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Can’t Find a Menorah for Hanukkah?
Buy a Potato and Visit the Local Hardware Store!

(For a completely different approach, visit the Engel Gallery
for truly elegant and contemporary art menorahs.)

Potato Menorah Craft

Central to the celebration of the Jewish “Festival of Lights” is a menorah — a nine-branched candelabrum that is lit each night of the eight-day festival.  Menorahs are available in stores in most large cities and even through Judaica Web sites on the Internet.  However, Jews who live in smaller towns may find buying a menorah somewhat difficult.

The Jewish Appleseed Foundation, Inc., which specializes in helping Jews who live away from the main centers of Jewish life, offers these suggestions for creating interesting, inexpensive, and easy-to-make menorahs.


GROCERY STORE MENORAHS

No-Frills Potato Menorah — Potato menorahs are an excellent family project.  They are easy to make and can be as simple or elaborate as desired.

  1. Take two large baking potatoes. Wash and dry them thoroughly. Take care not to break the skin. Place them on a rectangular plate, cookie sheet covered with foil or a baking dish. Let the potatoes air dry for a couple of hours.
  2. Using the type of candle you plan to burn on Hanukkah, mark nine circles across the two potatoes, leaving a little bit of room between each circle so that the candles won't touch. (Note: Standard Hanukkah candles are relatively thin and burn for a minimum of fifteen minutes. However, any type of unscented candle may be used as long as it burns for a minimum of fifteen minutes. Colored candles may be used. If a thick candle is used, you may need to add a third potato.
  3. Using an oval vegetable scoop or a small knife, scoop out the holes working from right to left (so that you can leave sufficient space for the Shamash candle on the far left; the Shamash candle is used to light the other candles each night). Dry the holes with a paper towel.
  4. Brush the potatoes, including the holes liberally with Mod Podge (a type of shellac), and permit the Mod Podge to dry overnight. This creates a seal and preserves the potato. However, you should do this as close to Hanukkah as possible, since the potatoes can rot. To preserve your potato menorah, keep it in the refrigerator once it is completed, and between uses. Throw it out after the holiday.
  5. To set the candles into the potato, drip some wax from an extra candle into the hole on the far right, and set the candle to be lit into the hole while the wax is still soft. Another option is to use soft modeling clay in the holes.

The Decoupage Potato Menorah

Decoupage Potato Menorah
For a Decoupage Potato Menorah, make your no-frills potato menorah as above. Then, for a more finished look, sink cap nuts into the holes to hold the candles instead of wax or modeling clay. Cap nuts can be purchased at your local hardware store; they look like little top hats and come in a variety of sizes. Make sure to match the size bottom of the candle you are going to use the size of the cap nut. Cut the holes for the cap nuts as close to the size of the nut as possible. Fill the hole about ¾ full with all-purpose glue suitable for use with metal. Put the cap nut into the hole and let the glue dry overnight. Soft modeling clay can also be used to stabilize the capnuts. For the Shamash, use a hexnut on the far left as shown.

To decorate the potatoes, use Mod Podge to glue on holiday stickers, confetti, and other small colorful shapes. Allow to dry. When dry cover the entire potato with Mod Podge and allow to dry overnight. Add additional decorative touches with glitter glue.

Oil Burning Potato Menorah
Follow instructions 1–4 above.  To make an oil-burning menorah, find glass adapters in a candle specialty shop.  These are small glass vessels that are made to fit into candlesticks.  They come in a wide variety of sizes.


  1. Cut the hole in the potato slightly deeper for the adapter than you would for a candle, and drip wax into the hole and set the adapter into the wax or use modeling clay.
  2. Use a floating wick.  For fuel, use either olive oil or pure burning lamp oil.  The oil should burn for at least 30 minutes.  Set the adapter that will serve as the Shamash into the potato and light it with a candle.  Then use same candle to light the other wicks.
  3. When lighting the menorah each night, fill the bowl of the adapter approximately ¾ full with either olive oil or pure burning lamp oil and add a floating wick.  Burn all the oil each night.  Use fresh wicks each night.
  4. Light the Shamash first with a long match or candle.  Light a second match or candle from the Shamash to light the other wicks.


Birthday Candle Menorah

Birthday Candle Menorah
The Birthday Candle Menorah is not a traditional menorah because the candles don't burn long enough. However, children will enjoy it, and it can also be used in an emergency if no other materials are available.

  1. Take one large baking potato. Wash and dry it thoroughly. Take care not to break the skin. Place it on a rectangular plate, cookie sheet covered with foil or a baking dish. Let the potato air dry for a couple of hours.
  2. Spray the potato and let it dry.
  3. Arrange holders for birthday candles in a straight line in the middle of the potato.
  4. To create the Shamash, stack two or three holders on the far-left end of the potato by filling the holes with softened wax. Leave the top holder empty to allow space for the candle.
  5. Place candles in the holders as needed.

HARDWARE STORE MENORAHS
Christmas Ornament Menorahs — Round glass Christmas ornaments can be used to make inexpensive and very decorative menorahs.


Oil Burning Menorah Using Large Ornaments

Oil Burning Menorah

  1. Find miniature light reflectors (used for Christmas lights) that have holes in the middle large enough to accommodate a glass oil lamp adapter. (The reflectors that work best are those that are somewhat ornate.)
  2. Open the box of large ornaments and keep the ornaments in their protective nests.
  3. Remove the cap and the hanger.
  4. Using an all-purpose glue made for glass and plastic, make a ring of glue around the top opening of the ball ornament.
  5. Insert the light reflector into the opening of the ornament and press gently to help the glue adhere. Let the glue dry.
  6. For the base of your menorah, take a 36" metal ruler and turn it over so that the numbers don't show. Lightly mark off nine segments on the ruler approximately 4" apart.
  7. Working from right to left, glue on eight reflectors so that the stem is attached to the ruler as shown in the center and right ornaments below. Leave space for the ninth reflector (for the Shamash) on the far left. (For this, use reflectors that have little or no ornamentation.)
  8. For the ninth reflector, glue the wide part of the reflector to the ruler and permit it to dry. When dry, glue a second reflector to the first, so that the narrow parts are attached and the wide part of the second reflector is facing up (as shown under the left ornament above).
  9. Put all-purpose glue that can be used with plastic and metal liberally around the edge of the reflector and center the ornament onto the reflector. Permit it to dry completely.
  10. Set the glass adapters into the opening of each ornament.
  11. When lighting the menorah each night, fill the bowl of the adapter approximately three-quarters full with either olive oil or pure burning lamp oil and a floating wick. Burn all the oil each night. Use fresh wicks each night.
  12. Light the Shamash first with a long match or candle. Light a second match or candle from the Shamash to light the other wicks.

Candle Burning Menorah Using Small Ornaments

Candle Burning Menorah Using Small Ornaments
  1. Open the box of small ornaments and keep the ornaments in their protective nests.
  2. Remove the cap and the hanger.
  3. Using an all-purpose glue made for glass and plastic, make a ring of glue around the top opening of the ball ornament. Put glue all around the outside (under the rim) of a cap nut. (It will be necessary to match the size of the opening of the ball to the size of the cap nut. A standard size that is likely to fit may be ½".)
  4. Put the cap nut into the hole of the ornament, so that the flat rim rests on top of the opening and seals it. Permit it to dry. Make nine of these.
  5. For the base of this menorah, take a 24" brass standard (used for shelving), lightly mark off nine segments approximately 2½" apart.
  6. Working from right to left, glue on eight reflectors so that the stem is attached to the ruler. Leave room for the ninth reflector on the far left. (For this, use reflectors that have little or no ornamentation.)
  7. For the ninth reflector, glue the wide part of the reflector to the ruler and permit it to dry. When dry, glue a second reflector to the first, so that the narrow parts are attached and the wide part of the second reflector is facing up (as shown).
  8. An alternate way to build up the ninth candle is to glue the stem of the reflector to the standard. When dry, glue the stem of a second reflector into the middle of the first reflector and permit it to dry thoroughly.
  9. Put all-purpose glue that can be used with plastic and metal liberally around the edge of each reflector and center the ornament onto the reflector. Permit them to dry completely before use.

Magnets and More Menorahs —

Clip-On Menorah

Clip On Menorah
  1. Find eight or nine clip-on magnets or other clip on pieces that can each hold a candle.
  2. Clip them onto a 24" brass standard that has been turned upside down.
  3. If possible, use a larger clip or magnet on the far-left end for the Shamash candle — the one that is used to light the other candles.
  4. If the clip-ons are plastic, wrap silver foil around the base of the candle to prevent the clip from melting.


Number Magnet Menorah

Number Magnet Menorah
  1. Find a set of number magnets or plastic numbers.
  2. Using a glue that is appropriate for use with metal and plastic, glue the numbers onto a sheet of soldering tin from right to left.
  3. Glue bolts onto the tin behind the numbers. Match the bolt size to the size of candle you wish to use.
  4. Glue the number zero onto the tin between the numbers four and five. Glue a bolt on top of the zero.


Pastry Tip Menorah

Pastry Tip Menorah
  1. Select nine pastry tips with serrated edges and one petit four cup.
  2. Turn the petit four cup upside down and, using metal glue, glue one of the tips onto the cup.
  3. Arrange the tips into a straight line or a semicircle with the glued-together piece on the far left.