This DIY growth chart ruler is an easy project, and costs far less than the store bought version. These rulers are very popular and have a warm, aged look that gives them tons of rustic charm. I’ll show you everything to make this wooden growth chart yourself. Enjoy.
The nice thing about having a growth chart rather than using a door jamb or a wall, is that you can take the project with you when you move.
Many times, these valuable marks are sold with the house. Other times, they are repaired before selling.
All the memories are lost, but not if your chart can be taken with you.
The following instructions can be accomplished by anyone with a little patience, regardless of crafting ability.
The wood does not need to be cut, and the only other tools needed are a tape measure, square, and hobby razor knife.
DIY Growth Chart Ruler Instructions
Purchase a board that is 6 feet long, 9-1/2 inches wide, and 3/4 inch thick. These will be sold as a 1×10, which is 6 feet long. You will only need one of these for the project.
If you decide to use a board that is narrower, do not go under 7-1/2 inches. Anything smaller will make it difficult to get all the numbers and hash marks placed without looking cluttered.
Select a Pine board from a home improvement store, and decide on the look you desire. Some boards will have many knots, some completely clear, and some in the middle.
The grain patterns and color variations will also make a difference, so dig through the bin and choose the board that makes you happy. The growth ruler will have a rustic look, so you really can’t go wrong with any board you choose.
Next, pick up the sprays and stains. For this project, I will be using Watco Danish Oil in the Dark Walnut color for the base coat. Then, Rust-Oleum 2X Gloss Black Paint and Primer for the markings. After that, Deft Clear Wood Finish Satin is used for the clear coat.
A roll of blue painters tape is also needed, make sure to get the narrower, one inch roll. An optional 2 inch roll can be purchased as well, but you will definitely need the narrow roll. Lastly, pick up a small amount of wood filler in the same color as your board.
This is only if there are cracks that you would like to fill before finishing.
See Also: How to Use Wood Filler
Step Two: Filling The Cracks
However, on my board, there were two small cracks near the knots that required filling.
I really liked this board when I saw it, the only problem was that there were two cracks like the one in the picture to the left.
Thankfully, they are easy to fill and conceal.
You can’t get this from Home Depot, so go on Amazon and buy some if you don’t already use it.
This is a stick that is mixed together. The two parts react, and harden into wood filler.
It dries quickly, and finishes just like wood, making your job later in the process much easier.
Make the cut like you are cutting a cookie from the end of a roll of dough.
It is important to have the right amount of each part, and if you cut straight through, you will have the proper mixture.
Cut the log with a razor blade or another sharp knife, and carefully go straight through to the bottom.
The product is completely mixed when it is a uniform color, and has no white streaks.
It only takes about 15-30 seconds to mix the putty, and it will start to warm up slightly after a minute or so.
Mix only until the coloring is even.
At this point, you want to over fill the void.
Press hard with your index finger, which ensures that the putty is driven deep into the crack.
The deeper you drive the filler,the better it will hold, and the longer the fill will last. You can do this any time you have diy projects that need to have holes or defects filled in.
You can always leave it, but you will end up having to sand much longer to level the fill.
Scrape/slice the excess off, and take a look at your fill.
If you pulled some out of the crack, add a little more from the ball. Scrape again, and once the fill is complete, allow it to dry.
See Also: 13 Great Tips for Using a Wood Scraper
Step Three: Sanding the Board
Sand all the edges lightly with 150 grit paper to break the sharp corners. You do not want to round them very much, just remove the sharp edge.
Sand the corners, and then any dents or dings on the surfaces that you want to remove. If you like the worn look, leave the dents and dings in place.
Then, once the filler is dry, lightly sand the surface to ensure that the filler material is the same height as the wood. The best tool to use for this is a sanding block with paper wrapped around it. I have instructions for making a sanding block below.
See Also: Heirloom Sanding Block Tutorial
Step Four: Applying the Base Finish
This stuff is might as well be called 50 years in a can.
It adds a nice warm glow, and instantly ages any wood.
There are a number of different colors that Danish Oil is mixed with, and feel free to grab something different if you like the look.
Old undershirts work well, just cut out sections from the chest and back, and avoid the arm pit and neck areas.
Dab some finish on the rag, and wipe it on the surface in sections. Make sure to wipe quickly, and work your way down the board.
This is ok. If you like the look, keep on going through the process. If you want it to look a little more even, go back over the light areas again.
With Pine especially, there are going to be areas where the finish leaves more color. What you want to look for are areas that do not look natural. If you can see wipe marks in the finish, this would be an area to address.
Simply go over the lighter areas a second or third time, and they will blend well with the rest. Also, you do not need to wait to apply these coats, you can do it right after the first was applied.
With any finish, less is more. Apply the finish in sections, and resist the urge to flood the surface. Doing this will deeply color the area where the finish was over applied. It can be difficult to even out the coloring at that point, and you will not save any time.
When you are satisfied with the look, allow the finish to dry overnight before moving on to the next steps. If you have never applied finish before, my 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing gives you all the information you need to apply a great finish by hand.
Step Five: Marking The Layout
The easiest way to do this is to use a tape measure, and extend it from end to end on the 6 foot side of the board.
Use a pencil, and make a small mark at every full inch.
Take your time doing this part, because all of the coming layout steps will be based on how well you do this first step.
All you need are very small marks, that are about half an inch from the edge of the board.
Make them with pencil, and do not press to hard.
If you really press hard on the soft Pine, it will leave an indentation. These will be visible after spraying, and they will look like small shiny lines. Mark lightly, just enough to see.
Measure 12 inches up, and extend that mark to be 3 inches long as well. Repeat this until all the marks for 3, 4, 5, and 6 foot are marked 3 inches long.
The marks for the half foot lines are made the same way, and they are 2-1/2 inches long. Then, the marks for the quarter foot are made, and they need to be 2 inches long. Finally, make the rest of the marks that were not extended 1-1/2 inches long.
Making the lines on this ruler longer and shorter gives it the right look.
You can vary these dimensions if you like, just keep them consistent.
This means all the one foot marks are the same, the half marks are the same, etc. Go back through and verify that your marks are correct, as it can be easy to get some of them mixed up. Once you are satisfied that they are all the correct length, move on to the next step.
Step Six: Taping Off the Ruler
For the Scotch Blue, it is really 0.94 inches. This is great, because it leaves a gap that is a little bigger than 1/10 of an inch between the pieces.
Place a piece of tape on the board, covering the edge, and extending 4-5 inches onto the face of the ruler. Eyeball this, and place each piece between your lines. Do not worry about getting them perfectly centered, just close.
When the lines are a tiny bit imperfect, it will add to the rustic and handmade look. Press the tape down well each time you lay down another piece.
This mark needs to be visible, but you do not want to paint the entire bottom edge.
Apply a small piece of tape across the top of the 2-1/2 inch mark. Then, put another piece along the bottom edge, allowing about 1/10 inch of the line to be exposed.
Make sure that your tape goes around the edge of the board. You can wrap it under a little bit, which will help hold it in place.
This does take a little time, but the payoff is well worth it.
Place the tape nicely, and again don’t worry too much if the gaps are not perfect.
Look at each line, and place a small piece of tape right at the top of each line.
Some can be done two at a time, but most will have to be done one at a time.
Continue this way down the entire length of the growth chart.
If you picked up the 2 inch roll, this will come in handy.
Tape off literally every part of the surface with the exception of the lines for the inch marks.
Use smaller pieces until you get past the markings, then switch to 2 inch if you have it, and finish out the rest of the board.
This is your last opportunity to go through and make sure that all the marks are the right length.
Once they are painted, you will be able to see an incorrect line length from space, so take one last look.
If any need to be adjusted, either add or remove tape to make them correct.
Step Seven: Numbering The Chart
The easiest way to do this is to buy or make some number cutouts. My wife has a Silhouette Cameo, so she cut out these numbers 1-6 for me from thick paper.
You can also use stickers from a craft store, or print out the numbers in a word processor and cut right through the paper.
The font size is really a personal preference. Try out a few very large font sizes, and see what looks nice on the ruler. My numbers are all 3-1/2 inches tall, so if you are following along exactly, use a font size that makes numbers that are the same height.
Also, my font is Century, but there are several others that have a nice old fashioned look you can choose from. Look at a few before deciding which direction to go.
Use a fresh blade, and barely any pressure will slice right through several layers of tape.
I like to place my numbers 2 inches from the edge, and centered between the one foot mark and the 1/4 foot mark below it. This has a nice look, and the numbers are not too far away from the markings.
It goes through the tape without hardly any pressure, and will go through fingers just as easily.
Work around the shape of the number, and then peel back the tape to expose the wood.
You want to have clean cuts when you spray the paint, because it will take the exact shape you cut out.
Continue down the ruler until all the numbers have been cut, taking your time as you work.
Now, go back over the numbers as well as the measurement lines and ensure that the tape is well secured to the wood. Press it down with your fingers, looking for any loose areas. If the tape is not pressed down well, paint will get underneath, and this will distort the look.
Cutting out the numbers is not difficult if you take your time. However, if you really would rather not cut them out, there are other options. You could always buy a set of peel and stick numbers online or from a craft store.
Apply them where they need to go after the measurement markings have been sprayed, and the tape is removed.
Seal them following Step 10. If you have problems with them coming loose in the future, you can always Mod Podge the entire face of the ruler to trap them.
Step Eight: Painting the Surface
Then, spray several light coats over the markings and the numbers. Make sure to get the front edge of the chart as well. This gives the lines a nice wrap around look on the edge.
It is important to use very light coats. You can coat the piece several times with just a few minutes in between. Spray light, because it will not run or pool.
This reduces the chance that you will have paint sneak under any of the tape. Each coat will build upon the last, and it will be completely black in the end.
Continue painting until all the numbers and markings have a solid black layer. Allow the piece to dry completely, and then check again to make sure everything was coated. If there are areas that need more color, spray another layer.
Once this is dry, inspect it again. Then, allow the piece to dry overnight to ensure that the paint is completely cured.
If this is all too much for you, just use a paint pen and you can hand draw the numbers.
See Also: 7 Helpful Wood Sanding Machines
Step Nine: Removing the Tape
This is far easier than applying the tape, and much quicker.
Take your time when removing tape near the numbers.
Make sure to remove this tape carefully, because you do not want to smear or mar the look.
Also, check near the edges of the numbers, as sometimes very small slivers of blue tape will cling to the black paint.
These can be hard to see unless you are really looking for them.
Once you know that all the tape has been removed, inspect the look and make sure that everything came out correct. If not, tape over what needs to be corrected and shoot it with black paint again.
If you need to remove paint, it can be sanded, coated with Danish Oil again, then painted. There is no way to ruin this project, so do not worry if you made a mistake. Just go back, and correct it.
See Also: Printable Woodworking Tips Cards
Step Ten: Spraying With Lacquer
Though you can use the growth chart ruler right away at this point, adding the lacquer helps keep it nicer looking for a longer time.
Make sure to invest in a better lacquer like Deft or Mohawk for this project, as it will lay down nicer, and provide a much more even look than lower priced lacquers.
Deft can be found in most hardware stores, and it does not cost much more than the cheap stuff. Mohawk is found at painting supply stores or fine finishing stores.
You do not need to flood the project, just spray a nice even coat.
Once sprayed, leave the board to dry overnight before handling, and your DIY growth chart ruler is complete.
See Also: 10 Fun Things to Build With Wood
Step Eleven: Hanging the Growth Chart
Since the markings on the chart start at 6 inches, the ruler must be hung 6 inches off the ground. The picture to the left is from my son’s room, and the chart is a little different. I started that growth chart at 8 inches.
For the example growth chart, measure six inches from the floor, and that is where the bottom needs to be placed. I like to use 3/4″ L-brackets for this job, as they are easy to install, and they conceal well.
They also make it very easy to hang the ruler.
My brackets each have three screw locations that go into the wall, and three into the piece. You need one for the top and one for the bottom
Use a set of wall anchors when securing the chart to the wall. Then, paint them the same color as the wall, and they will blend in well.
I can remember bringing him home from the hospital like it was yesterday, and now it’s almost been a year and a half.
The best way to get these measurements as accurate as possible is to take them from the information you get from your regular pediatrician visits.
The doctors will measure your child or toddler, and give you that information at each visit.
Mark the height on the growth chart from the doctor’s measurements rather than having your kid try and stand still for you to make the entry. The doctor is more accurate, and the measurement will look much cleaner and straighter too.
I also put the age for each entry on the ruler. A black sharpie marker works perfectly for the job. Mark your memories on the growth chart, and take it with you when you move. It will always be nice to look at as the years go by.
It makes a great baby shower gift, and something the owner will love to have with them.
If you have any questions about my diy growth chart ruler, please feel free to leave a comment and I will answer them. Happy building.
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