Introduction: Wooden Nativity Group

There is always a challenge in taking a new approach to an old tradition. At school a boy asked me if he could make a nativity group out of wood. I did not find any example for him to follow so I made this one. There are no special skills required, and tools and material are quite simple. In the next steps I will lead you through the proces.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

I used a pinewood beam, 3 cm thick and 6,9 cm wide. for the whole group one lenght of 2.40 m will suffice. Besides that I used some small pieces of half round trim, 3 cm wide and a stick of 6 mm.

Tools are a normal saw, wood glue and sanding paper. If you have trouble sawing in a 90 degrees angle you could use a miter saw. It is essental that all the pieces cab stand up right

Step 2: Basic Shape

For a basic "man"shape I cut the beam at and angle. The long side measures 23 cm, the short side 10 cm. All people-shapes are variations of this shape. The more variated, the more interesting, so a few lean forward, one shepherd is smaller, a few are cut in half and assembled kneeling or sitting. You can copy what I did, but I think it is more fun experimenting and finding your own shapes

Step 3: Joseph , Mary and Child

As you can see Joseph is made of the basic shape. The top is cut off, and face and cane are added. The extra part are simply glued with a wood glue. Mary is portrayed sitting down, so the body is cut in two parts and the lower part is turned. The child consists out of 4 parts. The base ( crib) is a simple block, slightly wider than the child. The child itself is a small wood block, cut at an angle. Under he face is a small triangle, a left over from the top of the other figurines. It looks better when the face is a bit turned opright.

You can print the drawing on A4 to get the precise measurements

Step 4: Three Wise Men

Complete with the bearing of gifts. The first one is a basic shape, the second one leans slightly forward, the third one kneels, so the body is cut at a angle and a block is added as protruding knee. The knee-block is made less wide, so it looks like one knee only, and not like someone sitting.All gifts are simple blocks, left over from other pieces. At first I planned to give them crowns by bending copper wire, but I did not like the result. Including in that plan I had designed an angel with copper wire wings. Once the group grew I disposed of the idea.

Step 5: Shepherds and Sheep

Again one of the figurines is a simple basic shape, and the other two variations. I tried to make one shepherd holding a sheep on its shoulders, but the shape looked to complicated, and did not fit in the simplicity of the group. Instead I gave the first shepherd a backpack to distinguish him from the first king or Joseph. Also the cane of the shepherds is shorter than Joseph's cane. The second shepard is younger and therefore 3 cm smaller. He is and leaning forward to give some walking action. The third one is old, and bending forward leaning on his cane. Again you can copy the shapes from the drawing in the last picture by printing it on A4.The sheep are small blocks, the front cut at an angle and small triangles, left over from the top of other figures are added as head

Step 6: Other Animals

It took me some while to find shapes that characterize ox, ass and camel. I still think my ass is too fat. ( .. ).

I tried to make the ox broad shouldered with a tiny behind and a big head with triangle for horns. For the ass I wanted to make a more horizontal shape with the ears upright. Th camel is almost like a pyramid, witch i think is appropriate for the occasion.

Step 7: Finishing

A little unorthodox..

I did not want to color the group, but the wood looked to new, and cheap. I could have darkened it with a vinegar and steelwool solution, but instead I tried something different. I rubbed the wood with shoe polish and added ashes from the woodburner. It is a dusty business but very quick and with a very nice grey effect. It looks very natural. After rubbing it with ash I sanded everything again, and tried to give the corners a clean uncoloured accent.

Step 8: Result

As a group I think the result is pleasing, and shows all object are of one family of shapes, Very clear and simple.

For a nativity group it is a relative big size, and draws attention without being too obtrusive. It requires neither skills nor expensive materials, and is made within a few days. So why don't you?

If you are in a really lazy mood, you could buy this nativity group from me at

Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

Wooden Toys Challenge 2016

Participated in the
Wooden Toys Challenge 2016