EDIT: Please see the finished version at PVC Menorah Kit for kids, revised. It turned out SO WELL. Kids love taking it apart and putting it back together (and so do I).
For the synagogue’s Chanukah Carnival this year, I want to add a Build a Menorah station for kids. The goal: to assemble a menorah from bits of PVC pipe. They don’t get to keep the menorah and it won’t actually work (as in, it isn’t wired and it isn’t fire-safe for candles). No, the real goal is the process: for kids to figure out how all the pieces can fit together properly, and then to take them apart for the next person to try. They can choose to make a 7-branch Temple Menorah or a 9-branch Hanukkah Menorah (Hanukkiyah).
The new station should give the older kids something else fun to do while the little ones are busy with Dreidel Fishing and Squirt the Menorah and so forth. It will appeal to the types that love to build anything out of anything.
I bought the pipes, fittings and an awesome cutting tool that—Hallelujah—makes my hacksaw obsolete. The tool wasn’t my only surprise, as evidenced by my facebook status:
Joanna Brichetto “is amazed: the Home Depot guy who helped me cut pvc pipe today looked at my plan drawings and said: “that looks like a hanukkiyah.” And it was.
I was so surprised I didn’t even ask how he knew the vocabulary. He said “hanukkiyah,” not menorah. But see, I approach all such transactions with caution. They rarely end well. I might get preached to about Noahide law, or get told I’m going to hell, or that I should become a “completed Jew” or that I’m not really Jewish at all. I’m pretty good at not asking questions, even when a Home Depot dude says “hanukkiyah” out of the blue, right there at my shopping cart.
But back to the menorah. It isn’t going swimmingly. The picture above looks pretty good, but the thing isn’t stable enough. One clumsy touch and the whole thing flips over and down.
To connect some of the joints, I use 1/2″ couplings for CPVC. They look like wee, beige barrels (CPVC is used for hot water plumbing.) Yes, I could use short sections of 1/2′ white PVC pipe, but those join too well, and kids will not be able to twist the pieces apart for disassembly. The CPVC couplings are tapered, which makes them easy to push into a Tee joint but a bit too easy to slip back out.
Let it be known I am utterly new to PVC theory and practice, so if there is something basic being overlooked, holler.
The caps are meant to look like flames, by the way. They will be painted a convincing flame-color. The candles will be blue, except for the shammash (the leader candle in the middle). Kids can “light” the menorah in the traditional order (left to right) after they’ve inserted the candles in the traditional order (right to left). Ideally. But the reality isn’t quite up to the ideal yet. The act of placing a cap on a candle will bring down the entire structure. I don’t want kids to freak out in frustration and abandon the project to another round of Sufganiyah on a String or Toss the Latke. I want them to actually have fun.
Any advice out there? I can’t find a tutorial online, aside from a few giant PVC hanukkiyot that are actually wired for electricity.
I need a temporary structure: no glue. It must go together and come apart using hand-strength of an average 5th grader. And 1/2″ pipe is perfect. Any bigger would be too heavy.
Here’s what I am using right now, as pictured above and in the exploded view:
2 90 degree elbows
1 Cross (giggle…)
8 1/2″ CPVC couplings (different brands have different external measurements, I warn you)
9 Caps (candle flames)
9 pieces of 1/2″ PVC (candles. Make one longer for shammash)
3 equal pieces of 1/2″PVC
4 longer, equal pieces of 1/2″ PVC
4 bushings (they bring the feet level with table surface and match level of Tee)
And here’s the Ratcheting PVC Cutter tool that means I never have to get out the hacksaw. I hate sawing. This thing takes no strength at all.