Nativity sets are one of those essential Christmas things, up there with the tree and the advent calendar and lights outside. Lots of folks have good memories of the nativity set their families put out when they were kids, and just as many folks collect them and display them at Christmastime.
There’s a really great pattern for a very minimalistic and simple nativity over at a blog called Under My Umbrella (though it hasn’t been updated for a couple of years) that cuts great with the scroll saw. I haven’t tried it with a jigsaw – it might get tricky because of the smaller shape of the pieces, but you probably can pull it off if you clamp the pieces right to the edge of your work table or something like that.
1×6 board – you should be able to get one full set out of 4ft or so of board. Get the better wood for this – not stud stock. It may be cheap, but it’ll be a LOT of work to get it looking nice.
Nativity Pattern from Under My Umbrella
Jigsaw and clamps or Scroll Saw
Sandpaper and Sander
That’s it! This one doesn’t take a whole lot of materials, especially if you have some scrap wood laying around to cut these out of.
I started by printing out the patterns and cutting them out to make stencils. Printing on heavier cardstock will make your life a lot easier, trust me. Then I simply traced the pattern onto the wood:
Then it was time to fire up the scroll saw to cut them out. Like I mentioned before, you can probably do this with a jigsaw with some clamps to keep it from going anywhere.
Next is the super fun part! By super fun, I mean super tedious and boring, so I guess not super fun – sanding. Some parts of these have to be hand sanded with elbow grease but it’s worth it, I promise.
Once they’re all sanded down smooth, it’s time for stain. Or paint, I guess, if you wanted to, but seriously these beg for stain. They’re so gorgeous when they’re done – you’ll see! I applied one coat of Minwax Red Oak Stain to these:
Look how nice they look already!
Now this is where the shellac comes in. Shellac is very interesting stuff – it’s actually made out of bugs. Weird, I know. But it’s a great stain and odor sealer/blocker, and I’ve found another great use for it. See, pinewood and other soft woods just eat up liquids like stains and especially finishes like polyurethane. Last year I made a set of these and after 8 or 10 coats of polyurethane there were still dull spots on the wood because it was soaking all the finish up. Very frustrating.
My woodworking-inclined dad suggested shellac to me. Thanks, Dad! One coat of shellac and the wood was sealed up and the poly went on like it’s supposed to.
Long story short – hit these with shellac before you finish them, it will save you a lot of time and frustration.
Once they’re dry, they’re pretty much done! You can get them down to a super mirror finish by progressively sanding them with higher grits of sandpaper between finish coats, but I don’t think that’s completely necessary. Just look at how great these look!