Saturday, December 10, 2016

Contemporary Nativity Scene

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

I came across a picture online of an Ultra Modern Nativity Scene and was quite intrigued with the set. It was designed by Sebastian Bergne but unfortunately, he only made 250 sets and paying $140 (CAD) for a bunch of painted blocks is just a little bit too much for my budget.

Regardless, the longer I looked at the pictures, the more I started to like it and decided I was going to make a set for my wife. The design is so simple and the only real challenge in reverse engineering was to come up with the proper dimensions, so here they are (H x W x D):

Joseph, wise men, Shepherds: 4" x 1" x 3/4"
Mary: 2-1/2" x 2" x 3/4"
Jesus: 1-1/2" x 2" x 3/4"
Angel: 4" x 3/8" x 3/4"
Stable frame outside: 5-3/8" x 9-7/8" x 1"
Stable frame inside: 4-1/8" x 8-1/2" x 3/4"
Stable back wall: 4-1/8" x 8-1/2" x 1/4"

The material I used for the blocks was solid white oak, the back wall of the stable was oak laminated particle board and the frame of the stable was made with solid pine.

After I cut the strips oversize, I put them through my planer and cut them to length on the chop saw. Then came the fairly time-consuming process of sanding the pieces on the belt sander.

To paint the pieces, I drilled a small hole into the bottom of each of the blocks and hammered a nail into it, then I took a 3 foot piece of 2x2 and drilled a bunch of holes (the same size as the heads of the nails) at 2" intervals. That way, I could paint the underside of the block, then stick the nail into the hole of the 2x2 and paint the sides without having to touch the pieces. Also, I was able to do it all in one coat and it could dry all around.

After the pieces were dry I put a thin clear coat over it all and let it dry over night. All that was left to do in the morning was to assemble it and present it to my wife.

Planing the boards to size

The planed boards

Close-up of the oak

I had to sharpen my chop saw blade

Using a diamond sharpening blade it works great

A view from a different angle

The sharpened carbide tips

After the oak pieces were cut to size

My Jerry-rigged setup for the belt sander. Soon I'll have a bench top version but I still need to fix that one (blog to come)

Some of the sanded pieces

Doing a test setup of the nativity scene

The nails at the bottom of each piece

Standing them up on a 2x2 so they can dry

Starting the painting process

Another angle

About half-way done with the painting

Painting is all done

Testing to make sure the stable/box is the right size

The finished (but not yet clear coated) nativity set

Test setup

Clear coating the stable

Clear coating the other pieces

All done, waiting for the clear coat to dry

The finished set

Wood planer
Table saw
Chop saw
Belt sander
Measuring tape
Ear & eye protection
Sand paper

24" of 1" by 3/4" white oak
4" of 2" by 3/4" white oak
30" of 1" by 3/4" solid pine
6" by 9" piece of 1/4" oak laminated particle board
Tole paint
Four 2" nails
Wood glue

$0.00 (I had all the materials in the shop already)

9 hrs


Success. I hope it will last.