Holiday lawn displays available since 1948 — 66 years — from U-Bild

retro christmas yard displayHere’s a gift we weren’t expecting this season: Another company — in business since the 1940s — still making its products from back in the day. Yes, U-Bild has been in business since 1948 — that’s 66 years — still making nine different versions of  their holiday lawn displays to build yourself. Images are kind of tiny on their website, so we asked, and yup, we show you the plans in larger-size view here.

retro christmas yard displayCurrently, U-Bild offers nine designs of DIY lawn displays, sold in sets and as singles, using the same vintage poster artwork sold by the company for decades. To create one of these holiday yard displays, you adhere the poster designs to plywood, then carefully cut each character out, then finish off with a clear sealer to protect against the weather. Time consuming — but oh-so-worth it when your yard is the envy of the neighborhood.

Prices for individual figures and sets range from $6.95 – $59.95.

About U-Bild from the company website:

About U-Bild Plans

America’s favorite woodworking plans since 1948, U-Bild plans are ideal for woodworkers and do-it-yourselfers of all skill levels….Each plan features detailed step-by-step instructions, full-size traceable patterns (where needed), in-progress photos, exploded diagrams and complete materials lists and cutting schedules.

Plan ahead/buy ahead

I spoke with Kevin Taylor from U-Bild, who told me that the nativity scene and the single reindeer from the Santa, sleigh and Mrs. Claus display are currently out of stock, but would be back in stock sometime over the summer. The toy soldier on their website (not pictured in this story) is out of stock and may be discontinued.

retro christmas yard displayReader Mike gets the credit for making us pay attention to this company. He made a U-Bild Santa and reindeer lawn display from scratch — vintage plans still available today. If you are still drooling over his set, check out U-Bild’s plan above –it’s $59.95 for the whole kit and kaboodle, kitten included.


retro-holiday-yard-decorIf time or yard space is an issue, figures from the set can also be ordered separately. (Note: Kevin says the reindeer is out of stock for 2014 and will be back in stock over the summer).

U-Bild also offers another set featuring Santa’s Workshop and some of his helpers.

retro christmas yard display retro christmas yard displayAbove: Nativity is out of stock for 2014, but will be available again during the summer.

retro christmas yard displayThis group of carolers above has a slightly more 60s-70s look — great for making a holiday display out in front of your groove pad.

Mega thanks to Kevin from U-Bild for helping out with this story.

Too fun.

  1. Robin, NV says:

    I went to the U-Bild website after reading the earlier post. I love the Santa’s workshop set but apparently they no longer offer the workshop itself. Too bad. It’s my favorite one. Also love the nativity set – the camels are 5 ft. tall!

  2. Laura says:

    I have the whole nativity set — minus the camels — in my attic, that my Grandad made! I have been wondering for years where he got the plans/images! The colors are faded but everything’s still there … I’m considering painting them / doing something to bring them back to their glory. Thank you for telling me just how he made them!

  3. Mary Elizabeth says:

    It’s great to read about these. In our town, people are beginning to rediscover these wooden figures–either retro or made from scratch– and there are fewer and fewer inflatables. I saw two wooden snow people in two different yards yesterday.

    Keep in mind, folks that you need to use exterior grade plywood if you want your figures to survive the elements. And Laura, I have seen people repaint these, using the faded originals as a guide. Let the paint dry, then cover with three or more layers of polyurethane, and you’re good to go!

  4. Laura says:

    Very, very much so. Miss him a lot (it’s been 28 years he’s been gone now). I am amused he didn’t make the camels. I can imagine him thinking, “yep, fine without these camels!” He was an Episcopalian minister and put up the set every year. He also built me and his other grandkids lots of things, some of which I recognize in the U Bild plans site!

    You’ll be interested to know the set is in 3/4 scale, so it’s a pretty big set!

  5. Laura says:

    Heck yeah! We also have a Santa and a Frosty — not U-Bild, the Santa’s face is a bit .. ahem … creepy. And a star reading “Merry Christmas” in cut-out letters.

    I was thinking about painting the figures to be a bit more jazzy — bolder colors — and also more multicultural, true to the Middle East of the time. I wonder what my (rather buttoned up) neighbors will think of that! I think they’re still reacting to the gigantic strings of rainbow C9 lights we put up this year …

  6. Karin says:

    That snow family is great. Cute and sort of creepy, my favorite combination for retro images. Wouldn’t these be fun on a California lawn?

  7. David says:

    Boy, do I remember these and many more like them from when I was little in a Southern California suburb. There were many on front lawns, and many on house roofs, lit with spotlights and floodlights. I loved them then, and I love them now. But since we live on a country road, going to all that work seems a bit pointless, since mostly it would be a few neighbors and the vineyard workers driving home at night who would ever see them.

    Did anyone else notice that the closeups seem to make clear that the Santa Claus is very much of the “Coca-Cola” sort of Santa, but the Mrs. Claus, the sleigh, and the reindeer seem to be by “another painter’s” hand, so to speak? The style doesn’t seem to quite match up–Mrs. Claus, etc, seem to be a bit more loosely drawn, a touch more sketchy, than the Technicolor, fully painted Santa Claus. Santa is standing in a strong light coming from your right, his left, while Mrs Claus and the others are more evenly lit, with much softer shadows.


  8. Mary Elizabeth says:

    David, I say go with your instinct and put up the lawn decorations. I think the vineyard workers will notice and enjoy them, and you can just enjoy coming and going and seeing them yourself.

    I live on a country road in which we define “rush hour” as two trucks passing one another in front of our porch at 5:30 PM. But the school bus goes by morning and afternoon, and the kids really notice what we put up. Their parents will stop us in the grocery store and say, “The kids said you didn’t put up your American flag on flag day. Is everything all right at home?” 🙂

  9. Mary Elizabeth says:

    I forgot to say that this afternoon on our half hour drive home from the beef farm (that’s what we call a little cattle ranch out here), we saw the following oversize plywood decorations in front of the various houses on the back woods roads:

    Two giant gingerbread cookies (as tall as the porch)
    One Santa with sleigh and four reindeer
    Three snowmen, two in one yard and one in another
    A row of wooden candy canes across a porch
    Two manger scenes

    I love the ones that are made from a kit, but the home-designed ones are fun, too.

  10. PRESTON says:

    Such fond memories! Perhaps it is simply the nostalgia, or just my age kicking in, but I find these to be far more beautiful than our current status quo lawn decorations . I live in a small apartment and am considering turning my living room into a manger next year

  11. Jamie says:

    Karin! You nailed why I love the snow family! I hope to make it for my SoCal lawn next Christmas. (When I was a kid, some enterprising neighbors made “snowmen” out of spray-painted tumbleweeds!)

    The rest of the U-Bild site has some awesome goodies as well. I MUST have the donkey cart planter. And the really cool pergola!

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