changing a threaded rod and hole to be smooth, assembly won’t go well at all.

        IIRC the directions were to make the parts *dimensionally accurate* and *mechanically functional*. Some of the parts made by machinists / engineers look like they could go to space today. The others, uh, no.

        1. “IIRC the directions were to make the parts *dimensionally accurate* and *mechanically functional*. Some of the parts made by machinists / engineers look like they could go to space today. The others, uh, no.”

          And that’s where i think that the failure of this all rests on Adam Savages shoulders. From the maker videos that i have seen the “drawings” looked to be the source of all of the troubles, even ToT makes mention of making parts to nominal dimensions as they were lacking proper GD&T. When you are making anything from multiple components those kind of errors are unforgivable. If one person is making all of the parts then they can adapt each part as it is made to fit in the larger assembly but when you are getting components from multiple sources it is imperative that you get GD&T right. This is clearly evident here with the little bit that i saw of the assembly process.

          To me, this is nothing more than a publicity stunt and fails to demonstrate any of the engineering or planning that would commemorate humanities endeavor to leave our planet for other celestial bodies. How can you make things that are dimensionally accurate and mechanically functional if you miss out on the basics like GD&T.

          1. Maybe it was a bit of a publicity stunt on Adam Savage’s part. Maybe it would have been better with more fore-thought given to GD&T in the drawings, more time for the makers to create the parts and time to QA and rectify any deficiencies.

            Maybe that’s not the point.

            I was at the Udvar-Hazy campus of the museum on the Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of the launch. They had various events in celebration, one of which was a talk given by an engineer who’d spent his career working in the space program as he stood under the tail of the space shuttle Discovery. Whilst it was interesting, it was hardly what I’d describe as inspiring, especially to the younger crowd who probably came away remembering the line, “If you think you want to be an engineer, start early, because it’s at least 5 years of hard work in college.”. Although “crowd” is being generous. Most people listening were either in push-buggies, past college age, or even past career-age. Those looking for inspiration were off gazing at all the cool air and space toys.

            On the other hand, on Thursday there was a 15 minute line to see this live build, and many of the visitors were of an age to be inspired into an engineering career. Celebrity! Television! 3D Printing! Youtubers! That the build was a non-working model just didn’t matter. That the final product was full of bodge wasn’t important – visitors were asked to limit their time in that gallery so very few would have seen the conclusion anyway. Even for those that did witness build problems, it simply reinforced the miracle of engineering feats of which Apollo was comprised. Everyone remembers Buzz and Neil, but 400,000 engineers were responsible for putting them on the moon.

            That said, I’m going to give a shout out to a late family friend, Frank Hood, a construction engineer who worked on the launchpads for Apollos 7 through 12. It was the highlight of his career, and I think he would have enjoyed this week’s celebrations immensely. RIP.

          2. in reply to ID. I appreciate your reply and you bring up valid points but the counter argument is that engineering isn’t a glamorous career so should we really be encouraging people to start on a journey that will define their entire life based on a glamorization of what their life could (but most likely wont) be?

            How are these future engineers going to react when they realize that the majority of engineering is incredibly boring sweating of the small details?

            I get that this entire project was part publicity but also part an attempt to make engineering look sexy. There in lies the problem, engineering just isnt sexy, it never has been and it never will be. Its repetitive, its boring and for the most part it goes un-noticed and with out the reward that the engineers truly deserve. In the end, the reward must be from solving the problem its self and not from external sources.

            The fact that the final result is full of bodge IS important, it is a very useful teachable moment that could be used to get the curiosity of the younger generation, especially if the entire spectacle was more interactive and involved the spectators more.

            I just don’t believe in selling people a lie when they are considering a career path that will take up a significant portion of their lives and limit them from other career paths that they could have truly enjoyed. Truthfully i think it is a huge failure of our society (and mostly our education systems) that career paths must be made to look “sexy” in order to entice people to pursue them. The fact that people need to be sold on these things is very telling and highlights the cultural issues that we face in our future as a species.

            In conclusion, i would like to tip my hat to your late family friend and every single one of his co-workers. He is one of the many unsung hero’s of this world that helped make the major achievements of our species happen even though we rarely celebrate them. He is the kind of person truly deserving of these celebrations and it is a shame that we dont celebrate those kind of people more often and with out the commercial motivators that have been surrounding the current celebrations.

  1. I see that Adam has a couple of helpers on stage from the pool of part makers. I spotted Sophy Wang and Estefannie. Thought we might see Fran Blanche since she’s based in Philly and it’s a short train ride to DC.

    Adam appears to be mounting some of the 15 latches now. Quite a variety of materials and methods represented. Purists will hate it, but I love it! Like I said, this is as much a celebration of the maker movement as it is a love letter to Apollo 11, and showing off what we do every day is just fantastic.

    1. No such luck, as least as far as I’ve seen. He did a face-reveal video a while back, so I know what he looks like. There was one fellow in the audience wearing ToT swag, though.

      For some reason, I thought ToT lived in Germany. I may be completely wrong on that, though.

  2. One thing I never saw explained: everyone seemed to be working on small bits, hinges, latches, handles, etc.

    Who did the main hatch plate everything else got mounted to?

    1. I wonder that too. I missed the beginning of the live stream, where hopefully they revealed that. Maybe in the replay.

      At a guess, it looks like it’s either blow molded poly-something or perhaps a molded fiberglass shell. Nice detail, whatever it is.

  3. The hinges wound up causing Adam a ton of grief – most of which appeared to be due to the mounting holes not matching what I believe were holes pre-located in the hatch panel. In addition, the lack of a simple 90 degree hex wrench caused heartache. All the futzing around caused the hinges to break multiple times, and the maker himself admitted in his video they were not built very strong. They didn’t need to go to the moon but they couldn’t take even being mounted. Using regular solder was wishful thinking IMO. With all the attention to detail that has been credited to the fellow who created all the diagrams, I was left feeling a bit letdown. I missed the window fiasco – glad I did.

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