Learn to make this wooden growth chart ruler with this step by step tutorial. This growth chart features a slider to simplify measuring the height of your little ones and this tutorial includes an easy way to personalize the chart with your child’s name and birth stats. This giant measuring stick makes the perfect gift for any family and will make a lasting keepsake. This tutorial includes a Cricut Design Space file to make this growth chart even easier to make and customize.
I have been planning this growth chart for months now, but I knew I wanted to create a design that included some kind of measuring tool. I don’t know about you, but measuring my toddler the classic way – with a book – is a lot like trying to thread a needle blindfolded, it’s frustrating for everyone and doesn’t work out. Finally, I came up with this design and with a bit of luck and some input from my hubby, it worked out first try!
I added the customization at the top for a couple of reasons. The rainbows are of course for my rainbow loving kids, and I decided to add their birth stats to make this feel more like a keepsake. I love the idea of having their measurements displayed and I wanted to put them on something that can move and grow with us. Maybe if I’m lucky, one day I’ll be able to add my grandkids onto this board. I love a good handmade family heirloom. They really hit me right in the feels. Without further ado, let’s get into how I made it!
Let’s Jump into the Project!
- 1 – 8′ -1×8 board – I used select pine
- Scrap 2×4 – I used about 1/2′
- Scrap 3/4″ thick board – I used just a small piece for the knob
- Sand paper (coarse to fine grit) – I used 80, 150, and 220 grit sanding disks, a sanding block, and a paint stir stick with some coarse sandpaper attached to it with double sided tape
- Epoxy – I used the Gorilla brand one
- Wood Glue – I use Titebond II
- CA Glue – I use the KMS cyanoacrylate (CA) glue
- Hex nut and bolt – I used a nut with a 1/4″ diameter head that is 1″ long and it’s corresponding nut (any nut and bolt small enough to fit in the piece that slides along the rabbet will work)
- 1 – 1 1/4″ wood screw
- Vinyl – I used Oracal Oramask Stencil Vinyl
- Transfer tape
- Masking or painter’s tape
- Newspaper or scrap paper
- Shop rags
- Cotton swabs (optional for staining)
- Wood Conditioner – I use the Varathane one
- Stain – I used Varathane stain in Kona
- Paint – I used white Rustoleum spray paint in flat white
- Craft paints – I used a variety of colours to paint the rainbows
- Sealer/wood finish – I used polycrylic gloss
- Finishing wax – I used the Varathane one
- Safety equipment – Respiratory protection (for dust and fumes), eye protection, hearing protection (if you like to listen to tunes or audiobooks while you work like I do, you should try blue tooth hearing protection like these, I love them!)
- Measuring tape
- Speed square
- 24″ cutting mat
- Weeding tool
- Router – I used a router table for this, but you could use a handheld router and a straight edge too!
- 1/2″ straight bit – you could also use a dado stack in a table saw
- T slot bit
- Table saw
- Push blocks – that are safe to use with narrow and thin stock
- Miter saw – you could also just use the table saw if you don’t have one
- Jig saw or scroll saw – to round out the top of the board if desired and to cut out the knob
- A round edge – to trace the rounded edge of the board
- Drill & drill bits – I used a drill press
- 3/8″ forstner bit – or a bit the size of your bolt head
- Small level
- Random orbital sander – or just sandpaper
- Paint brushes
- Shop vacuum (optional)
Step by Step Tutorial
Step 1 Round off the top of the board
This step is optional, but I think it added a nice touch to the growth chart. First find a rounded edge to trace a curved edge. I used an old light, but I think a bucket, pot, or lid would also work for this. I measured 80″ from the bottom of the board. That would be the highest point for the curve.
Use a jig saw to cut around the curve.
Step 2 Router the groove
First, measure for the placement of the groove. I knew I needed at least 5″ for the ruler portion, so I measured about 1 inch from the right edge of the board, drew a small mark, then measured another 1/2″ over, drew a second small mark, and lined my router table fence up so the bit lined up between those marks. I did this on the squared off side of the board.
Next I marked where I wanted the slot to stop. I wanted the slot to stop about 8″ from the rounded edge of the board, so I put a mark on the bottom of the board (this would be facing up while I’m routering) 6′ from the bottom . I then placed a piece of tape on the top of my router fence to indicate the edge of the bit. Then, once the mark on the board lined up with the tape I stopped routering. This little trick worked out well.
I routered out the rabbet with the 1/2″ straight bit a little less than half the depth of the board. I did this in two small passes.
Next, I kept the fence in the same position, put in the T-slot bit and set the depth so that it was around the middle of the board. I knew I didn’t want it to be flimsy and the 3/4″ material doesn’t leave much room for error. You may want to do a test piece first to determine the position of your slot. Router the slot, making sure to stop when the mark from earlier on the bottom of the board meets up with the edge of the tape on the router table. If you’re using a hand held router you can skip this step. You’ll have to carefully turn off the router and slide the board back the other way until the T slot bit is out.
You’ll now have a slot that looks like this:
Step 3 Make the slider
Next it’s time to make the sliding measuring tool. Note: If desired you can sand the pieces as you cut them so you have less sanding to do at the end.
1. Make the piece that slides in the T slot
First cut the pieces that will fit inside the slot you routered out. You’ll want a piece that will easily slide along the slot without a ton of resistance.
I did this with the table saw. I measured the depth of the slot – about 1/4″, and the width of the slot – about 1 3/8″. I ripped a narrow strip off of my scrap 2×4, measuring 3/16″ thick.
Next I ripped this piece to a little less than the width of the slot – just under 1 3/8″. I made sure the piece would slide easily, and it did.
Cut the piece to length using your table saw or a miter saw. I did this with my miter saw. I cut it to 3 1/8″ long.
The final dimensions for the piece that fits into the slot was 1 3/8″ by 3 1/8″ by 3/16″ thick.
2. Cut the piece that slides inside the 1/2″ rabbet
Next its time to cut the piece that will ride inside the rabbet. I ripped another strip off of the 3/16″ wood I cut earlier, measuring 1/2″ wide.
I cut this piece to length on the miter saw. The final piece measured 1/2″ wide by 3 1/8″ long by 3/16″ thick. If the piece doesn’t slide easily in the rabbet, you can always sand it a bit. You want this piece to be flush with the top of the slot, so you will need to measure and might need to sand a bit.
3. Make the measuring piece
I used the same 2×4 that I made the rest of the slider from. I put my table saw to a 45 degree bevel, and ripped the other edge off of the 2×4. The edge ended up being chamfered because I didn’t take enough off, but I didn’t mind.
Next I ripped the top off of the board so that the slider was about 1″ tall.
Then I cut the piece to 7 3/16″ long, so that it spanned the entire width of the growth chart.
4. Cut out your knob
Cut out your knob. I wanted mine to be in the shape of a rainbow, so I used a k cup coffee pod to trace a half circle onto a scrap piece of 3/4″ thick wood. You could do any shape you want. If you don’t want to use a saw you could use a hole saw and drill a round knob out of a piece of 3/4″ scrap wood.
I cut out my little rainbow knob using my scroll saw.
Drill a hole in the back of the knob close to the side of your bolt head. I drilled my hole using a 3/8″ forstner bit on the drill press. I drilled my hole about half the depth of the rainbow. Just make sure that you don’t drill it too deep, because you need the bolt to go all the way through the sliding piece and slightly dig into the wood.
Mix your 2 part Epoxy and epoxy the bolt head into the knob.
5. Glue the slider together
Next, glue the 1/2″ wide piece to the piece that fits in the T slot with wood glue. I also used a couple of drops of CA glue, so that it would set faster. Make sure you line these pieces up as the would sit in the slot while you glue them, just in case your slot isn’t perfectly in the center of the rabbet.
6. Drill the hole for the knob
Figure out where you’re going to place your knob. Make sure you can fully turn your knob with the measuring piece also in place. I put the hole where my knob screwed in the top edge of the slider. Also make sure you put the hole at the top of the slider. If your slot isn’t perfectly in line with the rabbet you may want to line it up in the slot while you mark your hole, jut to be sure it ends up on the top of your slider.
I drilled a 3/8″ hole the depth of the nut into the top of my slider. Then I drilled a hole in the center of this hole, the same size as my bolt all the way through the slider.
Mix your Epoxy and Epoxy the nut into the hole.
7. Glue the measuring piece onto the slider
Next glue and screw your measuring piece onto the slider. First I applied my wood glue and a couple of drops of CA glue to the bottom of the slider. Then I placed the measuring piece on top, carefully predrilled a hole and then drove in my 1 1/4″ screw. You’ll have to be really careful with this step because you’re drilling through such narrow stock.
Before the glue dried I stood up my growth chart with the slider in place and used a little level to make sure the measuring piece was level.
Step 4 Sanding
Next sand your slider if you didn’t sand the pieces as you cut them. You could do this by hand with sand paper.
Sand the growth chart. I used a random orbit sander and sanded from coarse to fine grit. I also sanded a bit inside the rabbet using a painting stir stick with some sandpaper attached to it with double sided tape.
Vacuum or sweep off the pieces to remove any dust before wood conditioning and staining. You may also wish to use a tack cloth for this step.
Step 5 Wood condition
Apply wood conditioner to the growth chart and the measuring slider. This really helps the stain to absorb more evenly. I definitely recommend respiratory protection for this step. The fumes are really strong. I apply wood conditioner with a clean shop rag and use the Varathane brand wood conditioner.
Step 6 Staining
Apply your stain 30 minutes after wood conditioning or as directed. I used the Varathane stain Kona and applied it with a clean shop rag. I also used a few Q tips to apply the stain in the parts of the groove I couldn’t get at with the shop rag. After it absorbed in for 3 minutes I wiped off all the excess. I applied stain to the growth chart and the measuring slider.
Step 7 Plan your design
Next, access the Cricut Design Space file below, and plan your design for the top customization. You may want to change some of the fonts. I used the Cricut fonts Babette and Cricut Sans, and I used Times New Roman for the numbers. Play around with the design. I made my chart start 6″ off the floor, because that’s where I plan to hang it.
Step 8 Cut out and weed the design
Next cut out the design onto vinyl. You will need a 24″ cutting mat for this. I cut mine onto stencil vinyl.
After the design is cut out, weed out the dashes and numbers. You will also need to trim them in places so they fit together properly on the board.
Step 9 Apply the stencil
The stencil is made so that every dash denotes an inch. The exact distance from inch to inch is in the middle of each dash. I applied my stencil starting from the bottom. I first marked 1 inch from the bottom of the board for the first dash. Then I marked where the first foot marker would be, and all the other foot markers, so that I would know where to place each sheet.
Apply transfer tape as needed. I needed it for the 4, 6, and the design for the top of the board.
Then place the first stencil lining the center of the bottom dash and the 1 foot marker up with the marks you drew.
Repeat this with all the other sheets. I needed to trim around the bottom of the sheets a bit so that the stencil vinyl wouldn’t cover the numbers. Then I used the sheet without a number to add dashes up to 6’5″ and applied the final customization to the top. I doubt my two girls will get that tall, but you never know!
Use your painter’s tape or masking tape and some scrap paper or newspaper to cover up the spots on the board you don’t want to be spray painted.
Step 10 Spray paint
Paint on the design! I used spray paint for this in flat white. If you’re using spray paint I recommend using extremely thin coats so that it doesn’t bleed under the stencil. I let each coat dry for 5-7 minutes before applying the next coat. I did around 5 coats. I let the last coat dry for around 10 minutes and then I carefully removed the stencils. Just try hard not to smudge your design when doing this. I’ve done that before and it’s really disappointing.
Step 11 Paint on the rainbows (optional)
Now you can add any extra details you want. I painted a rainbow on the top of ours in the curved area. I just used acrylic craft paints and a small brush for this.
I painted a white base coat and then repeated the same rainbow pattern on the little knob.
Step 12 Seal the design
Next, seal your design with a wood finish. I recommend this step because it will protect the numbers and dashes from the friction of the measuring slider being moved up and down the board. I used 2 coats of brush on polycrylic for this step. I also applied it to the knob and the measuring slider, except the part that fits in the groove.
Step 13 Apply finishing wax
This step is optional, but it helps the slider to move more easily. I applied Varathane finishing wax to the groove and the portion of the slider that fits in the groove. I just followed the directions on the can. I put on a layer with a shop rag and then 10 minutes later I buffed it a bit. The slider works great!
Great work! I know that parts of this project (*cough* the slider) were a bit finicky, but honestly the end result is pretty amazing. Now you can measure your little ones and you have a beautiful keepsake to have for years to come. Sometime soon I plan on designing some little vinyl stickers to put on the chart to keep track of my girls heights at every age. I’ll also (hopefully soon) get around to actually hanging this bad boy up in the hallway between my girls’ rooms.
I hope your family uses and loves this growth chart as much as we do. If you’re interested in more projects like this one, subscribe to my email list to be notified every time I post. For more ideas, follow me on Instagram @the_walnut_grove and pinterest @thewalnutgrove1 and pin this image to Pinterest to refer back to. Thanks for the support!
Please let me know how this project went for you and if you had any difficulty understanding my explanations. I am totally open to feedback and I’d be happy to hear from you! Let me know if you made this growth chart, and how the process was for you. I’d love to see your customizations! For more ideas, check out similar wooden projects for kids below.