14 Nov 2016

Dusting off the crib

This Nativity scene of mine will soon be brought out from its cupboard and placed in my living room. It's the most recent crib I've built, and the biggest (the figures are 8 inch). Unlike the rest I didn't sell it or give it away; though it's my most ambitious so far, it does feature a glaring (ironically, very much not glaring) problem which will take major surgery to fix. You will see there are two lamps; one in the corner behind the donkey, which lights up reasonably well, and the other top centre, which is uselessly weak.
I was so proud of it! The design worked out near perfectly, unless you consider that the central column is a little too much in the way. The 'big idea' I had is neat in the execution, to my eyes at least. It's to do with the angel. It just seems better to have the angel looking down on the scene, rather than on a level with the other figures, and that's how the angel is usually sculpted. But then: where do you place the angel? The problem is that most cribs are constructed with a relatively short distance front-to-back, but lots of width, and the figures are arranged accordingly. If it's still to be the sort of Nativity scene which most people recognise, there's not a lot of room for manoeuvre. So the angel, usually a standing or kneeling figure, and in both cases gazing downwards, ends up on a higher flat surface, ie. a roof. And then you realise the angel requires x-ray vision in order to view the scene, because the roof is between the angel and the Holy Family (have you noticed how I've been avoiding committing to the gender of the angel so far?). Here's my solution. The roof is broken; after all, the stables are supposed to be ramshackle in the first place. This allows my angel to be above the scene at roof level (though in this case, on an up-ladder platform), and still clearly seeing the action.

That overhead lamp is crucial to the scene, especially since one would like it to look atmospheric with the room lights turned low, so the lack of illumination is disappointing. After all the creative effort put in to connect it up. The wires run through a channel up the middle of that column, up from another channel cut in the baseboard, from the battery compartment which is under the straw storage in the right hand corner. There's a discrete switch on the outside. It's been fun getting into these LED circuits, learning about soldering etc. But I guess I still have a lot to learn about resistance. Whatever you read, informing you how many resistors to place in the circuit, you still need some judgment according to the length of wire you use, because that offers resistance itself, and it makes a difference when your current is so low in the first place, as in these battery circuits. I've used button batteries sometimes - the current is minuscule. I will probably take the battery compartment apart to fix the problem, just not now. It's going to be stressful!

These figures were a little pricey; I just had to strike a balance between quality of finish and economy. It's certainly possible to pay a lot more. This set could have been very much more with a full complement of animals and shepherds. And prices rise exponentially with every extra inch in figure height. Anyway, when you build a scene like this, you start with the figures, because their size and number governs everything else. It's fun working everything out, doing the detailing and yes, the lighting. I'll be happy to do more work like this, it's just a matter of having a customer :) And the first question I will ask is, do you already have some figures you want to place in the stable scene?


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