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.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fixing Our Broken Christmas Tree

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

So today was the day we were going to set up the Christmas tree for this year. Unfortunately, after so many times hauling it up and down the stairs each year, the top part of the Christmas tree got bent one too many times and broke off 1.500" into the top most piece.

After analyzing the situation, I realized that I couldn't just weld the pipe together because there was too much greenery, string and hot glue from when they originally made the tree so I had to look for an alternative.

After some thought I figured it would be a perfect project for my lathe. I had been sick all week and hadn't been out in the shop at all and I still wasn't 100% but my wife and kids were eagerly waiting inside so I cut off the broken piece of steel pipe out of the center of the tree and cleaned it up, then hauled out a piece of 5/8" cold rolled steel, turned a 1.500" length of the one side down to 0.450" and a 1.500" length of the other side down to just a little under 5/8". Lastly, I drilled a 1.500" deep hole at 0.450" on the thicker end, hammered this newly finished piece of metal into the Christmas tree pipe and voila, the tree was fixed.

After I put the tree back together I realized that two of the rubber feet had fallen off the tree stand which we were going to fix for the last few years but never got around to, so I figured I might as well take another 20 minutes and make 4 new tree stand feet out of teflon. That part was pretty easy: Clean up the pipe, turn 0.500" of one side down to 0.450" and 0.250" of the other side to about 0.750". All I then had to do is hammer the 4 little feet into the tree stand and now I can slide the tree around on my hard wood floor without scratching it up.

The top end of the bottom piece of the tree

Measuring the width

The broken off piece of pipe that was part of the top of the tree

Where the bending had taken its toll

Rounding/stretching the cleaned up piece

Close-up of the cleaned up piece of pipe at the center of the tree

5/8" cold rolled steel

Turning one side down to make a press-fit into the inside of the pipe for the top piece

Turning the other side down just a bit to clean up the metal

Drilling the larger end of the piece to fit over top of the protruding piece of metal that belongs to the bottom of the tree

Close-up of the drilled out piece (1.500" deep)

The finished adapter to fix the broken off piece of pipe

The tree stand with the last two rubber feet removed

After the feet were cleaned up a bit

Turning down some 1" teflon

The small end (0.450") will get pressed into each foot of the tree stand

One of the finished feet

Another view

The tree stand with 4 new anti-scratch feet

The finished tree with the creative help of the kiddos


Metal Band Saw
Metal Lathe and accessories
Cordless drill
Tapered chisel

3" of 5/8" cold rolled steel
4" of 1" teflon




Tree looks great and should last another 10 years!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Making a Bag Pipe Drone Stock

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

A gentleman from Moncton contacted me if I could make him some bag pipe drone stocks on my lathe and after looking at a sample he brought I took some measurements and started replicating. The steps were as follows:

1. Cut 6" pieces out of 2" solid Acetal
2. Chuck and indicate, then center drill the stock
3. Turn the outside down about 0.015" for a nice surface finish
4. Drill 4.500" deep, 1" wide
5. Bore 4.500" deep, 1.580" wide
6. Part off at 4.500"
7. Face the remaining 1.500" long piece
8. Turn it down about 0.015" for a nice surface finish
9. Flip it around and face the other side
10. Turn down 0.900" to a diameter of 1.560"
11. Thread at 32 TPI for the hemp to have something to grab on to
12. Flip it around and use a profile cutter to cut the curvature
13. Drill three 5/8" diameter holes spaced equally into the face


Turning the outside to 1.850"
The outside is finished
About half-way through with turning the outside
Done turning the outside
Drilling to 5/8"
Then drilling to 1.000"
Cooling the drill bits in flood coolant between usage
Almost done drilling

Another view
Boring 4.500" deep to 1.590" inside diameter
The parted off parts
Tools of the trade
Threading the 1.500" wide piece so the hemp will adhere better
Another step completed
Ready for the profiling
Using a custom-made profiling tool to cut the contour
The contoured piece
Getting ready to drill the 3 holes
In the midst of drilling the holes
Close-up of the drilling process
The finished part
Another view
View from the front
View from the top
Another view


Metal lathe & accessories
Metal band saw
Cordless drill

6" of 2" diameter acetal

16 hrs

This was a fun job. I love my lathe!