Introduction: Nativity Scene From One Piece of Plywood & Scrap Wood

This nativity scene is made from one piece of plywood and a couple of scrap boards. It is roughly 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The idea is to (1) keep it simple, to keep the focus of Christmas set on the Christ child, and (2) to keep it small, so it can be easily handled and stored for the year.


  • plywood - 1/4 inch, about 2 feet X 3 feet
  • two boards - width and length is up to you, about 4 feet for each board
  • one board - a one-by-six works well, about 30 inches, but this is very flexible
  • wooden triangles - two right triangles of wood to serve as braces, about 3 X 4 X 5 inches
  • screws - about 6
  • wood glue
  • white paint


  1. jigsaw
  2. screwdriver or cordless drill
  3. screws
  4. wood glue
  5. paintbrush and paint

Step 1: Sketch Out Your Game Plan

I'd been looking at nativity scenes for a couple of years. The one's online for sale were either a bit pricey, it seemed, or I wasn't thrilled with the design. I wanted simplicity and focus. So, I drew my own sketch, an amalgamation of what I'd seen and what I want.

I have two palm trees in my front yard rather close together...that seemed a perfect setting. The first illustration shows my general plan.

The second drawing was done to give more detail.

The third drawing shaded in the backspace to see how things might look as a lit-silhouette, if there is such a thing.

So, it's worth drawing out your outline on paper as best as you can. That'll be your template.

Step 2: Draw It Out

Consider Your Size

Think about how big you want your nativity scene. I didn't want one too big and settled on about 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide. I suppose the factor to consider is how far away it will be viewed from. Mine is for the front yard to be viewed from the sidewalk or street. I was concerned it might be too small, but that size works fine for that purpose.

1/4 inch plywood is likely best as it's rather easy to cut. The thicker the wood, the sturdier, but the heavier and the more difficult to cut.

Draw it Out

Draw out your outline from the sketch you did on paper. I used a pencil and simply eyeballed and sketched on the plywood. There's no need to be neat because it'll be painted over--feel free to draw and re-draw and then re-re-draw until it looks right. Also, don't fool with minor details...they're hard to cut and won't likely be seen anyway. It's the general shape that is desired. Imagine a silhouette of two lovers watching a sunset. The details are not seen, only the general outlines of the individuals are.

If drawing is a challenge, feel free to use my sketch (or a different outline). Print it out on paper. Then use the art technique known as the Grid Drawing Method. In essence, you draw a grid over the original on paper. Likewise, you'd draw a grid on your plywood with the same number of rows and columns. You you simply draw what you see in each square, one-by-one. It's surprising how accurately and easily you can replicate a drawing. Here's a good tutorial:

Step 3: Cut It Out


A jigsaw is about the only tool I know for this job. I had to buy one.

Using a jigsaw is pretty self-explanatory. My only suggestions:

  1. wear safety glasses
  2. take your time
  3. make plenty of relief cuts (cuts so that chunks of plywood fall out/get out of the way as you go)

Step 4: Make a Base

To make the plywood stand vertically, I scrounged up a 1-by-6 scrap board, then cut it just short of the width of the base.

I drilled 6 screws through the front of the plywood into the board. This made things pretty snug. But, to make things more stable, I cut two triangles from some scrap wood to serve as braces, then wood-glued them to the base and plywood. The second picture shows this, vaguely, as well as the screws front the front of the plywood back into the base board.

After a night for the glue to dry, things felt very snug and tight. A brick lying on the base board would prevent it from blowing over.

Step 5: Paint It

The screws are more visible on the first photo here. Simply paint over them and paint the board. I suppose you can choose whatever color you'd like, but white would obviously show up best at night. A couple of coats is likely necessary to get a nice coverage.

A also painted the back in a dark red. My thinking was simply that it looked kind of nice with the dark back during the day--it gave a silhouette effect from behind.

Step 6: Let It Shine!

I made a stable "roof" out of two old boards. A piece of wood glued at the apex of the gable is all that's holding it together. Two screws into the palm tree is all that's holding it up (there's not much weight to it).

A spotlight on the ground is all that's needed to make it really stand out.

Merry Christmas!

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