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How to Easily Make a Christmas Crib

One of my hobbies is DIY projects. I have a lot of experience with carpentry, plastering, electricity, etc.

Christmas crib with homemade clay figurines

Christmas crib with homemade clay figurines

Making a Christmas Crib

Making a Christmas crib, or Nativity Scene, is easy—even if you have never tried doing it before. The materials required are few and you can get most of them for free. I can describe at least five methods of building one. Much of the work and materials involved apply for all methods.

I am going to explain how I constructed my latest crib. An alternative method may be found below, as well.

Diagram of a Christmas crib

Diagram of a Christmas crib


  • 1 piece plywood or stiff hardboard of 24" x 18" for the bottom
  • 1 piece 24" x 12" strong cardboard for the back
  • 2 pieces 18" x 12" strong cardboard for the sides

You also need two other pieces of cardboard for the top and side of the two caves drawn in red and blue on the diagram.


  • For the Red Cave: 19" x 13"
  • For the Blue Cave: 16" x 11"

Finally 2 other pieces for the front of the caves:

  • For the Red Cave: 10" x 9"
  • For the Blue Cave: 8" x 8"

Step 1: Assemble the Framework

To stick the cardboard together we can use staples, glue, masking tape or whatever is most convenient for you.

  1. Start by fixing the back and the 2 sides to the stiff bottom.
  2. Next set up the caves, starting with the Red Cave. The cardboard for this cave is 19" x 13". Draw a line to divide it into 2 rectangles measuring 13" x 9" and 13" x 10". Fold along this line and glue or tape to the side, back and bottom of the crib.
  3. Now set up the Blue Cave and we do the same as before. The cardboard prepared for this cave is 16" x 11". Draw a line to divide it into 2 equal rectangles measuring 11" x 8" and 11" x 8". Fold along the line and fix to the side, the back and the bottom.
  4. Before fixing the front of the 2 caves you need to make an entrance. For the Red Cave, draw a 3-sided arch and for the Blue Cave draw a 2-sided arch, as in the diagram. Cut out the arches and affix to front of the caves.
  5. On top of the Blue Cave you put 2 small houses, so you need a path going uphill at the side. This is marked by a kind of ladder on the diagram. Cut out a length of cardboard of about 13" x 2.5" and affix to the side with masking tape. Cut out 2 lengths for supports, 6" x 2.5" and 3" x 2.5" and fix upright underneath the pathway.
  6. You need to have the space between the Caves sloping down to the front, so you need an additional piece of cardboard sized 12" x 4". Draw 2 lines to divide the cardboard into 3 sections lengthwise. Fold along the lines and fix in the space between the right-hand side of the Red Cave and the Pathway. It should look like a terraced rocky slope.
  7. At this stage, decide if you would like to have electric lighting in the crib. The inside of the caves would be rather dark so it is a good idea to install a light or two. In that case go below to the wiring section.

Step 2: Cover the Framework With Papier-Mâché

Now we have arrived at the messy part, where we need to cover the whole skeleton with papier-mâché. What is papier-mâché? It's a hobby in itself. Newspapers are dipped and soaked in glue and applied to any form desirable and allowed to dry. When dry, the papier-mâché hardens and can be painted over quite easily.

To start you need a bucket half full of glue in which to dip strips of newspaper.

  1. To make the glue, pour half a litre of water into a small bucket and begin adding flour and stirring with a stick or a wooden spoon. Continue adding flour until the mixture becomes creamy but not too thick. Remember that the strips of newspaper, when dipped need to absorb the mixture.
  2. Add a little water or some more flour until you obtain the correct consistency.
  3. Finally, add about a cup of carpenter's white glue. Flour is good enough by itself to make the glue but adding the carpenter's glue not only makes it stronger but also to keeps insects like ants and silverfish from eating away the crib during the storage period.
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Step 3: Build the Red Cave

  1. Start tearing off strips of newspaper. Dip each strip in the glue, remove excess glue with your fingers and apply the wet strip to the cardboard of the crib.
  2. Start by covering the Red Cave. When applying the strips to the cardboard, wrinkle and twist the newspaper to make the roof of the cave look like rocks or rocky terrain. You can also roll some of the strips into loose balls or loosely twist them like ropes and place them on the roof of the cave.
  3. Cover them again with additional strips to make the ground even more uneven. Use your imagination here! The same applies when we arrive at the front of the Cave. We have to bring out a semblance of rocks with our papier-mâché. So twist and roll your strips until you obtain a good result.

Step 4: Build the Blue Cave

Cover the top, side and the frontage of the smaller cave in a similar manner. Also cover the pathway on the left-hand side.

The space between the Caves

We will make this look like a rocky terraced area sloping towards the front. So we cover it with papier-mâché in the same way and cover the parts on the right-hand side of the Red Cave, which are still unfinished.

The inside of the Caves

Next we do the inside of both caves and any remaining unfinished areas. Correct as necessary and be sure that you like what you see. Leave the whole mess to dry out for a day or two.

Step 4: Paint

When the papier-mâché has dried and hardened we can start the painting process.

  1. To make the paint use white carpenter's glue, water and coloured powders (pigments). You need white chalk, yellow, brown and green powder.
  2. In a small plastic container pour 2 tablespoons of glue.
  3. Add 4 tablespoons of water and stir well.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of yellow powder.
  5. Paint the whole project. The paint should not be watery but thick enough to hide the lettering and pictures on the newpapers. If not just add a little white chalk and another tablespoonful of yellow powder.
  6. Allow to dry out for a couple of hours or so. Do not throw away the yellow paint.
  7. Next prepare some brown paint in the same way as we did with the yellow powder in a little plastic container. Make some green paint also.
  8. Even though the yellow coat may not be completely dry, begin painting the crevasses with brown so that the rocks look yellow and much darker in the hollows.
  9. Use another paint brush to dab some green here and there around the brown to make it look like moss. Again use your imagination here.
  10. Finally you can use some of the remaining yellow paint (if any). Make it lighter by adding some white chalk and paint some highlights in the rocks, especially the highest ridges, the top of a mound, the surface of the pathway, etc.

When everything has completely dried out, apply a coat of clear varnish, preferably semi-matte. The varnish brings out the colours and makes them more vivid and sparkling.

Wiring diagram

Wiring diagram

Step 5: Install Lighting

Now how about installing some small electric bulbs? Just t wowould be enough to start with and would make the crib even more beautiful and artistic.

Drill two holes of about 1 inch diameter. You can do this by using a sharp blade or a sharp penknife. Take care how to handle the knife, because this step could be dangerous. Drill a hole at the back of the Red Cave and another at the back of the Blue Cave. The holes have to be high up just under the ceiling, approximately in the middle of the back of each cave so that they light the whole interior and cannot be seen from the front. We do not want to see the light bulbs, but only the light when we look from the front of the crib. We need 2 holders, 2 small bulbs and a length of flex (2-core wire) of about 8 feet.

How to Do the Wiring (see diagram above)

Start by cutting a piece of 20 inches from the length of flex.

  1. Peel one end and connect to the 2 terminals of the first holder;
  2. Peel the other end; also peel one end of the longer piece of flex;
  3. Join ends of pieces of flex together by twisting blue with blue, red with red;
  4. Connect to the 2 terminals of the second holder;
  5. Peel remaining end of longer piece of flex and connect to the plug;
  6. Assemble the plug by tightening the screw and insert bulbs in holders;
  7. Test by plugging into wall socket.

Note: The photo of the diagram is not clear enough. The first holder is on the right of the diagram. In second holder we make a joint; the wires go in and out again to go to the plug. That's why we twist them together. If you need a third holder, do a similar joint in the first holder with the wires going to the new holder.

Alternative Method: Polyurethane Foam

Another method is to use polyurethane foam or 'jablo', the white light material which is used to pack fridges, washing-machines and other white goods. Obtain some of this foam from a White Goods Supplier, the best for our purpose would be about 2 inches thick or more. This method is very similar and great fun to do.

Share your comments below. Have you made a Christmas crib?

caileigh on February 12, 2019:

looks cool

joseph joy on December 21, 2017:

its good?

RAJAN on December 16, 2014:

I would like to have your book, may I know how can I have it please!

jhalak on December 11, 2014:


Joseph Attard (author) from Gozo, Malta, EU. on December 06, 2012:

Christmas is here again. I'll try to find the time to set up my Crib. Christmas is not complete for me without one. Happy Christmas to all of us x x x x x x

Joseph Attard (author) from Gozo, Malta, EU. on December 25, 2011:

Thank you Akhil James, Manoj Sebastian and the others. I cannot have a Christmas without the Christmas Crib. Happy Christmas and a Lucky New Year to All.

Akhil James on December 23, 2011:

I could make the best crib ever I could

Joseph Attard (author) from Gozo, Malta, EU. on December 08, 2011:

Thank you, Deborah and Sanzil. Build a Christmas Crib for your home. It's fun to do and goes well with the other decorations. Happy Christmas to ALL xxxxx

Sanzil Fortes on December 08, 2011:

wow the idea is to good

Glenn Ryall from Karachi, Pakistan on December 04, 2011:

Looks quite good, i got an idea from this going to add some features of my own as well.

Joseph Attard (author) from Gozo, Malta, EU. on December 23, 2010:

s.pradeep, Are you going to make one?

s.pradeep on December 22, 2010:

good one

ron agnel on December 05, 2010:

awesome idea buddy keep it up and do write some more blogs regarding the xmas tree,.wish you all a merry christmas

yashan on December 03, 2010:

i am going to try this at home too

efeguy on December 15, 2009:

am going to try it this xmas.great hub and great info.

don't rely on forex robot software' can see my hubs on forex trade

Joseph Attard (author) from Gozo, Malta, EU. on November 11, 2009:

thanks LRobbins. I think it's easier to make the crib than to write the instructions, haha :)

Laurel from Germany on November 10, 2009:

Great instructions, looks like fun and I'm sure it would be beautiful.