Hey! Wanna see how I make the most popular item in my shop?
Check out this quick video and instructions on how to make one yourself!
- Download Step By Step Instructions (PDF)
- PURCHASE STENCIL
- Purchase Stencil File (.studio3) for download
Growth Chart Ruler DIY
Mark height directly on the wood board with a permanent marker or paint pen. Save the ruler as a family keepsake and add the grandchildren too. These make the perfect baby, 1st Birthday and housewarming gift.
When we first moved into our house it needed painting. I was so sad when it was time to paint over the family before ours growth marks. That’s when I decided we needed something to mark our kids on that we can take with us wherever we may move. So I crafted up this wooden growth chart ruler, which now resides in hundreds of homes across America. Here is where you can find out how to make your own.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
- One 6′ piece of wood (I use Pine @ 8″ X 6′ X 1″)
- Sandpaper (although optional)
- Stain and/or Paint
- Measuring device (yard stick, tape measure, ruler)
- Paint Roller or Brush
- Stencil (or a steady hand) (Purchase Stencils Here) / Purchase Stencil File Here (.studio3) or check your local craft store for number stencils and hand paint (painters tape helps) the marks.
- Odds & Ends: Rags, Staining Sponge/Brush, Squeegee Type Device (like a Credit Card), Marker/Pen
Step 1: Pick your board
First things first, you’ll need a board. Go to your local lumber shop and pick up a 8″ X 6′ X 1″ pine board. The straighter the better, if staining, look for a nice grain as well. I like to do the nose test when picking boards. Put one end on the ground and hold the other to the tip of your nose. Look down the board for any bowing or major imperfections. Rotate the board to check all sides of it.
Of course if you want a different width or type of wood, go for it, the instructions are still the same.
Step 2: Sand your board
You’ll probably want to sand down the wood (although you don’t HAVE to). I like mine smooth for easier stenciling. I use a large Orbital sander. If there are any deep grooves or rough spots I’ll start with 80 grit to even up the wood a little first, then I like to finish with 220 grit to give it a very smooth finish. Sand the edges and the surface of the wood. If using a Rotary sander be sure to move very slow (1″ per second or less) and keep an even pressure to avoid squiggle marks on the wood. If painting the wood instead of staining it, marks aren’t so much a concern.
Sanding is messy so be sure to work outdoors, have ventilation and wear a dust mask!
Power sanders are not required, you can use good old muscle power and a block sander as well.
After sanding, clean all the dust off the board the best you can. I usually start with a rag, or blow it with the air compressor, then finish with a tack cloth to get the extra fine dust.
The next step is to stain or paint the board. For this example I’ve stained the wood. You’ll need a sponge, brush or rag to apply the stain. Be sure to stir the stain well before applying. Apply the stain liberally and then wipe off after desired set time (5-15 minutes usually). Stain all sides of the board; the back isn’t necessary, but I find it makes it look much nicer.
Let the board dry for at least 24 hours, but several days if possible. Not allowing enough drying time causes the paint to peel up with the stencil, so dry time is important even though I know how hard it is to wait; trust me, I learned the hard way, several times. 🙂 You can also put a layer of Poly over the board to add durability. I use a wipe on poly, two coats, in a satin finish on mine. Let this dry 24 hours before painting on it/stenciling.
If you paint the ruler instead, let the paint dry at least 8 hours before applying the stencil.
In this example I’ve used Dark Walnut Stain. I just LOVE that knot in the board!
Step 4: Create/Purchase the stencil
I have a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine that I use to make my vinyl stencils. If you have one too and want to make your own stencils, the Silhouette file is provided. There are many other machines out there that can do the same thing, or you can purchase already made stencils to use as well.
Don’t have access to stencils? You can skip the stencils all together and hand paint it all.
The Stencils pictured can be purchased here: shescraftyllc.etsy.com or check your local craft shop for other stencil options.
Step 5: Measure and mark the wood for accuracy
You’ll need a yard stick or tape measure to do this best. Line up the yard stick with the board and put a line at the 6″ mark. Then move the stick up to that mark, level it out and proceed to mark at 12″, 24″, 36″. Move it up again to the last mark and mark again at 12″, 24″ and then at 25″. These marks will be used to line up the stencils
Step 6: Apply the stencil
Time to place the stencils on the board. These stencils require transfer tape. Purchased stencils should already have this applied to it, or may not require it.
If you need to apply the transfer tape, lay the stencil face side down on the transfer tape, cut the tape to the stencil size, then smooth on with a squeegee type item (credit cards work). To apply the stencil, peel off the paper backing exposing the sticky side then line the stencil up so the foot mark line is centered with the paint mark you put on the board when measuring. Carefully hover the stencil over the board until it looks evenly spaced from the edge and lined up with the paint mark, then carefully use the squeegee and smooth the stencil onto the board. Avoid wrinkles and bubbles as much as you can. Once the stencil is attached to the board, peel away the transfer tape to expose the stencil for painting. You’ll repeat this with every 12 inches on the board. (See the video to view this process in action.)
Once the stencils are all placed, you’ll need to fill in the extra space with some painters tape or masking tape. There are often little gaps where you won’t want paint to creep in.
Step 7: Paint the stencil
It’s time to paint! If using a stained board you’ll want to start with a primer. I put two coats of primer first, then my paint color; one or two coats depending. I suggest flat to eggshell paint.
If you have painted your board, you’ll want your first coat over the stencil to be the same color as the board. This prevents bleeding from occurring. Then once that coat is dry, proceed with whatever color you’d like your marks to be.
You’ll want to use a roller if possible. I use the 4″ door and cabinet rollers because they leave a nice smooth finish. Be sure to let the paint dry between coats. Once you are done with all coats, leave the ruler to dry at least 8 hours, but 24 is recommended, before peeling stencil.
(Stained rulers seem to need more dry time than painted ones)
Step 8: Peel the stencil
Time to unveil your masterpiece!
Pull slowly, gently and in a rolling manner to help avoid it pulling off any paint/wood/stain you don’t want removed. I usually remove all of the masking tape first, then the stencil.
You’ll need a tool of some kind (see the spatula in the photo) to help pull up some of the smaller pieces of stencil. Be very careful not to stab/chip the paint or stain. If you don’t have a tiny spatula like I have here, a thin knife or flat head screwdriver might do the trick. You just need something thing to pry up the little pieces. Remove all pieces of stencil and do any touch-ups where needed.
Step 9: Add the hardware for hanging
You’ll need to hang your ruler 6″ from the ground (cut a few inches off the bottom if your baseboards are taller than 6″). Use a tape measure to mark 68″ from the bottom; this is where your ruler will hang from. Measuring where you place the D hook on the back helps with accuracy in the hanging process. It doesn’t have to be at 68″, you just need to know where it is to assure you are hanging it at the correct height.
Use a screwdriver to attach the D Hook, then hang the ruler. If a stud is available, that’s a great option, but if not, the boards are usually between 6-9 lbs, so a drywall anchor will do the trick.
Step 10: Hang and enjoy for years to come
Once your ruler is in place, get out a permanent marker or paint pen and measure the kids. Mark directly on the board to save the memories. Take the ruler from home to home, never losing your children’s history. Save it and add the grand kids someday. We measure our boys each year on their birthday.
Such a fun keepsake! These make the perfect baby, 1st birthday or housewarming gift!
If you haven’t already, check out the quick video to view the whole process in action.