How To

Dad asked to build for daughter’s play, transforms crate pallet into beautiful manger

December 7th, 2020

From holiday home decor to local theatrical productions, you never know when you might need a manger. And since it’s not exactly something you can just swing by the store and pick up, the handy dad from the SSLFamilyDad website is here to help.

The family consists of homesteaders Todd and Lisa and their three children who live on a farm in Michigan and learning lots of lessons along the way.

Their website “chronicles projects, tips and ideas on how to live in suburban and rural America faithfully, sustainably, organically, and happily using today’s technology and best practices.”

“We are homesteading and providing our family with as much food as we can from our own land… We moved from a half-acre lot in a subdivision to a 25-acre farm in the Fall of 2016. We were formerly known as Simple Suburban Living, when we started growing our own food on our small plot of land.”

So now we know where the SSL came from. Let’s get to our manger.

Recycling rules

The family is committed to living sustainably, so they didn’t just take a trip to Home Depot to get their materials. In fact, they seem to have quite a supply of wooden pallets for whenever they come in handy. They even heat their house with them in winter.

So that was the starting point for the manger Todd was asked to make by the local church for a Christmas play.

They wanted something old and rustic, of course, so pallets fit the bill. In fact, he needed less than 1 to get the job done and ended up with a manger about 24″ long by 24″ tall.

Tools of the trade

Aside from the pallet, Todd used a circular saw, hammer and nails, and a chisel (but a screwdriver would do).

He begins by using the circular saw to cut around the edge of the pallet to cut away the boards from the frame of the pallet.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

Of course, they’ll still be nailed down in the center, so he uses a chisel or crowbar and a hammer to pull out the nails after lifting the wood away should be simple.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

And if it has a base on the bottom, you should use your circular saw to take that off as well.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

In the end, you should just have the stack of wood the pallet was made from. That means you should remove all the nails from the planks as well.

Todd even has one of his daughters help out with that part.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

Now, for the build

Todd doesn’t give exact measurements, but you can see that the pallet slats are about 22″ long, so when he goes to build the sides, he’ll form them by crossing two pieces of wood at the center (or 11.5″ mark).

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

While some folks wanted more instruction, it’s really not about making it perfect. And it’s clear that you’re going to have to learn some of this on your own via trial and error – and it will also depend on how big your pallet is and how large you want your manger.

Just wing it

The video below is largely Todd building the manger with instrumentals in the background and showing by doing.

Now, instead of just nailing the wood together in a cross, he is going to make it a bit sturdier by creating a divot in the middle. He’s using the thicker piece of wood for this as well – the ones that were beneath the top of the pallet slats.

He measures as you see below, creating markings roughly 3-4″ apart.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

He uses his circular saw to make the shallow cuts along the top and then uses his chisel to pull out the wood in between (and if you don’t a chisel, this is where a screwdriver can come in handy).

Making a few slices in between the edge markings makes it much easier to get the wood out:

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

Here he is demonstrating how the chisel helps burrow out the inside.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

See how that makes a nice place for those pieces to fit together and stay in place?

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

You’ll do this with two sets of wooden crosses because those will make the two ends of your manger.

Building the cradle

Now that the edges are done, Todd can begin using the slats to build the cradle.

He does that by simply nailing them onto the crossed wood as you see below. The wood from the top of the pallet will go up each side in a V-shape.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

Now it’s starting to come together. And here, we have half the manger done so you can see where he’s going with all this.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

Finishing it off

Of course, the hay won’t stay in the manger properly unless you build some sides on it. (Although let’s face it, you could stop at this point and baby Jesus would probably stay in place just fine).

After measuring and cutting some more pieces of the thick wood from the bottom of the pallet, Todd secures them to the inside of the manger.

He also nails one more pallet to the bottom of the inside of the manger so no straw pokes through the bottom. He’s not skimping on baby Jesus’ bed!

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

Small pieces of pallet – that you’ll have to measure to fit your own manger – come in handy to finish off the top and bottom to complete the cradle shape.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

Then it’s finally time to add the hay!

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

It wasn’t the most comfortable baby bed, but Joseph and Mary didn’t have much of a choice in the stable where she gave birth after being told there was no room at the inn.

The final addition

The manger made it to the stage.

And since this was a children’s production, the kids kind of sped through the whole giving birth and laying down the baby part.

But Jesus does make it to his bed, it a little unceremoniously.

swiggle1 dot pattern2
YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad Source: YouTube Screenshot - SSLFamilyDad

And we know all that happens after that.

Be sure to scroll down below to watch Todd at work.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

Source: YouTube – SSLFamilyDad, SSL Family Farms Website, Instagram – @sslfamilyfarm

Advertisement
Advertisement