When I began dabbling in Jewish ritual as an adult, I wanted to see what it felt like to do simple things at home: to light candles at the start of Shabbat; to mount a mezuzah on my doorpost; and later on, to make Havdalah, the short, sweet ritual that marks the end of Shabbat and the start of a new week.
Friends who learned of my desire encouraged me to acquire the necessary pieces to perform these simple rituals; and one handed me a mail-order catalog from which I could order them. But while I admired some of the pieces as especially beautiful, I was aghast at the prices: a Kiddush cup (for the blessing of wine on Shabbat and festivals) cost $50 or more; a Havdalah set, upwards of $100. Yikes! I thanked my friend and quietly laid the catalog aside. On my wages as a bicycle mechanic there was no way I could come up with those prices.
One evening as I helped close up the shop, it was my turn to dump the scrap metal into the large container near the back door, for pickup by the scrap metal haulers the next morning. As I shouldered the first of the heavy buckets, one from each work bench, and dumped each of them into the large plastic bin, I saw an old seatpost that I recognized as valuable, and I reached into the bin and pulled it out: what was a Campagnolo aero seatpost doing in the scrap metal?
I quickly understood why it had been tossed: the round part that fit inside the frame had been completely corroded, and the mechanic had been forced to destroy it with a chisel in order to free it from the frame. The bottom half of the seat post was gouged with deep marks from a clumsily-applied chisel. But the top half -- the streamlined, aerodynamic portion -- was still whole and relatively unscathed. I pocketed the "dead" component to look at later, and tossed the rest of the scrap metal for recycling.
After I finished my closing chores, I informed my co-workers I'd stay late to work on a personal project and would lock up. I spent the next hour turning the seatpost over and over in my hands, thinking about what I'd do with it. Then, it hit me; here was the perfect stem for a Kiddush cup. All I needed was a base. Poking around in the scrap metal bin, I found a high-flange wheel hub and suddenly knew what I'd do. Over the next couple of days I gathered additional parts, and began cutting, sawing and filing down metal. I took the hub to a friend who had a lathe and asked him to cut off just one flange -- the underside of which I filed down flat to make the base for the cup. Finally, I assembled the parts and found a glass insert at Goodwill, and viola! I had my very own Campagnolo Kiddush cup, a one-off if ever there was one and my very first piece of hand-made Judaica. Since then, I've made candlesticks (from Campy hubs, to match the cup), a Mezuzah (a decorative container for a scroll of the first paragraph of the Shema, which you affix to your doorpost), a Yad (Torah pointer), and finally, a Havdalah set (at top). You can see the rest of my creations over at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bethness/sets/72157635417615142/.
Tonight, Sweetie and I ended Shabbat with the sweet, short ritual of Havdalah -- "separation" of Shabbat from the new week -- with this Havdalah set, made from restaurant supplies (pizza pan, salt shaker top, shot glass) and bicycle parts (sections of mountain bike seatpost, seatpost clamps and bottle cage clamps). My stuff's not fancy and certainly it looks a little odd, but I think it has its own sort of beautiful -- and it cost me almost nothing to make.
Hope you all have a lovely week!