Nov 27, 2012

How to: Make a DIY Modern Wooden Menorah

created at: 11/27/2012

There are two of us here at ManMade. There's me, Chris, and I handle the content of the site, publishing the daily posts and projects. The other half is my compadre Bruno, who works behind-the-scenes keeping everything running smoothly. It's a great team, and we compliment each other well. I'm a dedicated Christmas fan, and Bruno...well, his last name is Bornsztein. Guess which winter holiday he grew up celebrating...

So, this year, I wanted to make something for Bruno and his family for Hanukkah. Bruno's wife, Alicia, is as nuts about Christmas as me, so I wanted to create something special that could become a family heirloom; something that his kids will be just as excited about each year as the Christmas tree and Nativity set. So, I whipped up this contemporary hardwood and brass menorah, which I hope fits in well with the style of their new home. Happy Holidays, buddy.

created at: 11/27/2012Having visited the newly completed Curbly House in September, I noted that Bruno and Alicia have a lot of rich, reddish woods and warmer tones, so I wanted to make something that would compliment the rest of the house. I decided to use a piece of sustainably harvested sapele - an African hardwood known for its unique striped figure. 


created at: 11/27/2012I ran the 4/4 stock through my thickness planer (I have this model), which immediately revealed the beautiful grain and striations in the sapele. A planer isn't essential here, but it's a great way to even everything up before cutting, and saves on sanding later.

I cut a 16" length from the longer stock, and after researching menorahs online, came up with a modern design using 45-degree angles.

created at: 11/27/2012


For the candle holes, I wanted to do something more than just drill a space. I found some long white candles at a local discount store, which have a diameter of 3/8", more-or-less. So, I took them to my local True Value hardware store, which has a great selection of hobby supplies like steel and brass rods and tubes. It's one of the reasons I like shopping in smaller hardware stores - they have all sorts of supplies that home improvement stores just don't carry. I figured out that the candles fit inside the 13/32s brass tube perfectly, so I grabbed a one-foot length to make the "collars" for the candles, or to use the fancier term, the ferrules.

created at: 11/27/2012

I cut the brass rod with a cutting disk and my rotary tool, but any saw (hacksaw, coping saw) with a bi-metal blade will do.

created at: 11/27/2012

These are the 1" long ferrules all lined up. They're admittedly not perfect, but I kinda like that you can tell I made them by hand instead of ordering them from a catalog. 


created at: 11/27/2012

Next, I drilled out the holes for the ferrules, using a 13/32" bit, spaced 1 1/4" apart. After drilling the initial hole, I "overdrilled" a bit to make a little wiggle room for the brass rod to fit inside. Each hole is 5/8" deep, so the ferrules will sit 3/8" above the wood.


created at: 11/27/2012

To finish the wood, I wanted something that would bring out the beautiful grain in the sapele, as well as last for a long time and be safe for use around candles. I opted for a hand-rubbed coat of Teak Oil, although Danish Oil or Tung Oil would work as well. After sanding everything to 220, I used a piece of 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper to apply the oil, rubbing with the grain. After a slurry of sawdust and oil began to form, I allowed it to dry for 15 minutes, then wiped away the excess. I then applied a few coats of paste wax to protect it from any dripping wax from the candles. In a few years, Bruno can reapply the wax and oil if necessary.

The oil caused the grain to swell a bit, so I needed to overdrill one more time to make space for the brass. I tapped them in lightly with a mallet on top of a piece of scrap wood so as not to bend the edges.


created at: 11/27/2012

So, there you have it: a hardwood and brass menorah that Bruno and Alicia can use each year to teach their kids about Hanukkah traditions, and about modern design as well.


Thanks to True Value for sponsoring this post! All opinions are ours alone.

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CapreeK on Nov 29, 2012:

This is simply the best.