Introduction: Pop-up, Light-up, Flat-pack Menorah Card

About: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I happen to need at the time. Lipstick, a mixing studio, all-pur…

I have seen plenty of LED Menorahs, a number of Menorah pop-up cards, and a handful of LED Menorah greeting cards, but to my knowledge this is the first pop-up, light-up Menorah card in the world. There might be a good reason for this dearth of working pop-up Menorahs -- this was expensive and difficult to make, though I have to admit I had a lot of fun designing it.

I am publishing this now, during Passover, to give you plenty of time to prepare for Hannukah -- and also because I'm entering the flat-pack contest. I could use those tools to transform my paper pop-up designs to the real world!

Step 1: Materials

This is not a simple card and it doesn't come cheap... you'll need the following materials and equipment:

Color printer capable of printing on tabloid sized or A3 paper, and tabloid card stock (that's 17" by 11")

A 12" by 12" sheet of self-adhesive copper

9 3mm yellow LEDs

a soldering iron and some solder

vinyl electrical tape

Chanukah Gelt or other similar chocolate coins

A mini metal paper fastener for attaching the "candle"

2 CR2032 3v Lithium Coin Cell Batteries

Ideally, a plotter cutter. I have a KNK (a Klic-N-Kut MAXX Air), but the Silhouette is another popular brand which would probably work.

If you don't have a cutter, you'll need a scalpel knife (aka X-ACTO knife) and a self healing cutting mat. And a LOT of patience for hand-cutting the copper circuit!

Step 2: Download the Template

You can download the template from my website -- it's free, but you will need to enter a valid email address because I'll be sending you a link to the files via email. Don't worry, I won't use your information for any other purpose (unless you ASK to get my newsletters). I just like to get a sense of how many people are interested in my projects. While you're there, feel free to poke around, I have tons of pop-up card and paper toy templates, many of which are free.

The Menorah template includes color PDF files of the card as shown here, as well as templates for the electric circuit.

Step 3: Print, Cut, Fold (and Decorate) the Card

The template you downloaded from my website comes with a cut and fold guide.

The download includes 4 files:

    • "Menorah pop-up" is a two page PDF file formatted to be printed on both sides of a tabloid sheet (17" by 11"). Since the image is draw in landscape mode, you will have to choose the duplexing option of flipping the page on the short side -- or just flip the page manually if your printer can't print on both sides automatically.
    • "Menorah cover" is formatted for a letter sized sheet (8.5" by 11") but you should also be able to print it on A4. You will need to cut out the white circles.
    • "Menorah center" it a cut-out of the Menorah formatted on a letter sized sheet, which will be glued between the 2 Menorah cut-outs on the pop-up, preventing a short circuit and allowing the LEDs to be soldered easily.
    • "Menorah circuit" is formatted for a 12" by 12" sheet of self adhesive copper. This is the file you'll use if you're cutting it with the help of a plotter such as the KNK or Silhouette. Each circuit is spread out to minimize the risk of thin strips getting caught and the whole thing getting mangled during the cutting process. If you're cutting the copper circuit by hand, you can just trace the circuits which are drawn on the "Menorah pop-up" template.

    Cut the "Menorah pop-up" on side A using a scalpel knife, and score all the fold lines (use a ruler and trace the fold lines by pressing down with either a ball point pen or a similar tool -- this will allow you to get the precise, clean fold which you need).

    If you'd like to, you can cover the printed grey area on the menorah with any silver material: glued aluminum foil, a piece of self-adhesive mylar (which is what I used), or even metallic permanent marker... use your imagination, and have fun! The Star of David in these photos was made with a piece of scrap copper, but again, decorate as you see fit (and please post pictures in the comments section to show off your handiwork!).

    Step 4: Cut and Glue the Copper Circuit

    To be honest I've no idea how you could do this step without using an electronic plotter cutter... You could try taping the printed PDF over your sheet, tracing all the cut lines with a ballpoint pen and a ruler to mark your copper, then removing your paper and cutting through the copper only (not the backing) with a scalpel knife... yes, that should do the trick. But man, it's a lot of work...

    If you do have a plotter, import the PDF into your software of choice, set the blade and pressure so your machine cuts only the copper and not the backing (it's like cutting vinyl), then sit back and relax while the machine does all the work.

    After that you'll need to snap to attention, because this is hard: you have to gently lift each sticky piece and place it on your printed card. You'll need to be very careful not to get it tangled, or rip it, and position it carefully along the lines. For long pieces, it might be worth transferring the copper to a piece of wax paper, so it doesn't stick somewhere you don't want it to stick as you're placing it. Look very carefully before you place each piece to make sure that you're putting it in the right spot: all the pieces are different. Also fold your paper first and wrap the copper around the fold... if you glue the copper over flat paper, it will probably tear when you fold the card then your circuit will be broken.

    Once you've successfully placed all your copper pieces, smooth them down with the back of your fingernail to make sure they stick.

    I designed this circuit with two batteries, but the second battery is only connected after a half the LEDs are lit. This helps keep the Menorah from getting noticeably dimmer each time another "candle" is lit, and it prevents the first LEDs from burning out with too much juice during the first days of Hannukah. Though theoretically it would be better for the LEDs life span to add tiny resistors in the circuit, for this application, with the LEDs only lit for a short amount of time, I figured I could get away with skipping the resistors. I was right.

    Step 5: Add the LEDs and Batteries

    I first tried attaching the LEDs with conductive glue, but I found that it is not a good adhesive, it would flake and fall off, the LEDs would come loose and stop working, then fall off. It also tended to run and stain the paper. Not recommended here.

    I was worried that soldering would burn my paper, but it turned out that it works just fine, as long as you use a very thin soldering wire with flux and work quickly with a light touch. I warmed the LED leads briefly with the tip of my iron then touched the soldering wire to the iron tip as I ran it up and down the lead (which was pressed flat against the copper tape). Not proper soldering procedure, I know, but I wanted to avoid putting too much heat on my paper. The solder flowed neatly, solidly fixing the lead to the copper tape, and the paper didn't burn.

    You have to pay close attention to polarity when working with LEDs. They will only light up if the anodes are connected to the + side of the battery, and the cathode is connected to the negative side. You won't harm the LED if you mess up -- it just won't turn on. And after all the work you've put into the card so far, it would be a big shame to screw up this part. So look at my LED drawing, and the printed instructions on the download carefully.

    You will start by soldering the 9 LED anodes to side A of the pop-up template circuit as shown in the 2nd drawing. Then you will glue the middle piece, the simple Menorah cut-out over the soldered + circuit, bending the the cathodes in front of the middle piece so they can't make contact with the + circuit, and you can solder them to the copper tape in front.

    Pictures 4 and 5 show close ups of the completed "candles" and how the middle piece separates the anode and cathode.

    Fold the round battery holder on the plus side, as show in picture #6, then fold and glue the card so the battery holders on the plus and minus side face each other. Insert your CR2032 3v Lithium Coin Cell Batteries (again, make sure you've got the plus and minus sides right -- the template will show you), then tape them tightly together to get a good contact.

    Don't glue anything else yet...

    Step 6: Add the Candle

    Put a scrap piece of copper above the candle, as show in the pictures, then slip it through the circular slit on the card and attach it to the center with one of the mini fasteners.

    Step 7: Final Assembly

    Fold and glue the the negative side of the Menorah to the middle piece with the soldered cathodes. Unless you are using conductive glue, don't cover the copper with glue, because you want to get a good contact between the cathode and copper on the middle piece and the negative side of your circuit on the pop-up side. Glue the paper, but do not glue all the way down to the base of the Menorah. If you are not using conductive glue over the copper, just a dab here and there of another strong glue. Use paper clips to clamp. If you are using conductive glue be careful to keep it from running and ruining your beautiful white candles.

    Tape empty Gelt foil coins to cover the two cut out circles on the exterior card, then fold and glue the exterior card to the pop-up, so the Gelt covers your 2 batteries (you might want to test the circuit first -- if you oriented the LEDs wrong, there's not much you can do now, but if you just put the battery in the wrong way you can still flip it over). On the candle side, make sure you only put glue outside that circle: you don't want to glue the circuit to the cover, that would prevent the candle from circling around and lighting the candles one by one.

    This all sounds very complicated when described with words, but it is actually fairly self evident when you're holding all the pieces in your hands...

    The card is turned off when the candle is to the right. Turn the candle around the circle to light the candles one by one. You will need to hold the card down in the area between the candle and the center clasp to ensure that there is a good enough contact to keep the LEDs lit. Make sure your candle is in the "off" position before you close the card.

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