Nativity stable

Holy Family without stable

Does your outdoor Nativity scene resemble the picture above?  Have you been searching the Web for plans for a Nativity stable to shelter them?

Could you find any Nativty Stable plans that you didn't have to pay, sight unseen, to download?

Neither could we made one up, and we're sharing the plans with you for free - because that's what Christmas is all about.  AND we tell you what you'll need to build it and walk you through the construction process! It's easy to build - and, though it is a bit pricy (approximately $200.00 in December 2005, when this was written), it will last for years.  Why is it so expensive? Well, a big reason is all the anchors - almost $100 for those alone.  BUT...those anchors are what make this Nativity stable so attractive: everything unscrews so it can be stored flat between seasons!


The materials for our Nativity stable are all available at Home Depot, so you should have little trouble gathering everything.  We have the standard WalMart-variety nativity, so our stable was sized for it.   Your stable may vary in size from ours, but the materials list is the same; only the quantities and sizes may vary.

First, some basic measurements: the footprint of our stable is 42" x 72" and the basic "room" is framed with 48"-tall 4x4s in each corner, set atop a 2x4 base frame for stability and to prevent the posts from sinking into the ground. here's what we used:

2"x 4" x 35" base frame ends
2"x 4" x 72" base frame front and rear
4"x 4" x 48" corner posts
(buy 2 8' posts and have the store cut them - it's easier to move them that way)
1"x 4" x 42" top frame ends
1"x 4" x 72" top frame front and rear
1"x 6" x 42" end wall sheathing (2 per end)
1"x 6" x 72" rear wall sheathing
1"x 4" x 8" ridge pole supports
1"x 4" x 42" ridge pole
1"x 4" x 8' rafters (cutting info is in the text below)
2'x 4' x 1/4" Luan plywood - roof
2 bundles
cedar shakes roof


4" anchor plates
2" anchor plates
3" x 5" tie plates
2 packages
#8 x 3/4" pan-head metal screws
1 package
#8 x 1-1/4" pan-head metal screws


The stable is built with a very few tools, all of which are commonly found around the house of a do-it-yourselfer (if you don't have one of these, this is an excellent, get it  <wink, wink > .

  combination square
  circular saw
  philips-head screwdriver
  variable-speed drill with phillips-head bit
  2 3" C-clamps
  utility knife to split/trim cedar shingles
  short stool
    to lay wood on when cutting and to stand on when working on the roof

Ready to build a stable?  Ok...let's go!


First things first: the basic layout.

base plan

Note that the front and rear pieces of the base fit between the end pieces, rather than the other way around; this is to support the weight of the roof. corner post brackets

Begin by attachng four 4" anchors to each 4x4 corner post using two #8 x 3/4" screws on each anchor.  The anchors should be placed on adjacent sides, as shown in the picture.  Place two anchors on each end of the posts and on the same two sides at each end (see drawing). corner post anchor attachment
Next, lay the base frame pieces on the ground where you want he stable to be and attach the corner posts.  Place one post on ech end of the end pieces with the anchors facing as shown in the photogrpah above.  Secure the posts to the base frame with #8 x 3/4" screws, using two screws per anchor - again, as shown in the photograph above.  NOTE: before attaching, be sure the corner post is square with INSIDE edge of the base piece where the front/read piece will abut it.

joining base to corners As each corner post is attached to an end piece, bring the end of the adjoining piece (front or rear) against the edge of the end piece so that it is under the unattached anchor (see drawing, right).  Be sure the joint is square (using the combination square) and attach the remaining anchor using two #8 x 3/4" screws.



finished frame Once all four corner posts are attached to the base pieces, it's time to attach the top frame pieces.   As noted in the drawing at the beginning of this section, the four pieces of the top frame are mitered at 45 degrees to join solidly atop the corner posts.  This is important in that the front and rear pieces of the top frame support the roof, so they must have solid footing on the corner posts. Attach the top frame pieces to the anchors at the tops of the corner posts using #8 x 3/4" screws as was done when attaching the corner posts to the base frame.

When all the top frame pieces have been attached, apply the sheathing boards to the sides and rear of the frame using #8 x 1-1/4" screws.  Place a scrap of 1" board across the bottom frame to support the bottom sheathing board while it is secured; this creates a space for electrical cords to pass through. When applying the upper boards, use a plastic screw container as a spacer.

When this phase of construction is complete, you will have a framed box as shown in the photograph. Note that my frame is sagging in the front right corner; this was fixed by placing a piece of 1" x 6" under the front right corner; since this is a temporary structure, no elaborate resolution was necessary.


The next phase of the construction is framing the roof.  Begin by making the ridge pole/ridge support unit.  ridge pole assembly The ridge pole is 42" long, the same as the end pieces; the two supports are each eight inches long, and all three pieces are made of 1" x 4" boards.

Working on a flat surface, lay the pieces together with the ridge pole at the top and one support lined up under each end of the ridge pole.  Join each support piece to the ridge pole with a 3" x 5" tie plate, fastening the tie plates using #8 x 3/4" screws.  When both supports have been attached, flip the assembly over and repeat the process.

Now attach a 4" anchor to each side of the bottom of each ridge support. the first anchor can be attached on the same flat surface on which the ridge and supports were fastened together, but the anchors on the opposite sides will have to be attached with the end of the supports hanging over an edge such as a step.

Place the ridge/support assembly on top of the top frame with one end resting on the front of the top frame and the other end on the rear piece of the top frame.   Position the assembly so that one face of each support is 45" from the left side of the stable (as viewed from the front).  Clamp the assembly in place and secure both ends to the top frame using #8 x 3/4" screws.


Now comes the fun part: the rafters. rafter layout The rafters are in pairs, one long and one short; each pair is cut from one 8' long 1" x 4" board.  To get the angle for the first long rafter, have a helper hold one end of an 8'-long board so that it extends eight inches past the end of the stable as measured along the bottom of the board.  Align the top of the board with the top inside corner (the one facing your helper) of the ridge pole and draw a line along the board where it meets ridge pole (shown by the white line in the drawing).

Since the angle is an odd one, you won't be able to simply flip the leftover piece of board and use it for the short rafter - besides, it's too long.  With the assistance of your helper, repeat the steps followed for the long rafter, above.

When all the rafters have been cut, secure them to the top frame and to the ridge using 2" anchors and #8 x 3/4" screws, spacing the interior rafters 13" from the adjacent outeside rafter.  When attaching the rafters to the top frame, place the short leg of the anchor on the top frame to ensure that enough of the anchor extends onto the rafter to provide ample distance between the lower screw and the bottom of the rafter to avoid splitting.   rafter joint detail When attaching to the ridge pole, place the short leg of the anchor on the rafter to be sure the anchor doesn't extend beyond the edge of the rafter.

Note: When attaching the outside rafters to the ridge, remove one of the screws holding the tie plate to the ridge pole and align one of the holes in the rafter anchor with a hole in the tie plate, as shown in the picture.  An alternative is to use a small tie plate across the end of the ridge pole and attached to both the long and short rafters, but that's rather ugly.

The final pieces of hardware to be applied to the roof structure are the roof retaining anchors - the same kind of anchor used to attach the rafters to the top frame and to the ridge pole. roof anchors  There are two anchors per roof section - one on the inside of each outside rafter.  These anchors are attached to the rafters using #8 x 3/4" screws and are fastened to the underside of the roof panels with #6 x 3/8" screws.



  Note: the anchors should be fastened to the underside of the roof panels before they are placed over the rafters because - trust me - attaching them to the panel after it's on the rafters is extremely dificult. lower roof anchors  To make sure the anchors are installed to line up with the outside rafters, put the panel in place, with a 3" overhang on either end, and draw a line on the underside of the panel along the inside of each outside rafter.



  roof layout

roof progress

  The last phase of construction is the roof itself.  Begin by cutting all your odd-size roof panels; these will be the panels that form the peak of the roof.  Measure along a long and short outside rafter and figure out how many full panels will fit, then subtract that from the total length to get the size of the odd panel.  For example, if the long rafter is 57" and the roof panels are 24" x 48", the odd panel will be 9" wide (57" - 48").

To attach the cedar shingles, first place all the panels for one side of the roof on a flat, level surface with the long edges together.  Now begin attaching the shakes to the panels with a staple gun, using 3/8" staples and applying three or four staples through the thin end of each shingle into the plywood panel.

When you get to a point where the next row of shingles will extend beyond the joint between two roof panels, just staple the shake to the upper panel (this is why you laid all the roof panels together before you started applying the shingles).

When you finally get to the top roof panel, the thin ends of the last row of shingles that you will apply will extend past the top of the panel. Staple this row onto the top panel as near the top edge as possible.

When the final row of shingles has been stapled into place,turn the top panel over and lay it face-down on a flat surface, then use a utility knife to cut the ends of the shingles off, using the edge of the roof panel as a guide.

To complete the roof, measure the distance from the bottom of the topmost shingle to the top of the top roof panel and divide that in half to find out how long the last row of shingles must be.  Select a group of shingles to form the top row, but do not staple them down.  On each of the selected shingles, mark the length determined earlier and, using the blade of a combination square, cut the shingle off with a utility knife. If the distance is nine inches or greater, make two more rows instead of one, with the bottom row being twice as long as the final top row.

Note: the top rows of shingles may have to be attached using longer staples or short roofing nails.  If you use roofing nails, be sure to bend down the protruding end under the roof panel to avoid anyone getting hurt.

The last step in constructing the stable is to apply the roof panels to the rafters.  Begin with either side of the roof and place the lower panel so that the lower edge of the panel is flush with the ends of the rafters.  Enlist your loyal assistant again and have them hold the panel in place until you get underneath and secure the loose ends of the anchors to the rafter using #8 x 3/4" screws.  Next, place the lower panel on the remaining side of the roof and secure it in place. The lower roof panels may now be used to align the upper panels.  Simply place the remaining panels in position and secure them to the rafters, all with #8 x 3/4" screws. 

It took us two days to build this stable and we finished it during the season's first accumulating snow - but it was worth it, asthetically and, more importantly, spiritually.  We hope you enjoy building your stable as much as we enjoyed building ours.

May God bless you and yours during the Christmas season.

Merry Christmas!



Last updated Tuesday, December 6, 2005


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