How to Make a Christmas Crib - Easy Step by Step
Diagram of a Crib
Making a Christmas Crib
Making a Crib is easy even if you have never tried doing one before. The materials required are few and you can get most of them for free. I am going to describe 3 methods of building a Christmas Crib. Much of the work and materials involved apply for all methods. Please, find method 2 and 3 at the very end of the Page. I added method 3 for Christmas 2013.
Materials: a piece of plywood or stiff hardboard of size 24 ins x 18 ins for the bottom;
3 pieces of fairly strong cardboard which can be cut from a large box as follows:
1 piece 24 ins x 12 ins for the back
2 pieces 18 ins x 12 ins for the sides
We also need 2 other pieces of cardboard for the top and side of the two caves drawn in Red and Blue on the diagram. Sizes: For the Red Cave : 19 ins x 13 ins; for the Blue Cave : 16 ins x 11 ins. Finally 2 other pieces for the front of the caves. For the Red Cave : 10ins x 9ins; for the Blue Cave : 8ins x 8ins.
To stick the cardboard together we can use staples, glue, masking tape or whatever is most convenient for you.
We start by fixing the back and the 2 sides to the stiff bottom.
Next we set up the caves and we start with the Red Cave. The cardboard for this cave is 19" x 13". Draw a line to divide it into 2 rectangles 13" x 9" and 13" x 10". Fold along this line and glue or tape to the side, back and bottom of the crib.
Now we 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 11" x 8" and 11" x 8". Fold along the line and fix to the side, the back and the bottom.
Before fixing the front of the 2 caves we need to make an entrance. For the Red Cave, draw a 3-sided arch (diagram) and for the Blue Cave draw a 2-sided arch as in diagram. Cut out the arches and fix to front of caves.
On top of the Blue Cave we are putting 2 small houses, so we 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 fix 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.
We need to have the space between the Caves sloping down to the front, so we need an additional piece of cardboard of size 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.
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.
Now we have arrived at the messy part, where we need to cover the whole skeleton with papier mache'. What is papier mache'? Papier mache' is a Hobby in itself. Newspapers dipped and well soaked in glue and applied to any form desirable and allowed to dry. When dry the papier mache' hardens and can be painted over quite easily. To start we need a bucket half full of glue in which to dip strips of newspaper.
To make the glue, pour half a litre of water in 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. Add a little water or some more flour until you obtain the correct consistency. Finally add about a cup-full of carpenter's white glue. Flour is good enough by itself to make the glue but we add the carpenter's glue not only to make it stronger but also to keep away insects like ants and silverfish from eating away the crib during the storage period.
The Red Cave
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. We 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. Then 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 mache'. So twist and roll your strips until you obtain a good result.
The Blue Cave
Cover the top, side and the frontage of the smaller cave in a similar manner. Cover also the pathway at the left-hand side of the Blue cave.
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 mache' in the same way and cover also the parts at 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.
When the papier mache' has dried and hardened we can start the painting process. To make the paint we use white carpenter's glue, water and coloured powders (pigments). We need white chalk, yellow, brown and green powder. In a small plastic container pour 2 tablespoons of glue. Add 4 tablespoons of water and stir well. Add 2 tablespoons of yellow powder. 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. Allow to dry out for a couple of hours or so. Do not throw away the yellow paint.
Next we prepare some brown paint in the same way as we did with the yellow powder in a little plastic container. Make also some green paint.
Even though the yellow coat may not be completely dry begin painting the crevises with brown so that the rocks look yellow and much darker in the hollows. 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. 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-matt. The varnish brings out the colours and makes them more vivid and sparkling.
Now how about installing some small electric bulbs. Just 2 would be enough to start with and these would make the crib even more beautiful and artistic. We need to drill 2 holes of about 1 inch diameter. We 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.
Wiring (see Diagram below)
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 1st 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 2nd Holder;
5. Peel remaining end of longer piece of flex and connect to Plug;
6. Assemble the plug by tightening the screw and insert bulbs in holders;
7. Test by plugging into wall socket.
Note: Photo of diagram is not clear enough. 1st Holder is on the right of the diagram. In 2nd 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 1st Holder with the wires going to the new holder.
You can see a picture of a similar product at the bottom of the page.
Use the same diagram above for the plan and dimensions. You would also need the same board for the bottom. The only difference is that here we are using 'polyurethane foam" or 'jablo' as it is commonly known, 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. Cut it roughly or just break it in chunks of about 2 or 3 inches and begin building the caves piece by piece, gluing with White Carpenter's Glue. Do not mind the holes and spaces that result between the chunks at this point, just concentrate on closing and roofing the caves. Make them look as natural and rounded as you can. The crib does not look attractive at this stage.
The next step is to cover the whole thing with tissue paper, either the kitchen towel kind or the toilet paper kind. Start painting small areas of the foam with diluted Carpenter's Glue and laying the tissue paper so that you cover all the crags and holes and everything will start to look like rocks. When you have covered all the areas apply another coat of glue so that you thoroughly soak the tissue paper to ensure that it hardens well when dry. If holes again result in some areas, you can stop them by inserting a ball of glued tissue paper and covering them in the same manner.
That's about it. Allow 2 days for drying. For painting and lighting please refer to above directions.
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Method 3 - - Using Jablo and Plaster of Paris
Use the same diagram as above if you have no better ideas. Work as in method 2 but instead of covering with tissue and glue we are going to literally plaster the whole thing.
This is somewhat more messy but the advantage is that it dries within the hour. You do not have to wait 3 days or more for it to dry and you can start with the painting almost immediately.
When you have positioned all the Jablo and stopped the larger holes apply the plaster over the whole thing with a plastic or wooden spoon making it rough like rocks, letting it run in places, and drip to form patterns of its own, etc.
Mixing the Plaster
Pour clean, lukewarm water into a plastic container. The amount of water you should use is approximately one third the amount of plaster. When mixed with water, plaster gets hot and dries withing a short time, so mix small quantities at a time, for example 3 cups of plaster.
Start by putting 1cup of water (1/3) into the container and adding the plaster a little at a time letting it sink to the bottom gradually. Do not mix but continue adding until a small mound is left in the centre of the bowl.
Mix well to eliminate any dry lumps and you are now ready to start applying the mixture to your crib. Make other mixtures as required and leave to dry.
Paint with color as described above and finish with a thin coat of varnish.
Last updated on December 23, 2013
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