More than a couple times people have asked me if I make mezuzah cases, and more than a couple of times I have said, “No, but that is a good idea.” Well, I was asked once again, and I decided to take the commission. After all, I was looking for any excuse to get back on the lathe after all that flat board work.
For those of you not in “the know”, a mezuzah is affixed to the doorframe in Jewish homes to fulfill the mitzvah (Biblical commandment) to inscribe the words of the Shema “on the doorposts of your house” (Deuteronomy 6:9). Jewish law to requires a mezuzah on every doorway in the home apart from bathrooms and closets too small to qualify as rooms. The parchment (scroll) is prepared by a qualified scribe, and the verses are written in black indelible ink with a special quill pen. The parchment is then rolled up and placed inside the case.
After pondering upon the idea of how to make a mezuzah case on the lathe, I finally came up with the idea of making it like a big pen kit. I took a 1″x 1″x 4″ piece of cherry (the blank), and drilled a hole down the length of it, large enough to hold the mezuzah scroll.
Now how do you make that rectangle blank with the big hole down the middle into a cylinder? Easy! Make bushings just like a pen kit. The bushings are pieces of wood that will hold the hollowed blank firmly so it can be turned into a cylinder. Each end of the bushing has a side that exactly fits into the hole of the blank. The bushing also has an “outside diameter.” When you are turing the rectangle into the cylinder, the outside diameter gives you a stoping point for thickness of the blank. In this case, the blank walls will be about 1/8″ thick.
In the first picture, you can see the rectangle blank sitting between the two bushings. The bushing ends have been inserted into the blank.
The lathe is turned on, and the rectangular blank is turned into a cylinder.
Now that I have the tube for the mezuzah scroll, I need a way to cap the ends. Using a separate piece of cherry, I use a parting tool to make a tenon that will fit snuggly into the tube. Now I can make a beaded cap.
Here is what the mezuzah case looks like with the two caps.
How do you mount this to the doorpost you might ask? Good question! Here’s my plan: I make a cradle that will hold the tube. It just so happens the outside diameter of the tube is 3/4″ so all I had to do was drill a 3/4″ hole in a piece of cherry. Then I use a good hand saw to cut out the cradle. The photo below shows the different stages of cutting out the cradle.
After the cradles get sanded smooth, they will be glued to the tube, and one of the caps will also be glued in place. I don’t have the mezuzah scrolls, so the customer will slide the scroll into the tube and press the cap into place. You want to be able to change out the scrolls if necessary, so you don’t want to the glue the second cap into the tube.
Traditionally, the hebrew letter, “shin”, (the first letter for the Shema) is put upon the mezuzah case. I was asked to crave a “shin”, but my carving skills are not that good. So I decided to use pyrography (wood burning) to put the “Shin” on the tube. I did some testing on a prototype tube, and I think the lower “Shin” design looks pretty good, so that is what I will use for the production models.
Next, I need to attach the cradles to a “carrier” which can be nailed onto the doorpost. I’m still working on that part.
I will be taking orders for these if you are interested.
More to come!