Wording With Purpose

DIY Nativity Set

Michelle's Nativity (7)

I purchased a nativity set for my daughter, Michelle, and I loved the detail of the figurines. The designer of the stable was obviously influenced by American westerns, and I expected to find a ranch brand burned into the wood or a horseshoe hanging above a window.

I examined pictures of DIY stable designs of all shapes and sizes. The Internet is often the best power tool in the shop. I wanted something special and unique, not the cookie-cutter designs found in hundreds of living rooms. My daughters are special and unique, treasures that grace my life with joy, and that drives me to stretch my creative side for them.

A stump from a crepe myrtle tree, saved for some future project, occupied the corner of the potting table in the garden. As I examined that chunk of wood an idea was born. If I could split the stump and carve out some of the splintered wood the remainder would be the start of a custom stable for the nativity set.

I used scrap wood for the components of this stable, and tried a few roof ideas before I settled on the stability of a lean-to design. The base is 1/4” plywood and the roof sheathing is about 1/8” plywood. Use what you have. Note my base is longer than my roof as a precaution to tipping. I don’t want a stable collapse to ruin Christmas.

By the way, I have my scrap wood organized (finally!), until one of my creative ladies decides this ancient ladder has a higher purpose in home decoration.

Scrap Wood

Adjust your stable dimensions to fit the size of your nativity figurines. I juggled that constraint with the size of the storage box I purchased to protect the finished product. Storage must be part of the gift. How many times have you received a Christmas gift only to wonder secretly, “Where am I going to put this after the holidays?”

Leanto Stable Sized

Paint the structural members before adding the embellishments. I chose a dark brown splattered with a sandy color to make Christmas camo. Management vetoed that idea and suggested dark brown with peat moss as an accent.

Support with notations

The roof supports were cut from 1×2 pine fastened to the block at the bottom with screws. Consider predrilling unless you have plenty of scrap wood and patience to remake parts as they split.

Roof Detail with notations

The roof is constructed from maple sticks harvested from the front yard although any sticks will work. Pick and choose the sizes and shapes that fit together. The sticks were tacked in place using a trim gun. Note the trusses added to accommodate the brads. Wood glue dabbled in several spots along the sticks bonded them to the sheathing.

Trusses with arrows

Spray with contact cement and sprinkle peat moss to suit your taste. Peat moss is not a stocked item in my shop so a road trip netted that as well as a spray can of adhesive. The process is simple. Spray the glue and dribble the moss, pushing down gently with your fingers to secure it. Continue until you have the mossy look you desire.

The stump pieces in my design are not structural. It is time to predrill those and attach them to the base using 2” deck screws. This is at least a four-handed job so ask for help. I placed the pieces and traced their outline using a marker so I knew where to drill the pilot holes.

Michelle's Nativity (14)

And that’s a wrap. Two people stood in line to claim the stable should Michelle prefer the smaller one from the purchased set instead. Michelle loved her gift and will think of Dad’s love each time she decorates for Christmas.

Men, gifts don’t have to be expensive but they must be thoughtful and filled with love.