DIwYatt: Building a Nativity Set Stable

By | December 12, 2012

So we were looking for the right holy family and manger scene for our home, but we ran into some trouble from sheer picky-ness ( yes she makes up words and I can too ).  We really like the Willow Tree Sets because of the carved wood look and because there are no facial features, making them easier to relate to. But the stable made to go with the set just wasn’t what we were looking for.  And this is where I come in.

Melissa prioritized this project to the top of the list just in time for the Christmas season. She gave me a rough idea of what she was looking for, and I set to work designing in my head.  We were lucky enough to fall into some nice barn-wood siding boards that her dad had spared at the family farm.  Here are the steps I took:

All cuts in this project were made with a table saw that my Grandpa gave to me. Your manger may not carry the same sentimental value as mine, but it will still look nice. You can also make all of these cuts with a circular saw. ( Side-note: Always wear Safety Glasses and tight fitting clothing when operating power tools )

1. Based on the size of the manger scene, I needed a space at least 9 inches tall by 10 inches wide.  To get the right look, I needed an ending height of 10 inches.  I cut it a little long so that I could make an angled cut later so the sloped roof will sit flat.  This also helps the back wall look better from the front view. Luckily the board was 11 and 1/2 inches wide ( perfect width ).  One of the sides was a little more weathered than I wanted to deal with so I used my table saw to cut the width down to 11 and 1/8 inches ( I’ll tell you why later ). Below is a picture after the cut; I set the blade to about 15 degrees and made the cut sloping down towards the back.

2. Next I needed to make the sides of the stable. The reason why I cut my board down to 11 and 1/8 inches is because your standard saw blade is 1/8 of an inch thick.  I figured that this would be and easy way to get my two 5 and 1/2 inch boards to be the same width with one cut.  I ( she ) wanted the sides to open out on an angle ( about 22.5 degrees ) so that it looks more like a scene, so I needed to cut an angle on the side pieces ( Pictures below options A and B ).  You can go about this step two ways:

A.  Depending on how similar the front and back of your board looks, you can set your table saw to the 22.5 degrees mentioned above and cut right through the center of the board to get 2 pieces in one cut. ( the after photo )

B.  If you aren’t happy with how your front and back match up, set the fence of your table saw to 5 and 1/2 inches and set make your cut with the longer side of the board being the nicer side of the front/back. Without adjusting the fence, flip your board and run it back through the blade, you should end up with a triangle shape dowel for a scrap. ( the after photo )

3. I ( we ( she ) )  wanted the roof to incline upwards from 10 inch height of the back to enhance that scene look we were going for.  Through some MATH that you probably don’t want me to explain, I determined that the front needed to be 11 and 3/8 inches tall.  I measured and drew lines to cut and free handed this on my table saw. ( and by free handed, I mean with the help of my guide at 15 degrees, see below ) Repeat this for the other side, no need to adjust the guide ( this ensures the same angle on the cut ).

4.  At this point I also trimmed the side edges of the back so that they were the same angle as the sides that I would soon be attaching.


5.  The only piece left to cut was the top and I waited to do that until the sides and back were assembled.  Since the barn wood was old and dry, I held the back and sides up and pre-drilled the holes where I was going to attach them.  Make sure to pre drill on the angle to avoid splitting out the wood.

6.  Initially, I used finishing nails to attach the pieces together, hammering them in almost fully and then finishing with a punch. Unfortunately the nails wouldn’t hold the pieces together so I pre-drilled another hole on the back large enough for a wood screw to fit in.  Your pre-drilled hole should be the size of the shaft of the screw, so that the screw threads will still be able to cut and grip the wood.

Once it was all together, it looked like this:

7.  Now is time to make the top.  I waited until the end for this step, because it was easier to measure what I needed than to do some more math to figure out what was needed exactly.  I needed at least 11 and 1/2 inches in the back to have a little over hang and about 18 inches in the front to have some over hang.  I found the center of the board and measured out 5 and 3/4 inches either way on one side and 9 inches either way on the other. I drew lines and used my table saw guide to make the cuts.

8.  I attached this in the same fashion as the sides with the pre-drilling and the screws.

And that’s it! Melissa added some burlap fabric for a nice touch and to cover the screws in the top.

Here is the final version!

Let me know if you have any questions -Wyatt

11 thoughts on “DIwYatt: Building a Nativity Set Stable

  1. 4elizabeth

    Cool! It’s cool to hear projects from you, too, Wyatt. I like how specific you were with the specifics of sawing so if I wanted to do it I could too.

  2. Melissa Howard

    That looks great! And I love the Willow Tree set, too, for much the same reason! They’re sweet and simple, instead of cheesy or weird. I think it helps do justice to the honesty and purity of the actual moment. We have a similar set that my parents gave us for Christmas last year..Willow-Tree-esque. 🙂

    1. Melissa

      Perfect! I would have been fine with something similar, but I couldn’t find anything but the real ones… Thanks for the kind words on the project!

  3. Sonita

    Awesome Post and great project. It does make it so much more special using tools that have special meaning. My Navitiy was made with that same saw by Dad and Janice made my Nativity set. Good Job Wyatt!

    1. Wyatt Post author

      Thanks, I knew Pa-Pa built yours but I didn’t know Janice made the set, that’s pretty cool.


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