I have a grandson who is a bit over two years old – “Two anna turd” in kidspeak. My daughter recently mentioned she’d like to have a chart to record his march toward adulthood (something I still aspire to). They’re widely available, and you can pick up a cheap vinyl or paper one for a couple of bucks. But is a cheapo vinyl or paper chart good enough for MY little buddy? Hell no! A quick trip to the wood rack, a few bucks, and a little time and effort, and we ended up with a unique keepsake. If you have a little person whose growth spurts YOU’D like to memorialize, follow along. I’ll show you how I made my wooden growth chart, and offer some options to personalize yours.
There are several ways you can go about making your wooden growth chart, with or without generating any sawdust! First off, an admission: I have absolutely no artistic ability. Trying to paint numbers freehand was not an option I even considered. If you have some level of artistic skill, you might want to consider painting your numbers on, along with personalizing the chart in other ways. You could add a favorite animal or food –
chicken wings and beer yummy veggies and a cold glass of milk, for example.
A Wooden Growth Chart Shopping List
To make your wooden growth chart, you’ll need:
– A 6’ piece of wood – anything from a cheap 1×6” fence picket to a piece of exotic, endangered Brazilian Rosewood (legal expenses not included)
– Sandpaper with sanding block or a finish sander
– Tape measure
– Router and templates – optional
– Paint or stain – optional
– A good Sharpie, whatever color(s) you like
– Screws for mounting
Not surprisingly, the first ingredient on your wooden growth chart shopping list is…a piece of wood. I bought a six-foot length of #2 1×8” from the local Home Depot. If you look through the stacks, you can usually find a fairly decent piece, and it’s relatively cheap. If you want a nice, “clear” piece, with no knots, most home improvement stores stock that, too, but you’ll pay a premium. If you get a piece without too many knots, and where the knots are tight, you can end up with a decent-looking board. If you sand and paint it, it should end up fairly smooth, and if you stain it or leave it natural, you’ll have a wooden growth chart with some character. You could also buy a piece of PVC lumber, which is nice stuff because it’s perfectly smooth and stable. No knots, no splinters. Same goes for MDF, if you don’t plan to rout it.
If you do get wood, you’ll also need a sheet of 100 grit sandpaper to smooth it. Going to rout the numbers and letters in? Obviously a router will be required, and the correct bit with a template to guide it. Check out our review of this Rockler Sign-Making Kit for inspiration. You’ll also need a measuring tape, and some sort of straightedge for getting the hash marks on. If you want to paint or stain the wooden growth chart, you’ll need – that’s right – paint or stain. You also need something to do your numbering and any lettering. Craft paint or some good Sharpies or other felt-tip pens will work. To make it more colorful, get felt tip pens in a variety of colors.
If you have a good, steady hand and some artistic ability (see disclaimer above), good for you! Otherwise, get yourself a set of stencils. Stencils are cheap, and available at any craft store and, of course, on Amazon. A stencil set with letters also lets you put a custom message on your wooden growth chart. You can speed up the numbering a bit, and a somewhat more custom look can be obtained, by buying some metal address numbers from the local home center or hardware store. They’re available in different fonts, sizes and finishes, such as black, nickel or bronze; just make sure you get some matching screws short enough to attach them.
Speaking of attaching, that’s the final thing you have to think about. There are a couple of ways you can attach your wooden growth chart to the wall: hang it from a hook, or screw it to the wall. The second method is far more secure. One screw near the top and one near the bottom, into a stud or wall anchor, and that sucker is going nowhere, no matter how many sticky little toddler fingers pry at it.
If you do hang it on a hook or nail, rest assured the little munchkin(s) whose growth you are charting will be relentless in their efforts to bring it down. When it does come down, the cosmic dictates of the universe decree that it must do so in a manner that will result in the maximum possible injury to the “innocent” toddler, and total annihilation of your Hummel figurine collection. Screw it to the studs.
So Make It Already!
It’s a good idea to have some sort of drop cloth beneath your project, to catch the inevitable sawdust and paint drips. You could work right on the floor, but sawhorses provide a much more comfortable working height. My recently reviewed Centipede Sawhorse gave me a quick, stable work platform, at a perfect height. If you buy wood, you’ll want to cut off any rough or uneven ends, and make any custom cuts you want. I decided to shape mine like a pencil, so I made two quick tapering cuts at the top.
Next, you’ll want to hit it with some sandpaper. Make sure there are no splinters sticking out, ready to embed themselves in a tiny finger. Sand the surface, and it’s a good idea to round over the sharp edges, too. This can all be done with a sanding block, but if you have a finish sander, it’s a whole lot faster.
Finished sanding? Sweet! Clean the dust off with a rag or tack cloth. If you plan to stain or paint it, now’s the time. I was originally going to paint my wooden growth chart a deep blue, but decided to go with a lighter color, so the growth marks and numbers would be easier to read. I decided I wanted yellow, but didn’t find any lurking in the basement treasure trove of partially-used paint cans. You don’t need a whole lot, so if you’re not too picky, usually you can get by with whatever’s on hand.
If you don’t have anything on hand, or you want a specific color, try the local home center. They usually offer the option to buy a small “sample” container of any custom color you want for a few bucks. I got about 10 oz. of bright yellow for $3.99, which was way more than enough to colorize my wooden growth chart. If you have some primer around, throwing a quick coat on will help keep any knots from bleeding through, and help you get by with a single coat of your final color.
Once your wooden growth chart is sanded and painted, it’s time to hit the heights! I’m around 6’2” tall, and so is my son-in-law, so there’s a good chance my grandson will be a big boy. My project board was only six feet long, but that’s plenty long to allow for heights of six-feet plus. Here’s why: When you mount the wooden growth chart, you’ll be holding it off the floor by several inches, to be able to clear any pesky baseboards that may want to interfere. Even if there is no baseboard, you won’t be measuring any heights under a foot, unless you roll your infant child up to it, so you can start the heights pretty much wherever you want. I designed mine to be mounted 10” off the floor.
To put the hash marks on, lay a ruler or tape measure along the length of your wooden growth chart. If you’ll be holding the chart off the floor when you mount it, make sure you take that into account when you set up your marks! For example, mine was designed to sit 10” off the floor, so the 1’ mark is only 2” up from the bottom of the chart. If you have a speed square, it gives you a nice, quick 90° reference line to work with. Otherwise, an old ruler, a scrap of wood, an unpaid parking ticket, or just about anything with a smooth, straight edge can be used as a guide.
Get a good Sharpie or other felt-tip marker, in your choice of color, and start laying down the lines. Take your time, and try to make the marks all the same length, and at a right angle to the edge of the chart. On my wooden growth chart, I put a mark every inch, and made the hash marks 1” long. For the foot indicators, I made the marks ¼” longer, so they’d stand out a bit. It also helps indicate where the numbers go, when you’re ready to put them on.
Once the hash marks are on, it’s time to deploy your decorative digits. Make sure they’re all the same distance from the edge, straight up and down, and centered on the foot hash marks. If you have house numbers, screw them in place. If you’re using a template or stencil, tape it down, and fill in the blank. If you’re freehanding it, go for it! If you plan to put some writing along the opposite edge, make sure you allow enough room for it.
To create a wooden growth chart with a bit more texture, my original plan was to bust out the router and templates, and rout the numbers and words into the wood. The Rockler kit I’ve had for a couple of years is perfect for this sort of project, and I’ve made other signs for people as gifts, that they really seem to appreciate.
Like I said, that was my original plan, with an original target date of Christmas. Then life and an overload of projects intervened, and no wooden growth chart ensued. In late January, with a visit to my grandson’s rapidly approaching, I finally got motivated to wrap it up. To expedite the project so it would actually be completed before he was old enough to drive, I decided to forego the routing, and stencil the numbers and letters on.
I did stick to one part of the plan, anyhow. I dug out the Rockler State Park template kit, which has numbers and letters perfectly sized for this project. Unfortunately, I’m not very creative when it comes to amusing or pertinent messages about GROWING, so my sole nod to creativity on my wooden growth chart was to use various colored Sharpies to apply the message.
The Wooden Growth Chart Goes Up Against The Wall
As I mentioned, the wooden growth chart I made was designed to be mounted 10” off the floor. This height allows the wood growth chart to clear the baseboard, and lie flat against the wall. Make sure when you mount YOUR wooden growth chart that you take into account where you started the measurements. Otherwise, acquaintances may be confused when you tell them your four-year-old is only two feet tall.
Mount your wooden growth chart by drilling two holes in it, one near the top and one near the bottom. It’s best to drill the holes in the center, but if offsetting them a little bit helps to hide the screw heads, it won’t matter. It’s best to mount the chart into a stud. Apart from being the sturdiest connection, this will do the least damage to the wall, leaving only a screw hole that can be easily patched. If you decide to mount it elsewhere, make sure you use drywall anchors – don’t want that child’s growth stunted by a knock on the noggin! Either way, use a level, or have someone else eyeball it (so THEY can take the blame!), to make sure it’s plumb.
My daughter chose a location between two closet doors to mount the wooden growth chart I made. Since, naturally, there was no stud anywhere near the center of the Growth Chart Mounting Zone, she’ll need to use drywall anchors for the installation. Right now they’re getting ready to re-paint the room, so she didn’t want to do the permanent installation. We did want to see how it would look there, though, so we mounted it temporarily with a couple of 2” screws.
After determining that it looked fabulous, it came back down easily. Later, when they put it back up with drywall anchors, they can put a dab of the yellow paint on the screw heads to cover them up. I cleverly gave the rest of the jar of paint to my daughter. Now she has it for touch-ups – and it isn’t cluttering up my workshop (not that you’d notice)! They really seem to like their custom wooden growth chart, although I suppose they could just be being polite, to stay in the will. Either way, it was fun to make, and at least it’s not a foreign-made piece of junk. And yes, I know I just set myself up…
Making a wooden growth chart is really a pretty simple project. You can use almost any materials you want, and you can customize it up the wazoo. It makes a great shower or birthday gift, it can be relatively inexpensive, and it’s likely to be something the family will treasure and enjoy long after all the imported plastic junk has departed to join all the OTHER plastic imported junk in the landfill. Put a bow around it, and include a fine point Sharpie to do the charting, and let the growing begin!