How to Make a Christmas Nativity Scene

A nativity scene is an easy and simple family DIY project that everyone can get involved with. The key is to keep it simple; after all, that’s the whole idea behind the birth of Christ. How more uncomplicated can it get that to be born in a manger?

Project Materials and Tools:

  • 1 Roof – 23” X 11” plywood (1/4” thickness)
  • 1 Back – 20 1/2” X 6 5/8” plywood (1/4” thickness)
  • 1 Floor – 20 1/2” X 9 1/2” plywood (1/2” thickness)
  • 2 Front Posts – 3/4” X 3/4” stock (7 3/4” tall); Rip from a 1” X 4”
  • 2 Back Posts – 3/4” X 3/4” stock (6” tall); Rip from a 1” X 4”
  • 1 Front Horizontal Rafter 3/4” X 3/4” stock (20 3/4” long); Rip from a 1” X 4”
  • Finish nails or wood screws (the builder’s choice)
  • Wood stain (Minwax PolyShades is a product that combines stain and polyurethane, making finishing a breeze.)
  • Vinyl or Rubber Gloves to use While Applying the Finish
  • Rags for Applying Finish
  • Drill with Bits
  • Benchtop Table Saw
  • Coping Saw
  • A Tri-Square
  • Duct Tape

Nativity Scene Construction Procedure

Note: Pre-drill all nail or screw holes since the stock is so small.

  1. If there’s no table saw in the shop, a home improvement store will cut material to size.
  2. Use the coping saw to cut a half lap joint for the two front posts and the horizontal rafter.
  3. Attach the front and rear posts through the floor. Set the front posts in 1/4” to 1/2” from the front of the floor; it just looks better. The rear posts can be right on the corner.
  4. Attach the back to the posts and floor; this will sturdy them up. It should be slightly lower than the top of the posts to compensate for the roof slope.
  5. Set the front horizontal rafter into the half lap joint, glue it, and let the glue cure overnight or the recommended period. The pieces are too small to clamp; use duct tape.
  6. Position the roof on the rear posts and the front posts/rafter assembly and secure in place. The easiest way is to attach the back posts first, then plumb the front posts with a tri-square and attach the roof to them.
  7. Finish with the stain/polyurethane. One coat might do it, two might look better depending on the shade selected.

Putting it all Together

Once the finish is dry, fill it up with a set of nativity figurines. There’s plenty of room for the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the three wise men, an angel, and plenty of barnyard animals.

For an added touch, add some straw or some Easter basket grass. Avoid the temptation to hang miniature Christmas lights. It wouldn’t be time-period authentic.

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