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It's a old catholic tradition to put up a nativity scene for Christmas to reminds us of the origin of the feast. The tradition is dying in the Netherlands. Big Santa is gaining interest with generous decorations, gifts, big trees, and too much to eat. The message of Scrooge gets lost in all Santa movies.  May be its time to revive that tradition in a new way. So, whenever you get confused around Christmas time about the good of the world, and the goods of the world,
It's time to start decorating with the remains of those goods, and shape them into a symbol of good.

It seems most unlikely to build a nativity scene from empty plastic detergent bottles, and may be the result is not your idea of Christmas decoration. But to me it's fun. To achieve an almost impossible goal and design new shapes from waste. I'm sure some of the figurines leave a little smile on your face.

Start collecting bottles now, and next year just have a go. I used 12 bottles, a pair of scissors, some tie-wraps and a glue gun. It's easy, costs nothing and may be even the kids will join in

Step 1: Collecting Material

Be sure to have a collection of different bottles. Well rinsed and cleaned. Labels wont get unstuck under water, so don't bother to try. Instead heat the label with a hairdryer, and then gently peal off. Most bottles come out pretty clean.
I used some other stuff too. Caps of other detergent bottles. Some strange shaped from cloth detergent or shampoo. Balls I got out of the top of deodorant sticks. A plastic branch I found in a packet of dates. (Would they really sell better if a plastic branch is added?).
I used:
9 balls
3 green all purpose household detergent bottles with handle
2 yellow liquid abrasive bottles
2 yellow natural liquid soap bottles with handle
2 white clothing detergent bottles. One for the house, the other only the handle for sheepheads
1 green toilet clean "bent" bottle
1 white toilet clean bottle with swan neck
1 little pharmaceutical bottle (eye drops)
9 different caps from other bottles

Step 2: Techniques

Well techniques is a big word for it. It is all very simple.

Whenever you start cutting in a plastic bottle it's nice to start with a little hacksaw. Most of it can be cut with normal scissors. Near the bottom or the neck the plastic can be a bit thicker. There I use a pair of strong all purpose scissors.

To connect different parts I used a few different methods.
A glue gun. Mainly for glueing hats on heads. It's not the most reliable way to connect parts.
Tie-wraps. I puched holes with a revolverrod or an awl. Pull the tie-wrap through, and tight
Screws. Sometimes the heads are screwed on with little ( 1 cm ) screws.
Insert without extra's. In some parts I made a slit with scissors or hacksaw and pushed the rim of the second part in.

Step 3: Tools

a pair of normal scissors
little hacksaw
revolver rod
awl
glue gun
hair dryer
screwdriver and small screws
Tie-wraps

rarely used and not really necessary
electric drill
sandpaper
craft knife

Step 4: Joseph

Take a look at the template photo.
Two bottles are ( partly) needed. What remains can often be used in other figurines.
Cut out the three different parts. The head-part has a hole where the handle is cut off. Enlarge this hole until a ball fits in. glue the ball with a glue gun.
The body and arms part are connected with a yellow tie-wrap at the back. It is covered by the head part and cannot be seen. Make two slits in the head part to fit over the arms. Glue is not really needed, but can be added if the head tumbles.
Make two holes in one hand and slit a black tie/wrap through. Cut a part off, to create the right length.

Step 5: Mary

Needed is one bottle of liquid abrasive and a half ball.
the body part is cut from the upper half of the bottle, the arms near the bottom. They are attached with a yellow tie/wrap at the back. The cap of this bottle has a strange shape. Close the flap and glue in a half ball. The ball is cut in two with a small hacksaw. A small screw is driven into the head, visible in the first picture. If I had to do it over again I would give the arms an upward hook shape to make more active.

Step 6: The Child

I used a little bottle for eye drops. About the same as the famous white paint you use to correct written mistakes. ( wasn't there something about taking away our sins?)
Take off the top with a hacksaw. Save it. I used the top later as a head for the sheep that is carried by one of the shepherds. Cut a semi circle with your scissors to fit a deodorant ball and use the glue gun to connect the head to the body. I found a cap from a shampoo bottle witch makes a perfect cradle. Glue the child in

Step 7: Shepherds

Follow the markings on the template pictures. Cut pieces out.
Special remarks:
The green shepherd with bowl: The body and arms are attached with a tie wrap. The head is connected with a screw. The head is glued on. The bowl is a small cap of a bottle glued to the arm part.
Green shepherd with yellow head-kerchief. All three parts: body, arms and head-kerchief are connected with one tie-wrap. Another tie-wrap is decoratively used on the head-kerchief. A third one is used for cane. The head is glued in the head-kerchief
The dark green shepherd is created to resemble a shepherd with lamb on his shoulders. The body is one simple piece. The head slit on without glue. The lamb is made like the sheep  (see next step), with a half circle cut out the top side. A small slit on the rim, and a little head made from the top part of the little bottle used for the child (previous step).

Step 8: Sheep

Step 9: Three Wise Men

Wise man 1 ( Caspar):
Cut out four body parts. Attach body, arms and cloak with one tie-wrap at the back. Attach the head with a screw. glue the hat on. decorate with a small top of a bottle cap as one of the gifts ( gold incense and myrrh). Just make a slit and push it over the arm The cane I found in a packet of dates. Apparently the dates look nicer with a plastic branch added.
Wise man 2 ( Balthasar)
Cut out two body parts as in template. Attach at the back with one tie-wrap. Attach the head with a screw. The body part has a tiny piece of bottom of the bottle to provide a place. Add a green tie-wrap as cane, threaded through two holes in the hand. A piece of bottle handle is the second gift, ans the hat is the rifling top of a green bottle.
Wise man 3 (Melchior)
Cut the two parts as shown in the template picture. Attach at the back with a tie-wrap. Make a slit in the ball with a hacksaw. Push the head firmly on its shoulders. The head is a bottle top of dish washer fluid. Add a tie-wrap for cane

Step 10: Ox, Camel and Donkey

The ox:
I found a big oval purple cap on a detergent bottle. Combined with a black bottle cap for head, and connected with one tie-wrap creates the ox.
The camel
Follow the template picture. Cut out the shape. After cutting the neck is still too wide and bent back. To refine make two small cuts where body meets neck. They are visible on the template picture. Now the neck can be bent forward. Cut open the neck from base to head. press the two halves together and secure with a white tie -wrap at the bottom. A black  tie-wrap is used decorative as a rope around the nos.
The donkey
See the template picture. Cut out the two parts and fit the head in a slit in the body. Very simple, and very satisfying

Step 11: Angel

A ghost like appearance from a transparent shampoo bottle. Cut out the four pieces. Make holes with a revolverrod like shown on the picture. Attach all four pieces with one tie-wrap. Note that the head part has only one hole. Cut off the excess of the tie-wrap and glue in a ball for head.

Step 12: Camel Driver

A bit of a insignificant creature made of scraps left over from the other figurines. A white piece for body, left over from the camel. Dark green arms left over from the green shepherd and wise man. Both tied together with a tie-wrap. The head stuck on with a slit and the cap (left over from shepherds) glued on. A fine figure to use left over scraps and use your own imagination

Step 13: Stable

Find a big detergent bottle. Cut out the frond in an elliptical shape. The front will be still connected to the bottle in the handle. Take a knife and cut through. Remove the front. Create a window in the handle-hole. Punch 6 holes and thread trough some ( big) tie-wraps.
From three other tie-wraps cut off the thick block-like end. Thread the blocks over the ends over the "tails" of the tie-wraps used in the window to secure them. Second picture shows the shows the added extra tie-wraps, before cutting of the ends.

Step 14: One Year Later.....

One year later I decided to paint everything. First a layer of spraypaint. Then acrylic in gold, copper, silver, black and brown. I like how the original material gets lost.

<p>Super duper creative! I love both the original plastic colours as well as the metallic version.</p>
nice job! just put a little more color
<p>A bit late, but I listened to you! and added step 14</p>
Yes, You're right. I used to have purple and red bottles, but when I started this I had only yellow, green and white. And painting on this kind of plastic is tricky. Best result I had ( after sanding) was acrylic paint on a layer of acrylic structure paste. It stays vulnerable.
<p>this is so great!</p>
Creative Recycling! Love it.
Amazingly creative and beautiful. We really enjoyed looking at your work.
Beautiful work ! Simply elegant !!
Wow. i would have no patience to be able to do this
And for me it's the way to relax....
Wow, how creative!
Wow is modular, you can change positions and details when you desire. <br>Reuse, save money and get creative!!! <br> <br>Creative and wonderful!
This is beautiful and obviously took a lot of planning and creativity. You're so awesome!!!
This is very creative... Nice job!

About This Instructable

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Bio: Technics/ arts and crafts teacher at a school for mentally disordered young adults.
More by Ruud van Koningsbrugge:Lost Glove Owl Wooden nativity group Floating Showcase Between the Blinds 
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