Introduction: Chupa Jewish Wedding Canopy

Picture of Chupa Jewish Wedding Canopy

A Chupa is a ceremonial canopy used at Jewish weddings. The simplest chupas, traditionally, were just four poles attached to the corners of a sheet and held by members of the wedding party. Many people today use a similar style, but place the poles in buckets filled with ballast. I wanted my chupa to be freestanding though. I'd still have friends hold the corners for tradition, but I wouldn't need to worry about a fragile chupa falling apart in the midst of the ceremony (which I have seen happen). Additionally, this design doesn't require ballast and disassembles for easy transport. It's a humble design meant to be put together like Ikea furniture, and I'm very happy with it. If you're looking for something more extravagant, consider replacing the landscaping posts with birch branches, enlarging it to 5 feet instead of 4, or just decorating it with lights or flowers.

The basic steps are to drill holes in posts and affix cross beams with hexbolts, then brace the cross beams. The cloth covering is clipped on with binder clips stapled to the cross beams. I used two tallit, however any sheet of cloth works.

Besides being useful for weddings this simple structure could be used in a garden, patio, garage or workshop as a style piece or as a simple frame from which to support projects while working.

Construction required only one person, although a second is helpful. I took me ~20 hours to build, but following this guide would probably take around 5 hours. The total cost was $64.

Materials

2" x 8' round landscaping post, 4x -- $5 each

1" x 2" x 8' rectangular Douglas fir beam, 4x -- $3.50 each

3/8" x 3 1/2" zinc hexbolts, 16x -- 45 cents apiece

3/8" x2" zinc hexbolts, 8x -- 36 cents apiece

3/8" zinc hexnuts, 24x -- 12 cents apiece

3/8" washers, 48x -- $9.50 for a bag of 100

Binder clips, 12x -- $5 per pack

Optional: Landscaping stakes, 4 -- $6 per pack

Tools

circular saw or handsaw

drill

3/8" drill bit

Staple gun

Step 1: Cut Posts, Cross Beams, and Braces

Picture of Cut Posts, Cross Beams, and Braces

I cut 8' posts down to 7'. I waited until I'd finished building the chupa before cutting, but now that I've seen how it looks at 7' I recommend cutting the posts first.

Next, cut the 1" x 2" rectangular 8' douglas fir beams. I made the sides 4' by 4' square so that I would only need four of these beams. You could increase the lengths of the sides to 5' and make the interior space larger if you like, although for this instructable, I will describe how to build the chupa that I built with 4' sides.

Cut the four 8' beams in half. Set aside four of the 4' beams to serve as the cross beams.

Cut the remaining four beams in half again to get eight 2' beams which will serve as the braces. You can cut right angles or 45 degree angles. I cut 45 degree angles for purely superficial aesthetic reasons. It makes no difference.

Step 2: Drill Holes Through the Cross Beams

Picture of Drill Holes Through the Cross Beams

Mark 1" from the ends of each of the four 4' cross beams. Drill 3/8" holes centered vertically. I placed my holes further inward than 1", which caused a minor inconvenience when I assembled the chupa. Because the beams extended past the holes, the two cross beams on some of the posts couldn't swing past each other. It's preferable that they can swing when the braces aren't attached because it makes setup easier.

Anyway, don't overthink it. Just drill holes on the ends of the cross beams.

Next, measure 15 1/2" inward from each hole on the end, and drill a vertically centered 3/8" hole. This is where the braces will attach to the cross beams.

Step 3: Drill Holes in the Posts

Picture of Drill Holes in the Posts

Measure and mark 1" and 3" below the top of each post. Extend the 3" mark around the side of the post and mark a spot that appears 90 degrees perpendicular from the first mark. Drill a 3/8" hole through each of these marks. If done correctly, the two holes on each post should be at right angles to one another, but offset vertically by 2".

I eyeballed the perpendicular holes without any problem. If you're a stickler for tight tolerances, run a bolt through one of the cross beams and into a hole. You can then use a right angle to find the exact spot to drill a hole perpendicular to the first.

Once you've got two perpendicular holes through the top of each post, measure and mark the points exactly 15.5" below each hole. The braces will run diagonally from each of these holes to the corresponding ones you drilled 15.5" inward on the cross beams in the previous step.

Step 4: Drill Holes Through the Braces

Picture of Drill Holes Through the Braces

Each brace should be 24" long. In my photos you may see two are shorter, because I accidentally broke one of the ends, so I shortened two of them. But yours should all be 24" long. Mark a point 1" in from each end and drill a 3/8" hole through each.'

I eyeballed it all because I was tinkering, but now that I see how it fits together I can just save you a lot of time and tell you to cut 24" braces and drill the corresponding holes in the post and cross beam 15 1/2" below the corner for the post and inward from the corner of the cross beam. Drill your holes 1" inward from the ends of your 24". If you decide to use different sized braces, just use the Pythagorean theorum to correct.

Step 5: Test the Braces Fit

Picture of Test the Braces Fit

The braces need to attach to the posts and the cross beams. I attached the braces to the inside of the cross beams -- or the back-side, if that's how you prefer to think of it. This is done with the shorter, 2" bolts. The braces then attach to the outside/front side of the posts with the longer 3 1/2" bolt. This should all fit snugly but not require much force to put together. Check a few of the braces to make sure that they fit nicely before proceeding. If they put up too much resistance, redrill the holes to open them up a bit, especially on the edge of the hole that is putting up the most resistance.

If you're happy with how they bolt onto the posts then you're done with the power tools. Leave a set of two posts attached and braced to a cross beam and we can proceed to assembling the rest of the chupa around this.

Step 6: Assemble

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There are right ways to assemble it and wrong ways. I accidentally split the end off of one of the cross beams while putting things together early on before I'd made the braces and had to replace the cross beam. It happened because I put too much force on one of the ends of the cross beams while the posts were attached but the braces weren't.

Having a partner helps but isn't necessary. They key is to assemble the chupa in order and to attach things snugly so that nothing gets put under unnatural strain.

Before proceeding, I suggest attaching the braces to the cross beams first. This way, you only need to assemble one end of each brace while you're putting the chupa up, and you don't need to go looking for any braces or bolts while you're working. If you are annoyed that this means the braces swing around, tape them to the cross beams with masking tape.

With that done, go on with the assembly.

First, attach one cross beam to two posts and brace it to them. Lay this piece flat with the cross beam underneath the posts. If you followed the previous step you may have just done this.

Second, attach cross beams to the sides of each of the two posts and let them lay flat at the sides of the posts. If your braces are already attached to the cross beam and you made angled ends to your braces, make sure to attach the beam so that the angle of the braces line up with the post. Again, this is purely aesthetic and does not affect assembly.

Third, attach another post to each of the cross beams that are laying along the sides of the first two posts.

Fourth, attach a cross beam to the two newer posts.

You will now have a square lying flat on the ground, with all posts connected to two cross beams each.

Fifth, brace the cross beam that is on top, facing you to the two posts to which it is attached.

Sixth, gently and evenly lift the braced cross beam that is on top upward. The posts attached at each side should slide forward as you lift.

Seven: Once the cross beams on the sides are at a 90 degree angle to two of the posts, brace the two side cross beams to these two posts.

At this point, there are only two corner joints that aren't braced. You can gently lift the cross bar on the bottom and stand the whole structure up. Remember that the joints should all be snug. They don't need to be very tight, but if they are wobbly, the structure will twist and one of the unbraced corners might break under the strain. If there isn't much wiggle, the structure will stand up easily on its own. You can then brace the remaining two corners.

Step 7: Attach the Clips

Picture of Attach the Clips

I forgot to take a picture. You can add these at almost any step, but I added mine once I saw how the whole structure was put together.

I used a staple gun to staple one loop of the clip to 12 points on the outside of the cross beams. One at the middle of each cross beam and two about six inches from each end.

Once these are on, its easy to attach the cloth top. I used two tallit. Just clip them on.

Step 8: Enjoy

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After I confirmed that I was happy with the chupa's construction, I laid it back down on the ground, disattached all the braces, and removed four of the eight hexbolts that secured the cross beams to the posts. I didn't disassemble the whole thing though, so on the day of the wedding the chupa could be transported as four separate posts with the appropriate cross beams and braces already attached to their rightful posts. The braces were swung down to lay parallel against the cross beams and the cross beams were laid down against the posts. I then secured them with a bit of twine. Masking tape or zip ties would work too.

Once on site, my brother helped me reattach the cross beams to the posts to make the flat square. We then finished with the basic assembly in step 6. Once it was standing up and assembled we tightened everything down and attached the cloth. I was really pleased with the final product.

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Bio: I'm an engineer and biologist in LA. I'm pretty chill.
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