Introduction: Folding Candelabrum

Picture of Folding Candelabrum

This candelabrum looks like an unprepossessing block of wood when folded up, but opens out into an interesting array holding 9 tealights (or, with the means of some inserts, 9 regular candles). You can also make a version of this project out of a single piece of 2×4 lumber: see the last step.

Step 1: Design

Picture of Design

The design evolved as I constructed it. I wanted it to be easy to make - just simple straight cuts on table saw and miter saw - but had a shape that was unusual and surprising and did not waste any material. The idea was to have a whole lot of nested L-shaped hinges that contained wells in each elbow. It required a series of cuts in a piece of wood of appropriate size, starting with a rip cut, then a cross cut at 2 degrees, another rip cut, a cross cut at 4 degrees, and so on. The pairs of pieces would then be glued together in L-shapes, holes drilled for the candles, and a dowel inserted to act as a hinge. I prototyped it in poplar (shown above) before making the final version in white oak.

Step 2: Dimension the Wood

Picture of Dimension the Wood

I took a piece of 8/4 rough sawn oak and jointed and planed it to a thickness of just under 2" (48 mm). I'm currently spoiled with access to the Pier 9 workshop, and they have an awesome Martin jointer and thickness planer. This was the first time I'd done either operation; very satisfying for someone used to building everything from construction lumber!

I'd actually resolved that during my residency I wouldn't make anything I could have made just as easily at home, but after taking the Advanced Wood class I had a hankering for some analog making, and this project is what resulted. Many thanks to all the shop staff: Trent, Josh, Mei, and Mary-Elizabeth were all great sources of expertise on this project.

Step 3: Rip and Crosscut

Picture of Rip and Crosscut

Make the following cuts sequentially on a single block of wood (at least) 1 7/8" × 20" × 4" (50 × 500 × 100 mm). Make sure the block is oriented the same way for every cut!

1. Rip a 1/4" (6 mm) strip off the long edge.
2. Crosscut a piece 2" (50 mm) wide with the saw at a 2 degree angle off vertical (i.e. at 88 degrees to the board).
3. Repeat steps 1. and 2., increasing the angle of the saw blade by 2 degrees each time. Do this 7 times (the last block of wood does not need cutting).

Sand each piece to the level of finish you want. It is more difficult to sand the interior parts once glued into L-shapes. A sheet of fine sandpaper placed on a flat surface is ideal; power-sanding is liable to round edges.

Step 4: Glue

Picture of Glue

Glue pairs of matching pieces together in an L-shape using wood glue and a clamp. Line everything up as best you can. Be sure to use enough glue and not starve the joint (i.e. don't over-tighten).

Step 5: Drill Holes

Picture of Drill Holes

Drill a 1 1/2" (38 mm) hole 3/4" (18 mm) deep down into the thick part of each L-shaped piece with a Forstner bit. This is much easier with a drill press, but probably doable at a pinch with a cordless drill or a hand drill. Clamp everything firmly either way.

Step 6: Trim and Sand

Picture of Trim and Sand

Because of the kerf of the saw blade, nothing will line up. Wrap the block in masking tape making sure that all pieces are tightly held together. Trim both irregular edges square using the miter saw and table saw. Sand the saw marks off the new edges.

Remove the tape, and wrap tape around the largest perimeter. Sand the untaped surfaces flush and smooth (by hand or preferably with belt or drum sander).

Step 7: Hinge

Picture of Hinge

Remove the masking tape and treat each piece with several coats of mineral oil or whatever finish you like.

The candelabrum uses a pivot hinge. You will need a dowel almost as long as the block is tall and a washer of larger diameter than the dowel. Drill a washer-sized hole 1/4" deep in the bottom of the block, centered where the dowel will go (i.e. equidistant from the sides and the end. Now drill a dowel-sized hole from the bottom of the block ALMOST to the top, as shown. Don't break the surface if you can help it. Dry-fit the dowel. If everything closes up properly and moves smoothly (if it doesn't sand down the dowel until everything fits), glue the dowel into the top hole and leave to dry clamped up.

Cut the dowel so it matches the depth of the washer-sized hole. Drill a hole in the block for a screw to hold the washer - I used a pocket hole screw.

Step 8: Inserts

Picture of Inserts

3D print the attached STL file 9 times if you want to also be able to use regular candles in your candelabrum. The idea of these is that they're able to catch at least some of the wax that dribbles down as well as holding the candles securely. They can be printed without supports.

To fold the candelabrum up again, remove the candles with holders attached.

Step 9: B(H)andsaw Version

Picture of B(H)andsaw Version

It occurred to me while doing this that a candelabrum designed for regular candles could easily be cut out of a single piece of 2×4 lumber without gluing if you had a bandsaw handy and you were prepared to have a seven-candle version (a nine-candle version could easily be cut out of a 2×6). So I did, because unusually... I had a bandsaw handy. If you have a plentiful supply of elbow grease, you could use a handsaw. Anyway, here's a one step explanation of this build:

- clean up the board on all sides using a sander or plane.

- mark cross lines 1.5" (38 mm) apart. Then run lines lengthwise 3/8" (10 mm) apart.

- make a series of cuts 1.5" apart at increasing angles at decreasing depths. I used 5 degree intervals because that was what was marked on the bandsaw table. This is a little hard to explain in text but easy if you look at the pictures.

- rip the board to join up with the top of the cut. Use a handsaw to finish off the small angled piece that remains.

- repeat for the remaining pieces.

Sand each piece and drill a candle-sized hole in the top of each piece. Treat with mineral oil. Add a dowel just as for the fancier version. Add candles and you're done.

It will be harder to get a perfect finish on this version, but it is easy and quick. I hadn't used a bandsaw before, so I cut a little deep in some places and doubtless my lines aren't as straight as a pro's would be.

Free premium membership if you post an "I made it!" picture of either build.


JustASparq made it! (author)2016-12-30

walnut stock menorah. 3/8" candle holes, 2° increments. dowel anchored in the bottom piece, pivot covered with brass screw and washer. less clean of a look than the original design, but less likely to snap.

makendo (author)JustASparq2016-12-30

Looks great! I like the brass/walnut combo. Thanks for posting. Premium code sent.

jmeyer79 made it! (author)2016-12-25

I love your design. I made one for my mom for Xmas. It was a big hit!

makendo (author)jmeyer792016-12-26

The laminated wood looks great! Premium membership sent. Thanks for posting.

rosbarnes made it! (author)2016-12-24

This is a great design, I especially like that it comes from one block of timber. I didnt quite have the tools, so used a table saw, simple drop saw and spade bit, but with a bit of tweaking it came out fine. I couldnt source timber more than 45mm wide, so I had to go for 2x 70x70 plantation pine pieces, trimmed them to 55mm width and was judicious about where they 'joined'. Used a reddish oil.

It made an awesome Secret Santa, apparently I have an order of more for someone else's presents! ;-)

Thanks for this one,

makendo (author)rosbarnes2016-12-24

Really nice! I like the effect you get with knots. Premium membership sent.

raajs3s (author)2016-12-03

really awesome work and an inspiration too...

AngelosS3 made it! (author)2016-10-08

Great project! Many thanks for sharing!

Today I am going at
a party and I thought of making this as a present to the guest. I
slightly modified the design with greater width and candles placed on
one side.

I used the second method because I had a block of wood
and I thought it would be faster to do it this way. Overall, it took me 6
hours, but I am not an experienced wood-worker so this will definitely
have an effect.

With a laser-cutter I cut a plane and engraved
it for better aesthetic look. It also helps as a stopper for when the
drawers of the device are grouped back together. On the back I have
engraved another plate with a commemoration logo for the guest. (not
shown in the pictures because his name is mentioned)

Again many thanks for the instructions!!

makendo (author)AngelosS32016-10-08

Great to see a different version! Thanks for posting.

AngelosS3 (author)makendo2016-10-09

Nice! Many thanks for the free premium membership as well!

WUVIE (author)2016-10-06

This is absolutely cool as can be!

makendo (author)WUVIE2016-10-07


WUVIE (author)makendo2016-10-07

Makendo, I was just looking at the lighting contest, surprised that you were not in there. Any reason? Wow, this would have been a winner, for sure!

makendo (author)WUVIE2016-10-07

Thanks for the kind words. Currently at Pier 9 myself so pretty sure I'm ineligible. Very happy with all the tools at my disposal though!

Neeraj Juneja (author)2016-10-05

Awesome design and excellent execution. I'm pretty sure I'll make it but am thinking of using flat aluminum arms and wood for the wells. The metal/wood and light/dark contrast should be interesting.

makendo (author)Neeraj Juneja2016-10-05

Sounds cool

grammyjean made it! (author)2016-10-05

I made a candle holder VERY similar to this one, but makendo's methods were easier, and and his was less expensive to make. Just showing some pictures with seasonal enhancements that really dress it up I think. Thanks, makendo, for reminding me of this idea and for your great ideas.

makendo (author)grammyjean2016-10-05

Nice! Beautiful photos. Premium membership on its way. To make it nest, there must be gaps, right (the ends all seem square)? Are there washers on the dowel to let it close with the tealights in, or do you take them out?

The white inserts for the tall candles are 3D printed (see step 8).

grammyjean (author)makendo2016-10-05

Thanks for responding so quickly, makendo!

The design as shown requires that the tea light be removed to close up the candle holder into one flat piece. The washers are a great idea though! I'll try it!

instantlover (author)2016-10-05

this is my favorite kind of design, simple, functional, but most of all inovative AND low cost.


makendo (author)instantlover2016-10-05


grammyjean (author)2016-10-05

Makendo, what are the adapters for regular tall candles--the white plastic things that go in the holes for the votives? What are they called, and where can you get them? Looks like they could make the project more versatile. Love it!

grammyjean (author)2016-10-05

I forgot to say that I made my candle holder years ago, but I continue to enjoy it. Makendo's design would make nice gifts at less cost than mine. I love the menorah idea also.

mikeasaurus (author)2016-10-04

Love those GIFs :) (oh, and great design!)

makendo (author)mikeasaurus2016-10-04

cheers Mike

aamen (author)2016-10-04

It's perfect!!! great design! awesome

ZiadS7 (author)2016-10-04

Very nice design idea

makendo (author)ZiadS72016-10-04


TweakGeek1 (author)2016-10-04

Saving this to make soon! Could make nice presents.

makendo (author)TweakGeek12016-10-04

agreed. There would be the unwrapping "oh, nice, a 2x4" and the actual discovery

TCC3 (author)2016-10-04

Yes, I thought Menorah also:)

Make the shortest removable and put it on top (the dowel would stick up 1/4")??


Yonatan24 (author)2016-10-04

Beautiful! I love how you add the GIF's. I'm too lazy to do that for my Instructables! ;)

This could work as a "flat-pack" Menorah too. Did you think about the wood growth-- If it expands and contracts with heat/humidity, will it still open?

makendo (author)Yonatan242016-10-04

Thanks. I enjoy making (short!) stop-motion animations. Re: wood movement: provided it is the same for all pieces, it will be fine. And the hinge can be loosened.

azizkres (author)2016-10-04

I love this!

reza mohammadian (author)2016-10-04

very good

MagicManu (author)2016-10-03

Awesome ! Great job !

makendo (author)MagicManu2016-10-03


About This Instructable




Bio: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture
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