Monday, April 15, 2013

Watch Us Grow! A wall ruler to measure the kids...

Moving past the sad sack post about the damage to the playroom (whomp, whomp, whomp), I been working on a cute, easy, useful, and sentimental project for the hallway.  I've always envied people who live in their houses forever and have the markings of their children's heights on the door frame.  When our oldest was born, I saw a very sweet giraffe growth chart and planned to DIY it one day.  Fast forward 12 years and there is still no very sweet giraffe growth chart anywhere in our home.  I guess it's a good thing though because, hold on this will blow. your. mind, kids grow up.  Yeah, whodathunk it?  And in this bleak forest known as adolescence, giraffe growth charts are not cute.  Neither is that pre-teen angst but I digress.  About, oh, I'd say a year ago, I pinned a growth chart on Pinterest that looked like a huge school ruler (click here for Dear Lillie's version and here for 517 creations' version) and I was in LOVE!  It's completely moveable too, so even though we don't ever plan to move, we could take it with us if we ever decided to.  That would have been helpful as renters many moons ago when Lil B was born and we were living in a small apartment.
 The first thing you'll need is a super cute assistant with chocolate around her mouth.  Check!
Then you'll need
  • 1-1"x8"x8' board (I like pine for reasons I'll go into in just a second) 
  • Sanding block or sand paper
  • Paper towels
  • Yardstick
  • Pencil
  • Permanent markers (I prefer Sharpie brand in the fine tip)
  • Stencil or printed numbers
  • Stain
  • Sealer
  • Foam brushes
  • Drill
  • Screws (Wall anchors if your not going into studs!)
The first thing you need to do, is cut your board to length.  If you have baseboards, you will need to accommodate for those.  That meant my board would need to hang at least 5 inches off the ground.  I went with 6 inches.  From there I measured what I thought would look best on the wall and decided that I wanted it 6 inches from the ceiling also, which meant that my board would measure 7 feet but my ruler will measure 7.5 feet.  Hopefully that makes more sense as this goes on!  I had Barry cut the board to 7 feet in length.  Then I gave it a good sanding and wiped it down with wet but well wrung out paper towels.
While I was waiting for that to dry, I went to the computer and printed out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in a font and size that I liked.  I went with Imprint MT Shadown (it's a pre-installed font, at least on my PC) in font size 350 and I set it to only print the outline. 
Next, I took my yard stick and measure off every foot, making sure to remember that my 1 foot line only needed to be 6 inches from the bottom of the board.  I ticked all of those off and then went back and drew them to three inches in length.  Then I ticked off every inch, making those lines one inch and extending the lines to 2 inches long at every half foot.


Here's the reason I prefer to use pine.  For one, it's readily available in my area making it cost effective.  For another, it's soft which makes it perfect to distress.  It also makes it easy to trace something onto it and then paint it, reducing the need for carbon paper (which is absolutely NOT readily available in my area!).  All I did was eyeball the placement of each number and, pressing down very hard, trace the outline of each number and was left with a nifty impression!

At this point, I just went over all of the lines with the permanent marker and traced the outline of each number and filled it in.

I know some people are scared of stain and I have no idea why.  Maybe it's because I grew up in a home with a father who believed painting wood furniture was one of the seven deadly sins so there's really no mystery in it for me?  I believe staining a piece is more art than science.  Once you understand how stain behaves, it's really easy.  I'd rather stain than paint, to be perfectly honest.  I wanted this piece to look aged, so I went with Minwax Early American.  It's got that sort of old oak patina to it.  You can buy small cans of stain for about $5, so if you aren't convinced in the store by the tiny little swatch, bring it home and slap it on a scrap board.  That's also a great way to figure out how many coats you need to get the desired color and a way to practice if you've never stained before.  I prefer to stain with foam brushes, but some people prefer to rub it on with an old cloth.  Hey, whatever floats your boat!
I shook the can up really well (the pigment settles so either shaking or stirring it is vital!), opened it up and then dipped my brush into it.  I put it on kind of sloppily, heavier in some parts, lighter in others because I wanted it to look used.  When I stained the furniture in D's room, I went very carefully and smoothly because I wanted it very uniform.  I stained the edges first and then the front of the board and immediately went back and wiped off the excess with clean, dry paper towels.  I let it sit for a few more minutes and then wiped it down with more clean, dry paper towels.  I didn't take a photo of this step because I didn't want to get stain on my camera but if you practice, you'll get the hang of it.  And if you want it to look old then you really can't screw it up.  You have to wipe the excess stain off.  It won't dry for the most part and then you're left with a gunky mess.  NOT COOL.  Follow the manufacturer's instructions if you need to do a second coat.  Some recommend a light sanding or buffing and some don't.  You're almost at the finish line now, so don't screw it up by not reading the directions!  I didn't need a second coat, so I just let it dry and air out overnight.
I almost always use stain with polyurethane built in so that I can skip the sealing step, but they didn't have the Early American with poly in stock, so I bought a spray on top coat.  I gave it a couple of coats, following the instructions for dry time between coats.  After that was dry, I let it air out in the sun for several hours and then in the playroom overnight until it wasn't smelly.
To install, I measured 6 inches from the floor and predrilled holes for the screws.  I had planned to countersink the holes and then fill them in with plugs, but I found some screws with rounded heads that I wouldn't mind seeing (and they sort of lent to the "this has been around forever" look) and attached the ruler to the wall, putting the screws straight into the studs so that it's nice and secure.  That's a two person job, so make sure you have some help!
And ta-da!  It's done!  I didn't even have the drill put away and the kids wanted to be measured, so I guess it's a hit!

This project costs around $20 to complete!  As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here or click the Contact Us link on the sidebar!


P.S.  If you're not feeling industrious, Dear Lillie and 517 creations sell these in their shops.  You can click the links in the earlier text to get there.

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