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Nativity sets depict the birth of Jesus and are commonly displayed in Christian households at Christmastime. Each figurine represents someone or something important to the Christmas story, such as members of the holy family, angels, wise men and a shepherd and livestock. Often, there is a manger as well. A manger is often depicted as a trough-like container used to feed livestock. If the manger from your nativity set is missing or broken, or if you are designing your own set, building a manger is an easy project.
Measure the length, width and thickness of the baby Jesus figurine from your nativity set, and record the dimensions.
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Make a manger pattern. On a sheet of paper, draw a rectangle that is the length of your figurine plus 2 centimeters long and the thickness of the baby Jesus plus 2 centimeters wide. Label this rectangle, "Rectangle A." This rectangle will form the long sides of your manger.
Draw another rectangle. This rectangle should be the same length of your figurine plus 2 centimeters long and the same width as your baby Jesus. This rectangle will form the base of your manger. Label this rectangle, "Rectangle B."
Draw an isosceles trapezoid. The short side of the trapezoid will be the base and should be the width of your figurine. The opposite long side of the trapezoid should be the width of the figurine plus two centimeters. The nonparallel sides of the trapezoid should be the thickness of the figurine plus 2 centimeters.
Cut the patterns out. Lay your balsa wood down flat on your work surface. Cut two of Rectangle A, two trapezoids and one of Rectangle B with a craft knife.
Glue one of the trapezoids to the base of the manger, at a 90 degree angle, with wood glue. Hold the trapezoid in place for 30 seconds. Glue the two rectangles to the base of the manger and the sides of the trapezoid. Glue the final trapezoid in place.
Wipe away any excess glue with a moist cloth. Set the manger aside and allow the glue to dry.
Paint or stain the manger. Fill the manger with straw and nestle your baby Jesus figurine in your new manger.
The straight edge of the ruler can be used to guide the craft knife as you cut the balsa wood.