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How to Build an Outdoor Manger

I am a follower of Christ and have a passion to share the good news of the gospel with as many people as possible.

A manger will add the glory of Christ to your yard this holiday season.

A manger will add the glory of Christ to your yard this holiday season.

My favorite time of year is Christmas. I enjoy sitting by the Christmas tree and just watching the seasonal lights. When my wife and I decorate our house, we try to make sure that at least some of the decorations point us to the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ.

A few years after we had built our house, we purchased an outdoor nativity set that came with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus so we could display an outdoor nativity scene. The set tends to blow over very easily and I was tired of constantly picking up the pieces.

Deciding to Build A Manger

I wanted to buy a manger to block the wind and make the scene more complete but had a hard time finding one that I liked. I really wanted a manger that looked great and would be easy to store once Christmas is over. I decided to build a nativity manger on my own that looks nice while up and stores relatively flat in two pieces.

Easy-to-Follow Plans for Building a Manger

One of the great things about building a manger is that it does not need to be perfect. It is okay if it looks worn or if there are slight gaps here and there.

Manger Plans: An Overview

Manger Plans: An Overview

Project Supply List

The supply list for building your manger is nice and short. Be sure to pick out the straightest boards that you can. Remember that board lengths are less than what they are called. For example, a 1” x 6” is actually a ¾” x 5 ½” board.

I used pine to construct my manger, but you may wish to use cedar or green treated wood. If you use pine, you will have to put a protective coat on it. This can be a simple waterproofing, outdoor paint, or stain.

Supplies for Building Your Manger:

AmountMaterial

5

1” x 6” x 8’

4

1” x 6” x 6’

2

1” x 4” x 8’

2

1” x 4” x 6’

2

packages of 4” heavy-duty tee hinges (total of four hinges needed)

1

box of 1 ¼” screws

 

wood glue

 

paint, stain, etc.

Some Organizational Tips

In pencil, lightly number each of the boards starting with a 1” x 6” x 8’. All of those should be number 1 through 5 and continue in order of the supply list so that the final 1” x 4” x 6’ is number 13.

The cut list below will tell you how each board needs to be cut but do not make all of the cuts at once. Follow the steps in the sections below just in case you have to make an on-the-fly adjustment.

Detailed Cut List for Building a Manger

Detailed Cut List for Building a Manger

Manger Back Assembly Plans

Manger Back Assembly Plans

Building the Back Wall of the Manger

The back wall of the manger is the best place to start because all of the other pieces need to align with it.

Cut List for the Back Wall

Take boards 1-8 (1” x 6”) and cut each of them using the miter saw to a length of 29 1/8” starting with the end that was not numbered. Place the remainder of each board aside for later use.

Now cut board number 10 (1” x 4”) into two 46” sections using the miter saw. The left part of the board is scrap. Take board number 12 and using the miter saw, cut it to a length of 36”. Now take it over to the table saw and rip it to a width of 1 ¾”.

Assembling the Back Wall

Assembling the back wall is easy! Just follow these steps.

  1. On a flat surface, lay the 1” x 6” x 29 1/8” boards next to each other. Move them around until you have the best fit. Once you are satisfied, start on the right side by taking the second board in and running a bead of glue down the edge.
  2. Push the two boards on the right together and line up the top and bottom of each so that they are flush.
  3. Take one of the 1” x 4” x 46” boards and lay it across the top.
  4. Drill two pilot holes through the 1” x 4” into the first two boards and then screw the boards together.
  5. Repeat the same process with the other 1” x 4” x 46” board on the bottom. Be sure to make sure that both of the 1” x 4” are flush with the top and bottom respectively.
  6. Repeat this same process with the next two 1” x 6”s.
  7. Now take the 1” x 1 ¾” x 36” board and attach it using the same process. Putting this board in the middle hides the fact that it is smaller than the rest of them.
  8. Next, attach the remaining 4 1” x 6” x 29 1/8” boards using the same process. The best tip that I can give you here is to go slow and take your time. Make sure that the 1” x 4” boards are flush with the tops and bottoms.
Manger Side Assembly Plans

Manger Side Assembly Plans

Building the Manger’s Side Walls

This is the trickiest section to build because it is critical to be accurate on the angle cuts. Go slow through the cutting portion of this section. Cut the angle portion first and then cut it to length. You want to be sure you're making the right cut.

Cut List for the Side Walls

  1. Set your miter saw to 20° and cut the remainder of board number 5 (1” x 6”) as close as possible to the top.
  2. Then measure down 36 inches from the high side of the angle cut and make a straight cut.
  3. Repeat the same cuts onboard number 9 (1” x 6”).
  4. Next, grab boards 6 and 7 (1” x 6”) and make a 20°angle cut at the top of each and then measure down 33 ¾" from the high side and cut off the excess.
  5. Repeat the same process for boards 8 and 9 (1” x 6”), except cutting them to 31 ¾".
  6. Now take board number 11 (1” x 4”) and cut two pieces to 16 ½”.
  7. Do the same with board number 12 (1” x 4”).

The reason that I am having you use two different boards is to try to buy the least amount of boards possible.

Assembling the Side Walls

  1. Separate the boards into two piles, one for each side. Each pile should have the following 1” x 6”s: 36”, 33 ¾”, and 31 ¾”. Both piles should have two 1” x 4” x 16 ½” boards.
  2. Arrange each pile so that the 36” boards are on the outside and the smallest boards are closets to each other.
  3. Pick a side to start with.
  4. Take the 33 ¾” board and run a bead of glue and push it up against the 36” board. Be sure that the angles on top line up and that the bottom is flush. If your ends are not perfect, make sure that the top lines up the best.
  5. Take the 31 ¾” board and run a bead of glue down the side and push it against the other two.
  6. Once you have everything the way you want it, take one of the 1” x 4”s and screw it flush with the bottom of the side.
  7. Take the other 1” x 4” and lay it straight across the top starting at the low side of the top.
  8. You may wish to use a square to make sure that it is as straight as possible. Repeat the same procedure for the other side.
  9. Make sure that the sides are going opposite directions.
Manger Roof Assembly Plans

Manger Roof Assembly Plans

Building the Roof of the Manger

Cut Pieces for the Roof of the Manger

Grab the remaining 1” x 6” boards 1 through 4 and cut them to 57 ½”.

Then take board 11 (1” x 4”) and cut three 20” pieces out of it. You are now ready to assemble the top.

Assembling the Roof

  1. Lay the four 1” x 6” boards parallel to each other and try a few different arrangements to determine how they fit the best together.
  2. Stand three of the boards on their ends and run beads of glue down them.
  3. One by one lay them flat and push them against each other. Be sure that the top and bottom sides are flush.
  4. Take one of the three 1” x 4” boards and measure in 4 ¾” from the right edge and make a mark at the bottom.
  5. Do the same thing on the third board up.
  6. Line up the 1” x 4” with the marks and screw it in. One edge of the 1” x 4” should be touching the front of the “1 x 6”, while the other end is short about 2 inches.
  7. Now measure over 18 ¾” from the 1” x 4” and make a mark at the bottom and on the third board.
  8. Screw in the next 1” x 4” aligned with those marks.
  9. Measure over another 18 ¾” and make your marks and attach the final 1” x 4”.
Trim for Manger

Trim for Manger

Trim and Final Assembly

The final cuts we have to make are using (1” x 4”) board 13.

  1. Cut it to a length of 46”.
  2. Take it over to the table saw and rip it to a width of 1 ½”.
  3. Lay it on the top of the back section and screw it to the top. Make sure that it is as flush as possible on all sides.
  4. Lay the back down so that they side with the 1” x 4”s is facing up.
  5. Grab both sides and lay them the same way. The short side of each should match up to the back piece.
  6. Take the hinges and lay them on each of the 1” x 4”s. Make sure that the hinges are even on both sides so that the wall will swing easily. The best way to check this is to measure how far each hinge goes in on the 1” x 4”.
  7. Screw the hinges to the 1” x 4”s.
  8. Stand up the manager and close the doors until they both form 90° angles.
  9. Take the room and lay it over the top of the sides. The 1” x 4” brace on each side of the roof should fit flush against the sidewalls. The back of the top is the side where the 1” x 4” supports do not go all of the way to the end.
  10. Once you get the roof to fit how you want it, screw in two screws on each side into the 1” x 4” supports on the top. This will hold everything in place while you are using it.

The manger is now complete. One thing that you may want to add is a small door hand on the outside of each sidewall so that you can tie the walls shut when you want to store the manger.

Also, you may want to attach a large handle on the back to make carrying the main piece easier.

My advice to you is to pick out your outdoor nativity set before building the manger to be sure that the size is right. Changing the measurements should be an easy exercise.

There are only two parts where you need to be particularly careful:

  1. the angled cuts on the sides and
  2. the top braces are a little short from the back of the top of the manger.

© 2012 Eric Cramer

Comments

Floriano Abreu on June 17, 2020:

It was a joy building this easy to follow instructions. I wish I had done this years ago, it would have saved me a lot of time over the years, with your easy to build stable I can now store it after use and open it up in years to come. Fantastic idea.

Bless you.

A.J. on December 04, 2019:

Directions are confusing. Cutting directions for top states board 12 (1"x4") cut to 36" length; rip to 1.75"..

OK. did that, then assembling states use the 1"x 1.75 x36" in center of back. The back is only 29 1/8" high. What is the extra length for??

Steve on November 04, 2018:

Thank You Mr Cramer for sharing you idea and plans! Just built ours and my wife loves it. Not only looks great, but the storage part is a major bonus. Thanks again!

Eric Cramer (author) from Chicagoland on October 20, 2018:

Great to hear! I hope he loves it!

David Grenier on October 20, 2018:

Thank you Mr. Cramer. This was exactly what I needed and mine turned out great. My wife’s going to be thrilled.

Michael H on March 09, 2018:

Like Gurnzy said! Nice looking stable though.

Gurnzy on December 09, 2017:

that is an America stable not a manger. The manger is where the hay and other feed goes, not the animals

churchnurse Patty on November 29, 2017:

Thank you for sharing! I have looked all over the internet for a nice looking easy plan to build. Will post pic when done!

Bill T on November 14, 2017:

On the back wall, 8 - 1 by 6 Plus a 1 3/4 equqls 48 inches. She are the 1 by 4 s cut to 46?

Bill on November 11, 2017:

I followed this plan with a few minor adjustments and it came out great.

frank ratliff on October 27, 2017:

A little confused about the 1 1/2 by 48 trim piece. Just how exactly does it lay and how will 1 1/4 screws hold it?

Danny on October 02, 2017:

I have mine about done. I changed the top though. Went with 3/8 plywood and turned the roof support beams to run the width instead of the depth. Going to stain the whole thing then add straw or moss to the roof top. I am NOT a carpenter. Don't care for building stuff...never liked lumber! (I am a mechanic, or I mean was...i retired last year. but this project proved to be both simple and satisfying for me. Thanks!

Dorothy on September 06, 2017:

This is not a manger. This is a stable. A manger is a feeding trough for animals. Jesus was not born in a manger. He was born in a stable and laid in a manger.

Jason Matthews from North Carolina on January 21, 2017:

Great idea and great instructions! This is awesome!

Eric Cramer (author) from Chicagoland on December 08, 2016:

The final size of the product is 57" wide and about 24" deep

Marcia on December 07, 2016:

Thanks for sharing - what size is the finished product?

RJK on December 10, 2015:

Using your plans as a basis for my Stable…I increased the size all around and made the side walls higher so the 20° cut allowed the roof to sit atop the rear wall without any trim. I also added a lip to the front edge of the roof and finally I added a floor as well as cutting a notch on the lower rear wall so I could run electric into the Stable. Thanks and know you are appreciated for the plans. Have a Blessed Christmas.

Eric Cramer (author) from Chicagoland on December 23, 2014:

K.M. - Yes, if you make everything bigger it should work fine. I would build the back wall first and then the two side walls and assemble them before tackling the roof. That way you can verify that the size is correct.

K.M. on December 23, 2014:

Thank you so much for posting this. I very much want to make this but I need to adjust your plans as my Nativity pieces are taller and I have 9 pieces. My highest piece is 37 inches high. So I need a wider and bigger Manger. I am thinking of making the back with 7 boards instead of 5 and the sides with 5 boards instead of 3. I get stuck on the cuts though...Can I just add 2 inches to each board to accommodate the height? I would be grateful for your advice. Thanks! Have a Blessed Christmas!

Cheryl Ann Cox on December 21, 2014:

This is beautiful and the directions look great, but it is not a manger. It is a stable. Maybe you could also make a manger to place in the stable?

Bill on December 11, 2014:

Great article. I followed the instructions. The only fault was identified in the comments section by JohnC (the 36" ripped 1.75 board (back wall center piece) should also be 29 1\8...instructions call for 36' cut...). The entire process, including the trip to the hardware store, was about 3 hours. My wife loves it. I also appreciate the authors' ability to limit the amount of scrap wood. A real money and time saver.

Kelly from NJ, USA on November 29, 2014:

Very useful!

Doug R on October 14, 2014:

Good idea ime going to make one but add a hinged roof and use rough cut pallet wood to make it more rustic and also add hay on the roof. Thanks good job!!!!

JohnC on December 14, 2013:

the 36" ripped 1.75 board (back wall center piece) should also be 29 1\8...instructions call for 36' cut...

Eric Cramer (author) from Chicagoland on December 02, 2012:

Corrgc,

The back wall should be 29 1/8 high. I made an error when I redid my plans to put on here. The front of the side walls should be 36" as stated before and the back should come down to 29 1/8. I sincerely apologze for the error. I have updated the hub and the plans that are attached as pictures. Let me know if you have any more questions.

corrgc on December 02, 2012:

Eric Help! I followed the instructions (I think) and have run into a problem. The tallest wall post on each side is 36" per your instructions - the same side as the back wall. This makes the walls too short. In your picture it looks like the tallest wall post is over 40". Where did I go wrong?

Eric Cramer (author) from Chicagoland on November 29, 2012:

Amen! I couldn't agree more Val!

Val Swabb from South Carolina on November 29, 2012:

Thank you for these amazing and easy to follow instructions!

I have always wanted a nice manger scene to put outside, but the 'nice' (not plastic ugly ones) have been outside my families price range. This will significantly decrease the costs involved, and give me a great display to remind people that Christmas is about Christ, not Santa and presents! Jesus was the ultimate present, sent from God Himself!!!!

Amy D. from Mostly in My Own Little World on November 11, 2012:

Great hub and directions. I have a stack of wooden pallets in my shed that are asking to be made into something. This would be great. I wouldn't have to spend the money to have a nice looking manger.

Eric Cramer (author) from Chicagoland on September 20, 2012:

You do not display a manger scene to worship it, but as a reminder that God left His throne and came to earth as a baby to die for your sins and mine. It is that what we celebrate at Christmas. It points to the savior amongst all the commercialism that the world has turned Christmas into.

Mark Knowles on September 19, 2012:

Wow - so the real meaning of Christmas is to waste time and effort building such things and spend money on ebay buying graven images for idol worship?

Odd - I always thought it was the Winter Solstice. :D Nice to know the Pagan tradition it was taken from was a lot less commercially driven than the Christian version.

Voted "up" and "depressing."

Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord on September 19, 2012:

How beautiful to know when somebody writes about the real meaning of Christmas. Great idea and hub. Blessings to you, yours and to the readers.

Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on September 19, 2012:

This is cool. I never would have thought of building my own manger before. But this article lays everything out so nicely. I think if I built this, or something very similar, it would turn into a little playing place for the kids. I think I would start with building a little model sized one from all the left over wood in the woodshop before going the full monty.

Leah Lefler from Western New York on September 19, 2012:

I have thought of making one for our front lawn - I was thinking of cutting out figures from plywood (though using the jigsaw still scares me a little)!

Eric Cramer (author) from Chicagoland on September 19, 2012:

leahlefler - For the figures I have been using a set that has rope lights around the edges attached to a wire frame. When the rope lights go out, I will probably build a set and use either white christmas lights or a spot light at night.

Tyler Tobin from North Carolina on September 19, 2012:

I love Christmas and especially love live nativity scenes. Your manger blueprint is perfect for a live nativity scene and would make a great addition to any nativity. Great Hub!

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on September 19, 2012:

Really thorough instructions which is ideal for novices attempting the project. Especially useful to have the list of what to purchase because I always have difficulty working that sort of thing out.

livingsta from United Kingdom on September 19, 2012:

Good idea for people who want to build one! Christmas is not far away! Voted up! Useful!

Evie Lopez from Sunny Florida on September 19, 2012:

Congratulations! Doesn't this make the second time two of your hubs have been selected as Hub of the Day? I think I know why. You were blessed with an amazing gift in carpentry, just like our Lord Jesus Christ, and since it glorifies His birth, of course it will shine.

Great hub. This will not only make a great project for a home but for a small church as well. Voted up and useful.

Angelo52 on September 19, 2012:

Good information on building your own manger. Looks like it would be a nice addition to any Christmas yard.

Alissa Roberts from Normandy, TN on September 19, 2012:

Great instructions and those blueprints are sure to come in handy! I love the fact that it is easy to store once Christmas is over. Thanks for such a useful hub and congrats on your HOTD!

kelleyward on September 19, 2012:

Congrats ercramer on the HOTD! Fantastic job! Voted up, Blessings, Kelley

Leah Lefler from Western New York on September 19, 2012:

This is great, ercramer! Your blueprints and assembly plans are so easy to follow. This also reminds me that Christmas is only three months away - yikes! What do you use for the people in the creche scene? Do you make wooden cut-outs to represent the Holy family or do you use plastic figures?

demiwritesagain on September 19, 2012:

Thank you for sharing this! I find it very useful; detailed and very informative! Keep it up! :)

kmaskreations on September 19, 2012:

Great hub! Thanks for sharing. BTW, keep in mind when someone ignorant shares a portion of their tiny brain as a comment to your Hub that is an insult to your good work, you can remove it. Personally, I don't allow negative comments on my Hubs.

RTalloni on September 19, 2012:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this detailed tutorial on building an outdoor manger. Well done with good tips throughout the hub.

Timir Blekko from Boston, MA on September 19, 2012:

I will build something like this using your instructions...thanks for sharing this hub with all of us..

v1p3r on September 19, 2012:

Nice Work

Voted uP

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on August 26, 2012:

Good point!

I think I'll build one of these!

Eric Cramer (author) from Chicagoland on August 26, 2012:

Thanks! I though about doing that, but decided against it to keep the main part light enough to carry down to the basement.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on August 26, 2012:

Good work!

It looks like you could also hinge the roof to the back wall so you could just fold it back when ready to store, with the sides folded to the front as shown.

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