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.
Having 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.