How to Build an Outdoor Wooden Nativity Display


When's the perfect time to build an outdoor nativity display? Summer. That's when vacations and downtime give you plenty of opportunity to get in touch with your inner woodworker. Concerned about tying up all your summer recreation time? Don't be. You'll have all kinds of time for barbecues, swimming and sun, because you'll be taking advantage of a building plan that uses existing materials so you can spend your leisure time putting your own special decorative touches on this easy-to-construct crèche.

Step 1

Contact local stores, building supply companies and do-it-yourself emporiums to locate and buy two wood skids or pallets, regularly used in warehouses to stack, move and organize shipments of goods. Peruse the skids carefully---especially if they've been around the block a few times---and pick out the two best for the side walls of your stable. Purchase plywood cut to size to serve as the back and roof of the stable. Add extra plywood to your order if you wish to add a floor.

Step 2

Sand and clean up the pallets to remove soil, stains and other discolorations. Stand the two skids on the side to create sidewalls. Attach pre-cut sections of plywood with hinges to add a roof and a back wall (alternatives are: particle board, wafer board or pegboard). Add another section of wood to the bottom of the nativity stable if you prefer not to have the Holy Family and other occupants standing on the cold ground.

Step 3

Paint or stain the three walls, roof and (if applicable) floor with an earthy brown paint or stain, and then seal all exterior surfaces so the crèche will stand up to the punishing weather December brings. Add earthy touches to the roof by covering it with materials like palm fronds, tree branches or moss, or leave the roof unadorned and then top it with evergreens when you set up the nativity for the yuletide season.

Step 4

Add custom touches to your outdoor wood nativity display by using your jigsaw to cut out a huge star, a moon and other celestial shapes, each of which will require sanding and painting before you attach these embellishments to the front of your nativity stable's roof. Store the unit until the holiday season arrives.

Step 5

Purchase templates or patterns to cut and paint wood figures of Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus, the Magi, barn animals and angels (find link below for one source). Use your jigsaw to cut out each figure; sand and paint them using the full-color guide that comes with such project plans.

Step 6

Resurrect your stable from its storage place and set it up in your yard as Christmas approaches. Place a rug or hemmed cloth on the ground or floor, set up your figures, and, since you've done so much of this work long before erecting your crèche, you won't mind running holiday lights to your stable so the neighborhood can admire your handiwork.

Things You'll Need

  • Two skids/pallets
  • Plywood
  • Jigsaw
  • Carpentry tools
  • Hardware
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint and sealer
  • Brushes
  • Safety glasses
  • Lights (optional)


  • Thrifty Fun: Make a flat top nativity stable
  • Free Republic: Make nativity stable from pallets
  • Woodworkers Workshop: Patterns for Holy Family
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About this Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 25 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned articles in various consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. She won two Chicago Business Marketing Association awards for writing and design. Cohen holds a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Georgia.

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