Minimalist Nativity Puzzle Set




Introduction: Minimalist Nativity Puzzle Set

About: Architect, Urban Designer, all-round tinkerer of odds and ends. Small solutions for big city living. Dreaming of lands faraway where garages are big enough to build a workshop in, or lakes are there for taking…

Hello Instructables!

Here's an original design I came up with for a minimalist Nativity Set, which I made as Christmas gifts for friends and family this year.

The set consists of Jesus in the Manger with Mary and Joseph, with 3 Wise Men bearing gifts, and a Shepherd boy with his 2 sheep. All the geometric-styled pieces fit right back into the Stable frame like a puzzle, for storage till next year.

Step 1: Watch!

Here's a quick stop-motion of how the puzzle pieces fit together.

Step 2: Cut and Glue Up

I've seen other Nativity puzzles which people have made out of plywood and scroll saws. Those are more 'rustic' with free-hand curves.

I designed this with all straight lines in AutoCAD and laser cut out the pieces out of plywood.

1: 3mm Birch plywood for the puzzle pieces and inner frame

2: 3mm Walnut plywood for the puzzle bases and the front Stable frame

3: 3mm Birch plywood for the rear piece of the Stable

There's practically zero waste as all the pieces fill the whole Stable frame!

I glued up the two front frames and the rear piece together with wood glue and clamps. This makes up the puzzle tray, and also makes the manger frame thick enough to stand on its own for display.

Note the 'hole' at the top edge of the Stable frame that fits the bottom point of the star.

I also finished the wood pieces with a wipe-on chopping board wood oil, which makes the walnut turn a gorgeous chocolate brown. Makes it look super luxe!

Step 3: How to Display the Nativity

The nativity includes 3 base pieces to create 3 clusters as follows:

A: 3 wise men traditionally known as Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior, with their 3 gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

B: Joseph with his staff, Jesus on a crib (feeding trough), and Mary

C: 2 sheep and a Shepherd boy with his crook (staff)

And the star goes in the top corner of the shed to mark the spot where Jesus lay.

Step 4: How to Re-assemble the Puzzle

All the pieces fit right back in the box as shown:

1: All the base pieces go in one layer

2: All the puzzle pieces fit on top as shown.

3: There's a 'cheat sheet' engraved on the back of the manger tray as a helpful hint.

Step 5: Bonus: Gift-box It!

I also made a quick envelope-style gift box out of cardboard, to gift this to friends and family.

It's my hope that these will get a special place in each home, and that setting up the Nativity together can become part of their annual family traditions.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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    Hello! I'm impressed by your design and would love to buy it
    Is there a place where I can get it?
    Congrats for your work

    This is gorgeous. And I love how it all fits so neatly into a storage box at the end of the day. Definitely a beautiful design and wonderfully executed.

    It looks rather complicated if you were to ask me to complete this puzzle. However, I would still very much appreciate it as a gift though which I would treasure and display it out as a decorative piece.


    3 years ago

    This is really neat...who doesn't like toying with a puzzle over the holidays :)


    Question 3 years ago

    Are you going to share the AutoCad files?


    Answer 3 years ago

    Thanks for the interest! I'd like to retain copyright over this particular design, so I'm not going to upload the files for some commercial manufacturer to rip off directly. (Although I've provided more than enough information for anyone to recreate this without too much difficulty.)

    That said, I'm happy to share the CAD files with individual makers who ask nicely. PM me your personal email and I'll send you the files, for personal non-commercial use only. (I'm not sure if I can PM files over the Instructables messaging system).

    Cheers, and Merry Christmas!


    3 years ago

    no point in posting an instructable without the files, pointless


    Reply 3 years ago

    That's a *really* friendly way of asking for a freebie, ianderson2. Instructables are also great for free inspiration, learning new techniques, and general knowledge too.

    *That's* the point of this community.

    No one is stopping you from creating your own version of my design, with your own particular details.

    However design files are a designer's IP. If they want to share for free, that's a bonus. Not a right.

    I have shared design files for free for most of my previous Instructables. But I've put enough time into this creation that I would like to retain copyright for this particular design.

    Have a great Christmas, mate.