I made three small nativities as Christmas gifts this year. The stables were made from a piece of apple log, as shown. It was a half of a log, with a strip cut off so that it would sit up on a table. These logs were originally cut with a chainsaw and had been drying in my garage for several years. I flattened them off and cut the bottom strips off with the bandsaw.
This project (like all good projects!) required buying a new tool. I bought the Harbor Freight version of the Lancelot. It’s a chainsaw blade on a disk that you put on an angle grinder.
The lancelot is really fun to use. It cuts through wood like crazy, and with an angle grinder with the side handle you have good control over it too. It’s good scary fun.
Here are two of the three hollowed out logs.
After roughing out the stables with the lancelot, I used a hook knife to carve down the ridges and bumps, and then used sand paper up to 220 grit to smooth it out.
I created the figures for the nativity scene in three different ways, just to experiment. The first set I made on the lathe. I used a non-square board so that my final figures would be wider than they were thick.
I made the Mary, Joseph and manger figures out of walnut. The baby Jesus was made from apple wood. I wanted to create a contrast between His parents and the holy infant.
Here’s one of the nativities before applying any finishing.
The next set of figures I carved by hand with a knife. These took a very long time to carve. I’m not very experienced with carving yet and I should probably practice some more. Baby Jesus ended up with some funny lines across his face and body from the spalting or whatever the white lines are in the wood.
The third set of figures I carved with a dremel with a sanding drum. It was harder to get the exact shape I wanted, compared to hand carving, but it went so much faster.
I like how all three sets of figures turned out. I think the turned ones would be the most reproducible, the hand-carved ones are the most personal, and the dremel-carved ones were fastest.
I finished two of the nativities with Watco Danish Oil and one with Bullseye Clear Shellac (brush applied, not spray), but only because I ran out of Danish Oil. After the shellac and Danish Oil dried I applied a liberal coat of paste wax and buffed them to a shine.