Easter “nativity” display

Easter is soon upon us, and I have long wanted to make a small display to commemorate the easter message. No, not the coming of the easter bunny! The resurrection of our Lord and Savior. A small, easy project that utilizes scrap wood.

We know that Jesus was a craftsperson, or a carpenter. His earthly father Joseph was one, and brought up Jesus in his trade. Arguably, Jesus might have worked more with stone than wood as the landscape around Nazareth isn’t exactly forest country – and that is why I refer to Him as “craftsperson”. Be that as it may, I work in wood so wood it is!

I found a few pieces of scrap that was about the size I had in mind for the scene.

The big, cracked knot plus all the sap wood made the top piece a candidate for barbecuing bacon cheese sausages on the fire pan, but it was actually perfect for what I had in mind. The other pieces is cutoffs from other projects. I don’t toss such large pieces, because they can become small boxes, door handles, signs, trays or what have you. If I had a big lathe, I could make pretty nice plates out of such pieces. There’s gold in every splinter, apparently…

I sketched a cross on a thick piece of wood, trying to get an organic style. Soft lines and something interesting was the goal.

I roughed out the shape on the band saw, a big floor standing Record Power BS400. Which is great for most of what I need it for, but not so much for fine detail and tight turns. I do own a scroll saw, but it is a cheap thing that does not do too well in thick hardwoods.

The solution is a bit of time on my oscillating spindle sander plus some file work. An unplugged option would be to use chisels, a card scraper, a knife, files or sand paper to do the job. But this is mostly end grain. Not easily done then!

After cutting a hole in another piece of oak, I cut a small “ledge” to form the bed of the tomb. A chisel chopped out the waste in no time flat. I used a fretsaw to cut a clean line for the top of the bed before chopping.

Afterwards I planed the bottom flat and square so that the piece will stand upright. The No.7 is great for this!

With all of that out of the way, I had all the pieces I needed. A cross, a “stone” and two pieces of “rock face” to form the tomb.

I glued a small piece of wood behind the hole in the aft most piece, to make a back wall for the tomb. By layering two pieces to form the tomb, I got a better 3D effect and I could make the little detail of the bed.

I then started to shape the pieces. By letting the spoke shave “skip” across the surface, I created a bit of texture to the stone. Most of it will be gone when I am done, but it creates a bit of an effect.

I then whittled the edges to round over the stone with my Mora knife. What a great tool for that kind of job! Deadly sharp and a short, thick blade perfect for detail work. I bought it in Mora, Sweden, too!

The cross was a bit too thick, so I had to resaw it on the band saw. The offcut became a nice pendant, or I could put it on a stick to decorate a potted plant or something. A few strokes with my smoothing plane removed the saw marks.

I then whittled the cross to round over the edges and to give it a bit of soft shape. I was inspired by the Willow Tree figurines by Susan Lordi, which shows lots of tool marks.

After forming the edges of the rock face pieces in the same manner, I had a nice easter “nativity” setup on my work bench.

This is how it will look from Good Friday until Easter Sunday morning

Then it is time to show the empty tomb and the stone rolled away.

I decided to write an excerpt from Matthew 28:6 on the “inside” of the stone, which will be visible when the stone is turned around on Easter Sunday.

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay

MAtthew 28:6

After posting an image on Facebook I got an order for a display set, which was perfect since I could make it before writing this article. And this is how that one turned out:

I finished the pieces with Liberon Beeswax finish. Here’s the two displays I made (click on the images for a big version):

I made a little display using some beach sand I brought back from Orsa when we went there on vacation – be sure to check out the article about our visit to a Dalahäst factory! Here’s some images of that setup (again, click for larger versions):

This was a fun project – I have forgotten how fun whittling can be, and I really liked working without any strict measurements or plans – just letting the wood “speak” and go with the flow. The Mora knife is a wonderful tool for whittling. The short, stout blade and the nice rounded form of the handle comes together in a tool that gives me perfect control. Highly recommended!

And as a Christian, this project really means something to me. Because in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, this is THE key point: If He did not rise, my faith is meaningless. In that case, Jesus was just a wise jew who was crucified and died – and then Christianity would be dead. Thankfully, that is not the case. But all of this is about faith and not woodworking – so I’ll stop here. If you are interested in evidences for Jesus and His death and resurrection, I highly recommend googling “Tacitus on Jesus”, and go to Youtube to watch interviews of Gary Habermas who is perhaps the leading authority on evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The tomb is empty, He is risen!

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